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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover

TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 1787 ratings

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Josef_K
5 stars For anyone who doesn't want to read a long review, I can say that if you are new to Yes then you should NOT listen to this album. Yes it's true that I gave this album 5 stars, but that doesn't make it easy to get into. This is the ultimate Yes album for people who cannot get enough of Yes. When I had listened quite a lot to "Fragile", taking some time to get used to the Yes sound, I moved on to "Close to the Edge" and found it to be a complete masterpiece (Fragile has masterpieces in it, but is in itself not one as a whole). I thought "the only way Close to the Edge could be better is if it was longer, I just can't get enough of it". For those familiar with Tales from Topographic Oceans (from now on known as "Tales", can't keep writing the full name ^^), you might already know how this review will continue...

So anyway, I had heard some about Tales and it was 100% bad stuff. It's too long, it's too complicated for no reason, it's got too strange/bad lyrics, it's just over the top and uninteresting. I thought, oh well why not, I'll give it a try. Now, with the other two albums it took me a couple of listens to get used to the sound. The first time I heard Tales I sunk deeper and deeper into the soundscape and in the middle of "Ritual" I was digging the song as if it was my all-time favorite. So ironically, the arguably most tiring album to get into was the easiest for me, simply because at the time of exploring it I couldn't have been more fascinated by the Yes sound. If you are not, I can't imagine you can have much interest in this album.

My greatest surprise with this album has always been Rick Wakeman's extraordinary work on it, not because he shines much more than the others but because he obviously was far less interested in the album than the others and still managed to perform with such flawless precision and dedication (at least leaving an impression he did so). I am extremely grateful that he stayed for the whole recording sessions, no other keyboardist could have done that album justice.

As for the album concept, I honestly haven't spent that much time at all researching on it or even reflecting over what Jon is trying to say with his lyrics. This is not because that is of no interest to me, lyrics and themes in music are extremely important imo. The reason is rather that I get such a strong personal reaction to the album that I don't feel that I want to research further on Jon's and the band's intentions. I love reading the little story included in the vinyl gatefold package and of course reading the wonderful lyrics, but I only think about them from my own interpretation.

The concept or lyrics are not this albums main strengths however, those are first and foremost the melodies. They are... just wow... I want to list all my favorite melodies from the album and all the incredible parts of songs where the changes in dynamics/pace are a complete blessing for the ear, but I'll let those interested find them on their own. This is NOT an album where you should "listen for that incredible keyboard solo at 17:32" or whatever. This is an album which you should just fall into. Just listen, don't think about anything and just listen. There is, for me anyway, no idea to try and follow the music with your mind when listening to this, not even after hearing it over and over again. One just has to disconnect the logical, analytic mindset during this album.

This might (and should) sound like a load of BS from a fanatic fan to you, but I am convinced that this album is not one you're supposed to try and map out in your mind, it is best left rather unexplored. Since it is so long and with so long pieces, it is hard to remember all details even after countless listens, which is one of the things that makes this album so great. Even as I listen to it now, I am still exploring the sound landscape and the concept.

As for this album being over-ambitious, I'd like to think about it in a different way. I saw an interview with Jon Anderson where he said that "the critics said that well what is the next thing Yes are going to do, put the Bible to music? And I just felt that yeah, why not? I'll show you it can be done. Stop saying it can't be done". The album is very ambitious and I personally think that it manages to hold up to itself simply because it reaches so far. If you try to do something impossible with such raging passion and dedication, in a way you reach your goal. This feeling sums up the whole album for me.

Josef_K | 5/5 |

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