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Yes - Topographic Drama: Live Across America CD (album) cover

TOPOGRAPHIC DRAMA: LIVE ACROSS AMERICA

Yes

Symphonic Prog


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Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars With all that's happened to Yes, it's amazing that they are still a touring band. It's been a few years since Jon Anderson was pushed out of the band, and with Chris Squire's passing, the group now has none of their founding members. Yet this year (2018 if you are reading this review some time in the future) marks a half century since the group was first formed.

I'll admit that I've not been to a Yes concert in many years, as I have been fearful of watching these pioneers of prog rock succumb to the ravages of time. But as the members of the band have proclaimed publicly, Yes is an evolving entity that may survive past all of its members of the seventies.

I was intrigued to hear what the band would sound like without the signature Squire bass sound, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Billy Sherwood does a masterful job of recreating the power and the glory of the old bass lines. In fact, he's so good that I have to say that his playing is, to me, the highlight of the two complete songs from Tales From Topographic Oceans on this disk.

The first disk is mostly comprised of a performance of the entire Drama album. They are performed very well, but it reminds me (as I am reminded by the original Drama album each time I revisit it), that it is a step below the classic Yes albums. The songs are good, but mostly lacking something. I especially never liked the way Alan White was limited (probably a record company executive's decision) to pedestrian drum beats, except for parts of Machine Messiah and Tempus Fugit (by far the best song on Drama).

And the TFTO renditions here just might be the best versions I've ever heard. This Yes seems to do the most with the dynamics of these compositions, sounding equally as comfortable with the pastoral passages as they are with the bombastic. I only wish they had performed the entire album.

The remaining tracks, And You And I, Heart Of The Sunrise, Roundabout and Starship Trooper are all well played.

I have been listening to this album repeatedly since purchasing it last fall, and my enjoyment of it is still not receding.

Report this review (#1873437)
Posted Thursday, February 8, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not going to indulge in the sheep like, fan boy dribbling that seems to accompany anything from the YES camp. I am not overwhelmed by this recording by any means.

There's nothing major wrong here ..... hence the 3* rating ... it just ..... doesn't quite do it for me.

1. Its so SLOW! ... if they play this stuff any slower they'll never reach the end of a piece without needing a break to take a leak.

2. I'm not going to knock the singer for not being Jon Anderson ... I actually think the earlier live releases he's sung on were really rather good ... but not this time. I can't put my finger on it .... it just doesn't work for me.

3. Crowd noise a little too high in the mix

4. The elephant in the room ..... or should i say the elephant is not in the room? Anyway ... No Chris Squire. One doesn't necessarily appreciate how integral his backing vocals are .... until they're not there anymore.

5. unlike many of the Jon Anderson worshipers ... I love the Drama album ..... but this performance feels inferior.

6. I much prefer the older available performances of the 'oceans' tracks .... although they give it a shot, it just feels ... lacking.

7. Finally, do we really need any more renditions of the other classic YES trax on here? I'd say ... NO .... as a gain these feel weaker than other performances of them, including the recent ones on the last 3 contemporary live albums the band have put out in recent years.

I always want to love a YES release .... this time, I couldn't get there.

with the utmost respect, I think it's time for the guys to recognise, with No Chris AND No John ..... with Alan struggling with health issues ..... maybe this 50th anniversary year is the time to call it a day. They've done enough.

Report this review (#1886170)
Posted Saturday, February 17, 2018 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Dramatic tales

Topographic Drama is the latest live offering from Yes, and the first one recorded after the tragic loss of Chris Squire. Like the title implies, the set focuses on material from Tales From Topographic Oceans and Drama. In the case of Drama, the entire album is performed, and is for me the highlight of this double CD/triple LP. Drama is one of my favourite Yes albums, and songs from this album have rarely been played live or featured on live records. Given that Geoff Downes is now back in the band, Drama was an obvious choice among albums to be performed in its entirety, much more so than the older albums that were featured on the two Like It Is releases. Also, vocalist Jon Davison's voice compares better to Trevor Horn's than to that of Jon Anderson, adding further weight to Drama being the perfect choice to get the full live treatment. The result is strong, with Billy Sherwood doing a fantasic job, nailing Squire's parts and backing vocals.

