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TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

Symphonic Prog


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Yes Tales From Topographic Oceans album cover
3.88 | 1687 ratings | 276 reviews | 38% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn (20:27)
2. The Remembering - High The Memory (20:38)
3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun (18:34)
4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil (21:35)

Total Time: 81:14

Bonus tracks on Elektra remaster (2003):
5. Dance of the Dawn (studio run-through) (23:35)
6. Giants under the Sun (studio run-through) (17:17)

Lyrics

Search YES Tales From Topographic Oceans lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

Search YES Tales From Topographic Oceans tabs

Line-up / Musicians

- Jon Anderson / vocals
- Steve Howe / guitars and vocals
- Chris Squire / bass and vocals
- Rick Wakeman / keyboards
- Alan White / drums

Releases information

LP Atlantic 2908 (1974)
CD Atlantic SD2-908-2 (1995)
CD Elektra 72791 (2003 remaster)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Joolz for the last updates
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YES Tales From Topographic Oceans ratings distribution


3.88
(1687 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(38%)
38%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
35%
Good, but non-essential (20%)
20%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

YES Tales From Topographic Oceans reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by corbet
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Close To The Edge is perfect. Even if Yes had stopped making music right there, they would still be one of the top few best bands ever and could already lay claim to some of the greatest albums to ever come out of rock. But what firmly cements Yes' status as the farthest-reaching band of all time are the two albums that came next: the unsurpassed twin peaks of TALES and RELAYER. Each exponentially deeper than CTTE in terms of both scope and musicianship, it's only natural that many fans (and even certain band members) will begin to fall off at this point, and thus never behold Yes in their true splendor and forever be confused at the ardor of those who have. Simply put, Tales From Topographic Oceans is one of the most magical and beautiful recordings of all time, and the empty critiques of the unknowing can never reach it. Musically speaking, what we have here is over 80 minutes of Yes' most daring and sophisticated explorations yet: deliberately recapitulating themes, carefully arranged instrumental sequences ("extended solos" to the musically deaf ear), breathaking vocal harmonies, oceanic soundscapes (thanks mainly to Rick Wakeman, the bewildered oaf), classical-worthy acoustic performances... needless to say, this is not a "one listen" album -- this an album that grows with you in time, becoming an ever more rewarding musical experience as you gradually come to terms with its immense magnitude over repeated listens. We are in a completely different territory than the Bruford days: the climb may be rougher for some, but the peaks are higher beyond compare. If you want to begin to explore the true pinnacle of Yes music, invest some time in appreciating this vast and immortal masterpiece, then brace yourself for the utter transcendence which is RELAYER. Happy listening.

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Send comments to corbet (BETA) | Report this review (#13208) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars Definitively over the edge and sunken in the depth of the ocean

Well it appears that most big prog groups were bound to make a big blunder, and this double album is certainly their first one, but hardly their last. Obviously the group's success with their previous two opus went straight to inflate some member's ego, and certainly Jon Anderson's. He was already guilty of that esoteric crap in the group's lyrics, but here he goes way overboard with his tantric BS. I guess that Howe got cornered and stuck to develop music around the lyrics, which is probably why the music sucks as well, even if not as badly as the that sung guru smut. Apparently, the only one keeping his head (not for long since he's gone after this disaster, is Wakeman, although in terms of embarrassing crappy projects, he's got no lessons to take from anyone. The newcoming Alan White (ex-Yoko Ono Plastic Band) hasn't got much to say in the group's direction, and he's got much to do to fill Bruford's shoes.

Four sidelong tracks expressing four state of minds or awareness, season, elements or dimension (who cares, really??), but AFAIC, they all suck the big one. Sounds a bit harsh??. Well imagine the headaches I had to suffer after just one side of this album?. Coz, aside Ritual, there is hardly breathing space or slower moments and these "things" are way to wordy, and Jon's irritating vocals are overly present and tend to hide whatever interesting (if any) musical ideas behind them. The only redeeming quality of this album is the outstandingly superb Dean gatefold artwork (clearly my fave of the band), but it's definitely nowhere near close enough to save this dreadful dreck.

Too demanding for the listener to be regarded this as good stuff, I simply don't know anybody who admitted listening to the whole two records in a row (let alone to two separate sides in a row). This is tedious at best, boring certainly and annoying at times. This is the drop that filled the bucket for a lot of casual prog amateurs back then and Works from ELP, made it overflow.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#13210) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars So here is in lies one of progressive rock's most arguable albums of all time... some love it , other hate it and others don't get it... I must tell you that I love this album and always have. IMHO this is one of YES' most progressive works, featuring 4 side long tracks each building on one another and setting quite a memorable mood from start to finish. What I have always loved about "Topographic" is that although it captures the signature YES sound it really takes the band in a new direction and builds a wonderful and highly original soundscape for the listener to get lost in. I am sure most of you have this recording and fall in one of the camps I mentioned earlier and I would strongly suggest you pick up the re-mastered version of this album.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#13107) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Beware of those lengthy footnotes!

Ah, Tales from Topographic oceans, do you love it or do you hate it?

Even the band members themselves are divided on this one, Rick Wakeman having publicly derided it. Indeed, one live performance of the album in its entirely gave rise to the legendary curry incident. (For more information, see the opening chapter of the excellent Yes biography "Close to the edge"). Personally, I love "Tales..". Yes, it is excessive, indulgent, long, etc., but it is also thoroughly enjoyable.

The original LP has one track per side of a double album. Unlike "Close to the edge", in this case each track is a single complete piece, i.e. the songs are not made up of individually named sub-sections. The story behind the concept is suitably obscure and indulgent, the inspiration being taken from a "Lengthy footnote on page 83 of "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramhansa Yoganada".

"The revealing science of God, Dance of the dawn" kicks off side one. For me, this is the best of the four tracks. Anderson is in fine vocal form, just as well really as this track has the most vocal passages of the four. Wakeman's keyboards are dominant throughout, although rather uncharacteristically, this is in the form of sweeping synth layers for the band to build on, rather than virtuoso performance. Towards the end he breaks loose, and slips in one of his breathtaking synthesiser solos. There is a beauty and atmosphere to this track which sets it apart from the others.

"The remembering, high the memory" is fairly similar in structure to the first track. Once again, Wakeman's keyboards are much in evidence, and Anderson is called up for vocal duty frequently. The overall composition is not quite as strong as "Revealing science of God", but it's pretty damn close. There's a wonderful section midway through, which has an oceanic feel, Wakeman's synths plunging ever deeper, before Anderson pulls things back to the main melody for the uplifting conclusion.

"The ancient, Giants under the sun" is the one track which in my opinion does not make the grade. The first half consists pretty much of Steve Howe practicing his scales on lead guitar. Had the track started when he swapped it for the acoustic one half way through, the album would have benefited immensely. The latter half of the track features a beautiful Howe and Anderson duet, the rest of the band having little input to this section. Lyrically, the song is one of Anderson's most poignant and accessible, complementing Howe's fine acoustic guitar solo perfectly.

The final track, "Ritual, Nous Sommes Du Soleil" is slightly harder than the first two, with a dynamic percussion section, which is particularly impressive live, where it is often extended.

The sleeve is one of those famous Roger Dean creations, and must surely rank among his best.

The recently remastered and extended release is lavishly packaged, and includes an instrumental intro to "Revealing science of God" (not previously released), plus two full length studio run throughs of that track and "The Ancient" (which includes an electric version of the second half of that track) These additional tracks are interesting but not essential.

I readily acknowledge that "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is controversial, and wide open to criticism, but for me, it's one of their best.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#13124) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 10, 2004

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I think it's the worst YES album: even big generator is better! Well, I never decoded this music. Quite boring and insignificant! Rick WAKEMAN's keyboards often consist in linear mellotrons and organ, less great than on close to the edge. It seems they do not play with full intensity. Songs are often lengthy, and the airs are quite not catchy. The mellow bits are boring, and it's hard not to zap to another bit. Nevertheles, it's still the good YES sound and they play well their instruments, that's why I give 3 stars, no more!

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#13170) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2004

Review by daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Sometimes a good idea is just that. And many a muse's gift bestowed in a late-night reverie loses its lustre in the lucidity of morning. But STEVE HOVE and JON ANDERSON, architects of the inscrutable four-movement "Tales From Topographic Oceans", dragged their bandmates through the musical wilderness in search of their holy grail all the same. The four parts, each a little over twenty minutes in length, apparently relate to the four parts of the shastrick scriptures (ANDERSON further obfuscates the album's intent with predictably vague interpretations of the individual movements). The lyrics, credited to HOWE and ANDERSON, are more spiritually inclined than past efforts, but otherwise stick to the successful idiom of word-painting rather than literal description. The music, credited to the band, is the real problem. There are isolated moments of majesty that recall the high points of "Close to the Edge" and "Fragile", but they're separated by often-chaotic interludes that feature little of the dazzling musical interplay that fans had come to expect. "Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)" is the most effective of the four movements in that it sounds like an actual "band" effort. "The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)" and "The Remembering (High the Memory)" feature some inspired passages, but these are generally the result of HOWE and ANDERSON working in unison while the rest of the band lumbers along. CHRIS SQUIRE's bass is rarely its old acrobatic self, the Fish-like segment in the second half of "The Remembering" notwithstanding. RICK WAKEMAN is clearly bewildered by what to do with these arrangements, dabbing at the canvas unsuccessfully throughout. Alan White's tribal percussion succeeds in a few cameos, including an impressive section in "Ritual", but the fact remains that BILL BRUFORD would have better balanced the bandmates' tendencies to go off in their own directions. The album's low point occurs with "The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)", a noisy avant-garde experiment that ill befits the band. While fans, who would follow their once and future kings anywhere, gave YES the benefit of the doubt, critics of the progressive rock movement found plenty of ammunition on these two records. As for RICK WAKEMAN, he left to follow his own white whale on his "Journey to the Centre of the Earth".

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#13209) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Review by frenchie
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The love it or hate it double album. I think the reason why some fans, and band members dislike this album is because it takes a long time to build up and because there is so much material it requires a lot of patience and the right state of mind to listen to. One flaw of the album is that if you listen to one of the tracks individually they are not as impressive as when you listen to the album as a whole because the first track is an excellent build up to the remembering and it continuouslly progresses into better pieces, just very slowly. I think it was silly to include ritual on the recent ultimate collection as it feels like they've taken a snippet from the album whilst if you listen to the rest of the album first the song seems much better.

If none of that compells you to listen to this album then it is always nice to see yes do something different as this album is very experimental and uses many different styles and sections including mellow organ and piano pieces, pounding basslines and guitar/piano battles. Not to mention the incredible drum techniques in ritual. The lyrics show that this album is a concept album about ways of life and the life of yes and refers to christianity at times. Anyone will have to appreciate the almost impossible task of producing 80 minutes of perfectly orchestrated music. This album has its ups and downs but after you settle into it you will love it as much as close to the edge, relayer and fragile. Perhaps this one is different because the other albums just mentioned really grab you by the balls and always entertain whilst this album takes a while to get going. Jon Andersons vocals are still upto par as usual. This is brilliant stuff and i think it did well for yes. I would much recommend this album over anything after relayer. In a word...yes.

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Send comments to frenchie (BETA) | Report this review (#13134) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, July 03, 2004

Review by Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars YES`s less accessible album. Mainly, an album composed by basic ideas by Anderson and Howe, later completed by musical ideas and arrangements by Squire, White and Wakeman. If "Brain Salad Surgery" by ELP could be called "excessive", this could be called "two times excessive". If some critics of prog rock call this kind of music as "excessive", this album is maybe a good example for them. Still, this album also has good things, despite being the YES`s album which I don`t listen very much to. Every "Movement" (as Anderson calls the songs in the sleeve notes) of "Topographic Oceans" has some good melodies, very good keyboard arrangements (even if Wakeman has said that he doesn`t like this album),very good drums and percussion by the then newest member of the band (White) and the usual very good bass guitar parts by Squire. But I don`t understand the meaning of some parts of the lyrics, which as part of a "conceptual album", had to be very important."The Revealing Science of God" is the best song in this album, more accessible than the rest of the songs. "The Remembering" has very good melodies, and it reflects "tranquility" and "musical atmospheres". In this song, Wakeman`s keyboards have a more important role. "The Ancient" is "noisy" sometimes, but it is "Universal" in giving importance to the contributions of several Civilizations to the development of Humanity. In this song, the best thing is an acoustic guitar section with lyrics, which is played sometimes in the present in YES`s concerts (called "Leaves of Green" by some fans in concert reviews in the website "Forgotten Yesterdays"). "Ritual" has some good things, too. In this song, White and Squire have their most important contributions. Howe reprised in this song his "signature melody" from the "Close to the Edge" song. Squire plays a bass solo, followed by White`s drums and percussion solo. After this, the song returns to the musical theme of the start of the song, but the end of the song is like an "anti-climax" because it ends abruptly, and with the sense of sadness or even disillusion (at least for me). Maybe this album could be better if the four "Movements" were originally recorded for one L.P. in shorter forms. But being a double L.P. album, it has a lot of ideas which sometimes seem disconnected one from the other, like the members of YES were struggling how to fill four sides of a double L.P. album. But this album was a good attempt to expand musical ideas over the main conceptual theme of the album. But it also is not the best start for someone who is new to YES`s music.

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Posted Monday, September 27, 2004

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Nous sommes du solei....we laugh when we play...du solleil du soleil"....nothing short of majestic. I cannot for the life of me understand the negative hype about Tales From Topographic Oceans. It has four exquisite sets all unique in their own way, it has four sets of wonderful music complexities. It is progressive rock at it's best. It is art. It is not pretentious.Sure Howe and Anderson were more influential on this album but so what? If you cannot understand the ambience of Roger Deans cover in relation to the album content, you have missed something....look again, listen again too this thirstless classic.

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Posted Thursday, October 07, 2004

Review by maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Founding Moderator
3 stars Someone once remarked that if you look up the word "pretentious" in the dictionary, you will see a picture of "Tales From Topographic Oceans." I wouldn't go quite that far, but I can see why some people might agree with that. However, if I had to use only two words to describe this album, they would be "maddeningly inconsistent" - especially from a band as great as Yes had become at that point.

The blame for this rests squarely on the head of Jon Anderson, not only for forcing this bizarre and self-indulgent (if not blatantly ridiculous) concept on the band, but, along with blameworthy Steve Howe, not allowing Squire, Wakeman or White to contribute to the initial ideas, structure and writing of the piece. Can you imagine any other great prog bandleader - Gabriel, Hamill, Fish, even Fripp, for Pete's sake - doing something like that? Writing - especially prog writing - has always been, and should be, a group effort. Indeed, of the other eight seminal prog bands (Crimson, Floyd, Moody Blues, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, VCGG, ELP), I simply cannot imagine any of their leaders doing something like that. It is virtually the antithesis of what progressive rock has always been about: collaboration and multi-level input.

There are two additional reasons why Tales is not as good as it might have been. First, it was written for LP, not CD; i.e., each "section" had to "fit" on an LP side, which set up "false" parameters for the songwriting. As Rick Wakeman has pointed out, had the CD format been available at that time, Anderson might not have been as self-indulgent, and the band might have been able to make Tales a far better edited, more cohesive concept.

Second, to my ears, there is no question that the entire concept of Tales was "written to be performed." That is, although it is ostensibly a "studio" album, Anderson had to be well aware of the power that Yes had "live." Having just come off a wildly successful tour, I believe that, in writing Tales, Anderson ultimately had the stage in mind. And although this is obviously debatable and unprovable, if you listen to the entire album in one sitting (which I did), this comes through pretty clearly.

The question then remains: how does one measure the "success" of the Tales concept, and its execution? Obviously, as a reviewer, one begins by doing it subjectively. In this regard, I believe that the album is occasionally successful, and occasionally not. [N.B.: With the exception of our feelings about "The Ancient," I strongly agree with most of Dave Connolly's review, which I highly recommend.] However, I think there is another criterion in this case, one virtually forced on a reviewer by Anderson himself: that is, to compare the four sections of the album to Anderson's notes for each. In this regard, much of the album fails, since it does not express what Anderson himself wanted it to express.

Anderson describes the 1st movement ("The Revealing Science of God") as "an ever- opening flower." Lyrically, this may be so. But musically I do not hear this. What I hear is a composition that "doesn't start anywhere" and "doesn't go anywhere." It has a few recognizably "Yes"-like sections, but "says" little, and certainly doesn't "unfold" like a flower. Of the 2nd movement ("The Remembering"), Anderson says, "We relate to.our own past.life.history. Here." Again, lyrically, this is expressed. However, although the composition is more cohesive than the 1st movement, and has a nice build- up and some good sections, again, musically, it "says" little.

The 3rd movement ("The Ancient") "probes still further into the past." Here it is the lyrics that fail to express the intent, while the music is the most creative and "compelling" of the movements. Although the middle section is a bit long, the drums, percussion and guitar successfully evoke various ancient cultures, and the song wraps up with a very direct appeal to protecting life, both individual and collective. The 4th movement ("Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil") is described as "Seven notes of freedom.We are of the sun. We can see." Here, lyrics and music converge successfully to express their intent. The opening theme (which is reiterated later) does, in fact, use each of the seven notes of the scale once, and the finale is Yes at their most Yes-like, with unpretentious pomp and circumstance.

"Maddeningly inconsistent," as the second half of the suite (3rd and 4th movements) is so much more successful, compelling and satisfying than the first half (1st and 2nd movements). And herein lies what I believe is the crux of the "love/hate" debate that surrounds this album: for those who love it, it not only "measures up" to prior Yes albums, but takes them a step further by creating a double-album-length concept suite that "opens up" the possibilities for thematic exposition of ideas; for those who hate it, it not only does NOT "measure up" to prior Yes albums, but takes a step backward by allowing Jon Anderson to impose an almost painful level of self-indulgence on the majority of his bandmates, ending up with an inconsistent "mish-mash" of ideas that are not as well-realized, -developed or -executed as they should have been. For those who have never heard it, it is certainly worth a "once-through," preferably in one sitting, with headphones. However, given the lack of cohesion and number of inconsistencies in both lyrics and music - especially from a band that had more than proved its ability to handle difficult, complex concepts ("Close to the Edge") - it must ultimately fail as a truly great work, much less a masterpiece.

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Posted Saturday, October 23, 2004

Review by James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you prefer The Yes Album or Fragile to Close to the Edge, you'll likely think that Tales is going in the wrong direction. Diffuse and sprawling, with very little in the order of "hooks", this is one of the most impenetrable YES albums in their discography.

But so beautiful...without the constraints of delivering more concise songs, the band manages to weave shifting soundscapes out of half-songs and melodic allusions, without ever seeming incomplete. Except for an unusually subdued Squire, nothing is missing; Wakeman's synths and mellotron, which occasionally seemed out-of-place on the previous albums, are now perfectly situated in the mix- and along with the layered vocal harmonies they provide a lush and complex wall of sound (predictably, Wakeman was dissatisfied with one of the few examples of instrumental restraint in his history). Howe's infamously thin and lonely tone has become less harsh, and he explores a range of other sounds as well (including a fade-in technique, somewhat reminiscent of Hackett, that seems to be this album's signature lead guitar sound). White may not quite have Bruford's formidable chops, but he is by no means a slouch- and not a bit inhibited on his first outing with the band (check out the "Lark's Tongues"-like opening of "The Ancient" or the tumbling exotica near the end of "Nous Sommes du Soleil").

Once in a while, the players seem to be re-hashing past melodic lines. "Revealing Science" has a section very like the verses of "Close to the Edge". During "The Ancient" I can hear a "Siberian Khatru" guitar part pop up and the nylon-stringed section occasionally reminds me too vividly of "Mood for a Day". The "Close to the Edge" main melody is directly referenced at the beginning of "Nous Sommes du Soleil", though very briefly (and the phrase "total retain" even makes an appearance). One could argue that these are more stylistic resemblances than self-plagiary, and either way it probably won't conflict with your enjoyment. Even the occasional clumsy transition between passages fails to jar the smooth overall experience.

And this is more of an experience than a proper album. Mood is paramount, although message is also inescapable. The entire album is indeed a spiritual manifesto, but one of such gentle peace and beatific intent that it is impossible to chafe at its overt nature; it's not so much a persuasive tract as it is a pan-denominational ode (and at nearly an hour and a half, it's definitely not a Missa Brevis). Anderson's lyrical approach on this album soars with evocative but increasingly abstract poetry; it's a sure turn-off for the more literal-minded listener but pure delight for anyone who prefers non-linear modes of expression. I suppose the message of "Tales" could rile those who have some aversion to 'hippie cliches' like peace, love, and nature...but if that's the case, YES is not the band for you- not with Jon Anderson in the fore, anyway.

If, on the other hand, you'd like a New Age or Post-Rock soundscape with a little more spiky rhythmic rock bite, Tales is perfect. If you like jazz fusion with a little less unrestrained virtuosity and a little more classic (if exotic) rock foundation- again, Tales is perfect. If you want a transcendent escape hatch to a engrossing and detailed sonic world, there's few albums that will do it better (or for as long). If you wanted Close to the Edge to last for 80+ minutes, Tales will almost satisfy that urge as well...just don't expect the same sense of structure, climax or closure. This is a journey to be undertaken solely for the pure beauty and gently uplifting pleasure along the way.

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Posted Saturday, November 06, 2004

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This review has been a long time coming. I have listened to TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS a lot lately, and I have given considerable thought to the rating attached above, vacillating between a low of two stars, and a high of four. Finally, I have concluded that this is a "good, but non-essential" Yes album.

Part blundering behemoth, part lissome lass, TALES is easily the most controversial of the classic Yes recordings. The lack of planning in its formation, and the artificial structure imposed upon it by the desire to fill four LP sides with four long suites (see Prog Archives Special Collaborator Maani's excellent and informative interview with affable former Yes keysman Rick Wakeman) caused Rick Wakeman's departure from the band, and prompted at least one wag to dub it a "Topographic Turkey" upon its 1974 release.

Reviled by some, praised to the high heavens by others, TALES can divide a roomful of Yes fans quicker than Mariah Carey can shred an old progger's eardrums. Each of the album's suites, for my tastes, contains moments of great power and even beauty (like many others, I particularly favour "Ritual," finding it the most unified of the quartet), but each is also marred by awkward passages that smack of "padding," and a comparative dearth of cohesive and vital ideas. There is great music herein, with all of the essential dynamics and elements of classic Yes, but I believe that TALES would have been better pared down (given time, group will, and, above all, a willingness to compromise from vocalist Anderson, whose brainchild TFTO was) to a stronger, single LP-length album.

I'm glad to own a copy of TALES, but it will never displace its magnificent and masterful forerunners THE YES ALBUM, FRAGILE, and -- Yes' crowning glory -- CLOSE TO THE EDGE in the heart of this longstanding fan.

It's not for everyone, but confirmed followers of the band should give TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS a go. Locating the rewards it has to offer from the depths of all its aural "packing material" requires patience and commitment, but there are some shining pearls to be pulled from 'midst the musical midden.

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Posted Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Review by el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Tales from topographic oceans... by far Yes´s most controversial album ever. This is just extreme. Extreme in time (no song last less than 18 minutes), extreme in instrumentation (as all Yes 70´ albums) and extreme in opinions about it. Some love it, some hate it, and some just don't get it. I don't love it, but I can see why some do. I don't hate it, but I can see why some do. And I do understand it, but I also can see why some don't. I like it, quite a lot actually, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece. For once, I don't know if can say that the songs individually are perfect, they really aren't, especially The Ancient for it's long and boring intro (funny, at the same time the last minutes from the Ancient are by far the best of the whole double album). The four pieces work better taken as a whole. and here lays the bigger problem. It's a double album which, at least I, rarely listen in it's entirely. It's just too much, having they made two 20 minutes epics and two 10 minutes song or so, it would be so much better, probably perfect, but, hey! Who knows for sure? This is not an album than you just say: "Ah, I will listen to it while I'm waiting for the bus..." No!!! It's not that type of album, here you must really say:" I will listen to it here, alone, in my room, with full concentration!" It's a very special piece of work, and it can't be taken as any other album, even as any other prog album, and that's saying quite a lot. But if you are in the right mood (and you got some time) ... it can be an incredible experience

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Posted Friday, November 26, 2004

Review by Thulëatan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars So this is the one. This is the album you quickly hear rumour of as the music of Yes enters your world. It's the 'inevitable prog double album', the conceptual epic, the one made as the core of the band flourished both internally as well as in the public eye. Rick Wakeman didn't like it, openly disparaged it, says he hated playing on it, to the extent that he resorted to funny routines on stage, eating curries while he slogged through solos. At a point you have to ask yourself - does any of the anecdotal historical veneer actually matter? Does it actually reflect this work?

The answer is: no, it doesn't. What we have here is one of the greatest, most far-reaching albums ever made. Despite his undeniable moments of greatness, Wakeman was just a bit of a clown. 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is a four-suite, progressive, poetic tapestry depicting the human perception of time and memory, from simple everyday awareness right through to the oldest ages of the earth. And I said 'poetic', which means this is not a geology paper - Yes have observed myths and dreams from all over the world in telling their tale, Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec, as well as modern meditations, fusing an astoundingly rich level of lyrics with complex, symphonic rock of vast scope.

It starts immediately, although it had already begun, with an absolute monster first verse charting the birth of consciousness in a world of information - the dawn of light, the dawn of thought, the dawn of power, the dawn of love - and builds wonderfully with the trademark Yes vocal harmonies, here at their most fluid and dynamic. This first track deals with the present, and a person's memories of their own life, becoming aware of things, in music that is vibrant, familiar, but very progressive, moving through episodes of full-band rock balladry, smooth mellotron/guitar soundscapes, and darker sections of confusion and questioning. Lyrically, the piece briefly begs to go further back in time, but has a satisfying conclusion in itself as the contemplation inevitably returns to the individual, 'seekers of the truth' made whole as reason guides their continuing life.

The next piece, 'The Remembering', looks further back in time to days so far on the edge of memories that they seem like we ourselves never even lived them... 'stand, on hills of long forgotten yesterdays'. These are the archetypes, imprinted memories, illusory but powerful parts of who we are, which drag us out of the tiny period of time in which we have existed, realising how far back our collective lifetime begins to stretch. Moments of both peace and war lie there, long before even your own civilisation was born. This is carried by music much less pronounced, less familiar, where the ethereal keyboards of Wakeman successfully do their job whether he realised it or not. The first few minutes of this track are perhaps the most beautiful on the record, a simple, slow guitar motif by Howe rendered hypnotic by a flurry of modulation effects, over which the band sing in beautiful unison.

Track three is where the album reaches apogee, the point most far out, as the band attempt to go yet further into the past, to a time actually beyond memory, but when our planet was nevertheless still here. The raw, primordial sounds cast out by the band conjure up the imaginings of various cultures on these ancient times; a time where the elements roamed free, unperceived, as gods - giants - unto themselves, a grand drama of nature playing out on a timescale so immense it seems almost foreign to us. In a master stroke, the band close the track by dragging all of this back to the self once more with a folk-tinted madrigal about the far more immediate world and its issues. Incidentally, for Steve Howe fans it's worth noting that the classical guitar in and around this particular section is perhaps the most exquisite he has ever written and performed, I don't know of anything else like it.

All of this has been of course a prelude to the final suite, 'Ritual', which ties together all of the themes so far (as well as, strangely, a lick from 'Close To The Edge') and returns to the present, uniting the larger perspectives of our past with all that we deal with from day to day. Despite the love song which speaks of the companionships we hold dear, the mid- section of this piece is the most aggressive and tumultuous yet, signalling less than wholesome times ahead.

This review is merely an outline - the details are for the listener to experience. 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is arguably Yes' best album, marred I feel by speculation about the band at that point, its placement in a now unfashionable time, and years of unhelpful press. 'Pretentious'? Anyone who says so cannot know the meaning of the word - music cannot 'pretend' when it comes to material with this much relevance to anyone alive in the real world. This should be owned by everyone, and if your pets will sit still, make them listen to it too.

