Rock Flashback: Yes, It’s “Fragile”

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Bassist Chris Squire, the only man to play on every Yes album, seen here in 2006 (Getty Images/Michael Buckner/Stringer)

Bassist Chris Squire, the only man to play on every Yes album, seen here in 2006 (Getty Images/Michael Buckner/Stringer)

In 1971, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Yes[/lastfm] added a new member, synthesizer wizard [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rick Wakeman[/lastfm], whose facility with electronic keyboards was more appropriate to the band’s aspirations than the piano and organ of founding keyboard player [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Tony Kaye[/lastfm]. But adding Wakeman required the band to pony up for a great deal of new equipment, so Yes had to get a new album out in a hurry to start making bank. The resulting album turned out to be their most famous.

yes fragile Rock Flashback: Yes, Its Fragile

The album Fragile was produced in less than two months and released in the UK in November 1971. (It came out in the States in January 1972) Four of the nine tracks are group efforts featuring Wakeman, including “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround,” the two best-known songs on the album. Wakeman plunders the classical catalog for “Cans and Brahms”; lead singer [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jon Anderson[/lastfm] harmonizes with himself on “We Have Heaven”; drummer [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bill Bruford[/lastfm] is featured on “Five Percent for Nothing”; “The Fish” is a showcase for bassist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Chris Squire[/lastfm]; “Mood for a Day” features guitarist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Steve Howe[/lastfm]. ” Full-group songs “South Side of the Sky” and “Heart of the Sunrise” round out the album.

Although several Yes albums would chart higher in the UK than Fragile did, only one (Close to the Edge, 1972) would outdo it in the States. Today it remains the band’s best-known album. In addition to establishing the band’s signature prog-rock sound for the rest of the ’70s, it also established a particular look. Fragile was the first Yes album with a cover by Roger Dean, who would design the group’s logo in 1972 and album covers for years to come.

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