Essential Atlantic: Yes, FRAGILE

Thursday, September 17, 2020

For the next several weeks (or maybe just until we decide that we want to stop doing it, since normalcy seems likely to remain on hiatus for the foreseeable future), will be spotlighting an album from the Atlantic Records discography that qualifies as “Essential.” And what rigorous standards and/or mathematical algorithm did we use to come up with the criteria to define “Essential,” you ask? None at all. You’ll just have to trust our instincts. But they’re really good, we swear...

While there’s much to recommend about the first three Yes albums, there’s a very reasonable argument to be made that FRAGILE is the album where the band became superstars in America. It may or may not be a coincidence that it was the band’s first album with Rick Wakeman on keyboards, but it almost certainly does have something to do with the fact that FRAGILE featured two songs which would go on to be viewed as among the band’s most iconic: “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround.”

Recorded at Advision Studios in London, England, FRAGILE was originally intended to be a double album that would blend studio and live tracks, but that plan never came to fruition, nor did the one involving plans to record the album with producer Tom Dowd in Miami. Instead, the band co-produced the LP with Eddy Offord. Ah, but you’re probably wondering about how Wakeman came to be part of the lineup for this LP, so why don’t we go ahead and jump to that bit?

When Yes first began rehearsals for the FRAGILE sessions, their keyboardist was still Tony Kaye, but when he repeatedly expressed reluctance to move beyond his usual piano and Hammond organ to incorporate Mellotron or Moog sounds, he was shown the door. Upon his departure, the band invited Wakeman to join the band, and they’re actually rather lucky that he did, because it just so happens that he’d also been offered another interesting opportunity: to be a part in David Bowie’s touring band. Wakeman opted to go with membership in Yes because it provided with more of an opportunity for artistic freedom.

As the late Chris Squire told the A.V. Club in 2012, “When Rick Wakeman joined the band, he brought in the Moog synthesizer and the Mellotron and everything, so those instruments were sort of part of our arsenal then, and we were using them to do quasi-orchestral pieces. Which worked very well for us.”

Indeed it did: given Wakeman’s influential presence and the inclusion of so many iconic Yes tunes, it’s no wonder that FRAGILE can be found within the pages of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


For more information, click the buttons below: