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TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 1712 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like it or not...

...It's hard to deny the progressiveness of this record. A lot of people argue as to just what ''progressive'' is, whether it's a musical style or simply the progression of rock music in general - but listening to this record you know that it simply is progressive rock in its most pure form. A sprawling double concept album released in the early 1970s with four sides to house four songs, the shortest of which is 19-minutes long. If prog music is anything, my friends, it is this. The album is incredibly hard to take in, and indeed, this is a big detractor for the record. While a lot of people appreciate the occasional 20-minute suite, I think we all have to admit that Supper's Ready (Genesis) and A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (VdGG) didn't exactly catch on fast. This album is often called ''one of the nails in the coffin of progressive rock, but it also just as often called ''prog's greatest achievement''. Whatever it is, it gets people talking and it gets the ears tuned in, and isn't that what music is all about?

This is a very demanding listen. When Steve Howe and Jon Anderson sat down on the Close To The Edge tour they obviously had no intention of coming up with the next number one single. With their legendary epic fresh in their mind they set out to create four pieces based on religious texts and the most complex music that they could possibly come up with. The result is something that often turns people off on the first listen, the second listen, and maybe even the fifth listen. Very few people actually reach the point of liking this album, but let's face it - those who like this album LOVE this album. The strange thing about it is that if it's ever going to catch on with you it will do so when you give it ''a second chance'' one day and you'll find yourself whistling The Remembering while you're at work or something like that. This is one that you have you really have to sit down and give your full attention to, but prog heads are usually like that anyways, eh?

The four songs on the album each have a very different flavor. Things range from the incredibly energetic and experimental The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun), with it's very fun sections and whining guitar, to the very moody and mostly slow The Remembering (High The Memory) which features some wonderful vocal passages from Jon Anderson. The two book-ending tracks are the two most talked about. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) is likely the most accessible song and the closest to anything Yes has done prior to this album while Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) has a pretty killer hook in the repetition of the title which makes for a very memorable end to the album. Going into further detail about each song would be nice but terribly redundant on each of these tracks since there's a great number of reviews that has already done so. All that can be said really is that each song contains something for everyone, whether they be the vocal wizardy of Mr. Anderson, the wonderful solos from Howe, Wakeman and White or the ever pressing bass from Squire. The playing on the album is incredibly focused and sharp the the production is top notch.

After this album Yes would go through many a change including the loss of Rick Wakeman resulting in the very mechanical sounding Relayer which would follow up this very organic sounding record, but in itself this is a great album. Most prog fans who like winding passages and epic songs will find a quick love in this record while those who like things to be a bit more concise will likely call this one pompous and pretentious (which it is, but in a good way). To put direct labels on it, it's easy to say that this one is not as good as Close To The Edge, but better than Relayer. Incredibly dense and yet somehow wonderfully addicting, Tales From Topographic Oceans gets a good 4 stars out of 5. Recommended, but take your time to enjoy its intricacies.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |

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