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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover

TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 1723 ratings

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penguindf12
Prog Reviewer
3 stars It pains me to say it, but this is where Yes started to decay. However -- there are still a lot of great ideas here, just a bit buried under the sheer girth. When I first listened to the album, I was a little disappointed (actually, I kind of still am) - I was expecting more of the compositional tautness of "Close to the Edge." But that's not what Yes was going for.

"The Revealing Science of God" opens with an excellent chant in ever-shifting meters. Then we are dropped into the Topographic Ocean: ideas roil by, the textures shift in ever-changing patterns, but my is it an OCEAN of sound. The first riff is killer (and bluesy!) -- but where are the other riffs? They take time to reveal themselves, surely, surely...

"Science" is definitely the best track. It is NOT "Close to the Edge" - but it does have some intriguing themes, and a nice arch-form structure hidden within. In all, it is very successful - and Anderson's lyrics have never been better. "I must have waited all life for this..." -- I admit I have cried before to this...

"The Remembering" catches a lot of flack, but I find it nice. It drifts like a piece of ambient music, themes emerging in strange orderings... Jon Anderson's mystical liner notes really help make this piece more accessible. The whole thing is heard indistinctly - hippie-ish, yes, but I find myself in that that sort of sentimental mood sometimes...

Late in the track, Steve Howe kicks out some angular jams, but they end up sounding a little lame. Not VERY lame, but yeah, a bit lame. This track IS the Topographic Ocean - you can hear it in Rick Wakeman's beautiful solos. By the way, I like Rick's playing on this album. Mostly pads and little licks here and there - like the ghost of Tony Kaye, filtered through synthesizer. Ah -- the 12-string section is incredible! Now THAT is movement.

I really like "The Remembering" -- but it is in some ways not as successful as "Science." The production is too squeaky-clean in places where GRIT was needed. It's times like this you miss early the early Yes lineup...

Oh boy, "The Ancient." This REALLY drags in spots. The lyrics are kind of lame, to boot. What is supposed to sound majestic ends up sounding kind of goofy. There are cool things, though - the skittery keyboards, for one. There is some cool Mellotron as well. But when Jon Anderson starts chanting names of the Sun, it's hard to keep your attention focused.

After some pretty unbearable guitar jamming, we arrive at an okay little folk tune featuring Anderson and Howe. This could have been great, but the Yes boys sing it as if there were guns pointed at them, forcing them to proceed. Ugh.

The introduction to "Ritual" is pretty lame. There is a TON of potential, but it's buried. Some day Yes archaeologists should dig up the masters and remix this album. It would be VERY worth it, in my opinion.

The intro to "Ritual" culminates in an airy Howe guitar solo -- we are pulled from the Topographic Ocean and made to hear many themes reprised - sad that very few really stuck in the first place. An incredible shame, actually -- this could have been glorious. The song that follows is pretty nice, once the "nous somme du soleil!" chanting stops. Some cool electric sitar here! The succession of "at all"'s build into a wonderful bass solo. An abysmal drum solo brings everything to a screeching, unpleasant halt, and the track never recovers. I guess that was supposed to be the climax, but it's hard to tell - the pacing feels rather off.

The worst thing about this album is that it does not achieve what it set out to do - and what it set out to do was pretty cool. Even Yes were human.

penguindf12 | 3/5 |

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