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Posted Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars True Prog Masterpiece Album of All Time!!! (IMHO)

Well, it's an album that has created various kinds of reactions or "controversy" - if I can simply mention it - in the mind of listeners. Even, some readers and reviewers of this website are complaining about how come this site putting it under "suggestion" box. It is all well understood, because even long before the album reached the listener, there was intense conflict among band members in the making of this "big project" that resulted in Rick Wakeman leaving the band after "Tales Tour". The album was considered too personal for Jon Anderson that was inspired by a book Autobiography of A Yogi introduced by Jamie Muir, percusionist for King Crimson. The two gentlemen talked about meditation in music (1). -- Jon had taken notice of a footnote in Paramahansa Yogananda's book that described four Schastic scriptures covering various aspects of religion and life (2). -- "As I read them I became engrossed with the idea of making music around the concepts he spoke of, making a four-part epic built around the four-part themes of which I was reading" said Jon in 1974 [(1), page 44].

While on tour, Jon and Steve conducted candle light sessions, working out the basic structure for each of the four compositions inspired by this concept. Rick was not in agreement with the idea as he put it in 1974: "Yes was heading towards avant- garde jazz rock and I had nothing to offer there" [(1), page 45].

So, what can you expect? --- If things were not in a "full swing" during the making of an album, you would then guess the result: it was not an album that fully represent the synergy of all members in the band. If we look at the other side of the story: it might be the end result represents the best as it single mindedly transpose the wild ideas of two masterminds of this album: Jon and Steve. So what we listen to as a final product represents the culmination of combined ideas. So in this case, the listeners respect this album highly in the end. That might not happen if Rick contributed the album "whole heartedly". [Intermezo - any of you have read Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet in Heaven?" If so, this condition of the other side of the story reminds me to the conversation between Blue Man and Eddie. If not, read the book man .!!! Again, I have no financial interest at all with the publisher.]

OK OK . that was history from the point of view of the band. The history that I only knew some decades after I experienced the music of "Tales". My writing herewith is not intended as a defense for any negative reactions toward the album, rather it describes my standpoint on why this album is a true prog masterpiece of all time - for me, personally. I knew this album for the first time when I had listened to and liked "Fragile" and "Relayer" through the cassettes that I purchased, during my childhood (I was about grade 9, I think). At the time, I was not aware which album came first. Having enjoyed (very much) the two albums, "Tales" for me was very hard to accept except the album opener "The Revealing Science of God" - especially at the passage when lyric says "What happen? ." and the acoustic passage of "The Ancient".

I then kept pondering myself: if the band had created wonderful albums like "Fragile" and "Relayer", then .. this "Tales" album should be great as well. So I kept pushing myself to put the cassette on and on until I think about 10 times listening to it then I got the "aha!" experience. Since that happened, I was totally "hooked" to this album! It then became my all-time favorite. Pretentious? Not at all, because at the time I was out from usual friendships enjoyed by most teenagers. Most of them enjoyed the American Top 40 - I remember that these songs were the hits: "Magic" and "January" by The PILOT, "You Make Me Feel Brand New" by Stylistics (remember this group?), "Dream of Me" by Mac and Kattie Kisson, "House for Sale" by Lucifer or even disco music "Do It" by BT Express etc. I had to have that cassette if I wanted to get along with the rest of the crowd. I did not "dare" to tell 'em about my "true blood" which is the kind like YES, ELP, JETHRO TULL cause they didn't know. Well, only some of them knew it.

During digital era, I purchased the CD version of this album. I then purchased the remastered expanded version by Rhino when I saw the band performed Second Leg Tour in Singapore, 25 Spetember 2003. The Rhino version is packaged excellently with colorful sleeve notes by Mark Tiano and two bonus tracks. I still keep the original CD as the Rhino version does a good thing on packaging only, while the sonic quality is even worse.

The Revealing Science of God

This was the first track that I could accept easily at first listen. It starts off nicely with a quiet passage that fetures Jon's voice. [The expanded CD by Rhino has approximately 2 minutes opening soundscape in ambient / atmospheric style before Jon's singing. It's probably the original LP's version. I'm happy though with the fact that Rhino has put it back]. The song performed in relatively medium tempo with complex composition but nice melody.

The Remembering

It was a bit complex for my ears at first listen, but I could enjoy this track peacefully right after approx 5 spins. Rick Wakeman plays much more with his keyboard / moog instruments - sometime even with mellotron. It's relatively a complex track but it has a very strong tagline melody that becomes familiar to me having listened to more than 5 spins.

The Ancient

This is where Rick has ever mentioned that Yes was heading into avant-garde jazz rock fusion kind of music, I think. It opens really really "weird" for me at first couple of spins. It's an exploration of cymbals and keyboard followed with a lengthy opening of "not nice" percussion sounds augmented with long sustain howling guitar. It's not a typical song that create listening pleasure at all. It seemed to me "unstructured". It even was worsen by the sonic quality that was not up to the standard. I complained a lot about this loose structured track. That was my first impression, of course. The more I played it, it grew steadily with me. I especially love when the vocal starts to roll and also when the acoustic passage comes into play with stunning acoustic guitar work by Howe combined with Jon's voice. Oh mann ... this is a great offering from the band!!

Ritual

This is the final chapter of the concept album that opens nicely with ambient opening and powerful voice of Jon Anderson. The composition is complex but there were pieces where the music built around regular beats that ease us to emulate the melody. Steve plays the long sustain guitar work combined with some fills during transition. Alan plays his drum wonderfully, accentuating the movement to other segments. Chris bassline performed in solo style (plays like a melody) during segment changes - to a quieter passage, for example. I became much acquainted with the song since it was perfomed "live" in YESSHOW.

So what .?

Ughh .. quite a long writing... Having described all my views about this album, what is the point then? Would it change your view? I doubt it. In fact, it's not my aim to change your view about this album. Whether you like it or you hate it, just be it. It's like an increasing number of thoughts flowing about the prog-ness of Radiohead, and the debate or polemics on "whether or not Radiohead should be covered in this site", just be it. Just let the reader of this page be his / her own judge. As far as "Tales" album, I still consider it as "true prog masterpiece album of all time!!" (in my very humble opinion, of course). You may not like the music, but you should not miss the album if you want to explore progressive arena. Let's respect individual opinion, because it's prog man ..!! Keep on Progging.!!

Topographically yours*,

GW - Indonesia

*) I lent this idea from my progmate who is a Yes die hard fan: Suryo.

Reference :

1. Yes Stories - Yes In Their Own Words; by Tim Morse, St. Martin's Press, 1996 .

2. CD Slevee Notes, RHINO re-mastered and expanded edition of "Tales from Topographic Ocean", by Mike Tiano, 2003.

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Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005

Review by Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is a remarkable album. It was in 1973 and it still is today. It seems that many Yes albums have attained that lofty status over the years. This one in particular was risky; in that it was such an enormous undertaking and so complex to record and mix. The result was a definitive progressive rock masterpiece that served as a benchmark for all other aspiring like-minded groups to follow.

This album marked the departure of drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford and the emergence of Alan White. Did this all-important change affect the group? I dare say it did not. White was every bit adept with his drum kit as Bruford was. It is also interesting to note that this was not one of Rick Wakeman's favorite albums and hence his departure was eminent as well unfortunately.

Well, on to the brighter side of things. This beautifully remastered copy comes housed in a nice slipcase with the old-fashioned gatefold album sleeve style to emulate the original vinyl release, which I absolutely love. With the exception of one track, "The Ancient Giants Under the Sun," which clocked in at 18:37, the other three songs were over twenty minutes long! What a marvelous achievement. At the time critics surely must have thought it was a bit self-indulgent, but after all this was a band with a string of successes behind it and why not push the envelope one more time to see what would happen? Thank the good Lord they did, where would we be in progressive rock right now without pioneers like Yes, I shudder at the thought.

There are two very remarkable and entertaining bonus tracks on this remastered magnum opus, "Dance Of The Dawn (Studio Run-Through) " and "Giants Under The Sun (Studio Run- Through)." They are both studio practice sessions. It gives you a glimpse of each composition in its infancy. I do not think I need to add anything else except that you should get all of these remasters, they are essential for any progressive rock collection.

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Send comments to Muzikman (BETA) | Report this review (#13168) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, January 23, 2005

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A change in the sound for Yes, Tales was way more epic and experimental than any Yes album dated before (or after) it. It's a complex and entangled album, with mythical and historical lyrics written by Howe and Anderson. I think the music and lyrics fits well to eachother and the atmospheric and dark atmosphere here is chillingly brilliant. There are four tracks here, each one clocking in at over 18 minutes each. You need to study this album at the same time you listening to it, cause it is a bastard to understand musically and lyrically, but it will surely grow on you. I swallowed this one pretty well at my first listen, but it growed on me even more after some more spins. It's not the best Yes album though, as there is some flaws here (part's drags on for too long etc.)

Bill Bruford quitted right before Close to the Edge was released so Yes found Alan White, and he was a great replacement, IMO. His powerful and nearly thundering drumming style fits this album very well. Steve Howe's guitar noodling here is an acquired taste, and the tone on his guitar is very weird here, but surprisingly fitting to the music. The production is excellent and adds the special mood and atmosphere to the album that makes Tales Tales (if you know what I mean). It's not perfect though, but it's definetly a excellent and bold release from Yes. 4/5

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Posted Sunday, February 06, 2005

Review by soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars I didn't read all of the 4 & 5 star reviews posted (there are just too many), but I'll bet there isn't one of those reviewers who was already a big Yes fan, expecting another masterpiece, when this album first came out in 1974. My friends and I loved "The Yes Album", "Fragile", and "Close To The Edge", and had great expectations for this new double-LP set with the great cover art. None of us liked it, even after listening to it for months on end. The radio stations stopped playing it after a couple of weeks, and the consensus was that it was a complete dud. I tried getting into it several times over the years, with no success. The problems? An almost complete lack of melodicism; there are a couple of pretty good songs mixed in with a whole bunch of noodling. Also, Alan White was, and still is, a competent but unoriginal drummer. Bill Bruford remains, to this day, one of the best drummers in any style, and Alan White sounds like a session man. In addition, the four tracks should have been broken up into listenable chunks, especially on CD. Jon Anderson's lyrics are "hook"-less here; where before his word stew was evocative and inventive, here we have nothing better than "What happened to this world we once knew so well?" Once again, if this had been their debut, or if the three previous albums had never existed, this would have seemed like a breakthrough effort, worthy of praise. And they did some great stuff afterwards, so it's not like they ran out of good material.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#13178) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, February 07, 2005

Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Despite having bought the double-LP in 1974, before discovering this site last year I had not realised that this album generates a lot of debate; it seems to be an album that many love to hate. Even Wakeman stated in his interview on this site that he hates it (I did know that he left the band because of it). Given the ambitiousness of the project, and the fact that some of the music is actually very good, it's a shame that the album is not more popular. Mind you, at the time it reached no. 1 in the UK charts and no. 6 in the US charts. Howe, Squire, Wakeman and White all do a good job, and you certainly can't fault their playing. Wakeman's keyboard work does not stand out as much as it did on "Fragile" and "Close To The Edge", though. And, although I quite like Anderson's voice and nonsense lyrics on the previous albums, I find his voice less pleasing on this release, and the nonsense lyrics less vivid.

In some ways I'm surprised that some of the YES fans who rave about the band's earlier work don't like this album. If you could draw a line from "The Yes Album" through "Fragile" to "Close To The Edge" and then extrapolate that line I reckon you'd more or less end up at "Tales From Topographic Oceans". In my opinion the band's music gets more pretentious and twee as the band evolved through those albums, and to me "Tales" is the obvious end result. Although I enjoy "Close To The Edge" a lot, to me "Tales" is not a million miles away from "Close To The Edge"; both are flamboyant and the music not that dissimilar in my opinion. Granted the music on "Close To The Edge" is probably better, but I think it is actually less adventurous, less varied and less sophisticated in many ways than the music on "Tales".

When I bought the double-LP I have to admit that, on first playing it, I was a little taken aback by what I heard: something more ornate and rambling than the band's earlier albums, slightly more commercial-sounding in places even. But I quickly grew to like it, albeit not as much as the earlier albums. Part of the reason, I think, is that it just goes on too long. Had the project been cut to one LP with the best parts extracted and reworked to be more cohesive, it may have been more successful. Nevertheless there *are* some very good parts to the music, and it does make pleasant listening. Unlike the band's previous albums, I can put "Tales" on as background music. I don't mean that in a damning way, just that the music does not grab my attention in the way that the earlier albums do. But I can still tap my foot or hum along to the music, which is very melodic in places. The 'Nous sommes du soleil' parts of 'Ritual' are very summery and upbeat, albeit rather twee. Mind you, 'The Revealing Science Of God' is probably the most twee track on the album and, in my opinion, it and 'The Ancient' are the weaker of the four tracks (although still melodic and reasonably pleasant listening).

A concept album, Anderson conceived of the 4-track project when reading Paramahansa Yoganada's spiritual book "Autobiography Of A Yogi", and you can hear Indian and south east Asian influences in the music, sometimes slightly as in 'The Remembering' and at other times heavily as in parts of 'The Ancient' and 'Ritual' (sitar and chimes, for example). However, overall the music is a bit of a mishmash: for example Howe's lovely acoustic guitar (English medieval-sounding) in 'The Ancient' is at odds with the clashing Buddhist cymbals at the beginning of that track. The brief synthesizer solo in 'The Revealing Science Of God', whilst a real treat for fans of the instrument, seems out of place to me, almost thrown in.

My ranking of this release in relation to the earlier YES albums can be guessed by the order I replaced my long-lost LPs with CDs: "Fragile", "Close To The Edge", "The Yes Album" and "Tales". Actually, "Tales" was the last YES release I liked enough to buy; despite its popularity I found "Relayer" too much to stomach.

Given that I did eventually get "Tales" on CD to replace my long-lost vinyl, but some time after getting the other albums on CD, I would rate "Tales" as a 3.5-star album if such a thing were possible. As it's not, I'll settle for 3 stars (Good, but not essential). I'm probably being a little harsh on the album but "Tales" is not quite excellent and neither is it essential in my opinion, even though it does still make for good listening if you're a fan of symphonic Progressive Rock. I'd say that it's still a worthwhile investment if you like the earlier YES albums.

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Send comments to Fitzcarraldo (BETA) | Report this review (#13190) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2005

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A follower to "Close to The Edge", which was claimed to go too far. I'm not sure about this though, as two tracks of the four are excellent ("The Revealing Science Of God" and "Ritual"), and the third one "The Remembering" is also very good. "The Ancient " is a bit poorer experiment, but even it has some good moments in it. I like these epics by YES, as they are quite logical rich and logical as compositions, like the classical music which the band had studied when doing these songs. As a teenager I learned to listen longer musical pieces by listening this record while doing something else, and it was a valuable lesson! I recall that found out that "The Revealing Science of God" had similar structure as RICHARD WAGNER's "Tannhäuser" overture.

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Send comments to Eetu Pellonpää (BETA) | Report this review (#13212) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 01, 2005

Review by chessman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I first got into Yes around 1974, which was when I started taking an interest in prog, although I was well aware of them, and other bands like Floyd and King Crimson, long before, thanks to friends of mine. However, I didn't buy this record until 1977, as there were so many conflicting reports about it at the time. The prevalent feeling was one of disappointment, but a few critics called it a masterpiece. Well, when I bought it, I have to say I was one of the disappointed! After the majesty of 'Fragile', 'Close To The Edge', 'Relayer' and 'Going For The One', this seemed utterly tuneless, overlong and, frankly, boring. Of course, I was only 18 at the time. I played it a few times, but only really liked side four, 'Ritual'. Then I sold, or swapped it for something else. Recently, however, a friend of mine purchased the remastered digipack version, with two extra tracks, and extra notes to go with the original ones, oh, and some nice pics too. Having borrowed and listened to it, I am now ready to do a review of it, while it is again fresh in my memory. Firstly, I have to say I can appreciate it a lot more now. Tracks 1 & 2 are really very good, with plenty of typically Yes moments. Howe's guitar is the dominant instrument on the album, but that is only to be expected, seeing as he and Anderson wrote it between them. There is more melody here than I remembered. Squire's bass is rather low in the mix, but still there, and Alan White is impressive on his debut for them. Wakeman's keyboards, although not as obvious as on previous records, are effective, gently pervading much of the material in a non obtrusive way, the mellotron especially being used to great effect. Track 4 is likewise very good, but now I don't consider it any better than the first two. The weak point is track 3, which, whilst retaining some melody, goes off on a tuneless tangent a little too often for me, with Howe sounding like he is not sure how to fill in some of the spaces, so letting his guitar meander somewhat pointlessly at certain times. Nevertheless, the whole album is rather better than I had thought it first time around. The bonus tracks on the remastered version are studio run-throughs of the first and third tracks, differing slightly at times; interesting but no better than the final versions. The vocals are rough, to say the least, and down in the mix here and there. These tracks are non essential, but nice to have, and they don't interrupt the flow of the album proper. So, after all the hype and controversy, is this album a) A masterpiece, or b) an overblown bit of disappointing fluff? In truth, it is neither as good as some suggest, nor as bad as others hint at. A long way from being their best work, but worth having. It is still recognisably Yes, although new fans should not acquire this one until they have the other key albums, such as 'Fragile', 'Close To The Edge', 'Relayer' and 'Going For The One'.

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Send comments to chessman (BETA) | Report this review (#13213) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2005

Review by Tony Fisher
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Loved The Yes Album, liked Fragile and Close to the Edge, bought this expecting more of the same. Result: bafflement. I listened to it again and again (NEVER in one go!!) but I simply cannot understand how five extremely talented musicians could fail so badly at the composition stage and press on anyway. It's everything that makes some people hate prog rock; a pretentious, overambitious concept with far too much complication and no soul. Even the title is pretentious - what the hell is a "topographic" ocean (it can't exist!)? Sure, they play it well (which is why it manages 2 stars) but that's not enough. It's more a technical exercise in flashiness and self indulgence than an attempt to make real music and Wakeman was wise to get out. Ironically, their next album (Relayer) was a lot simpler and a huge improvement so perhaps they learned from this. Greatest album ever? Please don't make me laugh!

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Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Review by Yanns
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In my opinion, this is not a 5 star album by any stretch. Also, there are no specific reasons why it is not. It just fails to reach that classification. It does reach the 4 star tier, but it does not offer enough to land it that fifth star. 4 stars means that the album is an excellent addition to any prog collection, and I feel that's exactly what this would be. By all means, don't start your journey with Yes here. The Yes Album, Fragile, and CTTE come first. Then this. If you are already a big Yes fan, then you gotta have this. If not, get into Yes a little bit first. But this would make your collection even better if it was present.

The Revealing Science of God - In my opinion, this is the best song on the album. Yes, better than Ritual. Usually, Ritual is seen as the best song on TFTO, but I have to disagree. Ritual might be tied for second in my book. But anyway... The Revealing... is perfect Yes. It might not seem that way at first, because compared to CTTE, this is going in a slightly different direction. But if you sit back and listen a couple times, you will realize that this is Yes in every way. An evolving Yes. A Yes that is trying new things, doing new things, being progressive. That's what this album is as a whole. A progressive band being progressive. Some people are blind to this. Some people see 4 side-length songs as ridiculous, but it is not. It's progressive.

The Remembering - Also tied for second place on this album. In contrast to the first song, I lost interest when I first heard it. I was immediately pulled in by the first song, but here, it seemed boring. Yes, I know, I was wrong. As the band says, this is the song where the "Topographic Ocean" itself is introduced, and you can actually hear that in the beginning of the song. Basically, it is a fantastic song, but The Revealing... overshadows it a bit.

The Ancient - The weakest song here. But by no means average or sub-par. It is a great song. But when surrounded by these other three behemoths, it's the weakest track present. It's also the most "out-there" of the four songs. Again, it's Yes experimenting and doing new things. Listen to the beginning and you will understand exactly what I am saying.

Ritual - This is where everything comes together again. The album climaxes and culminates in this song. Tied for second place (as I said before), it offers a lot as an album closer. It brings back themes from everywhere on the album, and towards the middle, it enters a very, well, cool/interesting phase. I can't even describe it, it's the part that begins around 14:20. You'll see.

This album is the album that shows the evolution of Yes. After Yes lost Bruford and gained White, the band knew that new and different things would have to happen. It was truly a blow to the band when they lost Bill (one of the best drummers ever to exist), but White does not disappoint. Overall, it's simply a very good album. 4/5 stars.

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Send comments to Yanns (BETA) | Report this review (#13228) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Those long Yes songs!

These is a different album from a dinousaur band, previously they released Close to the Edge with 3 songs, and this is a double CD album in which every of them we will listen to a couple of songs, long songs of over 15 minutes each. Their imagination flew over the minutes and what they actually created was an enourmous album, that you either love or hate, you may find it awesome, or boring, and as an extra thing, keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman left the band after this record because he thought the band changed direction and he didn`t like what they did after all.

The Revealign Science of God, and Ritual are my favouriter songs, all great musicianship, solid sound but in the end i think it tis a bit inconstant, that is why i think this album deserves 3 stars, it is great and very different from their previous releases, but i dont consider it as the masterpiece some other people think it is.

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#13230) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I usually agree with Hugues' reviews and this is no exception! It must be said finally loud and clear that many of our beloved prog bands occasionally produced crap albums and totaly uninspired works. YES is no exception and as one of previous reviews noted well, this album is perhaps a good example why some music lovers hate progressive rock. Double LP of boring, quasi-philosophical "space" trips with lots of pompose and over- grandiose music solos, lacking basic emotions needed to intrigue the listener. I already stated in "CTTE" review that if it was a peak of their career it also announced a downfall to the arena of showmanship of "rock dinosurus", which created some of the most empty and self-indulgent music in the world and invoked the coming of the "punk saviours"! Granted, YES produced even worse albums than "Topographic" (see "Tormato"), but here it all started. I could personnaly listen only to some parts of "Ritual" without the urge to approach the turntable , lift up the cartridge, take the record, place it back into the sleeve, put it on the shelf and forget about it forever. If you are a newbie into prog, avoid this. Listen to the first five albums and if you get yourself addicted to YES then you may wish to complete your collection with this one. 1,5-2 stars.

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Posted Saturday, June 04, 2005

Review by NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Rating: 3 / 5

Yes's 1973 monster, TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS is the most divisive album in the bands four decade history, and is hard to review. Though roundly trashed by critics, TALES managed to become a huge hit for Yes. Some fans immediately hated it, while others thought it was the equivalent of a new bible. TALES represents Yes at their most indulgent and pretentious. This album, along with ELP's WORKS (1977) are generally considered the greatest examples of the excesses of the Progressive Rock movement. It consists of four side long suites, and conceptually revolves around spiritual, Shastric [eastern religious] scriptures. Wow...the 1970's. Anyway, this concept was put forth by Jon Anderson (Vocals) and Steve Howe (Guitar), and the band went along. Anderson and Howe wrote all the material here, and clearly got taken away. The lyrics are as obscure and nonsensical as they have ever been, and the music isn't much easier to follow. Yes definitely tried very hard to get four sides of music ready, but fall short. Large stretches of this album are boring, intermingled with occasional, beautiful passages. As always with Yes, the playing is exceptional. Newcomer Alan White showed he could fill in for drummer Bill Bruford (recently departed for King Crimson) on the live YESSONGS (1972), and does well here. Since Howe composed the majority of the material, Wakeman's keyboards are pushed to the sidelines. In fact, Rick Wakeman detested this album so much he left the band in 1973 before the tour, and has blasted it in interviews ever since. The best song is probably Ritual, which can also be found on 1980's live YESSHOWS. This is definitely not the album for beginners to start with, and out of Yes's six albums from 1971-1977, this is the weakest. 3 stars, due to occasional moments of brilliance (after all this is Yes), but overall, this is an album for diehards. 1974's next offering from Yes, RELAYER, is far superior.

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Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Review by erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars This is Chapter Two of MY BIGGEST PROGROCK DISILLUSIONS. Halfway the Seventies I started to discover Yes and was especially carried away by their masterpiece "Close to the edge". In my soccer team there were a lot of progheads and we had heavy, black and white 'coloured' discussions about this 2-LP from Yes. I was impressed by the fact that our captain could sing the whole spoken intro from side 1, so I decided to buy this album. The first session was a hugh disappointment, I couldn't believe my ears that Yes had delivered such a boring 2-LP! My conclusion was that Jon 'Napoleon' Anderson had been too dominant in pushing Yes to accept his over-pretentious Far-Eastern philosophical ideas. If you read the books from Yes about that period it's incredible that Jon got away with his weird ideas about creating pleasant atmospheres with hardboard cows! Side one has a fine moment with Wakeman solo in the end, side three features an inspired Howe but side two and four are so boring, too fragmentic and without any direction. Wakeman was fed up with the whole situation and could hardly inspire himself to contribute anything. So during the tour he started to eat Indian food (delivered by a roadie) because he was almost without work! TALES from Yes? NO!!!

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Posted Friday, June 24, 2005

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 3 stars

This is a solid epic style yes material, but it has 3 main flaws : weak overlong soloing, the feeling that the songs seem too long, and of course, a disappointment after Close To the Edge

I'll go over each movement.

First Movement 8/10 : It starts with a brilliant almost trance-inducing vocals that is followed by a good riff .. then it just seems like soup ... it has barely a structure and goes nowhere with good sections in some places and a couple of great solos. This is the best of the 4 movements, and while the structuring of the song is very lacking, the musicianship is superb.

Second Movement 7.5/10 : It is a good epic. It starts with a great melody, but unfortunately it drags for many minutes. Then its gets slow (may become boring sometimes), until it starts picking up toward the 'relayer' lyrics which is fast, bombastic and very good ... then it gets slow again.

Third Movement 5/10 : this is not good! ... it is basically a failed experiment. It has slide guitar solos that sound terrible, some overpadding in a place in which the guitar plays the same thing but each time it adds 2-3 more notes (just like lateralus's bass guitar buildup which is better), it is redeemed a bit because it has one of Alan White's best drumming rhythm I ever heard. Finally it gets prettier and acoustic, but less interestic, and the solo drags and recyclies too much material

Fourth movement 5/10 : sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful. The guitar soloing is terrible in many places for me and sounds like improvising while recycling some material of close to the edge. If the beautiful 'we love when we play' didn't exist, it should get 4/10.

Overall, this is a mixed bag. I recommend it to fans of relayer, and structureless epics like some of King Crimson.

My Grade : C

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Posted Monday, July 11, 2005

Review by Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I wanted to like this album. I mean really, really wanted to like it, if only to prove snotty critics wrong. Turns out, much as I hate to admit it, I was the one who was wrong.

All right, TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS isn't "the worst album in rock history", or whatever other hyperbolic anti-prog B.S. churned out by Dave Marsh and his ilk. It is, however, a chaotic mess of an album with very little of what made Yes so appealing. It's also a textbook case of what can go wrong when one has a concept for an album without having set a note of music down yet.

So much of the album feels forced. For a band that made their name with dramatic, bold ways to open an album, the lackluster, monochromatic opening to "The Revealing Science Of God" (with Anderson reciting in a monotone) can't help but come as a letdown. Some parts of the track do eventually grow on you, but there's still an awful lot of filler, clearly present to stretch out the track to fill an album side. It doesn't prepare you for "The Remembering", where the filler starts taking over, and one begins to wonder if this really was the same band that brought us CLOSE TO THE EDGE.

Disc Two is an improvement. "The Ancient" finally gives us something a bit lively, opening with a powerful (if a tad overextended) guitar solo and maintaining a "Siberian Khatru"-ish level of intensity until the acoustic coda. Likewise, "Ritual", which still suffers from the stretching all the other tracks do (not least of which the percussion/synth section, which is at least not your typical drum solo) also features moments of greatness that bring back bittersweet memories of CTTE. The closing minutes, featuring a gloriously emotional guitar solo from Howe, is particularly sublime, emphasizing everything that's great about Yes.

In spite of the high points late in the disc, Yes really dropped the ball on this one. It's one of those ideas that sounds better hypothetically than in real life; the idea that this SHOULD have been "Close To The Edge" × 4, but sadly it wasn't anywhere close. I suppose disappointment was inevitable, considering they'd already attained the summit with CTTE.

I must say, though, I never expected them to fall off a cliff afterwards.

