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Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 2497 ratings

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5 stars ahhh... Tales From Topographic Oceans... The album has been reviewed many many times and I prefer to review albums that are less known but in this case I'd like to offer up a few words about probably one of the most infamous albums in the history of prog. The stories that surround this album are legendary. We've all heard about the wooden farm animals and scenery that was the compromise reached in whether to record the album in the city or the country. The apprehension of some members to the concept that in one memorable case, Rick Wakeman, led to publicly trashing the album and leaving after the following tour. Punk groups using this album to point to everything that was wrong in rock. Well all may be true, which adds to the lore of an album that is a must in any prog fans collection.

The album as most everyone knows was a double vinal four song album.. adventurous to be sure but not unique of course. What was unique was the album itself. 'Tales' unlike previous albums, was not just four songs across two Lp's but a conceptual album in which the 4 songs were interlaced conceptually and musically, forming a symphony of 4 movements. The concept itself, based on a book of Hindu scripture. Not exactly an easy concept to drop on the western rock public. Never before in the context of rock has anything to this scale been done.. much less by a group on top of the music world. Imagine a top group like that attempting something like this today. The results...oh... those vary wildly amoung the individual listeners. Remember though that progressive rock in it's highest expression, and make no mistake.. this is it, is art. Art is supposed to be evaluated and reflected upon by each individual, and that is why this album has opinions ranging from.. the greatest musical work of the last 50 years to being on the top 10 list of worst albums ever made. If art and progressive rock are designed to provoke and stimulate.. then this album succeeds far more than any progressive rock album ever made.

As far as the album itself. The music has been reviewed to death so I'll just mention a few points on the music. Each of the 4 movements spotlights a particular aspect of the group. The first movement: Shruitis which contains allusions to the element of Air spotlights vocalist Jon Anderson. The second movement: Suritis alludes to water and spotlights Wakeman. Though Wakeman was not a happy camper during the sessions actually may have done some of his finest work with Yes on this album. A true professional. The third movement: Puranas alludes to earth and is a spotlight for Steve Howe, electric and accoustic. My favorite movement of the four. The fourth movement: Tantras alludes to fire and is a stunning spotlight for the rhythm section of Squire and White.

One point on the music. A commen criticism of the music itself is the alleged padding that took place to get the album to fill all four sides of vinal. In my eyes that is like saying that Rubens uses too much red in his paintings. This album may have been more consise but at what cost.. the shear majesty and scope of the music that's what. What some see as filleror padding is to others meerly time for reflection of what has been said and heard and contemplation of what is to come. A shorter edited album would be...just another Close to the Edge.. and what we love progressive rock for is ambition, reaching for the stars, and exploding the popular notions of what rock is and should be. In that this album accomplishes in spades.

5 stars question.. there aren't many albums that are a must for any prog collection, however this is one is. It is in my humble opinion one of the 5 greatest albums of all of prog. Right alongside albums like King Crimson's debut as a milestone in the progression and history of progressive rock. An album capable of showing the beauty of prog, and yes, to some the excesses of prog run amuck. If you don't have an opinon on this album... then you really don't know prog.

Michael (aka micky)

micky | 5/5 |


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