Fragile is the fourth studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in November 1971 on Atlantic Records. It is their first album recorded with keyboardist Rick Wakeman after the departure of Tony Kaye earlier in the year. Formed of nine tracks, four of which are group performances while five are solo features written by each member. It marked the band's first collaboration with artist Roger Dean, who would design their logo and many of their future covers.
Fragile was a commercial and critical success upon its release; it is considered to be the band's international breakthrough. It peaked at number 4 in the US and number 7 in the UK. The album is certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over two million copies.
On 31 July 1971, Yes performed the final concert of their 1970-71 tour of Europe and North America at Crystal Palace Park to support The Yes Album (1971). The line-up during this time consisted of singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and guitarist Steve Howe. Following the tour, Yes started work on their next studio record that was originally conceived as a double album with a combination of studio and live tracks. The concept could be realised due to the time required to make it. Ideas also surfaced to have the album recorded in Miami, Florida with producer Tom Dowd, also never came to fruition.
Rehearsals took place in August 1971 in what Squire described as "a little rehearsal studio in Shepherd's Market" in London. Working with Kaye became unsuccessful; he was reluctant to expand his sound, other than his usual Hammond organ and piano, and play newer instruments like the Mellotron and Moog synthesiser. Anderson and Squire ultimately asked Kaye to leave Yes, and found their replacement in Rick Wakeman, a classically-trained player of the folk rock group Strawbs. Wakeman joined the group as they rehearsed "Heart of the Sunrise". Squire spoke about that first session: "That marked the first real appearance of the Mellotron and the Moog--adding the flavour of those instruments to a piece we'd basically already worked out". According to Wakeman, the basis of "Roundabout" was also put down on the same day.
Recording for the album took place in September 1971 at Advision Studios using a 16-track tape machine.Eddy Offord, who served as a recording engineer on Time and a Word (1970), assumed his role while sharing production duties with the band. Rolling Stone reported the album cost $30,000 to produce.
According to Michael Tait, the band's lighting director, the album's title came from their manager Brian Lane who, while on the phone to "some press guy" asking Lane about the new album, "was looking at some photos from that Crystal Palace gig, saw the monitors at the front of the stage and, like all equipment, they had 'Fragile' stamped on the back". Bruford claimed he in fact suggested the title because he thought the band "was breakable" at the time. While the band were recording, Wakeman remembered children being brought into the studio to watch them play.
Fragile is formed of nine tracks; four are "group arranged and performed" with the remaining five being "the individual ideas, personally arranged and organised" by the five members. Squire reasoned this approach was necessary in part to save time and reduce studio costs, as money was used to purchase keyboard equipment for Wakeman. According to Bruford: "There was this endless discussion about how the band could be used ... I felt we could use all five musicians differently ... So I said--brightly--'Why don't we do some individual things, whereby we all use the group for our own musical fantasy? I'll be the director, conductor, and maestro for the day, then you do your track, and so on.'" Wakeman commented on the album's structure. "Some critics thought this was just being flash. The thinking behind this was that we realised there would be a lot of new listeners coming to the band. They could find out where each individual player's contribution lay."
Side one begins with "Roundabout", a song written by Anderson and Howe that has become one of Yes's best-known songs. Howe recalled the track was originally "a guitar instrumental suite ... I sort of write a song without a song. All the ingredients are there--all that's missing is the song. 'Roundabout' was a bit like that; there was a structure, a melody and a few lines." The introduction was made by recording a piano note played backwards. "Cans and Brahms" is Wakeman's adaptation of the third movement of Symphony No. 4 in E minor by Johannes Brahms, with an electric piano used for the string section, an electric harpsichord used for the reeds, and a synthesiser used for the contrabassoon. Wakeman later described the track as "dreadful", as contractual problems with A&M Records, who he was with as a solo artist, prevented him from writing a composition of his own. Anderson described "We Have Heaven" as a "rolling idea of voices and things", with its two main set of chants containing the phrases "Tell the Moon dog, tell the March hare" and "Yes he is here."
Side two of the album opens with Bruford's track, "Five Per Cent for Nothing". With a running time of thirty-five seconds, it is his "first attempt composition--but we've all got to start somewhere". According to Tait, its original title was "Suddenly It's Wednesday", but it was changed in reference to Yes paying off their former manager Roy Flynn with the deal of five percent of future royalties. "Long Distance Runaround" segues into Squire's solo track, "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)". Tait recalled Anderson calling him "at ten o'clock one night from Advision and said, 'I want the name of prehistoric fish in eight syllables. Call me back in half an hour'". Tait subsequently found Schindleria Praematurus, a genus of marine fish, in a copy of Guinness Book of Records. Howe performs his solo guitar piece "Mood for a Day" on a Conde flamenco guitar. "Heart of the Sunrise" is a track where Wakeman's classically-trained background came into play; he introduced the band to the idea of recapitulation where previous segments in music are revisited.
