The career of Peruvian prog rockers Frágil is filled with obstacles. In over 25 years the group released only five albums and remained mostly confined to its home country. On the other hand, it achieved resounding local success with its first album and maintained a strong cult following afterwards. Its music falls somewhere between symphonic progressive rock and neo-prog (especially in the early 1990s), while showing influences from Genesis, Yes, and Queen, the latter especially in ballads. Avenida Larco (1981) remains a classic South American progressive rock album.
Guitarist Luis Valderrama and keyboardist/flutist Octavio Castillo knew each other since childhood. In 1972 they teamed up with drummer Harry Antón to form the first of a number of bands covering American and British hits. They picked up bassist César Bustamante along the way. They began to write their own songs influenced by the British progressive rock wave and appeared in local festivals. By late 1975, on the suggestion of a friend, they adopted the name Frágil, the Spanish translation of Yes' classic 1972 prog rock LP, Fragile.
The group built an enviable reputation as an instrumental band, but the arrival in 1978 of singer Andrés Dulude, a friend of Bustamante, would give its career a boost, although not before Antón called it quits and was replaced by Arturo Creamer. This lineup recorded Avenida Larco in 1980, released a year later by Pantel. The title track hit the top of the Peruvian charts, a first for a local group singing in Spanish. Concerts in and around Lima were attracting thousands and this chapter culminated in a performance of the whole album by the group accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.
The next ten years presented Frágil with a number of challenges. The group's stability was constantly threatened by numerous lineup changes, which resulted in no recordings except for a single in 1984 (a comeback effort after relocating for a while in Buenos Aires, Argentina). By the end of the '80s the group was back on track with a new drummer in Jorge Durand. Its second album, Serranio, came out in 1990, followed three years later by Cuento Real, this one recorded in the U.S.A. The group continued to perform sporadically and self-released Alunado in 1997. The CD reissue of Avenida Larco in 1999 gave way to a revival of sorts, and a rediscovery by prog rock fans of a younger generation. In late 1999 the group once again performed the album with an orchestra. Sony Music Perú released the concert on CD as Sorpresa del Tiempo in 2002. The French label Musea gave it a worldwide release two years later, making it the first Frágil album available outside of South America. ~ François Couture