What makes music so congested?

I just have been playing Yes Fragile. So good, haven't heard it for year being a jazz guy these days.

But man there is so much going on and it's so congested, just a mushy mix. After hearing Stanley Clark's Jazz in the Garden, Dave Holland Points of View, on which everything is so crystal clear even when lots is going on, the Yes is just almost unlistenably irritating.

Is it speakers? the CD? Amp?

How do you decongest music?
Could be one or more of multiple things. You need to tell more about system, room, and setup.
Normally reading it as you have put it, I'd blame it on the mix in the recording... why would several recordings be excellent having clarity and placement and one be congested? I haven't listened to this in several years as I have also moved more to Jazz, but I have many rock tracks that are still very good.
if other recordings sound good on your system, it's gotta be the recording. fragile has been re-released literally dozens of times since it came out and i'd assume that some of the releases are better than others--alot of early 90s cds very poorly mastered. my recollection is that fragile sounded great on vinyl and less so on its original cd release. if you're really into it, there's a number of gold disk/mobile fidelity and dvd versions avialable.
See if you find a British original LP of that and see if you still say the same thing (Atlantic 'Plum' label). The mix is OK FWIW, though its not going to be as spacious as many jazz LPs, its pretty standard fare for the period. Its not likely IMO that the CD is going to show any of that off.
If all sound is poorly portrayed,it sounds like you need more definition in your system. Ampr? Speakers? CD player? Cables? Probably it is all contributing...or perhaps you need to put your components on spikes, or other resonance control devices. Try different things you could borrow before buying.
Remastered US CD from a few years back is good to average or above average depending on track as I recall.

Need not sound overtly "congested" though often does from what I have heard over the years. So devil is in the details as usual.

Not uncommon for many small ensemble jazz CDs to sound relatively uncongested more often on more typical rigs than for many progressive rock albums, like Fragile, which are typically more of a challenge for a rig to relate cleanly.

If you are able to get a mixed bag recording like Fragile (even the original CD master) to sound clean end to end, most everything else will as well, but not vice versa.

Relayer is another Yes album , TGOD in particular, that is very challenging. I've had it on vinyl and CD since it first came out on each pretty much and only recently was I able to squeeze everything out of one of the more recent CD remastered versions. THe original vinyl always sounded pretty decent but all CD versions I have heard are a real challenge to surmount! If you get to the point where TGOD on CD, the battle sequence in particular, does not sound overtly muddled and congested (it is doable) you are then sitting pretty for most anything to sound at least decent. It's a pretty telling acid test CD not as a reference recording by any stretch but as a test of your rigs ability to decipher and deliver the music in the recording coherently.

TGOD is a 20th century rock music masterpiece to me, a real spirit cleanser when needed, so getting it right finally has always been a priority for me.
I did a bit of research on the dynamic range of this Yes Fragile album. there was some info on a Head-fi.org forum by a person skilled in the art of mastering & there was some data on avaxhome.ws. In both locations the dynamic range of the various tracks on this album showed the range of DR12-DR10.
The info shared on the head-fi.org forum stated that tracks having a DR14 ie. a dynamic range of 14dB are likely to sound very nice & spacious. Those tracks having in the region of DR10 will sound very aggressive (due to the hard clipping of the waveforms at both the top & bottom ends thereby creating a lot of distortion).
I'm thinking that even tho' it might be your equipment the real reason for the congested sonics is that this album was compressed a lot during mastering to make it loud. You can optimize your equipment & speaker placement & that might help a bit but the source of the issue is the high level of compression in the source material. No way around this unless someone else remasters the analog tapes & we hope that the analog tapes were recorded with plenty of headroom.....

the head-fi.org forum link:
One way to figure this out is to lower the volume and see if you get less congestion. Or, use decent headphones with your system, and see how it sounds. If either of these reduces or eliminates the congestion, the issue is probably in your amp and/or speakers. If the congestion remains roughly the same, it may be your source components and/or preamp and/or AC power.

I am not enough of a Yes fan to test it for you, but a recent speaker upgrade determined that, in my system, the speakers were absolutely responsible for congestion at higher levels.
the original vinyl always sounded bad to me

constrained highs and mids (or congested as you suggest)
Philjolet, did you hear the British or American press? I never found the US press to my liking but the UK is great.

I presume I have the american version

I always bought the cheapest records I could when they were available and I doubt it is not a first pressing either

finding it could be a chore though ;)

I will keep the UK version in mind - thanks!
Thanks all for your replies and Bombaywalla thanks for the technical and links, very educational.

Though I listen to mostly jazz now, it is a shame that some of the rock I still love sounds so bad now that I have nice gear.

Playing in a smallish room, 11x11, Marantz 8B, CJ PV5, Vienna Acoustics Haydns (which are able to keep symphony crescendos very clear). Speakers are pretty much near the middle of the room. Yes, things like Charlie Haden (sp?) and new Stanley Clark are ultra clear but they are not pounding a bunch of electronic instruments frenetically at the same time then getting processed. I guess I just need to try to find the British pressing (and buy a record player). If anybody knows a specific CD version that is better, I could keep an eye out on ebay. Same for early Zeppelin.

Still having recently gotten back into hifi, I find that my two big goals are a good sounding tuning, which ProAc does for me. And clarity/non-congestion. I'm in Phoenix trying speakers again. The Wilson-Benesche (sp?) are truly amazing in terms of clarity, in a way the ProAcs don't approach. But the ProAcs move me more. Arizona Hifi in Phoenix is really a great place.

