YES INDEED —(via Ultimate Classic Rock) Yes has existed in so many different forms, with so many different members, that it’s difficult for all but the band’s most ardent fans to keep it all straight. Yet, even casual fans can name the Yes lineup that created Fragile, the second studio LP the group recorded in 1971.
Some of the guys had been there since the beginning of the British progressive rock outfit, including singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford. Guitarist Steve Howe had joined the year before, in time to debut his intricate fretwork on The Yes Album, which came out in February 1971. Tony Kaye was on keyboards for that album, although he wasn’t long for Yes. Anderson and Kaye had some personal issues and the rest of the band was bothered by Kaye’s reticence to play electronic keyboards.
Rick Wakeman didn’t have the same hang-ups about equipment. The keyboardist for Strawbs, who also had played on sessions for Cat Stevens and David Bowie, was enthusiastic about playing any type of keyboard, including the synthesizers that would feature so prominently in Yes’ future works. The new lineup was settled as the band rehearsed material for the next album, starting with “Heart of the Sunrise.”
“That marked the first real appearance of the Mellotron and the Moog – adding the flavor of those instruments to a piece we’d basically already worked out,” Wakeman said in Dan Hedges’s biography of the band.
Yes had toyed with the idea of making a double album, combining live and studio work, or flying to the U. S. to record in Miami, but those ideas had to be scaled back, partially because of the addition of Wakeman. The keyboardist’s new, electronic equipment didn’t come cheap, especially to a group that had only just begun to taste commercial success. In the interest of conserving time and money, Yes scaled back its ambitions to a single disc. To further such expedience, it was suggested that the new LP should include solo compositions from each member.
“It was Bill Bruford who thought of the concept of doing individual tracks, not to mention the album title Fragile,” Howe told Guitar World in 2014. “But his original idea wasn’t that each guy should do a completely solo track, the way I did mine and Rick Wakeman did his. Bill’s concept was more like he did with his own track, “Five Per Cent for Nothing,” where the group were utilized at his command—like, ‘You play this and you play that.’”
Some of the tracks featured the whole band (Anderson’s “We Have Heaven”), while others were solo exercises (Howe’s classical acoustic “Mood for a Day”). Because Wakeman had a solo contract with A&M, he wasn’t allowed to write his own song, so he arranged a piece by Johannes Brahms (“Cans and Brahms”).
Wakeman’s record deal limited his other Fragile credits, although not his keyboard contributions to the collaborative material, despite not being named as a co-songwriter. The other members faced no such limitations, working in tandem on epic tracks, including the eight-minute opener, “Roundabout.” Howe and Anderson began writing that song on tour, becoming inspired by the roundabouts the tour bus would drive through.
“Jon and I were in a hotel room up in Scotland when we started writing that song,” Howe said. “And with ‘Roundabout,’ we had all these bits of music, tentative moments. I was big on intros back then, and the classical guitar intro I came up with for ‘Roundabout’ was really one of the most signature things. And I believe I thought of the backward piano [also in the intro], but I won’t lay 100 percent claim to that, in case I’m wrong. But basically the song just kept developing. Jon and I presented as much as we had to the band, and the band did a fair amount of input and arrangement. What Yes were brilliant at, even before I joined, was arranging skills.
“Roundabout” ended up becoming a particularly brilliant moment for Yes, which scored its first massive hit (No. 13 in the U.S.) with an edited version of the propulsive song. The album also marked the first time Yes worked with artist Roger Dean, who painted the cover and would create future artwork for the band’s releases, not to mention the group’s iconic logo.
Another of Fragile’s “full band” tracks, the Anderson-penned “Long Distance Runaround,” became a staple of FM radio. The success was borne out on the album charts. After being released in Britain on Nov. 26, 1971 (January of ’72 in the States), Fragile went to No. 7 on the U. K. charts and No. 4 in the U.S.
Although some critics were unimpressed with the album, with writers thinking that the band were attempting to “show off” more than trying to make great music, the album has become a well-loved classic and a prog rock highlight. Wakeman considers one of the album’s tracks to be a pinnacle of progressive rock.
“When anybody asks me what prog rock is about or whatever you’d like to call it – symphonic rock, prog rock, or whatever – could I play them something or give them an example,” Wakeman told Notes From the Edge. “I’d play ‘Heart of the Sunrise.’”