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Posted Monday, August 15, 2005

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I might as well wade in on this controversial album and place my two cents down on the progressive rock counter. It's a flawed masterpiece, to be sure, but what an aural adventure! After CTTE I think they couldn't help themselves but to follow the side-long opus trail that they had been so encouraged to follow by the voracious audience that was eating up everything they put out. Me and my friends included. By then we all worshipped at the Yes altar with good reason. Their music was innovative, courageous and inspiring at a time when top 40 radio was still in command of the biz. When this came out we couldn't wait to plop it on the turntable. It was, with the help of mellowing agents (If you know what I mean and I think you do), a religious experience. When I think of this album I recall driving through the Rockies in a funky Audi with a friend on the way to a gig in Estes Park and this cassette blaring through the speakers. If this music is pretentious then so are the mountains in Colorado. All I know is that it fit the scenery (and age) perfectly. Was Yes full of itself? Probably. Did they do the best they could? Definitely. Did they go too far and veer "over the edge?" Well, that's up to the individual listener. To me it's light years better than Tormato, which is when I lost interest in what they were doing, but that doesn't redeem it totally. That being said, the reissued version from Rhino is excellent and makes up for many of the original pressing's shortcomings on vinyl and fans might want to invest in it if they haven't already. "The Ancient" grates on my nerves a bit but once you get through the strange first half of the song it mellows considerably yet it still remains the weakest of the four. But there are moments on "The Revealing Science of God," "The Remembering" and "Ritual" that continue to amaze my ears even after all these decades. TFTO still pales in comparison with the three albums that preceded it and doesn't hold up as good as Going for the One or Relayer but it will forever hold a place in my prog heart as being the right album at the right time in my life.

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Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Review by chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

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Posted Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Review by King of Loss
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Pretentiousness and amazing technical abilities are some words that sum up Yes' musical career and Tales From Topographic Oceans summarize every single point of that. Following the cement performance of Close to the Edge, Yes kicks it up a notch with this very ambitious, and I mean very ambitious performance. Tales From Topographic Oceans is a sprawling 2 side LP and is packed full with 4 large epics, which are nothing sort of spectacular. The incredible musicianship, the talent, the use of different instruments on Ritual are some of the things I can say, but other than that, I can say one word- amazing.

Revealing science kicks off this amazing 2 LP album with the traditional Yes song, perhaps one of my favorite all-time Yes songs, very concrete and filled with a great solo by Rick Wakeman and great instrumental passages.

Remembering is by far one of the most complex 70s Prog songs of all-time, with its amazing structure, technicality and beautifully crafted lyrics reminds me of a beautiful, lush landscape that is printed out on the dazzling cover. Easily Yes at its best.

The Ancient is heavily weighed by many as a track that is almost all filler, but I disagree with that idea. The track serves its purpose with Yes' great performance and beautiful atmopsheric sounds. The track constantly reminds me of Pink Floyd at times and the soft sound really rings out. This track is the "weakest" of the Tales tracks, but it seems that all sides of Tales are very good.

The album ends with Ritual, on Side 2 of LP 2. It is a great finisher, with the typical Yes instrumental passages, added with the usual great chorus. Another great song and probably the best Yes album ender.

Tales might be ripe with distaste and controversy, but I find Tales from Topographic Oceans a refreshing, experimental project. It definitely ranks up there among the best 70s Symphonic Prog albums of the 70s.

Revealing- 97% Remembering- 97% The Ancient- 90% Ritual- 93%

Overall- 94%

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Posted Monday, June 12, 2006

Review by micky
PROG REVIEWER
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 ....no 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)

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Posted Sunday, July 09, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars An unfortunate addition of someone's prog music collection.

That should be the tag for this album. An unfortunate blunder in the history of progressive music. It's not so much that the whole album is awful. Some parts are fairly interesting, that is until you realize there is no point to it. If you will notice, the band has lost all concept of transition in their work. Parts come and go for no apparent reason other than to have change. Sounds are just sploched randomly together and the album Tales is what comes out.

This album reminds me of painters who will just throw colors on a page and see what happens. That's about the same analogy for the music found here. The most noticeable thing to me is the horrid guitar tone that is used. The fact that it is used often makes it worse. It's one of the most annoying tone's I've encountered in the history of music. It's thin and makes you cringe. The bass is also horribly done with heavy vibrations.

Then you have the random playing and note selection. It's not even so much that it isn't in unison. I can appreciate bands where the members more or less "do their own thing". Kong is a good example of this. Here, however, none of this works, everything sounds out of place.

A heavy amount of "doodling" is involved on this album. Howe plays with no real purpose, it's not even that its wankery, like Dream Theater mostly is, it's that it sounds like some 14 year old kid in his garage toying around with different notes. I can record myself playing random notes just fine, anyone want to buy my work? Anyone think it will be a masterpiece of progressive music? Probably not. However, my name is not nearly as recognizeable as Yes is, so I guess I lose in that match. One can certainly sympathize with Wakeman for leaving after this.

The best thing about this album is you only have to hit "skip" 4 times and the atrocity is over.

Not even recommended for completionists. Unless you want to explain to all your friends why you have this horrid album in your collection.

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Posted Monday, July 24, 2006

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After Yes's proclaimed masterpiece Close to the Edge (which I don't really see as a masterpiece) they decided to embark on a large scale project that would eventually turn up to be one of their most controversial (if not the most controversial) albums in Tales from Topographic Oceans. Gone from the original lineup was drummer Bill Bruford (who actually left towards the end of the Close to the Edge sessions) and in came ex-John Lennon/George Harrison drummer Alan White (who would appear on every Yes album after this one). Also worth noting is that Rick Wakeman despised this album when it was made and felt that there was too much padding, so after the subsequent tour, he made his first of many extis from Yes to pursue a solo career. This album seems to have a lot of varying opinions, as it would blatantly show the pretentious and over-indulgent side of progressive rock and yet show some great music and some inventive pieces that would really show that Yes could produce many large-scale compositions. I actually rate this on the same level as The Yes Album, as it is a good album, but it could have made a great single album and not the epic double album that it became.

The album opens with probably my favorite piece of the four tracks, The Revealing Science of God. With the Rhino remaster, the original and more ambient intro was tacked on and it really opens on a mysterious note. Although the lyrics are as dense as ever and really sound disjointed and make no sense at moments, the vocals are stellar, with lush harmonies from Howe/Squire/Anderson. The main motif for the song is also very majestic and meanders at a modest pace and never really gets out of hand. The performances from all the musicians is also top notch, with great noodling from Howe and shard and concise basslines from Squire, some great floating keyboards from Wakeman (who also reintroduces the main theme from Heart of the Sunrise in one of his keyboard solos), and some top notch and precise drumming from White. The Remembering is an ok track at best, but it could have been edited heavily as there seems to be a lot of over indulgent work, especially from Howe (who gets his own acoustic break in the piece that really seems to go nowhere). It has a nice melody, though, and I'm quite fond of Anderson's vocals on this piece, as well as the many harmony sections.

The Ancient is the most senseless and dense piece on this album in my opinion, and it also is much like The Remembering, ok at best. Although the percussion is at its best (a hollowed out log was used during the percussion break if I'm not mistaken) and the subject matter of the piece is unlike anything Yes had done at that point, it doesn't really serve any true purpose and there is a lot of filler on the piece. Ritual, though, redeems those two pieces as my second favorite piece on the album. All the elements are there, a great bass solo break, a great tribal percussion section, some melodic and majestic work from Howe (who also reiterates the Close to the Edge main theme on this piece) and some very soft spoken and inspired lyrics and vocals from Anderson. In the end, the first and last pieces of the album would be the best, and while the middle pieces had their moments, they could have been heavily edited.

Overall, Tales from Topographic Oceans is the most controversial Yes album and one of the most controversial albums in progressive rock, all of this is opinion of course. As I stated above, the opening and closing tracks are stellar and were well conceived and never really bored me, but the two middle pieces were underwhelming and they could have been heavily edited. If this album was a single album rather than a double album, I think it would have been given more favorable reviews and wouldn't have been so controversial. If you are a fan of over indulgent and pretentious symphonic rock, then this album will be right up you're alley, but if you don't like songs that meander and don't really come to a sensible conclusion, then you may not like this album. Me, I'm in the middle. 3.5/5.

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Posted Sunday, July 30, 2006

Review by bhikkhu
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars What an album, and what a controversy. I can understand how some might have problems with it, but for me, this is the definition of prog. I got into the genre (I only knew it as art rock then) because it seemed as the musicians were trying to create symphonies in rock. I can't think of a better example than this. Four songs (or movements), running around 20 minutes. There is actually very little that resembles traditional pop song structure. The beauty is that it all holds together as one piece, without seeming directionless. They are complete compositions, with a commonality.

The majesty (or pomposity, as some would say), is exactly what I would expect for artists trying to hit the heights of symphonic music. It's actually necessary. Yes delivers full force. Everyone gets to shine, and in many different ways. Wakeman's keyboards are espescially tasty on "The Revealing Science of God." Steve Howe is showcased on "The Ancient," playing many different styles. "Ritual" brings it all home, and has wonderful vocals. The only lesser point might be "The Remembering," which does go on a bit. However, It's still a beautiful piece.

I just purchased the remaster, and it is even better. More of the nuances pop out. I can take or leave the bonus tracks, but the sound quality is worth the price. This deserves to be heard in all of its glory.

I went many years without hearing this album, and that is a shame. It is terriffic achievement, and should be heard by every prog fan. You don't have to love it, but it must be experienced. If you are not sure what symphonic prog is, look no further.

H.T. Riekels

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Posted Monday, August 21, 2006

Review by fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The main problem with TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS is that Yes forgot how to ROCK.

It's true, you could also blame Jon Anderson for his silly lyrics (the American critic Bill Martin is way off the mark when he ascribes to Anderson ideas from classical philosophers) but these are no less absurd than the ones on CLOSE TO THE EDGE, which is commonly called a masterpiece. In fact, if you judge Anderson's words simply by their phonetic value (by the way they sound), you may come to the conclusion that the former milkman from Lancashire is a rather effective lyricist.

No, the main problem is this: on TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS you won't find ANY extended passages with the energy and speed of "South Side of the Sky" or "Siberian Khatru". Many parts of this double album (most notably on "The Remembering" and "The Ancient") seem bloodless; the (originally) side-long compositions collapse like an overcooked pudding. I'm pretty sure that's why Rick Wakeman disliked the album. When Wakeman first devoted an extended suite of his own to spiritual themes (on NO EARTHLY CONNECTION, a weird attempt to explain where music comes from), he made sure that every single part of his suite sounded catchy.

TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS, on the other hand, seems an attempt to write a-prog-symphony-with-words; something similar to Gustav Mahler's SONG OF THE EARTH, perhaps. If the album turns out a failure (in part), it's still a noble failure. We shouldn't blame the band for being "pretentious". I agree with Andy Tillison (of the Tangent) that we should praise them for being ambitious.

Back in the 1970s I thought the dreamy bits in "The Remembering" (particularly Rick's melancholic Moog motif, and his extensive synthesizer 'symphony' toward the end of the piece) were among the album's highlights. I also thought Jon's singing on "Nous sommes du soleil" was very powerful - but now I feel his vocals goes on for too long. Nonetheless, Anderson's eventual reprise of Side Four's main theme, followed by Steve Howe's final solo, must be one of the most magical moments in the Yes catalogue (beautifully captured in the LIVE AT QUEENS PARK RANGERS video).

Nowadays I particularly love "Dance of the Dawn", the original first side. Some eight or nine years ago, when I hadn't heard TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS for a while, I travelled to London to attend, for the first time in my life, a performance of a Bruckner symphony. On the bus I made the mistake of listening to Yes, and "Dance of the Dawn" moved me so deeply that nothing in the concert hall really touched me - even though the performers were Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I then realised that, in spite of all their imperfections, Yes had created something very special. (This idea was later confirmed when I bought KEYS TO ASCENSION, where the piece sounds even more convincing than in the studio.) I mean, take that passage where Jon sings: "They move fast, they tell me" and "Getting over overhanging trees" - isn't it one of the most wonderfully romantic things Yes have done?

I don't know how you'll feel about this album. I grew up with it, much of my teenage longing was intertwined with it, and when I first got to know it, my knowledge of English was limited, so I didn't notice its awkwardness the way a native speaker would. Maybe YOU will find it too much to take. But in my mind it will always be a true progressive masterpiece.

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Posted Saturday, September 23, 2006

Review by Australian
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Posted Monday, September 25, 2006

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I have to say that when I first heard this album a year or so after it was released, I didn’t just not like it, I actually hated it. Of course I was something like fourteen years old at the time and my favorite songs were stuff like “Hitchin’ a Ride” and “Love Rollercoaster”, so this was a bit beyond my ability to deal with at the time. It’s only been in maybe the past ten or fifteen years that I can actually listen through the entire thing without getting bored or distracted, although it’s not the kind of album one listens to all that often.

Musically this is quite an achievement, I suppose. Four lengthy and complex works that tell the story of – I don’t know, yoga or something, not sure. I know there is a Buddhist influence of some sort to the lyrics, although I doubt if too many fans at the time (or since) have really taken the time to try and decipher the meaning, if there is any.

It’s been said that this album, along with Genesis’ ‘Lamb…’ and Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick helped to hasten the downfall of progressive music in the mid-70s. Perhaps. It is a pretty pretentious piece of work, full of incessant noodling on the part of Rick Wakeman (who has argued repeatedly he never liked the album in the first place), as well as by Steve Howe. That said, in recent years I’ve taken the time to really listen to Howe’s guitar work, and for the most part it is quite spectacular, although I must admit the band could have accomplished just as much in a much abbreviated fashion, ie., without some of the long and seemingly pointless instrumental passages.

If I had to pick a favorite track, it would be “The Revealing Science of God” with its highly recognizable vocal peak around the fifth minute, although every time I crank this one up I find myself fiddling with the turntable’s volume because it takes so long to actually register on the mixer’s LCDs. I actually love Anderson’s vocals at the end of this song, along with Howe’s harmonic guitar accompaniment. Unfortunately the rest of the album is not as strong.

This is particularly true of “The Remembering”, which has all the trademark sounds of a symphonic progressive epic, but in the end fails to really capture the imagination. It seems like a twenty minute-long track should merit more discussion, but I really can’t think of much more to say than that. It is what it is. Selah.

“The Ancient” on the other hand has some terrific acoustic guitar with a mystic and sometimes jazzy feel to it, but here again there seems to be quite a bit of showing off, particularly on the part of Wakeman. I really don’t understand why he pans this album so much considering the integral part his keyboards play in it.

“Ritual” is the strongest track as far as Chris Squire’s contributions are concerned, although Howe is omnipresent here as well. This is also the most energetic track with some torrid climaxes of keyboard and percussion effects, along with Alan White’s thunderous drum solo around the middle portion.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this album, except that I think accusations it was a key player in progressive music’s demise are probably just as inflated as they are true. I wonder if this would have been better-received if it had been released prior to Close to the Edge, instead of in the midst of a mid-70s pop and punk explosion. Perhaps. In the end though this is an essential album for Yes fans, and probably for progressive music fans in general. But when considered not just for its historical value, but also for its actual artistic merit, it has to be considered no better than pretty good. So three stars it is.

peace

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Posted Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Review by obiter
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I was introduced to Yes with this album and Songs.

Complex, challenging, pretentious, self-indulgent ..... certainly.

Do not expect to bowled over by this one at first listening. In fact a reasonable reaction may be "what a load of pretentious BS". Then you go back to it ... "not so bad". and another time ... "this one is growing on me". Twenty-five years after buying the double album it still captivates me. This is my favourite Yes album, but it took me about 10 years to come round to that conclusion.

It's an absolute essential in any self-respecting prog collection.

As for the music: since each track is one side I find it difficult to pin down a suitable decsription: these are not Sibelian Tone Poems but that's the closest parallel I can think of.

The Revelaing Science of God lets you know what you're in for right from the start: this ain't MTV prime time. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Jon Anderson & Steve Howe. I'm so sad I went out and grabbed an old copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yoganada, just to read the footnote. BTW I'm none the wiser.

Ritual is a classic, Nous Sommes du Soleil is another: The Ancients never quite hit the right buttons for me.

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Posted Saturday, December 30, 2006

Review by 1800iareyay
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars "Make sure your reach does not exceed your grasp"- Testament's "Envy Life"

Tales From Topagraphic Oceans came after the prog masterpiece Close to the Edge and, perhaps just as important, Bill Bruford's departure. His replacement was Alan White, an exceptional drummer who had an unenviable task. The rest of the lineup remained the same, and Jon and Steve set out to write an ambitious follow up. The decided to adapt Hindu Shastric texts into four extended pieces, each taking up one side of vinyl. Each song deals with a section of text. Upon the first listen, I noticed a few things. First the positive: Steve Howe's guitar dominates this album in a way it never has before (or since). Rick Wakeman contributes some truly dizzying passages. Now the negative: Chris Squire's bass has been relegated to the back by Steve's new dominance. Jon Anderson's vocals, though far from bad, aren't as beautiful as those on previous records. Alan's kitwork lacks the originality of Bruford's, though he displays a lot of skill.

The most negative thing about the record is that, with the exception of the stunning opener, it's boring. Each suite gets bogged down with technical displays. Yes always knew where to draw the line between over the top and just downright ridiculous, and they pole- vaulted over the line on this album. The best method for listening to this, as others have stated, is to spend time on each song, but that severely detracts from the album's cohesiveness. The concept is completely lost if you have to listen to each song several times before advancing. You feel like you're playing some role playing game, not listening to music. This album can be enjoyed by fans (I've come to like it), but the failed concept makes The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway look almost perfect. If you are new to Yes, do NOT start with this. Get Fragile, The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Relayer before touching this.

Grade: D+

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Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars So, here we are with one of the most contravertial work of Yes ! My entry to Yes was "Yessongs" which I purchased in November 1973. Their first studio album I purchased was "TFTO". I bought it second hand a few weeks after its release from a deceived fan (already) ! And I quite liked it. At the time, no one was arguing about the fact of getting four tracks to fill a double album. Isn't it what we call YesEpics ? People say it is a pretentious work. Well, I do not know. To me, it does not sound more pretentious than "CTTE" which I consider as a masterpiece of the genre we all love and one of the many highlights of the band.

It is true to say that if they had stuck to a single album (my original one being a double vinyl) they should have produced another masterpiece. Actually, the first LP is absolutely gorgeous. "The Revealing Science Of God" and "The Remembering" truely belong to the most elaborate and nice YesMoments. Incredible bass and guitar playing, subtle keys and great, great emotional vocals. IMO, the vocal parts are absolutely MAGICAL on those two tracks. There are less musical passges than average here, so the amount of text to be remembered (hence "The Remembering ? - just kidding) is really impressive. You'd better not suffer from Alzheimer to perform that one. This reminds me of a comment from Ian Anderson saying that they were scared to S H I T before their supporting tour for "Thick" because they were afraid to forget something. I guess Jon (the other Anderson) must have felt this as well. Unfortunately, the second disc, is way behind. "The Ancient" being really boring all the way through. Fortunately, it is the shortest track (still over eighteen minutes) ! "Ritual" is again far much better, it rocks solidly and Steve's guitar is really great. But the song has also its weaks : a quite dull section that will last for almost three minutes with some "percussion" work (from 14'15 through 17'00). This section reminds me of the later "Waiting Room" from Genesis on "The Lamb". It is beautifully followed by the closing part "Nous Sommes Du Soleil - We Love When We Play"). It is a pure marvel of almost five minutes. It is the core of the inspiration of a future epic to come : "Gates Of Delirium" and its wonderful closing section "Soon".

I have listended extensively to this double album (YES, IN A ROW). I can only advise one thing : if you can get hold of the remastered version, there is an alternate version for "The Revealing Science Of God" which is really worth and almost on par with the final one. I only had wished that instead of a studio run-through for "Giants Under The Sun" (The Ancient") which is as boring as the final version, they would instead add an alternate version of "The Remembering". But maybe this was not available. With this remastered version, you'll get an additional forty minutes of TFTO. Isn't it great ? Four stars.

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Posted Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Review by Modrigue
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Yes went too far. What a deception !

Tales from Topographic Oceans had everything and did seemed appetizing for every progressive rock fans : four pieces of 20 minutes long, strange names, mysterious title and a superb art cover (always!) by Roger Dean... And the follow up to their masterpiece, the epic Close to the Edge. Wow ! Difficult to resist !

BUT after the catchy first minutes of The Revealing Science Of God, the whole disc starts a mad enterprise. The tracks are full of nonsense, chaotic vocals, inappropriate musical changements without transitions... Just too difficult, too complex to follow... The tracks could have been divided, there would not have been a great difference, but here pieces of themes are just assembled together to "make a 20 minutes suite"... I give this album a several listenings, each time I gave it one more chance, but this is definitely no each time.

This controversial release gathers nearly all the elements which make people hermetic to progressive rock. I give 2 stars instead of 1 for the first moments of The Revealing Science Of God. If you are new to Yes or progressive rock, do not start with this album ! Close to the Edge is a much better choice !

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Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Yes, this is a controversial album. And yes, I'm on the side of those who believe this album is the definition of progressive music. Long but not boring. Adventurous. Beautiful. That point in a band's career when all the pieces come together through chance, and the Genie gets out of the bottle. Most importantly, the album, along with Yessongs and Close to the Edge, has the ability to take the listener to that special place, that other world depicted so successfully by Roger Dean. I don't need to go into much detail when discussing classic albums, they have already been disected in so many lengthy reviews. Long term I will be a stingy awarder of the 5 stars, but with Topographic there is no denying. This is the real deal and so superior to what passes today for music. While everything through Drama would have its moments, this would be Yes's last truly great moment. For newbies to Yes however, this is not the place to start. It is the place to end. Start with The Yes Album or Fragile, then Yessongs and Close to the Edge, then this one. With those 5 you have Yes's best work. If still interested which I'm sure you will be, you can proceed with what preceded them and what came after.

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Posted Saturday, March 24, 2007

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
4 stars Recent whispers from my prog fairy urged me to purchase a CD copy of this much maligned and oft criticized opus. I had bought it when it came out in 1974 and even saw the supporting concert tour. I had recently read that many of today's stalwart prog musicians consider Tales to be a hallmark masterwork.( Nick Magnus, The Tangent, the Flower Kings and Glass Hammer among many others). Why was then this album so controversial, I must admit that I was also not blown away and gaga when this was release in the mid 70s, sandwiched between CTTE's brilliant aura and Relayer's exotic symphonics. Perhaps the answer lies in historical context. In 1970, pop music was still a 45 RPM single business, and the LP was really an innovation. The suddenly, there was a wind of change: longer songs meant longer albums , ushering in the advent of the double album which was a bit hard to digest all in one gulp (Beatles White Album, Elton's Yellow Brick Road, Who's Tommy) . It was very common to hear criticism by the Lester Bangs' of this world (read music journalists scorned by Zappa) that 1 hour plus musical statements were "overblown" and my favorite term, "pretentious"!!! Progfans had no problem flocking to the magnum opus/concept album, as the more music, the merrier. Let's not forget that RADIO was the motor of the music industry, three to four minute songs were the norm. There was no video or Internet yet!! Look back at the reality: How does "the Lamb" and "the Wall" rate compared to previous works by Genesis or Floyd. Few would argue that these extended vinyl were superior to the well known jewels. Epic albums are devoid of hits, that mega song that has everyone dancing in the isles. What makes "Tales" so lavishly difficult to harness is that it was created with the intention of being one piece of music in 4 movements, very much in a classical music setting and to underline this truth, the supporting concert was dedicated to the whole album plus a greatest hits package. The bottom line is that this work is one of those complex examples of what makes progressive rock so impulsive and personal. I know what I like and I like what I know . 4 soleils

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Posted Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars CONTROVERSIAL?? HOW CONTROVERSIAL???

We are in 1974. YES is at it's peak musically and commercially! Concerts are sold-out. Each memeber (less newly arrived Alan White) is on top of any music poll for favorite artist in their own category. They are on the cover of every music magazine in the world! They are the face of prog! So what can go wrong with them??

With the release of TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS, the first critics will appear and the attacks against the once invulnerable mighy YES will shake a little bit the foundations of this great band. What is the cause of this uproar? YES have gone too far, to keep it simple; they have supposedly become fat, indigest, pompous, pretentious and other nice names. For others, TFTO is the pinnacle of music and a major prog achievement.

So who holds the truth? Let's find it somewhere in between. I think this is the story that 4 20mns long ''epics'' that could have been 10 mns each long and would have produced another masterpiece, or better some songs could have used some editing, but it would have made more of a 3 sides album.

I don't agree with the critics saying it's pompous or pretentious as if there is one thing prog music is allowed to is to be pompous. Otherwise, listen to Sex Pistols. a lot of classical composers can also be classified as ''pompous'' if we go this way .

Let's start with the good one: THE REVEALING SCIENCE OF GOD. this song is as good imho as CTTE or GATES OF DELIRIUM or AWAKEN! great intro,nice melody. great Wakeman parts , nothing to modify. THE REMEMBERING: that's a great song, delighful singing, nice musical breaks (Wakeman again) BUT definitely could have been shortened. I didn't count how many times ANDERSON sings the main theme, but i know quite a lot. THE ANCIENT is the song which carries the most blame, i think. I don't care much for experimental HOWE and YES, but the second part is better. RITUAL is another fine song, not as good as THE REVEALING SCIENCE, but stands by its own merits, especially the wild part at the end when everybody gets excited; another classic YESmusic tune.

So to resume, i have 3/4 of the album i really enjoy, and so it's is an excellent addition to the YES collection with all its strength and a few weaknesses.

Because of those weaknesses, i cannot give the full 5 stars as it's not perfet, nonetheless it's a great album, thus i give 4 stars.

PS: When Big Generator or Talk were released back then, who wouldn't have prefered something like TFTO. Let's be honest!

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Posted Sunday, June 24, 2007

Review by progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans was the follow-up to Close to the Edge. Having made an incredible masterpiece in Close to the Edge, the band tried taking long extended pieces another step forward. This time it would be four side-long songs on a 2-LP set with times running from 18:34 to 21:35. Quite an undertaking I'd say. Unfortunately, I think the band failed on this one. I believe Wakeman also agrees with this assessment as he has been quoted as such. That's not to say it doesn't have it's moments. The Revealing Science of God and Ritual are very nicely done. I have more of a problem with the other two songs which seem way too long and uninspired musically.

The lyrics are even more obtuse and confusing then on previous works, with a concept that is apparently too incomprehensible for my little brain to handle. But that doesn't really bother me and it's not the reason I would give this a better-than-average rating. For some people it might be an issue. If this is you, you've been warned. My main reason for a lower rating is chiefly the music. Long parts of the songs seem like they were not thought out real well and the overall performance seems more forced than anything else. Plus, it takes some time to digest this work.

Tales from Topographic Oceans is more or less a big mixed bag. And that is clearly noticed from reading the reviews presented here at Prog Archives which run the gamut from one star to five. I really like part of it, part of it I can't sit through. Three stars (good, but non-essential) seems to be a fair rating to me. Definitely worthwhile for Yes fans.

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Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Review by The Pessimist
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Oh dear. That is all I have to say for this album, as it is a massive downfall in Yes history. Undoubtedly, The Yes Album, Fragile and CTTE were masterpieces, and won most Yes fans out there, but this particular album was a waste of space. OK, it has its moments, e.g. the opening 2 minutes (bar the ridiculous chanting at the beginning) of the first song, the guitar solo in the middle, and the main vocal harmonies in Ritual, but overall it's a good idea gone horribly, horribly wrong. I would have appreciated it more if they'd have taken the good bit6s of this album and woven them into Relayer in places because the length, pretentiousness and tunelessness of Tales are beyond measure. A waste of time, money and talent in my opinion. Even Wakeman got pissed off at this album!

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Posted Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Review by Dim
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The most misunderstood album in the history of music? I wouldnt doubt it. This is the point in Yes history where J Anderson says the band was high in creativity and low in energy, which is basically the description of tales in a nutshell. Remember this is after the extensive and exhausting tour of CTTE and Fragile, and additional touring for Yessongs, so everybody in the group is probably sick of each other or wants to take a break, but fans wanted som new stuff so they went in the studio to record tales from topographic oceans.

