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Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 2497 ratings

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5 stars Tales from memorable musicians

Being described as the most perfect example of self indulgence in progressive rock , Tales of Topographic oceans truly does honor to it's reputation. But where does that self indulgence come from? Of course from everywhere since it's a really complex piece of work both musically and lyrically. However , it's 20 minute epics may have been overwhelming by it's length in the 70's ... but in the CD era there are some bands that make this songs look like top 40 singles. Want some examples? Transatlantic , Flower Kings Dream Theater , The Tangent and I can go on for a while. Even in the early 70's filling a record with four monster epics wasn't the most innovative thing you could aim at : Both Tangerine Dream and the Soft Machine were pioneers in that aspect with mixed results. And don't get me started on Miles Davis!

The main aspect of Tales that some seem to have problems dealing with at first listen is that the four songs lack the punch and "catchiness" some of the early Yes classic's had like Siberian Khatu , All good people and Roundabout. In Tales , Yes adds athmospherical sounds to their usual pallete of music and also includes Eastern and Indian influences on the mix. This fact alone seems to discourage many people who are expecting a more prog-ROCK album. As a record , Tales is probably the purest form of prog ever made: Thought provoking , neverending and unique.

But in my opinion , the main fact that put people off from appreciating Tales are the lyrics written by Anderson and Howe. There are many thesis around the net trying to figure out the meaning of mysterious , yet beautiful phrases like: "There is someone to tell you , amid the challenge we look around in unison with you" or " Out in the cit running free , days pass as seconds turn the key". The thing is , Anderson is known for using his voice as other instrument and taking that into account , his lyrics may not be as linear as other band's. However Tales is a concept album based on Eastern religion and for us mostly westerners is pretty tough to deal with.

While writing this review I was listening to this record and I found out that The Revealing Science of God is probably Yes's stronger epic. This song does have some structure unless other epic tunes since Anderson goes over and over the same pattern all over the song (What happened.... or They move fast , they tell me...) , but everytime he does his voice gets better and better. This first cut will also show us a particular aspect as regard's Tales: Rick Wakeman's keyboards arent that prominent but I find this to be a good move. Instead his Mellotron sounds in the background most of the time with great results. Also there are some little Moog solos as well. In contrast Steve Howe dominates this song from start to finish delivering some of his finest guitarwork and never going over the top.

The remembering is probably harder to get into than Dance of the Dawn because of Anderson's melody while singing. It sounds pretty ankward at first. But the playing is top notch all over the song , there is some overwhelming Mellotron at 9 minutes and then the song suddenly goes acoustic , reminding me of "All good people". Some may find this part a little lame , but I like it. Like on the opener , there are plenty of memorable memories and riffs for you to remember. This is more than necesary when a record is so vast as Tales.

The second LP presents us " The Ancient". A gong opens this number followed with some Jamie Muir- like percussion , this is really unique in Yes catalog. Suddenly a burst of King Crimsonish Mellotron appears. I am hearing Larks Tongues in Aspic?? Or is it Starless and Bible Black?? After that confusion Jon Anderson starts telling the different names some antique civilisations gave to the sun god while this track starts sounding like a symphony. This is too much for my senses! When this long instrumental interlude comes to an end there is time for Steve Howe to shine: An acoustic guitar solo much like Mood for a Day or Horizons put this song at ease after the closest Yes got to avant garde ever.

The last tale will be the most popular one , Ritual. This one features a long guitar introduction by Steve Howe and the somewhat famous drum solo by new member Alan White.There also is some amazing playing by Chris Squire on here making a tight rhytm section. Jon Anderson leaves us some really good melodies and memorable verses like: " Open doors we find our way , we look we see we smile/ Surely daybreaks cross our path , and stay maybe a while" or " Dreams are say to blossom courage , constant to the soul".

Overall , I think that my review of this record is more than positive. But I realize that Tales could be quite a challenge for the newcomer so I suggest listening to their earlier albums before facing this double LP beauty.

crimson87 | 5/5 |


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