The album's sleeve was designed and illustrated by English artist Roger Dean, who would design many of Yes's future album covers, including their "bubble" logo. On reflection of the design, Dean said: "'Fragile' was very literal, really. I think the band has named a number of their albums after their current psychological state, and 'Fragile' described the psyche of the band. And I thought about that very literally, painting a fragile world that would eventually break up." He commented further: "'Fragile' was quite a complicated cover because there was a book inside. It was elaborate although it wasn't one of the most striking of all the Yes covers. I was kind of learning my trade at the time. The main feature on the cover was a little Bonsai world with a wooden space ship flying overhead! It was literally meant to be a fragile world".
The band had wished for an image of a fractured piece of porcelain; to compromise, Dean ended up breaking the planet into two pieces. This idea of a broken world would continue on the band's live album, Yessongs. Bruford thought Dean "brilliantly parlayed that idea one of Fragile up to the prescient image of the fragile planet earth, with implications of a delicate and breakable eco-system".
The LP's accompanying promotional booklet contains two additional Dean paintings; the front cover depict five creatures huddled under a root system; the back cover depicts a person climbing up a rock formation. The inside shows several photographs of the band with an individual page dedicated to each member, with smaller illustrations and photographs of their wives and children. Anderson's page contains a short poem, while Wakeman contains a list of acknowledgements, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The White Bear pub in Hounslow, and Brentford F.C..
Fragile was released in the UK on 26 November 1971 followed by its US release on 4 January 1972. It peaked at number 4 on the US Billboard Top LPs chart and number 7 in the UK. "Roundabout" was released as a single in the US with a shortened duration of 3:27, with "Long Distance Runaround" on the B-side. It peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in April 1972. In April 1972, Fragile was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album is certified double platinum by the RIAA for over two million copies sold.
Fragile received a mostly positive reception upon its release. Billboard magazine selected the album in its "Billboard Pick" feature, describing it as "vibrant, soothing, tumultuous, placid and instrumentally brilliant" and Anderson's vocals "deliciously ingratiating". In his review for Rolling Stone, Richard Cromelin pointed out the album's "gorgeous melodies, intelligent, carefully crafted, constantly surprising arrangements, concise and energetic performances" and "cryptic but evocative lyrics", but pointed out that Yes "tend to succumb to the show-off syndrome. Their music (notably "Cans and Brahms" and "We Have Heaven") often seems designed only to impress and tries too hard to call attention to itself".
Ed Keheller for Circus magazine summarised his review of the album with "Fragile is unquestionably their most cohesive and mettlesome undertaking". In the same issue, Squire responded to the criticism regarding the album's solo tracks, "in a way you've got to appreciate the circumstances. We had to get another album out quickly from a purely financial point of view. We have a lot of mouths to feed. Rick ... had to buy a vast amount of new equipment when he joined, and it all costs much more money than people seem to imagine."
In 2005, Fragile was included in the musical reference publication 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In his review for AllMusic, Bruce Eder gave the album five stars out of five. He writes:
Fragile was Yes' breakthrough album, propelling them in a matter of weeks from a cult act to an international phenomenon; not coincidentally, it also marked the point where all of the elements of the music (and more) that would define their success for more than a decade fell into place fully formed. The science-fiction and fantasy elements that had driven the more successful songs on their preceding record, The Yes Album, were pushed much harder here, and not just in the music but in the packaging of the album: the Roger Dean-designed cover was itself a fascinating creation that seemed to relate to the music and drew the purchaser's attention in a manner that few records since the heyday of the psychedelic era could match.
Fragile was first reissued on CD in the United States and Europe in 1990. A remastered edition for CD and cassette by Joe Gastwirt followed in 1994, which includes a reprise of "We Have Heaven" after "Heart of the Sunrise" for a track running time of 11:32. In 2002, Rhino and Elektra Records released Fragile in stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes for the DVD-Audio format. The band's cover of "America" is included, along with other supplemental features. 2003 saw Rhino and Elektra put out a new remastered CD conducted by Dan Hersch, with "America" and an early rough mix of "Roundabout" as bonus tracks.
In 2006, two new "audiophile" remasters were released. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab put out a "24 KT Gold" edition for CD headed by Shawn Britton, and a 200-gram LP from Analogue Productions by Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman.Warner Japan released Fragile in 2011 in a hybrid stereo/multichannel edition for the Super Audio CD format as part of their Warner Premium Sound series.