The music of this album is definately the most spacey Yes will ever get, with Wakeman experimenting with more synthesizers and the new member Alan White with his mellower drum style than the very energetic Bruford. This album is a major breakthrough album for Steve soloing wise. In earlier studio albums Steve has never really been able to show off his real skill in his solo's, Starship trooper he has a typical classic rock solo, in Fragile he shows his skill with a classical guitar, and in close h the edge he has a very bad electric solo on siberian khatru. On this album though, he has a very descent solo on each song without him being rushed to get it over with, and not too long and drawn out, but his best song electically is obviously The ritual. Besides Steve, everyone in the bands gets a very nice lead line at least once. Wakeman has one on the opening track that is awesome and for once isnt an organ solo, but this is his only one on the whole album... probably the reason he quit afterwords. Chris and Alan each get some solo time on the ritual, making the song the most pretensious.

The songs themselves are very mellow and melodic, occasionally building up into an exciting climax, but dont get your hopes up for an aggressive album if you catch my drift. The opening song, the revealing science of God, is excellent, with a really cool vocal opening, then an awesome keyboard riff, this song probably is the most uh... radio friendly, even though this album got no radio attention at all. The next song, the remembering, is my favirote, it's very easily the most laid back and most resticted, barely more than an easy keyboard ebb and flow keep this song moving, absolutely awesome, this just shows that Yes can get away with awesome music without being overly pretensious. The second half is obviously more experimental and aggressive. Starting this second song is the ancient giants under the sun, probably the most experimental, and my least favirote with the first twelve minuetes being an ear piercing slide guitar and caceman drums. The song does eventually save itself with a beautiful second half of Steve Howe classical guitar and Jon Andersons amazing flowing voice preaching anti war and vegitarianism. The last song, and certainly not the least is the ritual, basicall all it is is a pattern of solo's with some singing here and there. Myfavirote solo is probably Squires first solo on the fourth minuete.

A good album that would set the dividing line between early seventies Yes and ltter seventies Yes. This poor album was beaton to the point of where it was considered the reason why prog left the mainstream. I dont think that way though I rather think it's a solid...

4****

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Posted Thursday, August 23, 2007

Review by NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I would have to say that this album and ELP's Works 1 are the two most blasted by critics albums of all time progwise; double albums with long songs, pretentious, long-winded and difficult to sit through. Of the two, Yes's most ambitious album is hands down the better of the two IMHO. Having over 300 reviews, I'll keep this as short as possible. The easiest of the four songs to get into, "The Revealing Science of God" has some of their best melodies and hooks ala "Close To The Edge". If your fav is that disc, you'll love this song. Although I was never really into "The Remembering", I can now say after multiple listenings lately the song has grown on me and is a really wonderful and challenging song with some excellent segments with very memorable hooks, a bit fragmented but rewarding nevertheless. The song that is for me their worse song from the classic period, "The Ancient" has the band playing some RIO, advant garde style prog and coming off with that 'pretentious' tag. Wakeman has practically nothing to do on this song and it suffers. It also has the beginning of Howe's grating, and ugly sounding guitar twiddling that will crop up more and more on forthcoming albums. I usually skip over it, (yet on the new re-master, they play an early run-through that's a bit more pleasant, but not by much). The album ends on a high note. "Ritual" has everything that fans of the band clamor for, exciting drumming by newcomer White, remarkable bass by the master Squire, finger-licking good plucking by the second master Howe and some of Wakeman's most underappreciated work from the classic 70's, just mindblowing. But the cream goes to the top with what I believe is Anderson's best singing, it's just plain stellar! It's easy to get down on this album because of it's length and breath of work. Challenging, (which all good prog should be), it takes multiple listenings to even take in the scope of it's legend. If you leave this album as the last to listen and/or purchase from their classic 70's output then you've made the right choice. Don't begin with this album because it's not their best, but it is nevertheless a must have. In any event, turn out the lights, close your eyes, open your mind and let the sounds soak in. I guarantee a memorable experience.

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Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review by jammun
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Jeez, no wonder Bruford bailed, with Wakeman not far behind.

I didn't like this then, and I don't like it now.

In order to enjoy the music presented on Tales, I would think that the listener's blood saturation of THC would necessarily need to be at a level that would render said listener somnolent, if not catatonic.

Not that there aren't beautiful musical moments here. For The Revealing Science of God and The Remembering, I noted about four minutes worth of interesting material, which means you are getting about a 10% return on your time spent listening. The Ancient is a bit better, but still not up to the standard Yes set on their previous releases. Ritual resorts to recycling riffs from Close To The Edge, and still goes nowhere.

If Yes had not been at the top of their commercial popularity at the time, I'm fairly certain the label execs would have never released this one. Really. Listen.

I take exception with the critics of the time, who bemoaned the "self indulgence" of Tales. Self indulgence is not the problem here. The problem is that there's no compelling music. I didn't listen to the critics, I listened to the 80 or so minutes of music here, and I never bought another Yes album.

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Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars They went over the top with this one. Good moments, bad moments and a lot of self indulgency. It was hard to listen to it all then and it is now. Reveling Science of God and Ritual are the truly stand out tracks that seem to have a coherent form. The other tracks have some good parts here and there, but they are surely exercises on virtuosity and ideas that really did not work out very well. I guess every major band had to do an album like this to try out their bounderires and possibilities. No wonder Wakeman never liked Tales From Topographic Oceans. It is no Close To the Edge, Fragile and much less The Yes Album. The fragile balance between simplicity and technique had been broken. Even Yes had its limits. Four massive opus a la Close To The Edge in such a short time were too much, no matter how good the musicians were in general and Anderson in particular, one of the most creative and imaginative songwriters ever.

Not a bad album but if you´re new to Yes (anyone here is?) this is not a good starting point. You have to have a lot of patience and time to enjoy it all. Better get to it bit by bit. I found it too tedious, even for a Yes maniac like me.

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Posted Thursday, September 06, 2007

Review by Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars This one seemed to split YES’ audience on two almost equal groups. First guys claimed that this is the best album ever made, second folks roared that YES has died completely for them as a favourite band (resurrected with “Relayer”?). It’s not that much different, it even has some direct quotations from previous songs (that what I dislike here, btw), but the main problem is that it doesn’t worthy of 80 + minutes. It could have been a pretty 45-55 min long album, probably, the best one from them. But sorry, the second LP is a total waste of money/ time for me (except for few moments), it adds nothing, only makes that wonderful album less wonderful. So, 2 stars is a predictable mark for the half of possibly 4-stars album.

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Posted Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There are good reasons why this album is essential, just one of them being the quality of the astonishing music itself. What is often forgotten is that Yes had, for a brief and glorious time, the publics' attention in a big way due to the success of 'Close to the Edge' a year before. This was an opportunity like no other for the band and they had a choice; capitalize on this surely fleeting moment and release a record geared toward a larger market, or dig-in, wrack their brains coming up with some of the most original rock music ever conceived and release it to a world that seemed ready for such a project. The group chose wisely, I think, and thank goodness. Consequently, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' became a sort of axis, a key shifting point in prog that was both an ingenious example of how far things had come, and a dangerous raising of the stakes that could chase away old and new listeners alike. And these guys had the balls to do it.

Jon Anderson's tedious elf-turned-Hindu mantra drags some for the first of four 20-minute tracks but gives way to Rick Wakeman's squealing synthesizers, the band gradually chiming in-- Squire's sure right hand, Alan White's easy beat, and the gentle drops and volume swells from Steve Howe. It moves on with a springy jam and returns to contemplate and repeat this trade-off. Though always incredibly tight, there are times that feel as if they are making things up as they go, hopping between rockin' drives, dressed-up samba, quiet beach-combing, and invocations of their past with hints of 'Roundabout' here and there. Anderson's commentary on songwriting is a nice break from the shastrick scriptures, and Wakeman's application of the mellotron is just right, serving as a subtle gap-filler. Part two, 'The Remembering', starts as a good vocal showcase (though could have been trimmed in half and been just as effective), has an upbeat acoustic middle, typically hot playing and revamps the main theme before a big, swelling finish. This was symphonic rock like no one had done and I have little doubt even Beethoven would notice, at least enough to roll over. A hot vibraphone sound and Howe's piercing slide grabs the throat for the third movement, 'The Ancient', more echoes of previous work (including a beautiful classical solo from Steve that mirrors 'Clap'), compelling redirections, atonal play and wonderfully goofy experiments, making the second disc as interesting as the first. And 'Ritual' is strong, taking its time with more deconstructions, rich vocals, percussive interludes, and wrapping things up with an arrangement that makes it hard to believe it was just the five of them.

Sure not every moment here will appeal to all people all of the time, but that misses the point entirely. This album is to be taken as a whole, a single entity that may seem excessive but, like a long trip or thick novel, it's the journey that matters as much as the net gain. 'Tales' is a treasure house, and we are lucky to have it.

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Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Review by Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars While many describe TFTO as a love-it-or-hate-it release... I have to go a different route and simply say that it's both: it's so good, I just can't hate it.

There are some truly exceptional moments to discover here... buried beneath the hours of rather bland soundscapes and slow melodies-- and that's the problem. The group choose to focus on high-creativity instead of high-energy, loosing the perfect balance they had attained in their previous three albums. The result are two discs worth of slow, meandering songs which only occasionally catch one's attention, but when they do are really something else. One cannot acknowledge that the band is in fine form, shining most in the delicate textures displayed throughout the album rather than the occasional outbursts of rock which come across as obtrusive to the soundscapes.

Because of this, I place TFTO in the realm of: exceptional background music, suitable more for busying oneself in mental or creative tasks than demanding one's attention. I acknowledge the ambition this release represents-- it's nothing short of sprawling, but many listeners will find themselves enjoying Yes' other more exciting and equally creative releases more than this one.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

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Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Review by TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Review 54, Tales From Topographic Oceans, Yes, 1973

StarStarStarStarStar

There are, it must be admitted, few albums which exemplify 'prog' as much as Tales From Topographic Oceans does. Both in excesses and successes, the album stands out as a much more expansive and challenging one than Yes' two preceding efforts, and the combination of superb musicianship, the slaughtering of conventional structures, semi- or entirely- nonsensical lyrical material, and an ambition at producing a more primal creature than Close To The Edge without any realism whatsoever included. These make the album pretty much the essence of longer instrumental-based prog, and a huge target for some mainstream critics.

The playing, of course, is good to stunning, with Howe contributing superb acoustic and electric guitar (as well as lute) and White stepping up to the challenge of taking over from Bruford while not aping him. Squire provides some of his finest bass-work, distinctive and potent throughout, with a couple of superb bass solos making an appearance. Wakeman, though not exactly the album's greatest fan, moves to slightly plainer keys than those of the preceding albums (perhaps as a result of the less involving process by which the album was made), but nonetheless gives us some wonderful playing, especially on The Remembering/High The Memory. Jon Anderson is fairly capable throughout, though in a couple of spots he fails to get the menace demanded by the music. Still, his vocal performances are generally distinctive and good. The Yes harmonies, naturally, take their place on the album gracefully.

Despite this excellent playing, I initially did not get the album at all, considering it nonsensical, boring, not worthy of CTTE and generally despicable. However, going back to it after a little while spent developing my musical tastes and ear, I later found it incredibly and inexplicably stunning. This is an album which demands attention and to be listened to in full, and with the energy to engage with and explore its depth. Not casual listening.

The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn opens the album with what is certainly one of Yes' finest numbers. Thunderous rumbling and gentle keys build up a watery, swirling atmosphere, moving to calm when John Anderson's vocal enters, slowly building tension with the strung-together syllables and words. This gradually and brilliantly builds up to the potent bass solo on the line 'Endless caresses for the freedom of life everlasting'. Steve Howe then enters with confusing guitar, and the band really kick off as a whole.

A more rock-based section ensues, with Alan White's percussion standing out especially. Anderson contributes an excellent set of vocals and suitably cryptic lyrics about a search for God or meaning. The harmonies mesh together very neatly, and the piece hums around calmly before shifting into a much faster-paced being replete with Howe soloing and killer rhythm section. Wakeman's keys, slippery and deliberately un-fixed, remain a constant through most of the song, including a softer and slower repeat of the music for earlier sections. Lush mellotron, ARP synths, some form of piano and just about every imaginable keyboard sound turns up to good effect. Of especial mind-blowing beauty is the soft guitar solo-based section (with flutey keys) which takes over at about 15.00 minutes, moving carefully onto more vocals. Of similar wow factor, though of completely different style, is a Wakeman keyboard solo. The piece finally disappears after its range of treats on a mysterious note.

In all this, the band handle very sudden changes in tempo and rhythm flawlessly, moving between a vast array of sounds with a couple of constants evoking the search. The musicianship on this particular piece is truly phenomenal, and, with all members of the band contributing with full verve and energy, it could never have failed to be stunning.

The Remembering/High The Memory follows the stunning opener with a softer and much less dramatic piece to suggest a more reflective mood. Flute makes an appearance, as do lute and all sorts of keys, though more conservative and 'normally' used than on the opener. Squire plays more slowly on a less edgy bass, which does suit the piece but at the same time doesn't feel quite right for a Yes song. The vocals carefully twist and deliberately overstay the bounds they've set for themselves, occasionally dragging the music along with them for surprise value. A mandolin-like guitar sound produces a more slippery atmosphere. There are some very clever examples of the music taking completely unexpected turns, and foreshadowing explosions that never happen. Even if it's not really musically my thing, dragging a little, I can only admire how the band has chosen to create the slight uncertainty and less ordered nature of memory, and there are some incredible moments in this mix, both in the more folky 'distant drums' section and amazing 'alternate tune/view' conclusion (everyone's favourite mellotron tone).

Again, it's not a 100% fixed and structured piece, allowing a huge variety of moods, though in a more conventional frame than either the opener or the follower. Wakeman's keys are probably the standout on the piece, with the multiple vocals coming second. A range of ideas are explored within the general theme of memory and a 'universal' memory, occasionally resurfacing several times. The entire piece doesn't always work for me musically, but most of it definitely does, and the cleverness of the way the concept is explored is always something to chew on during the bits I don't love for their own merit. Objectively another masterpiece song, though not always my thing.

The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun, both the most impressive and the most pretentious 'song' on the album, begins with a gong before the monstrous rhythm section bursts into life with some sort of cut-off or clipped organ/percussion sound rhymically working in the background while Howe screeches primordially and chaotic in the background. Here the intent is to go beyond sense, logic and memory to create whatever was before that. Naturally, this idea is pretentious both in the concept and in the execution (with the unfortunate decision to recite a list of names and places in various languages, most comprehensibly sol - sun and Ilios - (Troy)). Howe is an outstandingly dissonant guitarist and sitarist in this section, and the general chaos and energy of the first part of the piece is only spoiled by Anderson's pretentious moping and a rather more generic set of keys.

From this chaos appears Howe's interesting and emotional acoustic guitar (accompanied loosely by an acoustic bass) and a more substantial vocal from Anderson. The wonderful Spanish-with-just-a-touch-of-dissonance nature of his acoustic solo here gets me every time and it is naturally vital listening for fans of Mood For A Day. Considering that my main reason for admiring Howe's guitar-work is merely that he can handle an acoustic properly and emotionally without sliding into the realm of the generic, this part of the song is a delight for me every time. The song runs madly to its conclusion with a very odd juxtaposition of the forceful riff of the first part, sitar and screeching guitar. A flawed masterpiece in all its glory.

Nous Sommes Du Soleil is the coherent and searching conclusion demanded by the conceptual scale of the album. A thick bass thing opens the piece, which spotlights White and Squire very frequently. Squire, in particular, is a blur receding into the distance on the bass for the entire piece, providing a couple of especially fine solos. Wakeman echoes some of the key sounds on the opener to give us a denser feeling of conclusion and of a cycle. Vocals are densely merged to produce a more tight, warm and communal piece, and the development of the band towards The Gates Of Delirium is at times obvious. A blues-esque faux-conclusion shifts to a percussion showcase (with a saw in the background, if I'm not mistaken), which could perhaps be the best thing I've so far heard from Alan White. Haunting keys loom in the background before the piece moves to a softer conclusion. Howe provides an electro-acoustic thing, while the Caped One moves to a piano for the acoustic, natural conclusion. Naturally, this is not the end, and a stunning Howe solo and more liquid textures conclude the album indecisively.

This piece is probably the one I've got the least to say about, since it's more of a musicianship-based rock piece than the other more imagination-based pieces. Has to be heard to be understood. Again, great piece of music.

The bonus material isn't especially good, with the most interesting aspect being Wakeman's keys on the alternate mix of Dance Of The Dawn. Anderson's vocals are too thin on that version, however, to make it listenable, and the album as it is is long enough to discourage me from listening any further. Probably not worth a repurchase for them unless you really love the album and the band.

Of course, this is a masterpiece. Pretentious, yes, a mess, probably, but a masterpiece. Anyone who claims interest in prog rock should own it, and should take a while to make up their minds about it. If at first it doesn't stick, persevere, and if then it doesn't stick, put aside an hour and a half to listening to it once you've left it on the shelf for a month or two. If you then get it, the time and effort will have been worthwhile. Not to be missed.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: could be TRSOG, but today I'll say Nous Sommes Du Soleil

Edit: I dropped this to a four, since I felt that despite the obvious strength of the other three sides, it's hardly as fascinating as the couple of Yes albums before it, and The Remembering/High The Memory has a markedly feeble moment.

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Posted Sunday, July 06, 2008

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars There's no question this is the most ambitious recording of YES' careers.The first time I heard it I didn't want to listen to it again. I mean two albums worth of meandering music that lacked melody ? Sure this is YES, and they are all brilliant players, but the compositions are far from being brilliant. It reminded me of how everyone praises TALK TALK's "Laughing Stock" record that is so minimilstic, while the more melodic "The Colour Of Spring" takes a back seat. We all have different tastes and ideas as to what is good and what isn't I suppose. I did play this double album again, and again, and again but still feel this is nothing but Howe and Anderson indulging themeselves. I mean they played this entire 80 minutes worth of music when touring to support this album ! Rick Wakeman was so tired of playing it live he left the band after the tour. Still I can understand and appreciate the 4 and 5 star ratings for this sprawling concept recording. In fact I like certain parts of it a lot, especially Howe's input and Wakeman's mellotron play which is all over these four songs.

Highlights for me are the drumming by White after 6 minutes in "The Revealing Science Of God". Also as I mentioned earlier the guitar work of Howe and the mellotron from Wakeman on this song is outstanding. I just don't like the song. "The Remembering" is boring early but does have a lot of spacey sections.

"The Ancient" is led by guitar and percusion early and later 10 1/2 minutes in. Some nice intricate guitar melodies follow. Howe again shines after 17 minutes. "Ritual" has some heavy bass from Squire. I like the way the song builds to a climax with an instrumental section to follow. White solos 15 minutes in. Mellotron follows while White still pounds away. Mellotron ends it. This is my favourite track on here.

So I guess i'm not sold on this one, but that's ok because these guys have so many amazing records that I do love.

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Posted Sunday, July 06, 2008

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Tales from unique oceans

Some people love this album, while some people hate it. I fall somewhere between these two extremes. I think there is no denying that all the four songs, or movements, are a bit too long for their own good. This especially applies to the second and third movements. But there is also no denying that there are some truly excellent moments on this album.

My personal favourite is The Revealing Science Of God, what a truly unique sound and feeling this song has! While listening to it, it often feels as if it was recorded at the bottom of the ocean! Rick Wakeman's keyboard solo towards the end is one of his best ever, and it has a totally unique sound. The way he can make his keyboards sound like waves is totally amazing.

Steve Howe' guitar sound is, again, totally unique and Jon throws in some of his best vocal moments ever. Chris is great as always and Alan White does his studio debut with the band on this album and he fitted the band like a glove. Some drum parts are amazing and sound, again, as if they were recorded under water! (I mean that in a good way, if that makes sense!). I don't really miss Bruford at all here.

This is not Yes' best album, but it is clearly an essential one for all Yes fans and it is totally (here's that word again) unique - I have never heard anything like this before or since. Are these guys really from the same planet I'm from?

If you haven't heard this album yet, you are in for quite a ride (but with some less than great moments)

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Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Review by Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a near classic. Of note, this one all depends on the listener's taste. If you enjoy classical in the vein of Debussy, Sibelius and Satie - this is symphonic rock for you. The compositions are somewhat impressionistic. Fans of Eno's ambient works would appreciate this, as well(although it actually rocks in a Yes-way. Must be listened to in its entirety to fully appreciate. Yes were always a little ahead of their time. Hard to classify, really. Rocks too hard to be New Age, not ambient enough to be wallpaper. Lyrically off the charts, but who cares. This is progressive rock, after all. Ritual and Revealing Science Of God are two classics on Tales, so you're getting a full 40 minutes of classic Yes. Essentially, this could have been a single album with 2 sides, but still no hits.

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Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Not pretentious. Just plain boring.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is widely heralded as the album that started the downfall of progressive-rock's popularity in the 70's. All the excesses of bands like ELP were surpassed by an album with just 4 songs, each about 20 minutes long. What followed was a negative reaction of many critics and fans who thought that YES just had gone "over the edge" of pretentiousness and pomposity. Many of them actually turned into the much less demanding, musically-poor arenas of punk rock, in evident contrast to the symphonic exaggerations of prog-rock. For a lot of people, this album is not as great as other YES' albums just because of that.

It's my opinion, though, that the album is inferior to earlier (and later) albums because it's actually a bad album. It doesn't matter that we just have 4 songs. After all, "Close to The Edge" only had three, and while two of them were "only" 10 minutes-long, that's much longer than the average song length. The problem really is that these 4 gigantic tracks in this album are lacking excitement, entertainment value, and if they try to aim for higher artistic status, they fail miserably.

The first track, which may be the least horrible of the four, never quite makes up its mind about what it truly is. It's never a full-blown symphonic effort as "Close to The Edge", nor is it a long song made of several parts. Themes lack character and the song itself is an exercise in boredom, even though it towers over its awful companions. The second track, "The Remembering", features some incredibly obnoxious vocals (as is the rule in this album, where Andersons seems to have decided to annoy us for annoyance's sake) and it's quite irrelevant. But the disaster really takes place in the third track, "The Ancient Giants Under the Sun", which is the longest boring-track ever recorded. Some bands record boring songs that last 5, 8, even 14 minutes, but YES had to overdo it and record an 18 minute song with absolutely zero coherence, no themes or tunes, and some useless percussion effects and rhythms disguised as "experimental". The album closes with a fourth number that it's actually better than the preceding two but, then again, any song from "The Yes Album" (which I think it's just an OK record) would have done better.

We shouldn't say anything about the musicians as they all had proven their capabilities before. But all that was done for a reason in previous albums seems to be devoid of one here. It's like the musicians play all kinds of solos here just because, well, they could, not because it served the songs better. Wakeman is all but forgotten in this record (he shows he was not really pleased with YES' direction), Squire doesn't amaze us with great bass lines, White is OK but the percussion-oriented third track is atrocious, and Howe usually the most reliable of the lot, only manages to shine with his textures and his acoustic-guitar solo which, by the way, is the only exciting moment in the record as it would seem that "Roundabout" was going to start any second now. Obviously, that doesn't happen, but it's very telling that a look to the past is the only passage when this album emerges from utter mediocrity.

Unlike an album like "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by GENESIS which would have benefited from a trimming job, as it was a flawed masterpiece, no amount of editing or no miraculous scissors would have ever saved "Tales From Topographic Oceans", as it lacks the ultimate essence of any good album: good music.

2 stars, just because there are moments when the art these 5 people were capable of manages to somewhat shine through. But the real rating would be 1.5.

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Posted Friday, August 01, 2008

Review by russellk
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars scapegoat (-pg-) n, & v.t. 2. Person bearing blame that should fall on others.

There are those who blame this album for the decline and fall of prog rock. Life is never that simple, of course. The reason for the retreat of prog rock from the limelight had little to do with any specific album and far more to do with large-scale social forces. However, we humans aren't generally patient enough to work through the complexities of such change, so we choose a scapegoat, a symbol that takes the blame that ought to be borne more widely.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is that scapegoat.

It is the scapegoat because, in the eyes of many, it simply went too far. From one album to the next YES went from being the champions of heavy symphonic rock to an outfit that didn't know where to draw the line. Having drawn widespread acclaim with their three-song masterpiece 'Close To The Edge', they took the concept of one track per side and spread it over four sides of vinyl. Moreover, they stretched tracks that might previously have provided five or ten minutes' worth of god-like YES music into self-indulgent, overweight twenty minute marshmallows with no substance. This is YES in decline, desperately trying to paper over the cracks of a band at each other's throats, dominated by ANDERSON's incomprehensible conceptual leanings, rapidly becoming an embarrassing parody of itself. This set the scene for the widespread scorn rock critics began to show towards prog rock, and this album was therefore instrumental in public rejection of the genre.

Hogwash. I intend to offer a spirited defense of this album's place in the list of the true great moments of the genre.

In 1971 and 1972 YES had peeled off a triple-play of incomprehensible brilliance. 'The Yes Album' was one of the best things to that point in symphonic prog rock, and it was equalled by 'Fragile' and spectacularly trumped by 'Close to the Edge'. All three albums occupied much the same musical space: jazz-tinged symphonic prog, dominated by dramatic extended compositions led by an unequalled rhythm section, each song reaching a fiery climax. Compositionally brilliant, with tight musicianship, the band had by this point a sequence of mighty achievements under their belts. Clearly, though, the members of the band were not content with this: witness drummer BRUFORD's departure even before 'Close to the Edge' was released. With pressure from the fans for 'Close to the Edge II', the band recruited ALAN WHITE and set about doing something different, something that would truly extend them as musicians. Drawing deeply from their early psychedelic roots, borrowing from Asian musical tradition and scriptures, and - perhaps most importantly - from their own earlier repertoire, the band created an eighty minute musical melange that, rather unfortunately for their career, defies easy categorisation. The result, for better or worse, was 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.

The basic shape of the album is thus: the first and last tracks are symphonic pieces in the mold of 'Close to the Edge', though with important differences, while the second track is less easy to pigeonhole, with large quiet, almost ambient sections, and the third track is experimental, filled with Asian sounds and difficult rhythms, much less of a song and much more of a soundscape. It seems to me it is the first ten minutes of 'The Remembering' - before the 'Relayer' chorus - and all but the last few minutes of 'The Ancient' that give listeners the most trouble. To which I can only respond that these listeners have not understood the nature of the music they are listening to. By all means choose not to like them - I'm not sure I 'like' either section myself - but long ambient soundscapes and rhythms and sounds from other musical traditions (in other words, the addition of other musical genres to rock) are exactly the sort of things that made prog what it is. After all, BRUFORD left because YES had become repetitive: 'What finally drove me out of rock'n'roll,' he said, 'was the repetition. That's what had separated me from YES. Why I had found KING CRIMSON so attractive was because they were way more open.' Clearly it was time for the band to break the mold. Unlike other bands who simplified their sound and were vilified for it (I might well be thinking of GENESIS here), YES added complexity and ambition to their music with this release. I contend that, by doing so, they did not help to kill prog. Instead, they helped keep it alive.

I apologise for taking up so much of your time with this argument, and I'll happily admit that it is only a point of view. But I hope my passion for this record will help some people see how essential an album 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is in the YES canon, and in prog rock, whether it appeals to you or not.

One further point. Do anything you can to get hold of Elektra's 2003 remaster: not for the 'bonus' tracks, but for the vastly improved sound. One of the major difficulties with the original record was the production, which was rather muddy and knocked the highlights out of the music, further obscuring an underpowered rhythm section. The remaster addresses this. It really is like listening to a new recording.

The remastered edition begins with a rumble and some plaintive HOWE notes rather than the original ANDERSON vocal, but we're soon launched into ANDERSON's infamous manifesto. Aside from the overt spirituality, what's of interest here is the reappearance of the 'sharp' and 'distance' motifs from 'Heart of the Sunrise', the first of many such moments on this album. This section builds slowly with the addition of harmonies and notably the intense, shrill synth, and segues into a typically wonderful YES melody. The new order is already clear: melody has taken over from rhythm. HOWE and ANDERSON, responsible for the majority of the compositional work, have supplanted SQUIRE and BRUFORD. SQUIRE's rumble is subdued, and HOWE, ANDERSON and WAKEMAN drive this record. This is the single greatest difference between this record and its predecessors. In particular, STEVE HOWE dominates: his guitar colourings, where he makes the notes sound as though they are squeezed reluctantly from the instrument, are the feature of the record. 'What happened to this song/We once knew so well?' ANDERSON asks, a broad hint of the change - and, while he asks the question, listen to the rather ordinary rhythmical backing. SQUIRE's playing all the notes, but the dynamism has gone, and his interplay with BRUFORD is now only a happy memory. The greatness of this album does not come from the rhythm section. This record is about beauty, not power.