TYCE’S HERO — Next year will see the debut release from Tyce Green, entitled Hero; an album of songs from Jim Steinman, sung by Tyce. The young singer, who dazzled at Donnie Kehr’s Rockers On Broadway event last month (performing “More Than A Feeling”) will be the subject of an interview in these pages shortly. Here’s a shot of Tyce with Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo. Julie designed the cover for Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose and has prepared the cover for Tyce’s forthcoming album; which will appear on Van Dean’s Broadway Records. BTW: A musical based on that first Meatloaf album; the original Bat Out Of Hell album, staged by Jay Scheib, will open at the Manchester Opera House from 17 February 2017 and will transfer to the London Coliseum that same year. Stay tuned.
MARTELL PASSES — Tony Martell, founder and chairman of the T.J. Martell Foundation, the music industry’s largest foundation for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research, has died at the age of 90. Martell passed away Sunday at his home in Madison, New Jersey.
Martell was a longtime label exec and A&R man who worked with Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Jett, Ozzy Osbourne, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Isley Brothers and others over a career that spanned from the 1960’s to the 1990’s; his highest post was president of CBS International Records. Back farther in the 1960’s, he also worked for Decca Records as marketing director.
Yet there’s no question that the Foundation — which has raised more than $270 million for scientific research at hospitals in the United States — is his greatest achievement. He launched it in 1975 to as a promise to his 19-year-old son T.J., who died after a two-year battle with leukemia. Martell originally promised to raise $1 million for cancer research, which took three years to fulfill. But, he told Billboard Magazine in 2015, his philanthropic quest was far from over. James F. Holland, T.J.’s physician, “took me around to several patients to more or less lay a guilt trip on me,” Martell recalled. One of those patients told him something that convinced him to keep at it. “He said, ‘You can live 30 days without food, seven days without water. But you can’t live 60 seconds without hope.’”
In the decades since, the organization has become the music industry’s largest foundation of its type, its annual ceremony a longtime staple of the industry calendar. Martell spoke at the Foundation’s 2016 event — on Oct. 18, just five weeks ago — saying proudly, “We have some big news tonight.” He went on to say that leukemia is no longer the number-one killer in childhood diseases, thanks in part to the work of the Foundation.
Martell is survived by his daughter Debbie Martell of Florham Park, NJ. His wife of more than 65 years, Vicky, passed away in February of this year.
“Tony’s smile, energy and incredible devotion will be missed beyond words. We will work even harder now to keep his memory and dream alive and one day finding a cure for the diseases that he spent his life fighting,” reads a statement on the organization’s website.
Memorial plans will be announced soon.
SHORT TAKES — Nonstop to Cairo plays The Brooklyn Bowl this Sunday. Show starts at 7:00 PM … Remember we referenced the terrific forthcoming double-album from producer Tony Moran, a few columns back, called Mood Swings? We’ll have a sit down with the extraordinary talented man himself him next week. Here’s the artwork for the album, which you recall, is referenced in two-discs, the first being called feel, and the second called move. Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with a delicious little factoid; Moran’s been involved in 67 #1 records. More later on … Actor and activist Fritz Weaver passed last week. If you don’t know the name, or face, suffice to say he was on dozens of TV shows in TV’s Golden Age. Here’s the New York Times-obit. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/27/movies/fritz-weaver-tony-winning-character-actor-dies-at-90.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0 … We’ll start getting into the year-end movie awards next week, but one name that’s been missing all over, is Hugh Grant for his sensational work in Foster Florence Jenkins. In my humble opinion, it’s the best supporting role of the year … and, Grant’s career. More than one pundit has suggested that the film came out too early to be properly considered. Too early? A good role by a good actor should stand whenever it comes out. Major error in my book … Billy Joel will play himself on next Monday’s episode of the CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait …The documentary Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago will premiere on CNN on January 1st …The settlement between The Turtles and SiriusXM could cost the satellite broadcaster close to $100 million. Terms disclosed in Federal Court begin with at least $25 million for past royalties and then roll into a 10-year license deal for music recorded before 1972, worth between $45.5 and $59.2 million. More on this soon … and, Sting has added Darlene Love and Ronnie Spector to his Baby It’s Cold Outside…Rainforest Fund benefit on December 14th at New York’s Carnegie Hall. The bill also includes Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and trumpet player Chris Botti.
Till next time…