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Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 2470 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Possibly the most controversial record ever made. Nothing has come close before or since (but is that a good thing or a bad thing??). Tales is, in my eyes, a dented masterpiece. Seemingly perfect, as a vision; but slightly diminished in reality. And there are two main setbacks:

1) A bored keyboard player

2) The limitations of the vinyl LP

Had CD's been around in 1973, Tales could have been a perfectly rounded hour-long album. With vinyl, you have to make the choice: 40 minutes or 80 minutes? Yes went for 80, 20 of which, in my opinion, was second-rate material (That's not me attacking one particular song by the way, but rather, an overall 20 minutes throughout the album). Had the band gone for the 40 minute option then the whole concept of Tales wouldn't have really worked, and it might have flopped with far less publicity (negative or otherwise).

Had Rick Wakeman been remotely interested in 1973, or had Rick Wakeman been [insert another keyboard player's name here], then the vision could have been realised with 5/5ths of commitment, as opposed to 4/5ths commitment and one 1/5th chicken Tikka Masala...

The concept, I LOVE. Four expansive multi-themed suites inspired by shastric scriptures revealing truth, knowledge, culture and freedom? Sounds good to me. And it IS good. Each song has redeeming moments, and at least one or two interesting themes that would be universally praised if they had appeared on 'CTTE'. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the whole of 'Revealing...' and the whole of 'Ritual' are worthy of better albums and I love them just as much as 'Close to the Edge' or 'The Gates of Delirium'. And I think a lot of other people would be able to appreciate these perfectly respectable prog epics, if they could just let go of the restrictions of this very unpopular album. I won't go into detail about these two, but they have very little wrong with them and both provoke those 'spine-tingling' moments that were common on 'CTTE'. The point where the drums enter in 'Revealing' for example, replacing the modal chant with the synth-driven main theme of the song. Or the climactic pause after Squire's bass solo mid-way through 'Ritual'. These are the moments why Yes fans are Yes fans.

As for the middle of the sandwich, 'The Remembering' is emotive in places and interesting in the middle, but could be cut down significantly. Especially when it comes to Wakeman's "swirly synth passages during which he's holding a stopwatch with his left hand and waiting for the 20 minute mark" (of course the band knew that, but who wants to release an album with three 20-minuters and one 12- minuter??). Steve's electric guitar on 'The Ancient', is according to some, too dissonant. I'm happy with the experimental nature of this song (they make up for it in melody) but again, it struggles to fill its 18 minutes effectively.

Thus, Tales would have made a far better 60 minute CD than an 80 minute LP. But I'm still rating it highly because 60 minutes of brilliance and some filler is just as respectable as the globally praised 'Relayer' or 'CTTE' albums, which were 40 minutes with no filler. And my criticisms, unlike most people's, don't lie with the concept, simply the length.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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