That said, the beauty is - well, staggeringly, sublimely beautiful. 'I must have waited all my life for this moment'. And after nine splendid minutes, we move into the next section, with more dynamism and the use of the same opposed two-word lyric lines made famous in 'Siberian Khatru'. YES continue to evoke their own past as they march into the future. The lovely opening theme is reprised, then WAKEMAN gets the first of many chances to drench the record in mellotron. The 'rape the forest' lyric follows, another superb section, followed by a return to the dynamic two-word lyric section. This is a symphonic epic on steroids, not a wasted moment - and oh, listen to the rising and falling mellotron at the fourteen minute mark. Glorious. HOWE dominates SQUIRE at this point (I can only imagine how this would have sounded a year earlier). More beauty follows, with a heart-wrenching section at fifteen minutes (the 'glory to sons' section), the inevitable calm before the storm of the finale. WAKEMAN gives us a simply indescribable solo at nineteen minutes - this is up there with GILMOUR's work. What follows is one of YES' best moments, on a par with the climax to 'Close to the Edge', with HOWE's guitar and WAKEMAN'S keyboard adding that dramatic colouring to the stunning reprise of the main chorus. YES are the best in the business at these high points, and this is another guaranteed not to disappoint. All a passionate reviewer can offer is yet more adjectives in praise of the music. 'The Revealing Science of God' is, apart from the diminution of the rhythm section, worthy of as much praise as 'Close to the Edge'. I cannot understand why this song does not gather the praise it is due - well, I do, given its context.

You see, even proggers didn't have unlimited patience. The drawn out psychedelic noodling of 'The Remembering' swiftly erases the glory of the previous track from the listener's mind. This is such a pity. Soundscapes work on a different part of the mind than does a dense symphonic effort like 'The Revealing Science of God'. They require time to unfold, but are no less beautiful for it. The shimmering combination of ANDERSON, HOWE and WAKEMAN (with SQUIRE and WHITE in some distant room, seldom invited in) invites the listener to use their imaginations rather than just their glands. Without the incessant rock beat we are forced to think, and I do think very well.

Of course, listeners are waiting with increasing impatience for the song to fire up. You've missed the point, lads. Even with the loss of BRUFORD, YES haven't forgotten how to rock. They just don't want to at this point on the album. So why not lie back in the shimmering sea for a while? We'll soon be back in the big surf. In the meantime let the small beauties infiltrate your mind. Beauties like the harmonies in 'winds allow', the emphatic 'I do think very well', and the consistent high quality of HOWE's work. It's on this album he reveals himself as a master guitarist. Like HACKETT he's not an axeman in the traditional rock sense; rather, he's an instrumentalist, adding to a sound.

Listeners breathe a sigh of relief when the 'Relayer' section begins, and the rock returns to propel the undoubted prog of this song towards its fulfillment. All those themes you didn't really hear as you waited in increasing annoyance for the song to 'start' reappear in the last eight minutes, played by different instruments than those that introduced them: propelled by WHITE's drumming, they suddenly make sense. This is a song that requires repeated listens to make sense. So why don't you go and listen to it a few more times? Isn't that what prog's about?

The hiss and swirl of the last quiet section (16-17 minutes) is an extended catching of the breath, a dramatic pause before the finale, but is glorious in its own right, and I adore the rise of the four-note motif heralding the climax. The blissful harmonies are doubled, and the band even has the cheek to reference the previous song at 18:30 as they draw us up into what is 'surely, surely!' one of the most triumphant finales in symphonic prog. Honestly, the wait was worth it - and without the soundscapes, the climax would be nothing more than perfunctory. It is because we heard these tunes earlier that they mean so much more to us now. The song ends with a lovely bittersweet denouement.

I believe 'The Remembering' will repay your close attention.

As for 'The Ancient', it's an experiment, and not an entirely successful one. There's nothing remotely symphonic about this track, and it was a shock to listeners. Much of it brings to mind early krautrock, and is so far from the rest of the YES canon that it was bound to be labeled an indulgence (or simply sh*t in Robert Christgau's infamous review). Though I do love the bright Tibetan crashing cymbals and HOWE's guitar themes, and in the right mood I enjoy the whole cacophonous mess. And everyone enjoys the last six minutes: the classical acoustic guitar, and the wonderful tune ANDERSON sings here, a prototype of what the band produced as 'Soon' from the 'Relayer' album. Indeed, 'The Ancient' is in many ways a precursor of 'The Gates of Delirium'.

The album concludes with 'Ritual', a summary of all that has gone before. In one package we have symphony, power, beauty and cacophony, with many of the album's earlier themes reprised. Like GENESIS' 'Los Endos', it is constructed partly from material we've already heard. Only in such a way can a fourth twenty minute song be palatable to the first-time listener. We are treated to a marvellous intro, filled with fire, melody and swing - and we even get a brief reminder that CHRIS SQUIRE is still with the band. Had this song filled the second half of 'The Yes Album', for example, I'm sure no one would have complained: it's certainly better than what that side of music offered. At 4:30 HOWE references 'Close to the Edge' - these things are not accidental - and reprises the main theme of this song. Entirely aware of the length of the album, YES are making it as easy as possible to assimilate on first listen. The 'Life seems like a fight' section at seven minutes reintroduces YES' lyrical beauty - and references 'The Revealing Science of God' - amid nice basswork and drenching mellotron. We sing the music's total retain - from 'Close to the Edge'. We venture. They move around, tell me. Sound familiar? The repetitive highlight of 'at all' leads to a reminder of 'The Ancient', but this time it sounds fitting in a symphonic context, and it segues into the heaviest and most dramatic moment of the album, SQUIRE and WHITE finally combining in a great instrumental passage, highlighted by HOWE's guitar and WAKEMAN's hissing, spitting keyboard. A truly thunderous moment. Smashing percussion gives way to a triumphant guitar motif, and we're into the album's finale. This time the band vary their formula: piano and ANDERSON's sweet voice round off the concept - 'we love when we play' - and leave room for a last spine-tingling instrumental farewell that finishes on an unresolved chord.

Genius.

I will say this, though. The loss of BILL BRUFORD, and the resulting down-mixing of the rhythm section, does incalculable damage to the YES sound. Though ALAN WHITE has his moments in the sun later in the band's career, he is nothing more than competent on this album. Not until 'The Ancients' does WHITE do anything that captures your attention, let alone make you gasp in the way BRUFORD did. And SQUIRE's exclusion from the writing sessions for these songs neuters his sound. I lament the loss of that wonderful bass. Of most frustration, however, is the way the studio run-throughs supplied as extras on the remastered version bring the rhythm section to the fore, giving the songs more punch. If only ...

Make no mistake: this is a flawed masterpiece. If five-star albums are required to be perfect, this fails miserably. But if art is supposed to be ambitious, if humans are supposed to reach beyond their grasp, then this is high art. Like anything from the truly great, even the relative failures are of real interest. And this is by no means a failure.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' simply does not, in my opinion, deserve the ridicule it has received.

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Posted Saturday, August 02, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the sixth album from Yes and it had the ungrateful task of following up on one of the masterpieces of symphonic prog Close to the Edge. There are very different opinions regarding Tales From Topographic Oceans. Some people think this is another masterpiece from Yes while the majority of the fans are disappointed with the album. I´m sorry to say that I belong to the latter catagory.

The album was originally a double LP with four sidelong tracks. A very ambitious project. The music is symphonic and melodic and the songs have complex structures. It should have been every Yes fans wet dream but turned out to be a nightmare for most.

The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn is the first side long track on Tales From Topographic Oceans and it´s the most energetic song on the album and my favorite here.

The Remembering - High The Memory is the second track on the album and it´s generally a more atmospheric ambient song. Beautiful but not as exciting as The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn.

The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun is my least favorite on Tales From Topographic Oceans. The song is too fragmented and even though I have listened to this song many times through the years it never really stuck.

Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil is a better song than The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun, but it´s not better than the two first tracks. I find it a bit weak really.

The musicianship is as usual excellent and new drummer Alan White is a good replacement for the legendary Bill Bruford.

The production is allright but a bit muddy and easily the weakest production on all the classic Yes albums ( From The Yes Album to Relayer).

Tales From Topographic Oceans is not a bad album but it is a great disappointment after the essential Close to the Edge and I can´t get myself to give it more than a 3 star rating. The first two songs are pretty good while the last two overstays their welcome by several minutes and they both make for a boring listen IMO.

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Posted Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like it or not...

...It's hard to deny the progressiveness of this record. A lot of people argue as to just what ''progressive'' is, whether it's a musical style or simply the progression of rock music in general - but listening to this record you know that it simply is progressive rock in its most pure form. A sprawling double concept album released in the early 1970s with four sides to house four songs, the shortest of which is 19-minutes long. If prog music is anything, my friends, it is this. The album is incredibly hard to take in, and indeed, this is a big detractor for the record. While a lot of people appreciate the occasional 20-minute suite, I think we all have to admit that Supper's Ready (Genesis) and A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (VdGG) didn't exactly catch on fast. This album is often called ''one of the nails in the coffin of progressive rock, but it also just as often called ''prog's greatest achievement''. Whatever it is, it gets people talking and it gets the ears tuned in, and isn't that what music is all about?

This is a very demanding listen. When Steve Howe and Jon Anderson sat down on the Close To The Edge tour they obviously had no intention of coming up with the next number one single. With their legendary epic fresh in their mind they set out to create four pieces based on religious texts and the most complex music that they could possibly come up with. The result is something that often turns people off on the first listen, the second listen, and maybe even the fifth listen. Very few people actually reach the point of liking this album, but let's face it - those who like this album LOVE this album. The strange thing about it is that if it's ever going to catch on with you it will do so when you give it ''a second chance'' one day and you'll find yourself whistling The Remembering while you're at work or something like that. This is one that you have you really have to sit down and give your full attention to, but prog heads are usually like that anyways, eh?

The four songs on the album each have a very different flavor. Things range from the incredibly energetic and experimental The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun), with it's very fun sections and whining guitar, to the very moody and mostly slow The Remembering (High The Memory) which features some wonderful vocal passages from Jon Anderson. The two book-ending tracks are the two most talked about. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) is likely the most accessible song and the closest to anything Yes has done prior to this album while Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) has a pretty killer hook in the repetition of the title which makes for a very memorable end to the album. Going into further detail about each song would be nice but terribly redundant on each of these tracks since there's a great number of reviews that has already done so. All that can be said really is that each song contains something for everyone, whether they be the vocal wizardy of Mr. Anderson, the wonderful solos from Howe, Wakeman and White or the ever pressing bass from Squire. The playing on the album is incredibly focused and sharp the the production is top notch.

After this album Yes would go through many a change including the loss of Rick Wakeman resulting in the very mechanical sounding Relayer which would follow up this very organic sounding record, but in itself this is a great album. Most prog fans who like winding passages and epic songs will find a quick love in this record while those who like things to be a bit more concise will likely call this one pompous and pretentious (which it is, but in a good way). To put direct labels on it, it's easy to say that this one is not as good as Close To The Edge, but better than Relayer. Incredibly dense and yet somehow wonderfully addicting, Tales From Topographic Oceans gets a good 4 stars out of 5. Recommended, but take your time to enjoy its intricacies.

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Posted Monday, September 29, 2008

Review by poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Oh...Probably the most controversial recording by Yes!The construction of the album is - four full-length composition - around twenty minutes each.This is my sole reason for not listen to it very often,despite its undisputed quality.Moreover,the album is even hated by Rick Wakeman and when he play something from the album he is disgusted!This album is even the reason for his first quit from the band!There is another negative moment about the album - when you listen to it you feel some kind of blunt sound.Its because of the wrong choice of the recording studio. Now it is time for the positive moments about the album.It is really creative and ideaed.These are eighty minutes here and you can find so much ideas - maybe more than any other Yes' album.If I have to put in order by quality the compositions I would say:the first and the last song - above 4.5;The Remembering - under 4.5;and The Ancient - even under 4!If you make the comparison with the other positive and negative moments,the album is on the line between 4 and 5 stars,but is closer to 4 stars.For me 4.25 or 4 and a half stars!

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Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review by ProgBagel
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Yes - 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' 3.5 stars

A collection of good songs with great moments in each of them, but as a whole this album is too much to swallow.

This is regarded as one of the most pretentious albums in the history of music, and I humbly agree. I think it was a bold step for the band and I appreciate the effort. When I listen to each of the songs, I find them all to be good. If I decide to listen to even two of the songs in a row, I easily lose focus and attention, this album was just simply too much to handle in one sitting, which is really unattractive.

But there is beauty contained within this album. Steve Howe's work in particular is his most eclectic effort at the point in time in Yes. Going anywhere from avant-garde, to minimalism to jazz he covers all of it efficiently in his endless bag of tools. Alan White, who replaces Bill Bruford does a good job of stepping in.

This album is mostly indescribable due to the length and the variations in sound. I don't mind any of it, all I am saying it is too much for one's own good. This might be something a die-hard progressive fan would enjoy far beyond anything else.

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Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Every once in a while, an album comes out that baffles the senses- usually, it will be one that divides progressive rock lovers. As one group heralds it as nothing short of a masterpiece, many others are quick to label it as "pretentious." I honestly don't understand that adjective in relation to symphonic rock. Compared to most popular music, almost all progressive rock is pretentious. If by "pretentious," we mean "exceptionally composed, using the greatest abilities of all members involved," then I suppose Tales from Topographic Oceans is the most pretentious album I have ever heard. I possess many fond memories sitting in the cold winters of North Carolina writing novels while listening to this album in its entirety.

"The Revealing Science of God" The very first time I heard this song, I could not remove it from my mind. That stormy billow that rises, those quiet guitar swells in the beginning, the very first word sung like a faint light in darkness, the layers of chanting vocals that build to a wondrous climax, the guitar theme that will reappear in nearly every song, the exceedingly wonderful verses that build to the majestic refrain, "I must have waited all my life for this moment," the wild whirlwind of word reminiscent of part of "Siberian Khatru," the amazing vocal melodies that rise throughout the song, Jon Anderson's most mystical lyrics ever, Rick Wakeman's fantastic keyboard work and Mellotron, Alan White's sparse drumming that allows the music to breathe, the special way Steve Howe's guitar work is expressed so perfectly over Chris Squire's more subtle bass playing, that vociferous blast of a synthesizer solo, the perfect series of transitions that bring the piece back to the beginning, even to the chanting that was in the beginning, and finally to that last, esoteric line, "And breath and hope and chase and love for you and you and you," all comprise the greatest progressive rock song these ears have ever perceived.

"The Remembering" How does one follow the most wonderful progressive rock song ever penned? Yes does so with majesty and gracefulness, two characteristics that make up this phenomenal piece. Rarely does Yes employ a Medieval-like sound as Gentle Giant or Genesis did so often, but the woodwind-like synthesizers and Howe's electric twelve-string guitar give it precisely this feel. Like the song before it, it is tightly structured and full of recurring themes. The heavy Mellotron and the spacey sound effects come in between lyrics. The chord progressions are regal and remind me a bit of "And You and I" from the previous album. The middle consists of an upbeat acoustic guitar arrangement. For the most part, Howe's guitar takes a supporting role, but still stands out as it did throughout much of "Close to the Edge" after the introduction. The section during and directly after they sing "Relayer," is one of the greatest moments of the song, featuring a reprise of an earlier keyboard motif and an excellent bass line, just before returning to several vocal sections and some atmospheric keyboard work.

"The Ancient" Unquestionably the most avant-garde song Yes ever recorded, this one has primitive-sounding percussion, swampy bass work, and strange steel guitar that lasts quite some time. As always, the Mellotron is excellent, and adds so much to the song, this time not just lingering somewhere in the background. Even the lyrics are beyond bizarre; the closest thing from Yes I can compare them to are those of "Awaken." Steve Howe reprises several guitar parts from previous Yes songs, including the one on "Siberian Khatru" just after his introduction. The music rightfully has an Eastern feel. After twelve-and-a-half minutes of exotic music, the "Leaves of Green" section begins, which features Howe playing one of his best classical guitar pieces ever, with its own themes. Here, briefly (so briefly one may miss it), he reprises the very first guitar notes from "Close to the Edge." Eventually, Anderson sings, and the music soon adopts a Spanish flavor. In the final part, the steel guitar revisits the song, but the music is unlike anything that came before.

"Ritual" The opening to this piece is grand, featuring a lovely arrangement. Earlier parts of the album come back throughout, not the least of which is the music of the first song that came after the chanting. Squire, who has sat in the background for most of the album, lets it rip with one of the greatest progressive rock bass solos ever, and his bass playing stays aggressive right on through. Each transition is praiseworthy, never odd or unnatural. The lyrics are again numinous, but they have an uplifting feel about them nonetheless. White's drumming stands out more, as there is even an outlandish but fitting percussion solo in the middle, which builds over synthesizer, until the peaceful respite of Howe's quiet electric guitar arrives, leading into one of the loveliest parts of the song. Near the end, Howe once more plays the main theme of the album, only the music is in a minor key. The final, almost ceremonial moments nearly incite meditation.

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Posted Monday, December 15, 2008

Review by crimson87
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Tales from memorable musicians

Being described as the most perfect example of self indulgence in progressive rock , Tales of Topographic oceans truly does honor to it's reputation. But where does that self indulgence come from? Of course from everywhere since it's a really complex piece of work both musically and lyrically. However , it's 20 minute epics may have been overwhelming by it's length in the 70's ... but in the CD era there are some bands that make this songs look like top 40 singles. Want some examples? Transatlantic , Flower Kings Dream Theater , The Tangent and I can go on for a while. Even in the early 70's filling a record with four monster epics wasn't the most innovative thing you could aim at : Both Tangerine Dream and the Soft Machine were pioneers in that aspect with mixed results. And don't get me started on Miles Davis!

The main aspect of Tales that some seem to have problems dealing with at first listen is that the four songs lack the punch and "catchiness" some of the early Yes classic's had like Siberian Khatu , All good people and Roundabout. In Tales , Yes adds athmospherical sounds to their usual pallete of music and also includes Eastern and Indian influences on the mix. This fact alone seems to discourage many people who are expecting a more prog-ROCK album. As a record , Tales is probably the purest form of prog ever made: Thought provoking , neverending and unique.

But in my opinion , the main fact that put people off from appreciating Tales are the lyrics written by Anderson and Howe. There are many thesis around the net trying to figure out the meaning of mysterious , yet beautiful phrases like: "There is someone to tell you , amid the challenge we look around in unison with you" or " Out in the cit running free , days pass as seconds turn the key". The thing is , Anderson is known for using his voice as other instrument and taking that into account , his lyrics may not be as linear as other band's. However Tales is a concept album based on Eastern religion and for us mostly westerners is pretty tough to deal with.

While writing this review I was listening to this record and I found out that The Revealing Science of God is probably Yes's stronger epic. This song does have some structure unless other epic tunes since Anderson goes over and over the same pattern all over the song (What happened.... or They move fast , they tell me...) , but everytime he does his voice gets better and better. This first cut will also show us a particular aspect as regard's Tales: Rick Wakeman's keyboards arent that prominent but I find this to be a good move. Instead his Mellotron sounds in the background most of the time with great results. Also there are some little Moog solos as well. In contrast Steve Howe dominates this song from start to finish delivering some of his finest guitarwork and never going over the top.

The remembering is probably harder to get into than Dance of the Dawn because of Anderson's melody while singing. It sounds pretty ankward at first. But the playing is top notch all over the song , there is some overwhelming Mellotron at 9 minutes and then the song suddenly goes acoustic , reminding me of "All good people". Some may find this part a little lame , but I like it. Like on the opener , there are plenty of memorable memories and riffs for you to remember. This is more than necesary when a record is so vast as Tales.

The second LP presents us " The Ancient". A gong opens this number followed with some Jamie Muir- like percussion , this is really unique in Yes catalog. Suddenly a burst of King Crimsonish Mellotron appears. I am hearing Larks Tongues in Aspic?? Or is it Starless and Bible Black?? After that confusion Jon Anderson starts telling the different names some antique civilisations gave to the sun god while this track starts sounding like a symphony. This is too much for my senses! When this long instrumental interlude comes to an end there is time for Steve Howe to shine: An acoustic guitar solo much like Mood for a Day or Horizons put this song at ease after the closest Yes got to avant garde ever.

The last tale will be the most popular one , Ritual. This one features a long guitar introduction by Steve Howe and the somewhat famous drum solo by new member Alan White.There also is some amazing playing by Chris Squire on here making a tight rhytm section. Jon Anderson leaves us some really good melodies and memorable verses like: " Open doors we find our way , we look we see we smile/ Surely daybreaks cross our path , and stay maybe a while" or " Dreams are say to blossom courage , constant to the soul".

Overall , I think that my review of this record is more than positive. But I realize that Tales could be quite a challenge for the newcomer so I suggest listening to their earlier albums before facing this double LP beauty.

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Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review by lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The Yes LP that, more than any others, attracts both ridiculously high praise or equally ridiculous approbium. Yep, you either love it or hate it, and there aren't many who, like me, fall somewhere in between.

After the incredible heights that were reached with Fragile, and especially Close to the Edge, Messrs Anderson & Howe embarked on writing a concept, a very lengthy concept, based upon Autobiography of a Yogi by by Paramahansa Yogananda - it's not exactly easily accessible stuff. Sprawling over four vinyl sides with an equal number of tracks, the album was, either bravely or stupidly (depending upon your viewpoint) premiered live in front of fans and critics in London in 1973 before anyone had even had the chance to listen to it.

The rock critics response was, to put it mildly, not exactly very kind, and many people point to this album as one of the main reasons why punk simply had to happen. Curiously, the quality press in Britain reacted far more kindly, with one actually stating that The Ancient would, in twenty years, come to be regarded as an all time classic of any musical genre. I'm sorry, but it simply is not, and only die hard fans would, I suspect, now make that statement, although I do think that it stands up better in 2009 than it did in 1973.

It is a shame, because there are many good points to the album. I regard sides one (The Revealing Science of God) and four (Ritual) as being amongst the band's finest. Once you get past Anderson wittering incomprehensibly at the start of Revealing..., a rich, complex tapestry of music unfolds. In addition, the opening sequence of Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) is quite lovely, before giving way to a complex jazzy sequence ending in a very brave and well played percussion solo by Alan White on his debut with the band. All that, though, pales into insignificance when you hear what follows this - quite simply one of the most beautiful, hair raising guitar solos of all time by Steve Howe preluding the end vocal and instrumental sequence.

This, though, summarises the album's problem - it is simply too long. In addition, nobody had a clue what they were on about - I still don't after all these years. The two tracks reviewed above, on their own, would easily attract five stars, of that I have no doubt. I listened to the other two for the first time in some while today, The Remembering & The Ancient, and whilst they have some very pleasant parts, in particular Howe's acoustic guitar on the latter, they are simply too long, overblown, and pretentious to make the entire album as a whole an essential listening experience.

Also, Wakeman is simply dreadful on the entire work. He clearly had no interest in it, ate chicken biriyani on stage during some of it, and even had to endure bathroom tiles in the studio on Anderson's insistence during its making. He left the band, and he still loathes the experience to this day, although I am glad to say that his Ritual performances live were latterly fantastic.

This album is, in my experience and opinion, a flawed masterpiece from a great band. I am awarding it three stars, but I must make the point that it is still an essential purchase to add to any prog collection, if only to understand the history of both the band and the genre. Don't, however, make it your first ever Yes purchase.

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Posted Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review by The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Tales from Calm and Majestic Oceans

Here, me, reviewing another highly acclaimed controversial album, this time from the classic Symphonic Prog band, Yes. Yes' previous effort was the highly succesful Close to the Edge, one of the pinnacles of Prog, alongside the controversial of Brain Salad Surgery, as well as with Tull's magnum opus, Thick as a Brick, to name a few. With Close to the Edge, Yes had culminated with perfection, 3 incredibly crafted songs, completely flawless, however with Tales From Topographic Oceans, there's quite a radical change.

With Alan White as a newbie, his place in this album, doesn't deserve the mention. Not that he's a bad drummer, but unfortunately, in this album, specifically, Alan is barely heard in the mix, and comparing with Close to the Edge's fierceful and complex drumming of Bill Bruford, Alan just falls flat and boring(I repeat, in this album). However, thinking it twice, I could mention his interesting rythm he settles in the middle of Ritual.

Despite not having a challenging drumming, the rythm section is not completely lost, Chris Squire is still in perfect shape, even better than in Close to the Edge, I dare to say, delivering one of his most recognised bass work, in the song Ritual. However, Chris is not the main performer here, like he will be in Relayer and Drama, alongside Steve Howe...

Talking about Steve, luckily him, he wrote all the the songs with Jon Anderson, so you can expect his guitar to shine out, even if he has been shining since The Yes Album, his presence here, is over the top, in the acoustic and electric, even having a completely solo spot, in the song, The Ancient.

Having mentioned Jon previously, I'll have to say that his vocals here are still in great shape, however his lyrics-writing ''skill'' haven't improved, you can't expect understandable lyrics, at all. If you're a lyrics-lover, you can't expect any good from this album. Back to the vocals, there's some excellent harmonies, shared with Chris' and Steve's backing vocals, specially in the song The Revealing Science of God, where Jon can shine on his own as well, in a short section, with his angelic voice.

Now to Rick Wakeman, as very well most know, Rick himself was and still is disatisfied with this album, due to Jon's and Steve's control on the song-writing, not letting Rick express his ideas, however, as much Rick thinks he couldn't contribute in Tales as he desired, if there's one thing I love from Tales, it's Rick's keyboards, from truly stunning Moog solos, to subtle, and wonderful, Mellotron chords, specifically in the song, The Revealing Science of God.

Now to a bit more detail of the songs, like the title of my review describes, ''Calm and Majestic'', those 2 words truly say what this album is. In difference with Close to the Edge, having moments of symphonic awesomeness, Tales From Topographic Oceans shines out because of tranquil chords, and climax's, specially in the song, The Remembering, almost the entire song has a dreamy and chilly atmosphere, with all the instruments going subtle, don't get me wrong, the song is not boring, each moment is quite nice, with mellow harmonies, and melodies all through the song, while no instrument shining out, this just makes the composition and achieved atmosphere, shine.

Now, to The Revealing Science of God, so as to not make you think Tales is completely a dreamy album. As I mentioned before, The Revealing Science of God features a spectacular intro, from the vocal harmonie, varying from soft tones, to some well-delivered powerful ones(not heavy), then moving to Rick's absoloutely ear-crying moog, such delightness and power, which soon let's Steve deliver some great guitar playing. As a whole, The Revealing Science of God, features the best composition Yes has ever done, maybe not the best solos(however featuring, nonetheless, a killer moog one), but there's definitely no dull moment, quite the contrary, each moment has it's highlight, which needs many listens to totally perceive the whole amazing and grandiose composition, definitely 'Epic'.

Leaving Disc 1 aside, now to Disc 2, with maybe the most challenging compositions Yes has ever done, just below The Gates of Delirium from the next album, Relayer. Disc 2 opens with The Ancient, the song that still costs me to get into out of the 4 song here. Featuring some very dissonant notes almost all through the song, reminding me to Gentle Giant's dissonance and oddness, while having top-notch musicians, the whole composition doesn't flow normally, however like I mentioned before, here Steve Howe has a solo spot on the acoustic guitar in the last 6 minutes, really beautiful and great, making worthwhile the song, at least for me.

Now, finally, to the highly acclaimed epic, Nous Sommes Du Soleil(Ritual), with the already mentioned jaw-dropping bass perfomance all through the song, the song-writing of this one compromises of the themes from the last 3 songs, so you can expect some cliches, however this just makes Ritual Yes' magnum opus, with the ideas of the 3 previous songs into one, just makes a stunning song, taking the wonderful moog melodies and great, competent musicianship from The Revealing Science of God, while from The Remembering, Ritual takes it's soft soundscapes and passages, and finally taking The Ancient's weirdness, however all these themes are not united at the same time, if not each giving it's time to develop and truly shine.

Tales From Topographic Oceans is definitely not your typical Symphonic Prog album, however, such brilliance forged into this album, must not be ignored by any means. Not as perfect as Close to the Edge, nor as complex as Relayer, however none of those 2, share the mightiness this one has, making a easy 5 stars album, despite some flaws.