Thanks for your thouoghts.

I'd suggest taking some of the problematic recordings to a local dealer and see if their setups are able to deliver better results. I'd be interested in your findings.

There is no reason why any decent recording of music you like including Fragile, most any mastering, should not sound cohesive and enjoyable.

It should not require a reference recording to get satisfaction from listening to music you like but there can be many snafus to overcome to achieve with many pop/rock recordings that are a challenge in various ways.

I'll try to give Fragile a fresh listen this weekend. I know this is a recording that I have felt like you about in the past but I believe I have heard sound acceptable to good depending on track in more recent listens since various recent enhancements to my system.
Yes was one of my favorite groups back in the 70s. Close to the Edge is considered one of their classics, but the organ on side one always breaks up on any American copy. There are two editions that don't - the Mobile Fidelity re-issue and the original British.

Of course all the Yes recordings are multi-track studio affairs that will not have the spaciousness of a 2-mic jazz recording, but they shouldn't sound congested...
River251, have you tried positioning your speakers farther apart or less toe in? Sometimess it helps.

Like majority of audiophiles, I primary listen to well recorded recordings these days. But since I'm running a music server, occasionally I dial up an old well recorded recording such as Billy Joel Greatest Hits 3 CDs set but most are compressed and sounds better on my Logitech Boom.
Ok, i'm listening to the 1994 gastwirt remaster on cd of fragile off the
triangle titus speakers in my rig. . The recording is quite good and sounds
both lovely and powerful at times as if should! Not
congested at all. Pretty close to the best vinyl sound i have heard for this
recording. Yes there is some dynamic compression at play at times, but
minimal for this kind of 70s pop/rock recording. I'd strongly recommend
picking up a copy and see what you have.
Mapman, where did you get the Joe Gastwirt Fragile? I have looked at the releases on Amazon, they just don't provide any info. Wonder if there is a place to buy music that has some respect for customers who care enough to want to know this kind of info.
Listen through headphones or earbuds at moderate volumes to get a feel for the recording. The most likely causes for "congestion" are the recording, speakers, and room interaction effects (especially the latter). What some people call congestion is often caused by in-room frequency response dips and peaks. Of course, since your source is vinyl you're starting with higher distortion and noise to begin with.
Probably at a local record store (Record and Tape Traders) years back. It was the one usually stocked for years until yet newer remasters came out as I recall.

If you check the rear label that remaster from that year is clearly labeled that it is remastered by Joe Gastwirt across the top of the rear artwork insert in large text. I recall it was the standard US remastered version found in most CD stores at the time (most now defunct). I have most original Yes CDs from teh 70's and I believe most that I have I bought around the same time and are in the same series labeled similarly.

Yes, I found it surprisingly hard to find clear info on details of the remastering including the name Joe Gastwirt with a basic google search.
I saw the biggest impact by far on decongesting music come from moving from an integrated to separate mono block amps. No doubt in my mind.
There are a few items that can cause this. Old CDP laser, DAC, and preamp mostly. Replacing something as simple as the CDP laser can add clarity and separation. Your DAC can also be the issue. Preamps especially tube preamps can cause clarity issues especially if there are caps in the signal path. Caps sound different. Some are musical, some have better clarity, some can offer a mix. I would start by replacing the CDP laser if your CDP is an older model. This can be a simple cheap fix.

Happy Listening.
Ivrobinson...good idea, to eliminate the speakers and room in one swoop... how good a headphones do you think I need? Guess I could play around but never bought good headphones as it seems like it's coming from the center of my head. I remember Headroom did some headphone amp to deal with this but never tried....in fact I don't know how I'd drive them, with my vintage tube gear with no headphone output...

You know listening right now to my ProAc OneSCs in my room, my subjective thought right now is it's a node somewhere in the bass.
Regarding headphones as a tool to help eliminate congestion, I use Klipsch S4 ear buds with my Squeezebox Radio and my daughters Ipod oudoors. THese do a fantastic job of sorting through the music for only $80, even on the Ipod playing mp3s. Bass and vocals are all there and everything is well presented top to bottom I would say.
I went to a lot of rock concerts in the 70s. Outdoors, indoors, giant stadiums, amphitheaters, etc. Congested sound was the goal. Constant maximum dB output. Many early 70s rock recordings were done the that way just like their live concerts. That's why we have gravitated to more civilized styles of music, although Heart, Dreamboat Annie on London pressing sounds great and rocks.
I have a run of the mill Atlantic CD, made by BMG. It sounds great. When BMG was in business I really didn't feel their recording/transfer quality was that good. The sound of this CD rocks! I have always been shocked at the definition and quality of the bass on this (1972) recording. Your amp has got to be able to drive your speakers. This is definitely not a pristine recording. The highs have distortion problems, but you should be able to identify that. There is no way this recording would be considered congested. I had a vintage Pioneer low wattage receiver in my garage that sounded a little mushy/congested. It broke. Now I have a modern higher wattage receiver that doesn't sound congested, but really has no soul. I like my OCM 500 amp. If I had a complaint, it would be that it sounds darker than my old amp. That is probably a good thing, I am not going to name my old amp. The only thing it was good at was the midrange, even though it had 2x the wattage of the OCM. Try changing your amp, and, or speakers.