Fragile (Yes album)

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Fragile is the fourth album by the British progressive rock band Yes, released on Atlantic Records. It was the band's first album with keyboardist Rick Wakeman after the departure of Tony Kaye, and the first to feature cover art by Roger Dean. Fragile was issued in the UK in November 1971, but was held back in North America for two months because of the chart momentum of The Yes Album. It peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200 during a stay of 46 weeks, and reached number 7 in the UK album chart.


Work on the material began while Kaye was still in the band. In a 2006 interview, he said, "I did rehearse Fragile before I left. I left in the middle."[1] Four of the nine tracks feature full performances by the new line-up with Wakeman, three of which were of eight minutes length or longer. Its best known track, "Roundabout", was released in the United States in an edited 3:27 version as a single and peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in April 1972.[2] Rick Wakeman contributed to the writing of "South Side of the Sky" and "Heart of the Sunrise" by adding piano interludes to both songs, but wasn't credited because of contractual conflicts. He was instead promised more money by Atlantic studio executives, which he claims he never saw.

The remaining five tracks showcase the band members' individual talents. "Cans and Brahms" is an arrangement by Wakeman of the third movement from the Fourth Symphony in E minor by Johannes Brahms, his utilization of synthesizers adapted to classical works in vogue at the time, evidenced in efforts by Wendy Carlos. "We Have Heaven" is by Jon Anderson in which he sings all the vocal parts, a technique later used on his solo album Olias of Sunhillow. The initial, overlapping lyric is "Tell the Moon Dog, Tell the March Hare". Bill Bruford's "Five Per Cent for Nothing" derives its instrumental passages from the rhythm line, while "The Fish" and "Mood for a Day" serve almost entirely as bass and guitar solo pieces for Chris Squire and Steve Howe, respectively.

It has drawn comparison to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus in that it consists of a series of semi-solo pieces and long epics concerning the whole band, but in both albums critics have complained that "the long pieces and short pieces never cohere, and the album becomes something of a jumble (Tony Gifford, Endless Enigma)."

Recording technology and production methods

Recorded in September 1971 at Advision Studios in London, the album is an analog multi-track production. Standard multi-track methods were employed, such as overdubbing, including a flipping of the master tape to record the backwards piano, cued by Howe's guitar, for the beginning of "Roundabout."


The cover design by Roger Dean depicts a tiny planet on the front. On the back, the planet has begun to break up and the population is escaping in a wooden space glider - a concept that was to inspire Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow, as well as the film Floating Islands. The artwork of Yessongs would continue the narrative.[3]

The LP's accompanying promotional booklet contains two additional Dean paintings; the front cover depicts five different creatures huddled under a root system; the back cover depicts a person climbing up a rock formation. The inside of the promotional booklet consists of several different photographs of the band members interspersed with smaller Dean illustrations and photographs of their wives, including Jenny Anderson and Nikki Squire, and children. On Wakeman's allotted page he features a photograph of his dog along with a list thanking everyone who helped further his musical career. Notably, he remarks "God Bless Brentford Football Club" (he now supports Manchester City F.C. after a dispute), along with "P.S. One future offspring."


In 1993, a gold edition of Fragile was released. Listeners reported a problem with the first printing of this edition. The track "Heart of the Sunrise" omitted the reprise of "We Have Heaven". A recall occurred and this edition was reprinted with the reprise of "We Have Heaven".

A DVD-Audio version of the album was released on 19 November 2002, featuring Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound mixes among other additional features. The bonus track "America" features additional vocals in the last minute of the song which are not present in the 1972 release. It is currently out of print.

On 14 January 2003, Elektra/Rhino released a remastered compact disc version, containing two bonus tracks and an essay by Bill Martin.

On 7 November 2006, two audiophile remasters of the album were released: an Ultradisc II Gold CD version by the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab,[4] and a 180 gram vinyl LP version by Steve Hoffman, issued on Analogue Productions.

Track listing

Side one
  1. "Roundabout" (Jon Anderson, Steve Howe) – 8:30
  2. "Cans and Brahms (Extracts from Brahms' 4th Symphony in E Minor, Third Movement)" (Johannes Brahms, arranged by Rick Wakeman) – 1:38
  3. "We Have Heaven" (Anderson) – 1:40
  4. "South Side of the Sky" (Anderson, Chris Squire) – 8:02
Side two
  1. "Five Per Cent for Nothing" (Bill Bruford) – 0:35
  2. "Long Distance Runaround" (Anderson) – 3:30
  3. "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)" (Squire) – 2:39
  4. "Mood for a Day" (Howe) – 3:00
  5. "Heart of the Sunrise / We Have Heaven (Reprise)" (Anderson, Squire, Bruford / Anderson) – 11:27
2003 reissue bonus tracks
  1. "America" (Paul Simon) – 10:33
  2. "Roundabout (Early Rough Mix)" (Anderson, Howe) – 8:35



  • Fragile, CD booklet essay, Bill Martin, c.2003
  • "Top Pop Albums 1955-2001", Joel Whitburn, c.2002
  1. ^
  2. ^ "Yes > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 20 December 2009 (2009-12-20). Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ Chris Welch, Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes, pg. 119, Omnibus Press (2003), ISBN 0711995095
  4. ^ [1] Yes - Fragile Ultradisc II™ 24 KT Gold CD - Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Inc.