If you like to go through deep listens again and again to a album, to really get what the band has created, this one is definitely for you. NOT a easy album to get into.

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Posted Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Review by The Truth
COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars A Yes too far underappreciated piece of music in my opinion, Tales From Topographic Oceans is composed of three twenty minute long tracks each containing a different sound. The album is much darker than others of Yes, (Musically, lyrically it's the same), and in my opinion contains some of the best Chris Squire bass guitar Yes has ever put out. The first track is one of the best with very nice vocals to start it off eventually turnig it into a prog listeners joy, long instrumentals! It contains a lot of that bass I mentioned. The Remembering-High the Memory is probably the best track because of the beautiful Jon Anderson vocals all through it. The lyrics also give it a very nice feeling of calmness. Dance of the Dawn-Giants Under the Sun is more upbeat than the other tracks and Steve Howe's guitar playing is excellent but I find it not as good as other tracks. Ritual-Nous Sommes Du Soleil is probably the worst track on the album but it is symphonic enough it doesn't leave the album with that bad of a taste. All-in-all it did not recieve the credit it deserved but Rick Wakeman was right, he didn't get to play enough.

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Posted Saturday, May 02, 2009

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars There seems to be a bit of controversy about this album. Judging from the music alone, I can't really see why. This album is equally overblown as anything else featuring Anderson, Squire, Howe & Wakeman. So what's the deal huh?

The Revealing is classic Yes. I even like the moog solo by mr. Wakeman around minute 19, which is quite an achievement, considering how much I usually dislike that guy's playing. The Remembering has a bit of trouble to reach the 20 minute mark gracefully. I like the instrumental parts a lot (again by Wakeman!) but they don't connect well with the actual song. Both tracks are neither better nor worse then Close to the Edge. Admitted, they are not as stunning as And You And I, but that was Yes' best song anyway right?

Now on top of that, you get an extra album for nothing. On the Ancient we hear Yes having a bit of King Crimson fun, it's a bewildering track that ends beautifully with a very strong acoustic part. Ritual has never done much to me. The first 4 minutes are pretty thin and the chorus is just way too cheesy. But other people list this track as the best on the album so you never know which side you'll sling.

All in all, this album is a good addition to your Yes discography. Just ignore the negative hype about it and see what you make of it. 3.5 stars

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Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review by ExittheLemming
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Show-boating's swell until the new wave breaks

For many Yes fans, particularly those from the leafy perspective afforded by the grassy knoll, this album is often defended on the grounds that it represents the Lee Harvey Oswald of Prog. Framed by Punk for a crime it did not commit and culpable only for its association with an outlawed ideology at the right place, wrong time. Be that as it may, and speaking from the viewpoint of a contrite post-punk Jack Ruby, it is nowhere near as bad as its most vociferous critics would have you believe.

Does hair length correlate to song length? (Ask Peter Gabriel's starving barber)

It seems hideously ironic that the dish 'best served cold' was still warm from the griddle when punk's bloated tripleburger Sandinista by the Clash roiled onto the shelves in 1980. Perhaps as Yes suggest, some things are as eternal and cyclic as the tides with an overreaching rock band's inevitable fall from their pedestal being but just one. Forging new territory is all well and good, but just don't expect the settlers to believe the brochure when they wake up looking out on a quagmire lawn from their new homesteads. Where Yes and the Clash made a fatal error of judgement was in both band's credulous belief that the punters actually gave a discarded fig what this beautiful noise we call music was actually telling them. Honing a political conscious or exploring esoteric eastern philosophy has no substance in a realm of show-business where, as Pat Gilbert's tome puts it: Passion is a Fashion.

Listening to entertainers with a spiritual or political agenda always makes me feel as an elephant would after being invited for a vegetarian meal to be eaten with ivory cutlery. The counter argument to this demarcation of content runs along the lines of revolution starts in the head dude. Perhaps it does but so do delusional mind games, and you only need a vacant venue to stage those.

Enter stage left: The Clash, enter via the wings: Yes: To educate you in return for the sins and impunity of idolatry plus shedloads of hard currency. Me? I think further education should be free but entertainment not.

The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn - Kinda catchy title fellas. After some tootsie dipping ambient swirly water noises (if you hold a shell up to your ear they say you can hear the sea, hold Anderson up to your ear and you can hear an elfin whale speaking in tongues) there eventually appears a very innovative and robust composition that embodies all that could be endearing about this band: Strong melodic themes, beautiful multi-tracked harmony vocals, challenging harmonic detours, textural and dynamic contrasts, meter and tempo hikes that are never gratuitous and if that were not sufficient, an inspired example from Wakeman of what he does best i.e. distracting the listener from Jon's woolly kaftan babble with some knowingly over the top heroic soloing and tongue in cheek bombast wedded to the finest keyboard sounds that the 70's had to offer. So what's all the fuss about then? this is arguably a better composed and more mature piece than Close to the Edge.

The Remembering/High The Memory - Whoops, not a reference to the great barrier (reef) to a higher consciousness lads? Erm..things do get a tad 'airy' hereabouts I have to report and although the wobbly/leslied guitar is an attractive backdrop for Anderson's vocal, the structure eventually comes to resemble a medley of brand new material. A pity perhaps as the opening half is seamlessly exquisite but all things considered there is nothing here to warrant piercing yourself with a safety pin just yet. (But don't stray too far from the medicine cabinet for the time being) There are some sumptuous harmonic changes towards the end that appear to my furry ears unprecedented in the Yes discography, and represent some fresh coinage not only in their own currency but that of prog in general. The more chromatic feel of the subsequent Relayer is possibly prefaced on this piece.

The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun - So complacently and sloppily piecemeal that it reeks of having been compiled from several little individual sections that are not even on nodding terms with one another never mind related. Casual listening is all that casual musicianship warrants. To be fair to Yes, the use of percussive textures on a paean to erm...primordial oscillations is probably very apt. Less so is Howe's descent into a shrill impersonation of an (only) just intonated stylophone/pedal steel guitar. Without a firm and steady hand on his inestimable rudder (apart from his own), our Steve is prone to littering countless reels of tape with quite possibly the most irritating guitar tone since rock was something cavemen took home as a pressie for the missus.The jarring frisson of the stabbed dischord is very effective but Anderson's intended gravitas sounds more like Noel Coward fronting a Klingon Zheul Orchestra with a remarkably small repertoire. Thereafter Howe inadvisedly encroaches on avant improvisational territory best left to the masters Fripp & Co. In mitigation, Yes are damned if they do and damned if they don't here and certainly warrant some kudos for willing to suffer what is one of the pitfalls of any failed experimental music i.e. its apologists call it experimental, the rest of us are still waiting for the final proof-read draft.

Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil - Howe appears to quote throughout (perhaps unwittingly) from O For the Wings of a Dove? (It might just as well be O for the ears of a professional arranger given the double whammy bar of his playing too little of interest in isolation and too much in toto) More pot-noodle meanderings and trebly pleas for clemency from his tortured Gibson fill a few more anguished minutes but our threadbare goodwill is rewarded with a beautiful song section that together with the disguised reprise of the opening theme on Revealing Science brings the album to a convoluted but reasonably satisfying conclusion.

So after the dry ice has cleared this prog battlefield what are we to make of a resilient controversy that continues to surround those fallen from the peace and love corps? It's very patchy and borderline rambling in many places, but said damp spells are soon bathed in the torrential sunlight of some breathtaking music (albeit heavy intermittent showers). Depending on which version of events you choose to believe, it seems that Rick was horrified by the direction Yes were taking at this juncture and, so firmly held were his principles, he exited as hastily as decency would allow after the lucrative world tour that followed in its wake. Squire's input seems less pronounced than usual and I have to admit the album suffers by his diminished role. According to departed drummer Bill Bruford's autobiography, former Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir introduced Anderson to Paramahansa Yogananda's tome about the life of a Yogi at a wedding both attended in 1973, and therefore must have had some impact on the album's concept. Without wishing to denigrate a work I have not read, it has to be said that Anderson's lyrical take on the 'Six items or less' express lane at the Oriental takeaway is the final straw and must represent prog's very soggy death warrant:

And I do think very well, As the truth unfolds you Silently They move time Rainbows Sunlight Alternate tune Alternate tune

Rainbows Soft light Alternate view Sunlight Tell Me Someone Alternate view Alternate view, surely, surely

The foregoing is but the tip of a the soft brown turdberg and if Anderson has a sliver of self depreciating candour in his whole body, he should have confined this shampoo for long haired boars (Hogwash) to his own book entitled:

Boo Boo's Wash Cycle 6 - Tsunami Rinse for Yogi's Delicates

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Posted Friday, September 25, 2009

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have to confess that I just bought this double album recently and before that only knew it slightly. And the most I knew about was what others told about it on PA. I'm not the biggest Yes fan thinkable even though I like their music a lot and then mainly their two famous epics. And since there are no less than four epics on this one, the least you can do is give it a try.

It's not exaggerated to say this is one of the most controversial of the more famous albums in prog history. If I look at the reviews and ratings on our site this is obviously proven and this album divides the prog reviewers in either love or hate it. But of course there are also proggers that feel it's right in between both options and give it three or four stars. To be honest I think I fit in third category.

I gave the four epics every chance to grow on me and I have to say they all did, though not all in equal sense. Thanks to Symphonic Live I already knew Ritual and I think it's a very good epic except for the strange switch towards the end to the "tubes percussion" which is at least original and works really surprising compared to the rest of the epic. Of the other three epics I can say they all have their charm but are none of them truly impressive all along. The most impressive (small) part I can think of about all four lengthy songs is the great outburst by Wakeman near the end of Dance of the Dawn.

The rest mainly consists of careful and subtle compositional performances and can be called essential progressive works as far as I'm concerned. I don't understand though why this is controversial. To me this is quite common music and I had expected much more profound and intricate stuff to be honest. As I said Tales seems to be an essential progressive effort to me but not quite a masterpiece in the sense of beauty and greatness/brilliance of the music itself. I think their two most famous epics (CttE and Gates) and maybe even Awaken are better examples of that. Still I like and respect Tales a lot and believe the 3,85 average it has right now is the least it deserves.

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Posted Friday, October 16, 2009

Review by TheGazzardian
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars If you want to talk about progressive rock, look at Yes. For their first five albums, each was leaps and bounds higher than the previous in terms of artistic intent and direction. From a simple rock album with covers; to a similar album, but with an orchestra; to an album featuring extended pieces and virtuoso guitar playing; to an album similar in structure with even more virtuoso keyboard playing; to their most famous progressive album featuring their first epic. Where could they go next?

It is arguable whether this album, or Relayer, is as far as Yes dared progress. They would continue to release excellent music and grow after those two, but as far as the experimentation, nothing was further along than these two albums.

By this point in time, seeing the direction things were going, Bill Bruford had left. Replacing him was a very able replacement, Alan White, who brought a bit more of a standard rock 'n roll feel with him than the jazzier influences of Bruford. Despite that, he would prove himself just as willing to experiment as the rest of Yes with this album.

This was, mostly, Jon and Steve's album. The two of them came up with the concept and the basic song structure, and the rest of the band agreed (Despite some trepidations) to give it a shot. As a result, they would record one of the most unique and controversial progressive rock albums out there.

Nowadays, there are many artists releasing albums with more than a single epic. (Flower Kings, Transatlantic, I am looking at you!) But at this time, in the age of vinyls, it was difficult to pull off. Perhaps if this album had come into existence after the CD was created, it might have been a bit less controversial. For if you look at it, Yes was in a bit of a tight space. They had ideas for music that took up more than half of a vinyl side, and in order to maintain the theme, they couldn't just toss little songs to fill in the space. So to avoid having a lot of empty vinyl, they had to basically fill it in. (Furthermore, apparently one of the songs - I forget which one - was actually closer to 30 minutes, and had to be refined to fit on a single vinyl side). With a CD, they might have been able to create something a little truer to what they really wanted to accomplish musically.

But how did they do, overall? As a Yes fan, the idea of this record cannot help but excite; a band that is famous for Close to the Edge releasing 4 more epics?

Revealing Science of God starts off the album with some eery chanting, but this song proves that Yes still had their great sense of composition and structure about them, moving easily between various different movements. There are more parts to this song then their were in Close to the Edge, but they are shorter and several of them are reprised at least once. It also includes moments that would be played upon in the various other parts of the album, to give it a more holistic approach. This is probably the tightest and best composed song of the bunch, if not the most experimental. An excellent successor to their previous epic.

The Remembering has a really slow start, and it is easy to feel a little lost as it continues, especially with Jon's spacey lyrics guiding you through. The opening instrumentation is quite nice and gives me the feel of seasons passing, which I believe was the intent. The song eventually leads into the 'Relayer' section, which includes some of my favorite playing on the album. After the second pass through the 'Relayer' lyrics, the fast, moving bass and drums of that section are combined with the slower keyboards from the opening part, creating a really intense moment, before the song winds down pleasantly. Overall an excellent song, if it takes some time to really get going.

The Ancients is probably the song that suffered worst from having to fill a vinyl side. It contains a lot of pleasant instrumentation, but it doesn't quite go anywhere as well as the rest of the album did. It feels more like jamming than the rest of the album, and to me this makes it the weakest part. To be fair, there are some interesting ideas in this part, they just are not as cohesive as other sections. It does move on to the 'Leaves of Green' section (which Yes would play on its own in future tours), which has some of Steve's most peaceful acoustic work on the album with some excellent singing by Jon.

Ritual, the final song, is my second favorite of the album. Like RSOG, I could see this being a fair successor to Close to the Edge. It is more playful than the rest of the album, and also more experimental. For any who were unsure whether or not Alan White would be able to keep up with the rest of the band, listen to this song around the 15 minute mark and you will be completely convinced that he was the perfect successor to Bill Bruford.

So where does that leave us in terms of rating? This album is one of a kind - there would be no other album structured the same, Yes would never try this format again, the concept was interesting (if very difficult to grasp), and the feeling of this album is wholly unique. It has two of Yes' great epics, some of their most experimental playing, and amazing atmosphere. But it did suffer from the limitations of the vinyl format, and I think that overall, that may be this albums greatest weakness.

This is also an album that cannot be grasped completely in just 1, 5, or even 10 listens. Themes recur between the different songs, lyrics are repeated or altered, and there is just so much going on in this album that it must be listened to many times to truly grasp. I've listened to it more than 40 times by now and know that there are still mysteries to this album that I have yet to understand.

For those with the patience to listen to 20 minute songs over and over, this album will be a masterpiece, but overall I think that it sits at a 4 star rating, due to the 'noodling' that occurred to fill in the vinyl.

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Posted Monday, October 19, 2009

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars One of the Twin Peaks of Prog Ambition

Yes' TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHICAL OCEANS has been both derided and championed for the same quality ? aspiring to touch the sun. Fueled by the band's greatest success (CLOSE TO THE EDGE), it is the band's most ambitious work, reaching for the highest heights the band will ever attempt. The flip side of that tricky coin is the evil "P" word (pretentiousness), but prog fans have always known that uber-talented musicians pushing their boundaries to the limit will sometimes step beyond the line. Like Icarus, the band ignores the warnings of the wise and we share with the band both in the intensity of the fire and the singe of their burnt feathers.

TFTO was released in 1973, and Genesis' two-disc, similarly ambitious / excessive concept album LAMB LAYS DOWN ON BROADWAY came out not long after in 1974. While the two discs sent the two bands in opposite directions in terms of commercial success, I find them to be remarkably parallel albums in many ways. Both are fueled by extremely cerebral and spiritual concepts coming from their lead singer. In the case of TFTO, it was Jon Anderson's adoption of a group of teachings from Paramahansa Yogananda's AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. In parallel with the hippies' search through Eastern Religious thought as they aged, Anderson stayed true to his roots. But just as Peter Gabriel's separation from his bandmates during the writing of the LAMB weakened the album and the band, Anderson and Steve Howe's domination of the writing of TFTO cost the album some power and the band Rick Wakeman.

There is one huge difference between the albums, however. THE LAMB abandons the lengthy song structure of the band's previous work and instead has many focused songs. Some are weak, some strong, and a few are among the best work the band ever did. Yes, however, took a different path. They created what essentially is an 80 minute suite comprised of four 20 minute parts. TFTO is one of the most symphonic and epic pieces of the classic prog era. For good or for bad, its defining characteristic is its length.

Luckily for me, my first listen to this album was on an extended airplane ride where I just sat back uninterrupted with my headphones for the entire work. Like a classical piece, the album is meant to be a continuous experience with movements and when you listen in this way, I believe it works quite well. Sure, the band takes their time letting some parts evolve, but I've gotten bored much more easily during some classical pieces which also extend over a longer period of time.

There are so many great moments on this album, and they vary so much. The slide guitar over the frenetic rhythms to open "The Ancient" to the sunny moods of the opener to the grand vocals in the finale of "Nous Sommes de Soleil," join so many phenomenal moments of music. There are little allusions to previous pieces, the most obvious being Howe's quotation of the signature melody of "Close to the Edge." Howe gets in his classical moments, grumpy Wakeman adds some powerful synth solos and mellotron pads, and newcomer Alan White holds down the rhythm transparently.

A few very important things are lacking on this album, though. The first one is intensity. Listening to RELAYER's "The Gates of Delirium" midway during my day of continuous sampling for this review, I realized how, well, mellow TFTO is compared Yes' other work. There aren't any sections that really rock. Similarly, there is a lack of tightness in the composition that Yes displays elsewhere. While some openness and space to explore can be fuel for great music, Yes gets away with trying such difficult music on other albums precisely because of the tightness of the composition. The title song from CTTE is a perfect example of that tightness at its most perfected. "Gates of Delirium" strikes a nice balance between composition and exploration. On TFTO, the explorations simply overrun the compositions. Some really enjoy these moments, and other bands also have albums made up entirely of this experimentation. I like it when I'm in certain moods, and frankly, when I have the time to let it sink in. But that time and place are inherently limited. Most importantly, TFTO just doesn't transport me to that higher plane that CTTE does. When it comes close, it just can't hold me there. It is for that specific reason that it misses masterpiece level.

I agree with others that this is part of the core of prog music, and should be part of the library of all prog fans. But it is a late addition. It takes work, and the rewards are going to be subtle. It is an excellent album, just not one of the masterpieces of prog.

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Posted Friday, January 29, 2010

Review by thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Possibly the most controversial record ever made. Nothing has come close before or since (but is that a good thing or a bad thing??). Tales is, in my eyes, a dented masterpiece. Seemingly perfect, as a vision; but slightly diminished in reality. And there are two main setbacks:

1) A bored keyboard player

2) The limitations of the vinyl LP

Had CD's been around in 1973, Tales could have been a perfectly rounded hour-long album. With vinyl, you have to make the choice: 40 minutes or 80 minutes? Yes went for 80, 20 of which, in my opinion, was second-rate material (That's not me attacking one particular song by the way, but rather, an overall 20 minutes throughout the album). Had the band gone for the 40 minute option then the whole concept of Tales wouldn't have really worked, and it might have flopped with far less publicity (negative or otherwise).

Had Rick Wakeman been remotely interested in 1973, or had Rick Wakeman been [insert another keyboard player's name here], then the vision could have been realised with 5/5ths of commitment, as opposed to 4/5ths commitment and one 1/5th chicken Tikka Masala...

The concept, I LOVE. Four expansive multi-themed suites inspired by shastric scriptures revealing truth, knowledge, culture and freedom? Sounds good to me. And it IS good. Each song has redeeming moments, and at least one or two interesting themes that would be universally praised if they had appeared on 'CTTE'. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the whole of 'Revealing...' and the whole of 'Ritual' are worthy of better albums and I love them just as much as 'Close to the Edge' or 'The Gates of Delirium'. And I think a lot of other people would be able to appreciate these perfectly respectable prog epics, if they could just let go of the restrictions of this very unpopular album. I won't go into detail about these two, but they have very little wrong with them and both provoke those 'spine-tingling' moments that were common on 'CTTE'. The point where the drums enter in 'Revealing' for example, replacing the modal chant with the synth-driven main theme of the song. Or the climactic pause after Squire's bass solo mid-way through 'Ritual'. These are the moments why Yes fans are Yes fans.

As for the middle of the sandwich, 'The Remembering' is emotive in places and interesting in the middle, but could be cut down significantly. Especially when it comes to Wakeman's "swirly synth passages during which he's holding a stopwatch with his left hand and waiting for the 20 minute mark" (of course the band knew that, but who wants to release an album with three 20-minuters and one 12- minuter??). Steve's electric guitar on 'The Ancient', is according to some, too dissonant. I'm happy with the experimental nature of this song (they make up for it in melody) but again, it struggles to fill its 18 minutes effectively.

Thus, Tales would have made a far better 60 minute CD than an 80 minute LP. But I'm still rating it highly because 60 minutes of brilliance and some filler is just as respectable as the globally praised 'Relayer' or 'CTTE' albums, which were 40 minutes with no filler. And my criticisms, unlike most people's, don't lie with the concept, simply the length.

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Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' - Yes (95/100)

Before the notion was rightly dismissed by the others, Jon Anderson was said to have expressed a wish to record Tales from Topographic Oceans in the middle of a forest at nighttime. Although Jon didn't get his wish to record their sixth LP out in the woods with the owls and squirrels, Yes instead decorated their studio to make it look more like a farmyard. Among these ornaments were stacks of hay, archetypal white picket fences, a miniature barn, and a model of a cow with mechanical udders. Even being the lifelong fan of this album as I am, I am not beyond calling that one of the most absurd things I've ever heard a band do in order to 'get in the mood' for recording. Then again, their last two albums - 1971's Fragile, and Close to the Edge from the following year - had both turned out as masterpieces, so Yes could certainly afford themselves some degree of pretentiousness.

Compared to the more institutionally recognized of Yes' masterpieces, Tales from Topographic Oceans still stands as a matter of contention for listeners, even today, four-plus decades after its recording and release. After having touched the sky and cracked upon the egg of ambition with Close to the Edge, Yes would have been in a tight spot; would they try to keep pushing their ambition somehow and risk alienating everyone, or pull back the reins and enjoy more familiar grounds? The band reached a near-melting point with this album, with Wakeman in particular famously feeling pretty discouraged about the way it turned out. Pushing the boundaries further past Close to the Edge and creating a double album four epics long resulted in the most critically polarizing progressive rock album ever made. A few rag-tag advocates defend the album for its scope and ambition, whereas the rest cite it as a poster child for prog rock indulgence, self-importance, and idle longwindedness...

...whatever their grievances may be, they're wrong.

...well, maybe they are right, but Tales from Topographic Oceans' opaque self-awareness and bombast don't stop it from being one of the most incredible albums ever made in progressive rock, and quite possibly even Yes' finest hour. It's the true definition of a grower album, and though Yes demands more here from the listener than they ever had or would again, the ultimate rewards for sticking with it are incredible.

With Close to the Edge, Yes' writing had been condensed, with a clear regard for the economy of time. Almost every minute sounded like it was used to perfection, and it's that 'no-filler' attitude that has made it such a crown jewel in their discography. By contrast, Yes opens up the scope once again on "Tales", no by continuing to up the density in their sound as they had been doing for their career up 'til now, but by relaxing the measurements of time and giving compositions air to breathe. Without that stress on the composition's back, new territories are more capably explored. Somewhat like the feeling of coming off a highway and feeling like you're driving more slowly on the normal roads than you really are, Yes' change of pace, and their more drawn out instrumental passages have a tendency to feel aimless or wandering compared to the band's typical fare. It's easy to dismiss the listener's responsibility to stay attentive and brush the leads as longwinded, sure, but as the album grows more familiar, patterns and motifs become more obvious. If there's anything I can say or do in this review to convince someone of the album's wonder, I would simply ask to approach the album with the assumption that each note has been given the same thoughtful, meticulous care that Yes would put into their other masterpieces. It's certainly not as obvious, but it's there.

Though I wouldn't say it has the narrative pacing or overt thematicism to be called a full-blown concept album, Tales from Topographic Oceans was inspired with a clear concept in mind. Jon Anderson had been reading up on Hindu scripture and came upon a footnote which outlined four categories for its religious scripture called shastras. Each category thus became the seed for one of the compositions here; the 'smiritis', for example, are 'remembered lore', which found themselves manifested musically as "The Remembering", the 'tantras' are rituals which likewise inspired "Ritual". The source material is warmly acknowledged in the generally reserved pace of the music, which at times comes close to sounding truly meditative and transcendental in its atmosphere. Compared to the chaotic three-song epics that came before and after Tales from Topographic Oceans, the music feels remarkably relaxed and at peace with itself, and though an acolyte of Hindu religion and teaching would be far more qualified to judge whether each of these four compositions aptly reflects the personality and distinction of each shastra, Yes have woven this meditative aura into their music phenomenally. Each song takes a life and style of its own, but a foundation of peace and positive feelings for oneself runs throughout the entire album. Jon Anderson also clearly took this spiritualism to heart in writing the lyrics; his lyrical metaphors are often provocative and engaging (Getting over overhanging trees, let them rape the forest) and navigates a keen balance between vivid imagery and exploration of the inner self, although there are often times when I'm left wondering if it's not missing the point to try and glean a clearcut meaning out of him (see: mechanical udders). I cannot, and will not make judgement of its worth as a modern adaptation of the Hindu shastras, but for what it's worth, I think Anderson and company did a remarkable job of fusing elements of religious transcendence and meditation in with their atmosphere.

Each of the four compositions take on a life of their own. Writing a full set of thoughts about each of them may serve to bore myself and anyone reading to the point of tears and vomit, but I will say that the pieces proceed from the least to most impressive. "The Revealing Science of God" is still a remarkable opener in any case, and the restored two minute introduction only helps to foster the meditative atmosphere. "The Remembering" is arguably better structured than its predecessor, still taking on a similarly leisurely and dreamlike atmosphere. "The Ancient" is a stark switch in mood and tone however; tranquility is exchanged for harsher percussive textures and a more driving pace that recalls the intro from Close to the Edge, although this piece too finds peace with itself, by the time a soft acoustic tie-in from Howe rolls around. "Ritual" is arguably the most perfect piece on the album, harkening back to the dreamlike quality of the first two epics, but imbuing it with a more lively sense of hope and wonder. "Ritual" is also home to some of Jon Anderson's most beautiful vocals ever; I swear, when the build-up swells around the four minute mark and Jon lets out "Nous sommes de soleils", it feels like the heavens crumble and all is right with the world. Upon first hearing the album, "The Ancient" was the most difficult to get into, in spite of being the shortest composition here, at a relatively brief eighteen minutes. Perhaps it's because its dissonance approach feels out of place compared to the rest of the album; whatever the case, the way Yes change things up halfway through gives the album a greater sense of scope, and makes the return to peace and wartmh on "Ritual" feel all the more powerful and profound.

Although Bill Bruford's replacement Alan White as the new drummer for Yes would mark the end of Yes' so-called 'classic' lineup, he's an excellent drummer of his own and fills the void comfortably, although it wouldn't be until Relayer where his talents came into full view. Rick Wakeman is famously absent from the album, although his smattering of synth leads throughout the album are among the album's most memorable moments. Squire's basswork isn't quite as groovy as it was on Close to the Edge, if only because there isn't the same aggression in the music anymore for his basslines to ride upon. Steve Howe is given the most liberty to explore himself instrumentally here, with plenty of relaxed leads throughout the album, and even a "Mood for a Day"-style acoustic detour towards the end of "The Ancient". There's no question at any point of the album however that Jon Anderson is in control of things this time around. While other albums may have had a strong basis on the instrumentation, Anderson's deep-rooted interest in New Age spiritualism and distinctive, ethereal vocals take center stage more than ever before. This isn't a bad thing at all however- with the slightly disappointing exception of Squire's less assertive bass grooves, the instrumentation adapts to this change of pace wonderfully. If Yes played the role of a Western classical symphony on Close to the Edge, they're doing something here more along the lines of an Eastern musical ritual collective, the sort of thing the Beatles may have dreamt of doing at some point, but never went the distance for.

