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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2311 ratings

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5 stars "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is one of those albums that I've been listening to for ages and I know it as if its second nature to me. I can recall all the lyrics and melodies throughout all four songs and more than often find my self indivertibly humming out these tunes. "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is a very controversial album both now and when it was released. I don't think anyone had gone so full out in terms of experimentation and it caused much controversy within the band and during the "Tales from Topographic Oceans" tour the band members refused to speak to each other. Luckily this was only a temporary thing and these days the guys are good old friends from way back. "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is very successful in both England and the US reaching an astounding number 1 and 8 respectively. This was the first of just two Yes albums to top the English charts the other being 'Going for the One" which was released in 1977.

Coming off the success of 'Close to the Edge' (4 UK, 3 US) Yes went to an even further extreme by creating something so experimental, and amazing. Close to the Edge was adventurous but this was something else, four songs, each lingering around the 20 minute mark and exploring something different both conceptually and musically. Jon Anderson got the idea when he was waiting for the band's next concert to start in Tokyo. While waiting he began to read through Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi" of shastrick scriptures which spoke of religion, social life, medicine, music and architecture. From this the band derived their next concept and the album was recorded just eight months later.

The album was written/conceived mostly by lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe. They decided to split the album up into four songs each addressing a different aspect of "Yogi."

1st Movement: Shrutis. The Revealing Science of God. The Revealing Science of God is described as being "an ever opening Flower from which simple truths emerge examining the complexities and magic of the past and how we should not forget the song that has been left to us to hear. The knowledge of god is a search."* The song begins with a fast-paced vocal section with a menacing beat building up to climax where there is a flurry of guitar and synthesizers. After this there is a slower, more atmospheric section with harmony vocals and a strong underlying bass progression with heavy guitar synthesizer over the top. The rest of the song progresses in much the same way with mellow sections, rapid sections and then more illustrious passages. The vocals of "Revealing Science of God" flow like clockwork and some great lyrics emerged from this song. Lines like "getting over, over-hanging trees let them rape the forest thoughts will send our fusion clearly to be home" sound beautiful when sung in this song. The bass and guitar work is amazing here!

2nd Movement: Suritis. The Remembering. "All our thoughts, impressions, Knowledge, fears have been developing for millions of years. What we can relate to is our own past, our own life, our own history. Here, it is especially Rick's keyboards which bring alive the ebb and flow and depth of our mind's eye: The Topographic Ocean. Hopefully we should appreciate that given points in time are not so significant as the nature of what is impressed on the mind, and how it is retained and used."* "The Remembering" is my personal favourite from "Tales from Topographic Oceans" and it is the most beautiful. The rolling, mystical atmospheres conjured by synthesizers are otherworldly and the vocals harmonies add to this feel. The opening line "As the silence of seasons on we relive abridge sails as to call light the soul shall sing of the velvet sailors course on" creates an image of a velvet sea in one's mind. "The Remembering" is really hard to define apart from being very mystical, the ending of the song is some of the best music I've ever heard and the guitar solo at the very end of the song is the icing on the cake. AMAZING!

3rd Movement Puranas. "The Ancient probes still further into the past beyond the point of remembering. Here Steve's guitar is pivotal in sharpening reflection on the beauties and treasures of lost civilisations. Indian, Chinese, Central American, Atlantean. These other peoples left immense treasures of knowledge."* "The Ancient" gets a bad rap from most people, even some fans of "Tales" dislike it. "The Ancient" is another epic masterpiece to me and the opening is certainly something different. Again, the opening line is fantastic. The last 6 minutes of The song displays some of the best Steve Howe guitar work ever. He plays an acoustic guitar which is backed by vocals from Jon Anderson and Chris Squire who sing in harmony. The vocals are great in this section and over time one comes to enjoy this part of the album a great deal. The closing to the song leaves it almost unfinished, a minor point though compared to the grandeur of the rest of the song. Steve Howe is pivotal in this song and his guitar work here is a highlight of the album.

4th Movement Tantras. The Ritual. "Seven notes of freedom to learn and to know the ritual of life. Life is a fight between sources of evil and pure love. Alan and Chris represent and relay the struggle out of which comes a positive source. Nous Sommes du soleil. We are of the sun. We can see."* The final epic journey of "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is perhaps the most Yes-like of all. It displays all the characterises that we all love about Yes, including lyrics in different languages! This is a song where the entire band is working together amazingly well; all the instrumentation is done to perfection. Some of the great Yes music emerged from this song.

1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn (5/5) 2. The Remembering - High The Memory (5/5) 3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun (5/5) 4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil (5/5)

Total = 20 divided by 4 = 5 = 5 stars Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

"Tales from Topographic Oceans" is one of the very best albums out there, trust me. Many people have trouble absorbing this scale of music, it is really, very intense and a lot to comprehend. For all people beginning with "Tales from Topographic Oceans" I just want to say don't write-off this album. Give it at least two months to sink in; this music defiantly isn't for prog new comers. I'd recommend "Tales from Topographic Oceans" to all Yes fans and symphonic prog fans. This album is one of the greatest things every written in my opinion, although many disagree on that point. To fully appreciate "Tales from Topographic Oceans" you'll need two things: A good pair of headphones and a quiet room. The better the headphones and the quieter the room the grander the experience will be.

* Quotes taken from "Tales from Topographic Oceans" CD booklet, written by Jon Anderson.

Australian | 5/5 |


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