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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover

TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2360 ratings

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Ktrout
5 stars 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' is an album of considerable scope and complexity. Consisting of four large scale arrangements, the work is reputedly based around the Shastric scriptures. It's seems fairly unfathomable as to how exactly the scripture is manifast in the music and lyrics in other than very abstract terms - however, it is quite clear that the scope of the scriptures gave Yes plenty of freedom to experiment compositionally. Each piece may be viewed as a landscape, the music taking us on a journey through often very differing terrains, the lyrics through various aspects of our consciesness.

'Dance of the Dawn', the first arrangement to feature on 'Tales from Topographic Oceans', is introduced to us by the sound of waves. On top of this backdrop are crafted the albums opening notes, Steve Howe making use of the volume control on his guitar to fade in each plucked note individually - creating a sound similar to that of a violin. Rick Wakeman adds to this opening texture with underlying keyboard chords. This figure is repeated, with the inclusion of lyrics, sung principally by Anderson, but rich in vocal harmony in typical Yes style.

The music thereafter sees a polyphonic arrangement of guitar and keyboard, interwoven throughout the melody. Alan White, whilst not nearly as technical as Bill Bruford, aids the transition between contrasting themes with appropriate drum fills. He is underpinned by Chris Squire, who plays a complex and important bass part. Much variety of musical material is presented to the listener within the piece. If we employ the journey metaphor, the ultimate destination and apex of 'Dance of Dawn' is a fabulous, sweeping keyboard solo, such a one as has surely inspired keyboardist Jordan Rudess in his work on Dream Theater's 'Octavarium'.

'High the Memory' is lesser in tempo, but more atmospheric and lyrically profound than the arrangement prior, reaching back through time into the memories forming a part of ones individual consciousness. Anderson's vocals are sometimes harmonized by Rick Wakeman on keyboard as in the second lyrical figure; interestingly the third sees the harmonisation of vocals undertaken by Chris Squire on fretless base - a touch most pleasing to the ear. Wakeman creates most of the atmospheric textures which occur throughout the piece (and album), adding much to an effort he would sadly, later deride.

'Giants Under the Sun' reaches further back through consciousness and human history, receding into the realms of lost civilisation. It is the most experimental of the four compositions musically. A gong heralds the start of the arrangement, which is remarkable for being especially percussive. Alan White plays a hollowed out log and uses brushes on an aluminium sheet to create an intersting rhythmic effect at various locations within the music. Rick Wakeman creates ritch, amospheric bursts of sound on keyboard, equally percussive.

Following the initial theme of forgotten civilisation, comes a beautiful 'remembrence', a celebration of more recent civilisations and what they have impressed upon the culture of today. Howe plays an extended solo movement on classical guitar. This transcends into a peaceful vocal passage, before the primary theme is briefly re-instated and the piece brought to its conclusion.

'Ritual', the last of the four arrangements, is included in Yes' '35th Anniversary' compilation and concert DVD, being more accessible than the other three. The primary theme is particularly prominent, introduced by Howe and sung to the words 'Nous sommes du soleil'; 'We are of the sun'. The arrangement contains a Gamelan inspired percussion solo ensemble, feuturing the whole band playing timpani behind the lead of Allan White, who once again uses brushes on an aluminium sheet to create a very particular sound. The Gamelan passage is almost mesmeric - but by no means unpleasant, and reflects the diversity of musical material to be found on 'Tales from Topographic Oceans'.

Included in the CD package of 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' are studio run throughs of 'Dance of the Dawn' and 'Giants Under the Sun'. These working versions of the arrangements yield insight into the creation of the album.

'Tales from Topographic Oceans' is to my mind a masterpiece. A word of warning however - the album is not for those without patience, and willing to give it a few listens in order to grasp an understanding and appreciation for the music. When you do though, it's splendour will never leave you. Five stars.

Ktrout | 5/5 |

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