Is it a masterpiece for all ears? Certainly not, and at least far less so than Fragile or Close to the Edge. Tales from Topographic Oceans is longwinded and mellow, but it's only as boring as the listener makes it out to be. I'm sure Jon Anderson would be pleased to hear me describe the album in terms of a fallen log in the forest. Even if a fallen log might look underwhelming and anaemic from a glance, all you need to is lift up a cleft of bark to see the life and wonder teeming just beneath the surface. If Tales from Topographic Oceans didn't change my life with this epiphany while listening to it, it at least still stands as an album with some of the most potential to envelope and engage I have ever heard. Just close your eyes, give it a listen, and find yourself transported away to vistas once only seen in Roger Dean's cover art.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#278206) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 16, 2010

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars The album that was meant to cap Yes' illustrious career so far, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' was a mammoth double-sided concept piece based on the lengthy Hindu scripture's 'Autobiography Of A Yogi' by Paramahansa Yogananda and written mainly by the band's creative nucleus of Jon Anderson(vocals) and Steve Howe(guitar). The success of previous album 'Close To The Edge' had temporarily placed Yes at the top of the 1970's rock pyramid, garnering them huge commercial, critical and live arena success throughout Europe and America and unlocking the door to virtually unlimited resources when it came to writing and recording their next album, therefore giving the duo the excuse to go for the grand move. Whilst on tour in the US, Anderson and Howe had held secretive candlelit writing sessions in their hotel rooms, slowly piecing together the themes and musical structures that would form the basis of what was supposed to be their magnus opus. The problem, however, was that, seemingly unbeknown to the ambitious twosome, they had already produced their magnus opus in the shape of 'Close To The Edge', a fact that hadn't gone unnoticed by original drummer Bill Bruford. Bruford, a smart, witty and canny operator with a public school background had realised pretty quickly after the 'Close To The Edge' recording sessions had been completed that there was zero chance of Yes, or for that matter any other band, creating an album as good ever again. In a move that seemed strange at the time but now seems utterly brilliant, Bruford quit Yes and joined up with Robert Fripp's King Crimson just in time to drum on their seminal 1974 album 'Red'. His replacement in Yes was former John Lennon Band drummer Alan White, a talented sticksman who had been playing professionally since he was sixteen, and White's first, hugely-daunting task with his new progressive rock employers was to play on the hugely over-extended Anderson-Howe brainchild that Bruford had seemed so keen to get away from. Indeed, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' would split the band, leaving bassist Chris Squire feeling alienated and under-used and and angering keyboard-wizard Rick Wakeman so much that in aftermath of the subsequent tour he quit to concentrate on his solo work. For the fans and critics, however, feelings were mixed. The album reached the no.1 pot in the UK album charts and pre-sold over two million copies before it had even been released, and the tour was also a complete sell-out, both in Europe and in the USA. The critics, however, weren't so kind. For the first time since their 1969 debut, Yes were receiving seriously negative reviews. Accusations of over-indulgence and ego-centric behaviour were thrown at the group, especially Anderson & Howe, and over the years 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' has, for some, come to represent everything that is bad about progressive rock. The album is far too long, made up as it is of four pieces, each of which hover around the twenty minute mark, and the group could have easily condensed much of the material into a much more streamlined single-disc album that would have dispensed with many of the slow and labourer sections that hinder the music. Only the album-opener 'The Revealing Science Of God' finds Yes in anything resembling top form, and the rest of 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' remains mind-numbingly dull. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Posted Thursday, August 05, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is, almost without question, the most widely-criticized musical work (rock or otherwise) of the second half of the 20th century; even Yes fans are divided as to whether it's a good album or not. Although it hit the top 10 on both the U.S. and U.K. album charts, it also made the top 10 in a published list of the 50 worst albums in history. It was generally regarded by the punk movement as one of the main reasons that the creation of punk rock was necessary. The Christian Right loathed it, and used the album as a frontpiece in their statements that it was the duty of every good Christian to burn "rock" records. The album even threatened to blow the group itself limb from limb. And yet, despite all this, there are still a select few (there might be 1000 in the world; nah, there might be more than that) who not only are fond of this album, but consider this one of their best works, and in some cases one of the best rock albums ever.

This album, as you've probably heard, is a double album. No, wait, that doesn't properly explain things: it's a double album with 4 tracks on it (coming out to one track per side). No, wait, that's still not the worst of it, if you listen to the naysayers. Nah, the worst of it comes from the subject matter of the album. You see, (and yes, this story has been told a zillion times on the site, as well in the liner notes, but writing a thorough review without including it is impossible) Anderson had been looking for a theme for a grand scale rock symphony, if you will, for quite some time, and one night during the CTTE tour, when the band was in Tokyo, he was flipping through Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi," when he came across a lengthy footnote on page 83. This footnote described the four part Shastric scriptures, texts which not only take care of religion and social life, but also of medicine, music, art, architecture. Well, a normal man would have put down the book, forgotten about it, and just done his show, but this is Jon Anderson we're talking about here. No, he decided that the proper thing to do here was to base an 80 minute album around a set of writings with which virtually nobody in the Western world had familiarity. Putting it mildly, this is kinda risky.

How do I feel about it? I'm giving it a ***** rating. Call me a pretentious jerk, but I love this album. No matter how many times I listen to it, I never fail to be struck by how beautiful and how powerful this piece is (by the way, although TFTO is listed as having 4 tracks, the reality is that these are merely movements in an epic "symphony." And yes, I'm aware that it doesn't follow the symphonic form - I'm pretty familiar with classical music, thank you - but the fact that I'm forced to explicitly state something so obvious yet so inconsequential to the overall effect of the album makes me fear that my eyes will never get unstuck from the back of my head). Even if it is nonsense, and don't get me wrong, it seems it a lot of the time, it has made more and more sense to me with every listen over the years. Plus, I can't help but love it when a band shows ambition (which this album has in spades) as well as a desire to do something that nobody has ever done before, and then actually lives up to that ambition (I know a lot of people would disagree with me on that notion for this album). Within in the context of pop and rock, this completely blew away a lot of traditional "boundaries," certainly exceeding most albums that had been recorded to that point. It's not every day, after all, that you come across a rock album with four extended pieces containing interlocking musical and conceptual themes (apparently the double- album/four-song routine had actually been done in a couple of previous instances, but in those cases each piece was a completely separate piece and not a fundamental part of a whole). Yes thumbed their noses at the notion that song ideas have to be placed into concise, immediately recognizable structures (and that was an interesting step for Yes, given that they *were* at heart a trumped-up pop group), and showed (at least in my mind) that fading in and out of song ideas over a lengthy period of time, as if in a strange hallucination, is not something that should necessarily be a failure. But I ramble, and a return to the topic at hand, Tales From Topographic Oceans, is necessary. To assist in my elementary exposition of what you are exposed to in each of the "movements," I will be using the final four paragraphs of Anderson's liner notes. They can better explain what is going on than I possibly could on my own.

1st Movement: Shrutis. The Revealing Science of God can be seen as an ever-opening flower in 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, constant and clear. This track, my favorite on the album and my second favorite in their catalogue, begins with a chanted invocation by Anderson and eventually with the others, summoning the listener to the dawn of light, thought, our power, and of love. In other words, to the creation and beginning all of the good things which bring happiness to our lives. He seems to lament that these wonderful forces seem to have been lost by the human race through their own negligence, resulting in all sorts of unwanted calamaties, and that only through love can the others (light etc.) be returned to their proper station. Or something like that. Fortunately, even if the lyrics lose you, the music is simply gorgeous, filled to the brim with ecstatically beautiful melodies. Although Alan White is seemingly able to provide little more than a steady background beat and a plodding drum sound (the jazzy lines left with Bruford), the others more than cover for him. Squire keeps things going with soothing bass lines, and Howe's guitar work, when he's mixed high, is terrific, but the real star of the show is Wakeman. You see, although there are a ton of great ideas being contributed by the others, there are admittedly a lot of places where not a lot is happening with the guitars. And so, Rick has no choice but to take over, and he does so admirably. Whether holding down the fort with heavenly mellotron parts or going nuts with synthesizer solos, he continually keeps the listener's interest, and he's arguably more crucial to the sound than ever. But back to the concept.

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. Ok, your guess is as good as mine here, I must admit. Best as I can tell, the piece alternates between Anderson touching on various memories that we have all had in some form, and Wakeman carrying us away from these images and thoughts of our past to others on a trip through the peaceful recesses of our mind via his keyboards. Sure, whatever. And although the tune itself can seem a little dull at times (I think the faster parts are really crisp and quite interesting), if you listen to it in the right frame of mind, calm and at peace, it is absolutely, positively gorgeous. Rick's keys set the majestic, beautiful mood of the piece perfectly, and while most would disagree, I wish it were longer. There are no words to express my fullness of joy after having absorbed such a wonderfully stunning, meditiative and beautiful song.

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 civilizations. Indian, Chinese, Central American, Atlantean. These and other peoples left an immense treasure of knowledge. I used to dislike this section, but after further listens, I've come to realize that this is actually a pretty cool track. The subtitle is Giants Under the Sun (in reference to other civilizations long past), and so near the beginning, Anderson, quite cleverly I must add, chants the word for sun in several different languages. After this, there's a long, dissonant, somewhat avant-garde solo by Howe (though, I have to be honest with you, it really begins to bore me after a while, but that just means the album is in my top 100 instead of my top 50), before the piece settles back into a simple ballad with Anderson spouting some more jibberish. I think he's trying to say that all of these past peoples have all of the answers to the important (and sometimes not so important, but hey...) questions that trouble society today, but I could be wrong. Maybe it is just jibberish, but I'm sorta doubting that at this point in time. Whatever may be, the melody in this acoustic section is very lovely.

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 present and relay the struggle out of which comes a positive source. Nous sommes du soleil. We are of the sun. We can see. Basically, when we love, we can return to the state of goodness which we were in at the dawn of creation. This is conveyed excellently near the beginning and end of the track with the reprisal of some of the musical themes which had come up in the first movement. Steve's guitar solo near the end, in particular, is breathtakingly beautiful. Oh, and did I mention that the main vocal melody is one of the catchiest and lovliest little ditties Anderson ever came up with? Or that the passage at 14:10-14:20 or so makes it sound like the world's about to come to an end (one of my favorite Yes moments, by the way)? And there's a giant drum solo near the end, and it's interesting and even entertaining - especially live, since the group becomes a percussion ensemble for about five minutes and you get to see Squire on tympanis and Anderson on some weird chime things and ... oh, stop me before I gush some more.

This album is definitely not for people who get bored easily. Admittedly, it's very slow in some places (like in the beginning and middle of "The Remembering"), and it's a bit looser with structure than other Yes albums tend to be. And yet, I don't think the album's poor reputation is even remotely deserved; for one thing, I find the whole "padding" argument against it (pushed by Wakeman among others) to be overblown; out of the whole album, the only parts I'd really consider slicing out would be a minute or so from "The Remembering," and half of the mid-section of "The Ancient" (where the long discordant instrumental passage gets played virtually note-for-note twice). I also think that the album's poor reputation among so many, even fans of other prog fans, ends up poisoning potential listeners fairly frequently; I had no idea going into the album that I was supposed to hate it, and I was quite surprised to learn this after the fact. And most importantly, to me, it works incredibly as a catalyst for imagination, ten times as well as even Close to the Edge did. I don't consider this their best album (it does meander a little too much, and besides, Fragile and a couple of others are better), but it's one of the most treasured albums in my collection regardless.

Of course, Wakeman hated it, and the stories surrounding this are legendary. Even worse, after his masterful performance, he sealed his disgust with Anderson and his wacky lyrics by tendering his resignation from the band. Fans-of-simple-pop-music everywhere cheered; it seemed the band was about to collapse under the enormous weight of its own ambitions.

PS: Hey, do you want to hear something else I figured out with regard to this album and its imagery? Each track, in addition to addressing whatever topic in the Shastric scriptures, contains strong musical allusions to one of the four basic elements according to Aristotle. For me, and apparently some others, it can be viewed as

"The Revealing Science of God" - Air (don't you feel like you're flying from place to place during the instrumental breaks?)

"The Remembering" - Water (don't you picture yourself sailing on a calm, blue majestic sea, with sea ditties coming in from time to time?)

"The Ancient" - Earth (Hey, the track's theme is 'Giants Under the Sun', which in turn talks about ancient cultures walking the face of the Earth).

"Ritual" - Fire (Doesn't the synth-heavy drum solo remind you of ritual purification, a burning of all that is bad in order to restore true love to the world?)

PPS: The 2003 remastered version is absolutely outstanding. "The Revealing Science of God" is restored to its originally intended form with a beautiful atmospheric introduction, the drums have WAY more kick and power to them than before, and all the little intricacies of the album stand out that much better.

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Posted Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review by Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Admin / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars It's wonderfully pretentious, but that's a good thing!

Tales from Topographic Oceans is Yes's first double album, and it's an impressive show. Inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi, the 4-movement epic starts off with the impressive Revealing Science of God (Dance of Dawn), then The Remembering (High the Memory), then The Ancient (Giants under the Sun), and ultimately Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) (or "we are the sun," for the non-French speakers).

The Revealing Science of God is an absolutely fantastic song, and it's hard to refute that. Opening with a quiet vocal piece, breaking into a sweeping instrumental section, featuring Wakeman and Howe's great prowess, the song is off to a good start. The piece serves as a sudo-overture, using riffs and tones which are used in the other movements of the track. Despite its near 21-minute length, it is a very "popularly-acceptable" track, featuring a nice chorus, not too bombastic instrumental sections, smooth part changes, and beautiful melodies. To listen to the track all the way through is a refreshing and relaxing experience, especially with Steve Howe's magnificent guitar sections. Vocal melodies are near-perfect all throughout, as are the great lyrics. One quarter down, and we're off to a great start, and really puts the Mood for a Day (good insinuation? I think so).

The Remembering opens with a folk-y section very reminiscent to Mike Oldfield's work. The entire track is lighter than its predecessor and has a much more folk-inspired sound. The intro in this song drags a little bit, as the guitar and vocal part repeat on and on for 3 minutes before breaking into something new past the 4 minute mark. Despite this, the reed organ and rotary guitar sound is a nice instrumental duo. The track doesn't vary as much, and isn't as interesting as TRSoG. Around 11 minutes, half way through the song, it finally picks up, but then slows down. The work "Relayer" is repeated frequently, which is probably foreshadowing for the band's next album. Overall, this side is a little bit less exciting and more folk-y, similar to Mike Oldfield in the sound. It drags at times and picks up at times, making this track about average.

The Ancient opens with an eerie percussive section, introduced by a gong and continued with some hi-hat smacking before breaking into a faster paced and exciting instrumental section with all 4 instrumentalists, most notably Wakeman's keyboard sound and White's rim hits, and then Howe and Squire coming in. The song is the most exciting of the 4, and is drastically different from TRSoG and The Remembering. It is more bombastic, and is much more experimental. The instrumental sections are odd and exciting, and really keep you on the edge of your seat until the next part change takes you on a sweeping melodic journey. Overall, the piece may alienate a few classic symphonic fans as a weird bombastic attempt at hard rock, but will attract more fans that are looking for something eclectic and different.

Ritual is the song that ties the 4 mammoth movements together. Opening with a Peter Gabriel era Genesis like guitar solo, the instrumental section is spectacular, combining all the sounds from the rest of the album into a great intro. The "catch-phrase" Nous Sommes du Soleil is heard all throughout the album is a great addition, especially with the instrumental section behind it. Riffs and melodies heard throughout the rest of the album are revisited here and in great new ways. Overall, this is one of the better tracks on the album. It is the longest, exceeding 21 minutes, but is so massive in its depth and magnitude that I wish it was longer.

ALBUM OVERALL: If I could give this album 100 stars, I would. I may be a bit partial to long pieces, such as The Flower King's Garden of Dreams, Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, any Mike Oldfield piece, or Transatlantic's Whirlwind, but even those are nothing compared to the gracious magnificence of Tales. If you can, buy this album. I found it in vinyl in my father's basement, and was nearly jumping up in down in joy. It is an essential prog album.

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Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars I may just be the only one living on this rock in space we call Earth that neither loves nor hates this album. Within this mess of a double-album there is about 40 minutes of really great music....40 minutes of really great music that would have made an awesome *single* album. What were these guys thinking? Soft Machine and Tangerine Dream already did the 2 LP/4- songs routine. Unfortunately for them, Yes were much more popular. TD would only become more well-known years later, while Softs always remained a cult band. This is the first album with Alan White on drums and here he is rather rusty. His playing on Relayer was an improvement. Either way, he's no Bruford. A trend that starts on this album, which I don't like at all, is that Squire's bass is starting to get pushed back in the mix. On all the previous albums Squire's bass was IN YO FACE!

I was never the biggest fan of Wakeman, with or without Yes. I think The Yes Album and Relayer were the groups best albums...coincidence? He sounds bored here. This sonic mess is the bastard child of Anderson/Howe and it shows. This album single-handedly ruined the reputation of this once great band. To most people, Yes is either: a) that pop band from the '80s who did "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", or b) that dinosaur band from the '70s who made that self-indulgent mess called Tales From Tomato Onions. The most annoying thing about TFTO is that it actually contains some of the bands best recorded moments...mixed with a whole lotta crap. Really, 90% of "Revealing" is awesome; 75% of "Ritual" is great; 50% of "Remembering" is memorable; and about 10% of "Ancient" is tolerable.

The thing about "The Ancient" is that it's nice to see Yes try and be all out-there and avant; the problem is...they're not good at it! (Save that kinda thing for bands like Crimson, boys). I really wish this whole album was edited to hell and made into a single album. Keepers: the synth solo in "Revealing"; and the "at all...at all" part in "Ritual". So, this will not get anything more or less than 3 stars from me.

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Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Take about 1 part A-grade Yes material, 3 parts relatively boring filler, and another 2-3 parts nonsensical pretentiousness, and we get something approximating Tales.

I still fondly remember the day when this CD arrived in the mail...I was a Yes-obsessed graduate student, and I thought that Tales might be something like Close the the Edge (the track) and Gates of Delirium, except times two! Sometimes boundless irrationality gets the better of all of us I suppose.

I listened to Tales an awful lot, thoroughly enjoying roughly half it it each time. As I branched out into new and exciting areas of prog, I find myself returning to Tales with less and less frequency.

My opinion has basically settled on viewing Tales as yet another double album that should have been one. Take most of the opener, probably the last 5 minutes of Remembering (and what a glorious 5 minutes those are!), the last half of Ancient (I even enjoy the heavier parts toward the end of the jam...though it just takes forever to get there), and the first 11 minutes of Ritual (or maybe extend another 5 minutes if you want a killer, but completely unnecessary and unrelated, Yes jam), and you might have something of Fragile or Yes Album quality.

However, 'tis not to be, as the haphazard structuring, the shockingly poor production in places, and abundance of C-grade Yes material just kills any chances of Tales obtaining masterpiece status.

Anderson and Howe let their faith in a singular vision get the best of them. I don't begrudge them this for a second, because with the material that came before Tales, they certainly earned the right to see if pushing the boundary further would result in ever greater music.

With Tales, they got their answer, and it wasn't the answer they were looking for. Oh well--mistakes happen and are often for the better, as Yes learned their lesson and righted the ship with the subsequent Relayer.

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Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars This is one of those few releases that has split the prog community down the middle. Those who love Tales From Topographic Oceans proclaim it to be a complete masterpiece, while others say the opposite. As for me, I find the content of this album to be questionable but I'm not talking about quality of the compositions, since that's up to each listener to decide upon. My real complaint comes with the fact that this album is not a team effort like the ones that came before and after it.

I think that the first part of The Revealing Science of God/Dance of the Dawn gives a clear indication that everything was not right in the Yes camp. Jon Anderson and Steve Howe dominate the sound of this entire release, leaving Rick Wakeman and the newly recruited Alan White far in the background. Chris Squire does try to compete with the duo in command, but never really manages to get more than a few notable moments in the sun. This is a huge problem for me that makes this release almost unworthy of the classic Yes title.

How could a band with such a clear direction in the past forget all about what made them great and concentrate on only a small portion of its sound? I've never considered Steve Howe's contribution to the Yes sound nearly as important as that of Chris Squire and especially Rick Wakeman. His guitar was a complementary addition to the overall style but never made much sense as the stem of the Yes sound. This gets even harder to gasp while listening to these stretched out performances.

I was never able to get through this release in one sitting but that doesn't mean that I haven't learned to enjoy this album in smaller portions. Even to this day, I find many of the arrangements here to be highly questionable. Still, it's difficult to imagine that Yes would remain at their golden era status quo after Bill Bruford's departure and I certainly respect them for taking a risk. Ultimately Tales From Topographic Oceans is a gamble for any Yes fan and I recommend to approach this release with a careful consideration.

**** star songs: The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn (22:22) The Remembering/High The Memory (20:38) Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil (21:33)

*** star songs: The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun (18:35)

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Posted Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review by The Owl
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars OK, I guess someone has to offer a contrary opinion to the prevailing viewpoint of this album,

It's interesting to me that the epic length pieces on the preceding "Close To The Edge" and the subsequent "Relayer" were very well formed and realized pieces that flowed together like a coherent sentence or an entire conversation if you will, somehow arriving at a point, knowing how to get there and how long to take.

Sadly though, the same cannot be said for "Tales of Topographic Oceans". For my ears, it comes off like a bunch of nearly unrelated and overextended ideas trying to force themselves to fit together (lots of awkward transitions) in the quest to make some kind of a huge, profound grandiose statement. Problem is, it goes nowhere in the process and takes forever to get there while saying absolutely nothing. "Ritual" for example, has much potential but again, it gets so needlessly drawn out that whatever impact it could've made is completely watered down.

It's certainly not without its interesting moments I will admit, but unfortunately, a few interesting moments do not a coherent album make.

Honestly, if this album was edited down to a single album with the songs cut to 10 minutes or less each, it might actually be listenable. Otherwise, it's just a sprawling mess of esoteric nonsense that would test the patience of God.

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Posted Friday, December 10, 2010

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Love it or hate it ! Before my review the "stars distribution of the over 600 ratings is as follows:

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%) Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%) Good, but non-essential (17%) Collectors/fans only (7%) Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

There aren't many albums with so controversial ratings from 1 to 5 stars, let's try to explain why: First of all, the original release was a double album with a 20 minutes track (more or less) on each side. Soembody has found it pretentious, but we know that YES are often pretentious. Soembody says that the tracks have been extended to 20 minutes in order to fill exactly the four sides, and this is possible.

My personal opinion is that this is not the best YES album, but one of their best for sure. The four suites are excellent in the composition and in the execution even if none of the four is comparable to things like Close To The Edge. Said so, I have probably payed more listens to this one than to the CTTE masterpiece, and the reason is that Tales works well on me. It's never boring and even if I have heard that Wakeman was not much happy of this album, his work is excellent. Only "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" is a bit weaker. I find the intro a bit too long.

So I add myself to the 28%, but I can understand who says that it's a masterpiece and who finds it poor. This is how the real art works.

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Posted Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars This is not a bad album.

This album should have been much better than it actually turned out. Coming off of the creation of a masterpiece of progressive rock ("Close To The Edge"), Some of the members of Yes wanted to try to outdo that gem (particularly Jon Anderson and Steve Howe). Unfortunately, the rest of the band didn't seem too keen on the idea. Bill Bruford, one of the best drummers of the seventies, left to play in King Crimson, and poor Alan White, a fine drummer, but no Bruford by any means, had to fill his shoes, or stool, at least. Rick Wakeman and Chris Squire gamely tried to make their mark, but, for the most part, fall flat.

Each of the four album-side long songs has some good sections, but each is also marred by connecting sections of meandering guitar licks. The better parts are where the tempo picks up, and some energy is pushed into the music. In fact, it seems like much of the rest of the music is somewhat lifeless. If you listen to the more recent live versions of songs from this album, you can hear what the pieces could be with the full band playing wholeheartedly.

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Posted Monday, February 07, 2011

Review by baz91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans may be the most important prog album ever, but it is by no means the best. It is certainly a controversial one, causing disagreements between many prog fans over whether this album is truly great. For me, this album is very enjoyable, but falls short of being a 5 star album by its lack of consistency.

-The Revealing Science Of God- Depending on whether you own the 2003 remaster or the original edition, the album starts with Jon giving an amazing Dalek-esque chant. The lyrics are still as inaccessible as ever, which is what you come to expect from Yes really. The song itself is definitely prog-standard, with the feeling that it is split into different (although unnamed) movements. The main theme is actually very catchy and reprises many times throughout the album. However the flaw in this song is that there are not enough heavy instrumentals to rock you (towards the end there is such an instrumental but it disappears very quickly). In fact there is quite a lot crammed into this song, and its very confusing to listen to for the first time. However it is a good opener and grows on you with time.

-The Remembering- Yawn. The first NINE MINUTES of this are really quite dull and folky. You really aren't sure where the song is going. After that, a catchy theme finally comes in, and the song starts to get (mildly) interesting. The word 'Relayer' is repeated giving birth to the name to the follow-up album. The song starts to really rock with Squire's heavy distinctive bass coming through loud. Then there is a 2 minute ambient section before the outro begins. And my what an outro it is, the best on the album in my opinion. Jon yelling 'RAINBOW, SUNRISE' and Howe's thick guitar is a very good way to end the song. There is a complete lack of consistency in this song, with the first 9 minutes being extremely dull, and the last 3 minutes being awesome. Sitting through those first 9 minutes will pay off though.

-The Ancient- Side 3, and the shortest track on the album at eighteen and a half minutes. However, this song is a total mind[%*!#]. This song sounds nothing else in the Yes catalogue. The first 12 minutes consist of one of the weirdest and least accessible instrumentals ever, briefly punctuated by Jon's ever bizarre, sometimes nonsensical lyrics. At around the 13 minute mark, Howe goes headlong into an awe inspiring acoustic guitar solo which makes a nod to 'Close To The Edge' (listen carefully at 13:26). Afterwards there is a lovely peaceful acoustic song, which is cheapened by Wakeman's whiny sounding keyboard, but is beautiful nonetheless. You could have forgotten the cluster[%*!#] that went before if it wasnt for the 1 minute outro that seems to reprise some of the bizarre themes from the earlier part of the song. The weakest track on the album.

-Ritual- This is my favourite song, all in all very well balanced, if maybe a little drawn out at the end. The opening instrumental lasts for 5 minutes, and was in fact sampled by the hip-hop group De La Soul for their song 'The Grind Date'. This instrumental is lots of fun, and the guitar solo towards the end reprises not only 'RSOG' but also 'CTTE' yet again! Then there is an approximately 5 minute vocal section which is sublime. After this comes the main instrumental of the song which lasts about 6 minutes, the first half is mainly devoted to Squire's bass which is slightly subdued by the rest of the band. The second half is a very peculiar drum solo which features most of the band on timpani, and Yes-newbie Alan White giving it all he's got on the drums in the meanwhile. This sinks slowly into the final verse of the song and then the outro. Both of these last parts are nothing but exquisite. A beautiful end to such a bizarre album.

This is one of those albums that you want to enjoy to the 5 star level, and some people obviously can, by looking at other reviews! Four 20 minute songs seems to be the formula for a winner in terms of prog. However there are too many weak points, I feel, for it to be a masterpeice. However, I do recommend it to everyone, because you won't know what it's like until you try it!

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Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars The only way is down when Yes reached the summit.

I have been putting off reviewing this controversial and yet indispensable much mailigned anti-masterpiece album for years, but the time has come. It will not be a lengthy review as I think 690 ratings, 230 reviews, tells the story, the album divides loyalties among critics right down the middle, love it or loathe it. Suffice it to state that the album is not designed to appeal to everybody and raised the hackles of the music industry due to it's over indulgence in prog excess. Perhaps it is the peak of over progging an album. The thing has 4 monsters that devour entire sides of vinyl, and music companies were less than impressed. But Yes soldiered on relentlessly and proudly with their behemoth, performing it in its entirety on the stage to baffled audiences, and effectively transformed the way people perceived music. Does it have to be 3 minute pieces for the radio? Obviously not. Can we have 2 albums with only 4 songs? Obviously yes. Someone had to do it and Jethro Tull enjoyed parodying it on his opus Thick as a Brick. When is too much of something simply too much? Yes created the concept of the 'Topographic' category of albums.

The album has taken on a life of it's own creating it's own folklore, the term used by music artists is to create their own 'Topographic' album. What are they talking about? The peak of success, the album that all others are measured against. A work of art that becomes the pinnacle of success, yet it is widely hated. Yes were taking huge chances with the album content, would people want an album of 4 massive epics? Furthermore, nobody understood the lyrics, though you will hear critics rattle on about some ancient religious new age Shastric Scriptures mumbo jumbo that Anderson seemed to be obsessed with, reading the "Autobiography of a Yogi" as a launching pad for the themes. The lyrics effectively become as surreal as the music, as inseperable as Howe's guitars and Squire's bass, and there are some wonderful lyrical moments with mantras, chants and estranged singing, "Nous Sommes Du Soleil", Anderson creating his own mythology, here at his bombastic best, translating it as, "We love when we play."