When it comes to Tales From Topographic Oceans, not the whole album is included, but more than half of it is, with The Revealing Science Of God and Ritual in full, with Leaves Of Green from The Ancient in between. These versions are strong, and it is especially interesting to hear Downes' take on Wakeman's parts.

The rest of the songs have been done a vast number of times, but the band is a well-oiled machine and these versions sound great. Overall, Topographic Drama is a better live album than either of the Like It Is albums, and also better than In the Present, making this the best Yes live album in some time. Also from a visual perspective it is a nice one, with a lovely Roger Dean art work.

Report this review (#1914450)
Posted Saturday, April 14, 2018 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have never seen Yes live, being as I am on the wrong side of the planet. So I have to make do with live albums and DVD's. I truly enjoy the Yesshows and Symphonic Live performances, the first one for its fine selection of tracks and the latter for the fun the band and the orchestra seem to be having during most of the show.

That said, I was eager to listen to this recording: the first time I would listen to the complete TFTO album performed live AND the controversial but enjoyable Drama.

I must say I was overly disappointed, and much more than I was when I heard the Heaven and Earth CD! That album lacked power and meaningful melodies, but at least I felt like it could be forced and strained into the band's catalogue. Unlike it, I cannot feel Yes performing on this live album. Simply put, this concert lacks soul. And the soul of the band was Chris Squire. I endured most lineup changes, but losing Chris Squire meant the death of Yes for me. Although all of its current members have been involved in at least one Yes album, this sounds more like "A tribute to Yes featuring Yes members", a bland, boring, dull and unenergetic performance. And the death blow was when I found out TFTO wasn't even complete. A half of something will never be the whole thing.

I cannot say for sure if it's a completionists-only album or a fans-only, since I AM a fan and don't feel satisfied by it. But being one of my favorite bands, and having Roger Dean's artwork will make it earn its second star.

Report this review (#1917574)
Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, what can be said about this release?.... It was one of the most anticipated releases for me personally, since against all odds Drama is to this day probably my favorite YES release. I like the fact that it is a little on the "heavy" side. And also those memorable Squire bass lines and his sound. I kept waiting for the live release to drop a little in price, but finally I gave in and purchased it anyway. I really wanted to like it, I'm personally OK w/Billy Sherwood's bass playing & sound, quite close to the original, his backup vocals are also very good. If there's one negative Re: Mr. Sherwood is that he is a little low in the mix. Squire was always a 'bit more prominent live or in the studio, it drove YES. At any rate, I miss that a little. I'm even OK w/the (supposed) added crowd noise here and there. What I can't seem to get used to is Jon Davison's interpretation of the tracks. I respect him as a musician, his voice does resemble Jon Anderson to some degree, not Trevor Horn so much. His style and delivery is quite drastically different. I remember reading a review somewhere about his interpretation of the YES material, and it said that he sounds like he is about to burst into tears any second. I happen to agree w/that assessment. I was secretly hoping that Trevor Horn would have done a full live show performing Drama (he guessed-appeared here and there for 1-2 songs while they were performing Drama). He did after all re-record FLY FROM HERE - RETURN TRIP replacing Beno�?�®t David's vocals. Even though I like David's performance, I feel that Mr. Horn added a little something to the overall sound.

The second CD almost feels pointless to me, since it is a bit of a mish-mash of material mainly covering "Tales From Topographic Oceans" but not complete, so it feels like a half-arsed offering. Perhaps a single CD covering Drama would have sufficed, or a 3x CD covering both albums as the tour originally was presented live (w/1/2 hr. break between the two performances). All in all a somewhat disappointing release, I don't see myself listening CD2 at all.

Report this review (#2011520)
Posted Saturday, September 1, 2018 | Review Permalink

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