Jon Anderson, Steve Howe
"Cans and Brahms"
Johannes Brahms, arranged by Rick Wakeman
"We Have Heaven"
"South Side of the Sky"
Anderson, Chris Squire
"Five Per Cent for Nothing"
"Long Distance Runaround"
"The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)"
"Mood for a Day"
"Heart of the Sunrise"
Anderson, Squire, Bruford
2003 reissue bonus tracks
Paul Simon, Yes (music only)
"Roundabout (Early rough mix)"
Jon Anderson - vocals and production,
Bill Bruford - drums, percussion, and production,
Steve Howe - electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals, and production,
Chris Squire - bass guitars, backing vocals, guitar and production,
Rick Wakeman - Hammond organ, piano, RMI 368 Electra-Piano and Harpsichord, Mellotron, Moog synthesizer, and production,
Roger Dean - photography, sleeve design,
David Wright - photography,
Eddy Offord - engineer and production,
Gary Martin - assistant engineer,
Notes and references:
^ Atlantic K 50009,
^ Wakeman also claimed to have made writing contributions to "South Side of the Sky" and "Heart of the Sunrise" by adding piano interludes, but did not receive credit because of the contract disputes. He was promised more money by executives at Atlantic Records, but claims he never received it.,
^ Atlantic SD 191322; 050 009,
^ Atlantic 826672; 826674,
^ Elektra 78249,
^ Elektra 8122737892,
^ MFSL UDCD 766,
^ Analogue Productions APP7211,
^ Warner WPCR 14167,
^ Several seconds after "Heart of the Sunrise" is a reprise of "We Have Heaven" that begins with the sound of a door being unlatched ("We Have Heaven" ends with the sound of a slamming door). This hidden track is not referenced on the album's track listing. Original pressings list the duration of "Heart of the Sunrise" as 10:34, thereby omitting the timing of the reprise.,
^ Billboard albums chart info - Yes Fragile at AllMusic. Retrieved 16 September 2011.,
^ Hedges, p. 59,
^ Morse, p. 25,
^ Welch, p. 96,
^ Hedges, p. 58,
^ Wooding. p. 76,
^ Turner, Steve (30 March 1972). "The Great Yes Technique Debate". Rolling Stone. ,
^ Hedges, p. 61,
^ Bruford, p. 72,
^ Welch, p. 116,
^ Hedges, p. 62,
^ Welch, p. 117,
^ Morse, p. 28,
^ Morse, p. 29,
^ Morse, p. 29.,
^ Morse, p. 30.,
^ Welch, p. 116,
^ Morse, p. 31,
^ Morse, p. 32,
^ Rowe, Jeri (23 April 2004). "Roger Dean: The artist behind the music". Greensboro News-Record. ,
^ Welch, p. 119,
^ "UK chart history - Yes Fragile''". www.chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2011. ,
^ "Yes > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 20 December 2009. ,
^ "Gold Record Awards". Billboard. 29 April 1972. ,
^ "American certifications - Yes - Fragile". Recording Industry Association of America. ,
^ Eder, Bruce. Fragile (Yes album) at AllMusic. Retrieved 6 January 2007.,
^ Christgau, Robert (2 March 1972). "Consumer Guide (24): Yes: Fragile''". The Village Voice. Retrieved 16 December 2011. Relevant part posted in a revised version at "Yes: Fragile > Consumer Guide Album". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 19 January 2008. ,
^ Dahlen, Chris; Leone, Dominique; Tangari, Joe (8 February 2004). "Pitchfork: Album Reviews: Yes: The Yes Album / Fragile / Close to the Edge / Tales from Topographic Oceans / Relayer / Going for the One / Tormato / Drama / 90125''". pitchfork.com. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 19 January 2008. ,
^ Cromelin, Richard (16 March 1972). "Yes Fragile > Album Review". Rolling Stone (104). Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2007. ,
^ Lechner, Ernesto (6 February 2003). "Classically Trained!". Rolling Stone (915). p. 64. Archived from the original on 21 April 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2011. Reviews reissues of Yes, Time and a Word, The Yes Album, and Fragile. Posted 15 January 2003.,
^ Scaruffi, Piero (1999). "Yes". pieroscaruffi.com. Retrieved 16 August 2013. ,
^ "Billboard Pick: Yes: Fragile". Billboard. 22 January 1972. ,
^ "Yes: Fragile". Circus. April 1972. ,
^ Hopkins, Mary (April 1972). "Yes: Flaws in Fragile". Circus. p. 53. ,
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Hedges, Dan (1982). Yes: An Authorized Biography. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-283-98751-9. ,
Morse, Tim (1996). Yesstories: "Yes" in Their Own Words. St Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-14453-1. ,
Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge - The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84772-132-7. ,
Wooding, Dan (1978). Rick Wakeman: The Caped Crusader. Granada Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0-709-16487-6.