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Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 2482 ratings

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5 stars This is the album most music journalists use as an example when they want to show how "pretentious" progressive rock is. A sprawling, almost impenetrable concept album with only 4 songs spread over 4 sides of vinyl, it must be pretentious, surely? Well, it's Jon Anderson's concept based on the autobiography of a Yogi and, as usual with Anderson's lyrics of that period, it's hard to fathom any meaning behind lyrics like "Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources, chased amid fusions of wonder" but musically it surely deserves to rank amongst the Yes classics, although opinion is divided on this.

Each side of the album highlights a particular member of the band. "The Revealing Science of God" is Anderson's but the whole band is in top form on this track, particularly in the instrumental section towards the end. This is probably the most popular track on the album and has often been played live. The version on this edition has an extended intro before the vocals, consisting of sea noises and Howe's guitar gradually appearing. "The Remembering" is Wakeman's feature. He disliked this whole album and left the band shortly after (perhaps it was the cardboard cows that did it) but some of his finest work is on this album. There are some great keyboard sounds on this track, as opposed to the cheesier sounds on later albums. This number takes a while to get going but after one of the Wakeman solo spots, it gets into the "Relayer" section and picks up momentum. From then on until the brilliant climax, this is one of my favourite Yes songs.

"The Ancient" is the most controversial number. This is Steve Howe's side and if you dislike the wailing steel guitar that he used on the "Going For The One" title track, then you will not be too keen on this. He screeches away over some excellent rhythm work from Squire and White and you will probably either love or hate the first section of this song. There is some clever percussion work going on under the guitar, including a xylophone or something similar, but the guitar can be a bit off-putting. It eventually fades away into the beautiful "Leaves of green" acoustic section and this may come as a bit of a relief to some. Not an easy listen.

"Ritual" is Squire and White's track and so features a lengthy and dramatic bass and drum/percussion solo section. The opening few minutes of this number is one of the best parts of this album, as is the closing section after the drum solo. This is another very effective live number and is featured on the "Yesshows" album.

The recent Rhino remaster of this album is an excellent package, highlighting the cover which is one of Roger Dean's best. The songs themselves sound better than ever and you can hear instruments that weren't discernable on the original CD. It has bonus tracks which are rehearsal versions "The Revealing Science of God" and "The Ancient", which are really of historical interest only and unlikely to be played that often.

The question is - is this pretentious twaddle or a major work of progressive music? Well, in my opinion this album features some of Yes' finest work and, although it's not an easy listen and probably not the place to start from for new Yes fans, it's still a major work.

chopper | 5/5 |


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