Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman are appearing this week on “InTheStudio: The Stories Behind History’s Greatest Rock Bands,” as the syndicated rock radio show celebrates the 40th anniversary of Yes’ Fragile.
“Probably around ‘Fragile’ was the time that I started to become a little bit more like a director — they used to call me ‘Napoleon,’” Anderson says on the program. “They never told me to my face. (Chuckles.) It didn’t matter, I didn’t care, as long as it was happening. Later I learned the word ‘catalyst.’”
“InTheStudio” is syndicated on more than 50 radio stations throughout North America. The episode devoted to Fragile is available for streaming this week at http://www.inthestudio.net/this-week-in-the-studio/yes-2#.
In many ways, Fragile, Yes’ fourth album, helped shape the legendary progressive rock band’s legacy. It was the first to feature Wakeman at the keyboards, the first to feature cover art by Roger Dean — and included Yes’ breakthrough hit “Roundabout.”
“I was always convinced — and it sounds a bit egotistical, but I don’t mean it to — that when we did ‘Fragile,’” Wakeman adds, “all the time we were recording it, writing it and putting it together, that it was something very, very special.”
The album shot to No. 4 in the U.S., and No. 7 in Britain.
Here’s a look back at recent thoughts on Yes, as well as the most recent solo project featuring former members Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
“SOUTH SIDE OF THE SKY,” (FRAGILE, 1971): It is a heady thing to behold, taking a chance. The leap from the only Yes I’d really known and cared about up to that point in my young life at 16 years old — glossy radio staples 90125 and Big Generator, essentially — to what I held in my hand at the record store was almost a complete mystery to me. Sure, there was the legend that haunted any mention of them in print, but what did it all mean? Words could only say so much, and in those times before samples of everything imaginable on Amazon and iTunes, it was down to luck to hear something other than a current or recent hit on the radio. Besides, radio. I’d practically given that up anyway, preferring instead this intoxicating thrill of the unknown, the luck of the draw, or, more accurately, gut feeling. My gut was telling me to get this weird old album adorned with some vaguely Earth-like, giant tree-covered planet and a bug-shaped ship crossing its surface. It was a heady thing to behold.
Anderson shares unique insights into some of his more memorable tracks, and a few deep cuts, as well. Go inside the creative process as Anderson and Co. complete the epic Side 1 opener to 1974′s Relayer. Get insights into working with Vangelis, and find out why Anderson made another pass at the closing track from 90125 for a solo project almost 10 years later. And, of course, there are the lasting mysteries of “Roundabout.”
JON ANDERSON AND RICK WAKEMAN: THE LIVING TREE IN CONCERT: PART ONE (2011): Anyone expecting the cosmic prog-rock journeys of this duo’s work as members of Yes must have been a little disappointed — and not just with the spare instrumentation. More striking than the lean, guitar-free musical structures was how intimate, even grounded this concert performance was. If anything, though, this album speaks to both the individual trials and the shared will to overcome for both singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Each has had to grapple against some terrifying health problems, even as Yes continued on without them.
YES – FLY FROM HERE (2011): This album is, in many ways, better than it has any right to be. With Jon Anderson and a Wakeman (this time, Rick’s son Oliver) gone once more, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes are back again. They’ve even brought along a tune in the form of lead single “Fly From Here, Part I: We Can Fly” from the tour in support of Drama. Yet the project transcends both this lineup’s previous mistakes, and the inevitable let down expected from adding a former frontman from a Yes tribute band to fill Anderson’s shoes. Yes even attempts something it hadn’t in decades — a multi-part thematic suite, and to great effect.