The music is essential in every sense of the word, it even divided the band itself, Wakeman took off on extended leave such was his angst over the musical direction. And it signified the end of a Yes era with Wakeman out of the picture. The caped wonder actually was so bored during one concert performance that he had his roadie order a chicken curry vindaloo and devoured it, much to the astonishment of Anderson, "I don't believe it, he's eating a curry!" Wakeman scarpered for greener pastures and eventually discovered it was found in The Centre of the Earth. Much to the chagrin of Yes members, Wakeman loves to trash the album and for good reason as he is virtually invisible musically.

The songs on TFTO range from brilliant, the opening and closing track, to mediocre, the middle section. I have heard the middle section only a few times as it is rather dull to be honest. But this is how the album plays out like a 4 act play, the stunning intro that hooks in the listener, followed by a lull in the action, a calm before the storm, almost a dreamy sleepy section, and then finally culminating in a majestic stirring epic finale. I rediscovered Ritual on the Tsongas DVD and what a version it is! The middle is sandwiched between inspired musical genius, and therein lies the problem. Were yes being too clever for their own good? The album is a testament of overdoing everything to the point of parody. Indeed, Spinal Tap parodied the lavish sets on their film. Dean's artwork was translated to the stage and practically dwarfed the band members who were lost in their own fantasised 'Stonehenge' creation.

Everything on the album is upsized and overblown, even the infamous cover artwork is the best of Dean with fish swimming in dreamscape oceans, captured in enigmatic glorious vinyl gatefold. 'Relayer' brought the band back down to earth in some ways but 'TFTO' will always remain a symbol of prog excess, and it is just about the most discussed album in history. I award it 4 stars for it's sheer status in music history and for the amazing musicianship.

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Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans [1973]

Rating: 10/10

No classic prog album divides opinions as much as Tales from Topographic Oceans does. Some view this monolithic recording as the embodiment of everything good about progressive music; others view it in the exact opposite way. The album was panned by critics upon its release and was used to insult prog as a whole; it was labeled as excessive and pretentious. Pretentious: yes. Excessive: no; I don't think a minute is wasted on TfTO.

The album contains four side-long compositions; each with unique compositional structure and emotional overtones. "The Revealing Science of God" begins a-cappela and is dominated with celestial guitar and keyboard work. "The Remembering" is probably the lightest song on the album, with melodious acoustic passages and glowing Mellotron. "The Ancient" is probably the most abstract song Yes ever recorded. The first section has a strong Middle-Eastern feel, with exotic percussion, cacophonous keys (similar to those on the Close to the Edge overture), and absolutely fantastic slide guitar; this is one of Howe's finest and most creative moments. The second section of "The Ancient" is a gorgeous acoustic/vocal piece with an oddly melancholic feel. "Ritual" is the final epic. Anderson sounds wonderful on the "Nous Sommes du Soleli" passages, and the strange middle section - which contains more exotic percussion - is quite interesting. None of these brief synopses do justice to the compositions, but describing each and every facet of these songs would be an arduous and unnecessary task.

I highly doubt that anybody could enjoy/appreciate TfTO upon first listen; many will not do so after repeated listens, either. Whether or not you like this album, it cannot be denied that Yes were pushing musical boundaries here. Like most of Yes's material, this boundary-pushing perfectly gels with my sensibilities. TfTO may be pretentious, but pretention is certainly better than uniformity - and in this case, it gave us this cavernous masterpiece.

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Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans is probably the most controversial album by Yes, and many of the fans are indefinitely divided about how great or bad the material on this album is. This album is my personal favorite. This album is highly ambitious, consisting of 4 tracks running for just over 80 minutes, and contains some of the most appropriately elaborate compositions done by Yes.

Every part of all of these tracks flow seamlessly into each other so perfectly, and the variations never seem random or disjointed. The whole album is a true progressive rock symphony. I honestly don't know why Yes fans are so divided on this album, because it sounds just as accessible as Close to the Edge or Fragile. It's only over twice as long as those two albums. The themes on each track are very memorable. Another big difference in this album is the overall spaciness that definitely fits with the album title. Given the length of the album, you'd probably expect lots of pointless meandering; you'd also be wrong. There is no meandering on this album and everything builds from soft to loud appropriately. I refuse to detail each track because of the length, but this is definitely a masterpiece in the Yes catalog and my personal favorite.

This is definitely an album to check out, and a listening experience that you won't forget. Absolutely breathtaking.

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Posted Friday, April 08, 2011

Review by penguindf12
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It pains me to say it, but this is where Yes started to decay. However -- there are still a lot of great ideas here, just a bit buried under the sheer girth. When I first listened to the album, I was a little disappointed (actually, I kind of still am) - I was expecting more of the compositional tautness of "Close to the Edge." But that's not what Yes was going for.

"The Revealing Science of God" opens with an excellent chant in ever-shifting meters. Then we are dropped into the Topographic Ocean: ideas roil by, the textures shift in ever-changing patterns, but my is it an OCEAN of sound. The first riff is killer (and bluesy!) -- but where are the other riffs? They take time to reveal themselves, surely, surely...

"Science" is definitely the best track. It is NOT "Close to the Edge" - but it does have some intriguing themes, and a nice arch-form structure hidden within. In all, it is very successful - and Anderson's lyrics have never been better. "I must have waited all life for this..." -- I admit I have cried before to this...

"The Remembering" catches a lot of flack, but I find it nice. It drifts like a piece of ambient music, themes emerging in strange orderings... Jon Anderson's mystical liner notes really help make this piece more accessible. The whole thing is heard indistinctly - hippie-ish, yes, but I find myself in that that sort of sentimental mood sometimes...

Late in the track, Steve Howe kicks out some angular jams, but they end up sounding a little lame. Not VERY lame, but yeah, a bit lame. This track IS the Topographic Ocean - you can hear it in Rick Wakeman's beautiful solos. By the way, I like Rick's playing on this album. Mostly pads and little licks here and there - like the ghost of Tony Kaye, filtered through synthesizer. Ah -- the 12-string section is incredible! Now THAT is movement.

I really like "The Remembering" -- but it is in some ways not as successful as "Science." The production is too squeaky-clean in places where GRIT was needed. It's times like this you miss early the early Yes lineup...

Oh boy, "The Ancient." This REALLY drags in spots. The lyrics are kind of lame, to boot. What is supposed to sound majestic ends up sounding kind of goofy. There are cool things, though - the skittery keyboards, for one. There is some cool Mellotron as well. But when Jon Anderson starts chanting names of the Sun, it's hard to keep your attention focused.

After some pretty unbearable guitar jamming, we arrive at an okay little folk tune featuring Anderson and Howe. This could have been great, but the Yes boys sing it as if there were guns pointed at them, forcing them to proceed. Ugh.

The introduction to "Ritual" is pretty lame. There is a TON of potential, but it's buried. Some day Yes archaeologists should dig up the masters and remix this album. It would be VERY worth it, in my opinion.

The intro to "Ritual" culminates in an airy Howe guitar solo -- we are pulled from the Topographic Ocean and made to hear many themes reprised - sad that very few really stuck in the first place. An incredible shame, actually -- this could have been glorious. The song that follows is pretty nice, once the "nous somme du soleil!" chanting stops. Some cool electric sitar here! The succession of "at all"'s build into a wonderful bass solo. An abysmal drum solo brings everything to a screeching, unpleasant halt, and the track never recovers. I guess that was supposed to be the climax, but it's hard to tell - the pacing feels rather off.

The worst thing about this album is that it does not achieve what it set out to do - and what it set out to do was pretty cool. Even Yes were human.

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Posted Friday, July 08, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Although Tales from Topographic Oceans received an absolutely horrendous reception from critics, and is often defended by prog fans as a result, I can on the one hand see where the bad reviews came from - and it's got nothing to do with the actual music. The fact is that that Tales is one of the most incredibly uncommercial albums that Yes had produced at the time - not just in the format, although any double album comprising four side-long tracks is a daunting prospect, but in terms of the music presented therein.

This is an album which absolutely demands to be heard in its entirety - from the first and last tracks, which fit in nicely with the sound of Close to the Edge, to The Remembering/High The Memory which shows Yes turning their hand to Genesis-influenced pastoral prog and absolutely conquering that territory, to the complex and avant-garde The Ancient/Giants Under the Sun, the four sides form one cohesive whole which is almost impossible to grasp on a single listen, and still yields new secrets on patient relistens to this day.

This is all wonderful, but it's also extremely hard for any rock critic to sit down and give such an album a full listen before writing down their impressions - and thus the critics wrote their reviews without giving the album a chance to win them over, and thus the album got a bad reputation on release, and it all snowballed from there. This is a terrible shame, because it really is a grand achievement, and deserves to rank alongside The Yes Album or Close to the Edge as one of the band's greatest accomplishments.

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Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars Sometimes less is more

Reading a thread about "Tales from Topographic Oceans", discovered I had not reviewed this controversial album, and I say controversial because for some people it's a masterpiece, while for others is a pile of manure. As usual the truth can't be found in extreme positions, art is not just black and white, there are different tones of gray, so let's try to see what's the issue with his album.

"Tales" had a great problem from the start, being that it's predecessor "Close to the Edge" , the standard by which YES is judged. Any posterior release (Except Relayer) would had paled in comparison, specially it's successor that tried to be an ambitious double release, with an extremely weak concept that fails to provide the coherence required for this project

But that's not all, one of the most representative band members (Rick Wakeman), felt uncomfortable with the process of recording this album, this is a real problem, because "Close to the Edge" success was highly based in Rick's solos, and he was obviously not giving his best for this record

But the question remains...Is "Tales from Topographic Oceans" a masterpiece or a piece of crap? I believe the answer is in the middle of both positions, the good parts are simply brilliant, but the problem is that too many sections of the album are simply boring and seem to have recorded only to fill enough space for two albums.

"Tales" begins with "The Revealing Science of God (Dance on the Dawn)", which I believe is the most solid of the four suites, mainly because they seem to rely in team work rather than in the usual solos, despite the internal problems, YES seems as a band more than as five virtuoso musicians adding their talents without restraining their egos. The extremely acute voice of Jon Anderson is moderated by the good backings done by Chris. The lack of many solos is replaced by an intelligent team work, maybe some Wakeman magic is missing.

"The Remembering (High the Memory)" starts with a nerve breaking introduction where Jon is more annoying than usual, specially when Chris is not there to hide the high pitches that hurt my eardrums, but the main problem is that this intro takes nowhere, it just keeps going around endlessly without any coherence, and when you think it has ended and at last the song is going somewhere, they start again with his tedious prologue.

Only around the fifth minute, the track seems to reach something, but it's a mirage, and it's absolutely unrelated with the intro, as if they had broken the song in two. But the real problem is that the rest of the song is extremely weak and seems as a boring Sunday afternoon without soccer, baseball or football.

"The Ancient" (Giants Under the Sun)" is really the peak of the cheese, despite a strong start it turns into a big mess and absolutely boring, without feet or head, except for a nice acoustic guitar passage ruined by the terribly annoying voice and lyrics by Jon Anderson, nothing can redeem this track.

The album ends with "Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)" is by far the best song of the album, absolutely vibrant and at last a bit of coherence with Wakeman in one of his finest moments on this album.

But it is too late, "Tales From Topographic Ocean" is one of the most uneven albums I ever heard, it's obvious they didn't had enough material for a double release and the concept is so vague, that practically doesn't exist......"Ritual" alone can't save this less than average YES album.

Two stars for the good moments that could reach 2.5.

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Posted Monday, November 21, 2011

Review by EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 5/10

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" has interestingly bold moments, but most of the time it feels tired and pretentious.

After the majestic triumph of "Close To The Edge", Yes figured that it would have been hard to top it. So they made "Tales From Topographic Oceans" more ambitious, more massive length-wise, and more experimental, in order to make it completely different from CTTE and thus make sure that raging comparisons with it's predecessor wouldn't be many. They succeeded in differentiating the two albums, but "Tales..." is not at all as enjoyable, brave or interesting as it should have been.

Musically, Yes still maintain a decent sense of melody at times, as well as keeping a pretty impressive level of experimentation: in some parts the sounds coming from the band are quite bizarre and brave, the instruments intertwine each other creating a very unique form of Symphonic Prog that Yes will never repeat again. There are also calmer, Folk passages which are easily some of the key moments here. But it is with the massive lengths and the really generic songwriting that makes most of the album sound tired, bored, and incredibly forced. The wild and overall pretty good instrumentation and musicianship are not at all enough to save the album from mediocrity, but just harms it more, to the point where it simply sounds pretentious and over the top.

In the end, one of the best things this album has going for are the conceptual lyrics, revolving around Eastern Religion (one of lyricist Jon Anderson's favorite topics) and big ideas such as Culture, Wisdom, and Knowledge. Anderson doesn't fail one bit in this department, and gives a touch of passion in the music, and makes it a little more entertaining. "The Revealing Science Of God" is possibly the best of the four tracks: very well structured, it manages to stay for the most part interesting, thanks to memorable melodies and great musicianship, and the fascinating lyrics. "The Remembering" however is completely excessive: if it ended after five minutes, it would have been a really good song, but unfortunately it seems to never end, showing barely any changes. "The Ancient" also seems to be quite forgettable and tiresome, but the final track has one of the strangest endings Yes has ever come up with: "Ritual" is the other interesting song of the album along with the title track. It's memorable, it has plenty of hard hitting oddities and is ambitious without being too pretentious, unlike a good chunk of the album sadly is.

An album I hoped was going to blow me away, that would redefine my concept of Progressive Rock music, however everything was way to the excess and overly ambitious. I can see people liking the album much more than I do, but after eighty minutes of music, I can't help feeling exhausted and at the same time dissatisfied.

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Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review by Sagichim
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars "What happened to this song we once knew so well..."

Tales from topographic oceans is yes most ambitious work. pretentious, but not bad. After three masterpieces in a row which is a phenomenal accomplishment, yes members gathered to create this piece of work. this is the band's most slandered work from their classic era, and pretty much represents where progressive rock got its bad reputation, and took some heavy bad criticism. Yes took a turn and decided to go somewhere else, although we already faced some long pieces before from the band, yes fans were not ready for this grand work. Instead of writing some effective 8 minutes songs like before, yes tried to experiment on very long pieces. There are 4 tracks every one clocking at about 20 minutes, which makes the album an 80 minutes work. The album was originally issued as a double vinyl, I think what caused the album to be so lenthy is the fact that if the band would trim it a little bit, that would leave a whole vinyl side empty, which wasn't acceptable!. That is why every piece is smeared on a whole side, and came out looking like it is.

Yes have made a long way since 'the yes album' and that's why this album is so different from anything we might have heard before from them. There is a lot to digest, and making it through the whole piece without sweating or wandering off is extremely exhausting even for the most dedicated yes fans. The album has a different structure than before, he flows from one part to the other with no logic sense, although some parts carried out ok, it is still inconsistant and unfocused. In a lot of places this lookes like a jon anderson solo project, but being an 80 minute work you have some instrumental parts. Of course the playing and execution is amazing and maybe only yes could have pulled it off like that.

So what we have here are ideas from here to infinity, if i could shuffle between them, the logic of the pieces would not be affected, since there is no one!!. Out goes the busy fast rocking style of previous albums like 'roundabout' ,which leaves us with a more contemplative, laid back and experimental atmosphere. Like i said this is by no means a bad album, there are some great moments included, good melodies and vocals, and good instrumentals. The band really tried hard to sew all the diiferent puzzle parts to fit the big picture, but didn't have the best success doing so.

The first part is maybe the best, with a good idea streched as possible and somehow manages to come to an end sounding ok. The second part is very tiring and inconsistant, it even tires me to describe it. The third part is good, experimental, and interesting, contain some intricate rhythm and very good musicianship even though it is slow. The forth part goes back to the first part sometimes, but add something of his own, nice overall.

I would suggest to split the album in two and listen to it separately, this way you can appreciate it more and understand it better, believe me it helps. Although the material is not as good as previous records you should still own it if you are a yes fan. 3 stars

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Posted Friday, March 02, 2012

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars It's the true test of one allegiance to prog; see if you can sit through the entirety of TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS.

How does it compare with the rest of Yes's discography from the 1970's? Not great. It's the album where many fans thought the band went overboard in the epic writing department. Others claim it represents the peak of prog's ambitions. I simply call this a ''what could have been'', especially being bookended by CTE and RELAYER. You also have to consider the three album attack of CTE, FRAGILE, and THE YES ALBUM all coming consecutively before this. TALES is an instant letdown by comparison.

The first hour is not spectacular to sit through. Every big, long track from the previous two albums was crafted with care as if Yes knew where they were taking the song during the writing process, but they also knew how to create an edgy, punchy sound to keep the listener on their toes. ''The Revealing Science of God'', for example, is completely blase, bland, uneventful. Nothing really goes on other than some spectacular vocal moments, and there's twenty minutes of this. Had this track been about half the length, had Squire's bass been more effective and had newbie Alan White been more integrated into the track, we'd have another inarguable great Yes track (and possibly album). It's just filled to the brim with pointless recapitulating and fluff jamming.

The next two tracks get increasingly more difficult. ''Remembering'' is in the exact same boat as ''Revealing'', only there's a spot in the middle where Yes copied their own work. Seek about ten minutes into the track and tell me you haven't heard that sequence on ''Siberian Khatru''. ''The Ancient'' is almost a pure void; the doodling at the beginning is simply hard to swallow. That third epic has absolutely nothing as far as substance or meaningful depth. It sounds like a pure exercise in extended instrumental noodling. Quite forgettable.

Out of nowhere, the inspiration takes a tremendous upswing on ''Ritual''. That beginning instrumental may not be of CTE calibre, but it's enjoyable as all things. THIS is the Yes of the 70's that can make a twenty minute epic valuable and valid. The intro alone is ''sweep off my feet'' excellent, but what follows is as equally inspired harkening back to the days of THE YES ALBUM. If we excuse the percussion diversion in the third act, ''Ritual'' is near perfect; shame it's on an album far from it.

TALES would have done a better service to the public had it been a single album with only two epics. Taken for what it's worth, the true diehards of prog rock will hoist this as a pinnacle of the genre's potential, and that's fine considering that most of the music is very relaxing and meditative. But the sharpness of the band is really missing; Squire's role is reduced, Bruford is gone and the band sounds like they don't completely know where the tracks should go.

In essence, yes TALES is an album that every prog rock fan should hear (all eighty minutes of it), but it is more in the pantheon of prog excess rather than prog excellence.

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Posted Sunday, March 04, 2012

Review by Einsetumadur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 13.5/15P.: an incredibly underrated album which is one of the few, or perhaps even the only example of large-scale progressive rock which is almost entirely successful. The little weaknesses do not lie in the concept, but rather in some minor overlengths in track three which in the end are too minor to be counted as a severe fault.

Why review an album which everyone reading these webpages already owns? I'm pretty sure that some listeners have given up on this album too quickly. I did too, but something in this album kept me listening to it over and over again, and while waiting for the few parts which I always loved a lot (most of them in the opener) I started discovering the essence of many parts which I didn't notice before.

To make it short: I am one of those prog listeners who usually hate everything which is overblown, pathetic and megalomaniac. I don't like ELP's Brain Salad Surgery, I cannot stand Rick Wakeman's solo albums at all and after all I think that the cathartic New Wave a la Byrne, Bowie and Abacab-era Genesis was the best which could ever have happened to the music scene of the late 1970s, especially comparing the unbelievably creative Talking Heads with the conservative Marillion and IQ.

From this point of view I should actually classify this album deeply into the 'dreadful'-category. But it's so different to all the narcissistic noodling of later wannabe prog bands, and that's mainly due to the combination of three factors:

1.) Absolutely stellar and catchy melodies written by Jon Anderson, set to exciting chord progressions by Steve Howe. And catchy doesn't mean that they stay in your head for many days, but you rather think 'oh, that verse is really powerful' while you're giving the album a spin; and this particular moment occurs time and time again. This album is so densely packed with great melodies and counterpoints that it doesn't ever wear out. One brief example in the full-length version of The Revealing Science of God is the romantic part at 11:42 (including tender Mellotron cello and guitar harmonics) leading into the overhanging trees chorus at 12:10 with full Mellotron strings and the jazzy rhythm guitar which reminds me a lot of Phil Miller on Matching Mole's Part of the Dance due to the charismatic vibrato effect. And Anderson's vocal melody in this passage in my opinion is by far the best one of his whole career. It's amazing how well it fits with the heavier side of his voice and how it's representative of his whole style. Regardless of all the complexity Jon Anderson, as we know from interviews, absorbed lots of Simon & Garfunkel and Beatles songs and learned a lot how to find and arrange great melodies. The nous sommes du soleil part in Ritual is actually quite close to the Moody Blues of the 1990s (think Is this Heaven?), had it not been for the weird soloing all around this chorus. And this is why I always say that this album is basically pop music; you won't understand the lyrics and you won't be able to understand how much effort the band put into the arrangement, but you can and will surely sing along, and you will know the lyrics by heart quite soon simply because of the sound of the words.

2.) Rick Wakeman plays some unusually concise keyboards. He seemingly was quite underchallenged when he recorded that album because such an album needs absolute restraint from every contributing musician; the structures and chord progressions are already too complicated to stuff them with the busy (and, admittedly, impressive) keyboard onanism of Six Wives of Henry VIII. Wakeman, always wrongly associated with an excessive use of the Hammond organ, mainly sticks to Mellotron and Moog synthesizers on this album with the occasional grand piano tinkling, betimes throwing in some pretty cool parts on his beloved RMI Electra Piano. And there's not only his standard warm Moog solo voice, but especially on the second LP and in the extended intro of The Revealing Science of God you can listen to Wakeman creating pretty atmospheric ambient sounds of filtered white noise and other interesting timbres which you'd rather expect from Kitaro or Vangelis than from the fast-fingered keyboard wizard in the glittering cape. The gurgling atonal synthesizer flickering in the drums-synth-duo of Ritual is unique in Wakeman's career, and 'unique' may gladly be interpreted positively in this context. Admittedly Patrick Moraz was the better avantgarde keyboarder, but it was Wakeman who first conceived these keyboard arrangements for this album. This time Wakeman is just part of a really tight band in which no-one particularly stands out all the way through, but only in short passages, and this is how I like him most. Just think about his glorious work with the Strawbs and his high-quality contributions to Cat Stevens, Black Sabbath or David Bowie as a studio musician. Space Oddity is better than most of his solo albums altogether.

3.) The arrangements are 100% untrepid. No-one but Yes would accompany a most monotonous and arrhythmic vocal part, as in The Remembering, with instrumental parts which stay in the same strange rhythm. At times this strange pedestrian rhythm even gets stuck on a fermata (2:14), and you think that this finally the starter of a new stanza, but nothing changes afterwards. Instead the piece walks further and further. Indeed the whole album feels like walking through a rainforest which always looks the same although, of course, it's always a new tree which you pass by. If you walk this path he first five times you think that it's all the same green, muggy, warm tangle which you wade through. But after the tenth walk you start spotting little hills, subtleties in the vegetation, borders between broad-leaved and coniferous forests, perhaps even places offering a view on the surrounding miles. If you intend to put such a walk into music, no matter from whichever Asian religion's point of view you might come, the resulting album is most probably ending up in total boredom. But this band does everything to create a really *beautiful* landscape to walk through. Every 30-60 seconds there's a little sophisticated miniature inserted in the constant flow of The Remembering, be it Rick Wakeman playing a wishful synthesizer solo on top of a silky carpet of Mellotron strings, or Anderson introducing a completely new melody which might or might not be reprised later on. The most striking one is the short relayer part foreboding the next Yes album which rocks quite hard for the means of this song. The constant element however is Steve Howe's Leslie electric guitar and Wakeman's strange pipe organ sound which is either a great synthesizer sound or a real portative just like the one David Palmer played for Jethro Tull. If you have stood through this uniformity you are rewarded with a finale not entirely unlike the one in Awaken. Ancient, on the other side, is complete mayhem. Felicitous mayhem, to be precise. Mad rhythms underneath undiscernible bass lines and free jazz guitar playing in the beginning lead into pastoral Mellotron layers, followed by Olias of Sunhillow-like tribal chanting, only to end in a baroque six minute ballad featuring Steve Howe on classical guitar plus backing vocals and Jon Anderson on lead vocals. Just like Genesis' More Fool Me mixed up with Mood for A Day. If you were a musician, and if you had a pretty delicate ballad written on acoustic guitar - would you make the listener sit through 12 minutes of tribal chantings in strange languages before? Or how would you - in the case of Ritual - combine a ballad which is completely cheesy (when regarded isolatedly) with a thunderstorm of percussion instruments without sounding like a total dabbler? I don't know how, but it does work in this case. And it worked even better live. Get the Live at QPR DVD and watch Ritual. I've never been overpowered more by such an energetic performance. Chris Squire runs around on the stage, shreds his bass guitar, vocalizes along until Patrick Moraz introduces a part in which the whole band flails around all sorts of percussion instruments, apart from Moraz who drives all of his keyboards through odd filters until Steve Howe ends this rousing mess with a gorgeous guitar solo. Squire also takes a solo in the studio version, and the tribal part is present as well, but that's just a more precise sketch of what Yes were able to develop in concert. If you've ever experienced a thunderstorm in the Austrian Alps you can at least guess where the inspiration comes from. And this, of course, wouldn't work if Alan White hadn't been an extraordinary drummer. He has deteriorated a lot over the years, at least he seems not to want to play like he did before, but this is his first studio album with Yes and he is burning here - not with the amazingly somber British jazz styling of Bill Bruford, but rather with the self-assurance and oomph of an American rock drummer.

The bonus tracks are a real enrichment. Listening to Revealing Science of God in its complete version, including the deleted ambient introduction, is worth the money alone, but the studio run-throughs are extremely interesting documents, too. They show two of the tracks in an unexpectedly naked and rough manner - incomplete lyrics, no overdubs, just a band playing on a highest niveau live in the studio. The surplus value? The ending ballad in The Ancient is performed by the whole band on electric instruments, and the staccato drums and the crunchy electric guitar give this sweet ballad an interesting industrial sound. The Revealing Science of God features combinations of different occuring motives which aren't present on the album version. The fact that you can look over the musicians' shoulders doesn't need to be mentioned in further detail.

Overall, I have to admit that this album drops down a bit halfway. Not in The Remembering, as many people think, but rather in The Ancient. It doesn't drop a lot, but it drops ostensibly around the 7 minute mark. But given that the opener is in big parts even somewhere above the 15/15-point realms and that the whole concept was incredibly courageous to conceive and perform, I'd be reluctant to give this album a 4 star rating. LP1 is, for sure, deeply situated in the 14/15-point range, but LP2 is somewhere around the 12.5-13/15. You can decide if this should be a weak five star rating or a strong four star rating, but the former is the rating which I prefer giving at the very moment - it might change in the next few months or years. Disregarding all these numerics I recommend this album to everyone interested in progressive rock music of its finest and most emotional sort - in any meaning of the word -, and those who already own this album, but always dismissed it, could maybe - if they are willing to get into this record - try it again. Imaging this album as a walk through a green rainforest helped me a lot, but since everyone has his own picture before his mind's eye it might also be different.

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Send comments to Einsetumadur (BETA) | Report this review (#769017) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After the mega succesful Close tot he edge, Yes embarked on their most ambitious work they ever done, but in same time one of their most unintresting ones, to say the least. Tales from the topographic ocean from 1973 caught Yes in a love/hate zone, to some fans this was absolutly their most ambitious album they ever done so far then and of course they really gone with the band vision, some said this is almost a disater after marvelous Close to the edge and for that resone almost hate it, to me is something in between, definetly I don't hate it but for sure I don't love it either. A double album consisting only of 4 pieces, one piece on each face of the vinyl or 2 on one CD now, this album is definatly their most excentric , elaborated, pretentious, cerebral and religious work Yes ever done in their entire career. To my ears the first piece The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn is by far the best of this album. 20 min of pure magic, some of the best Yes moments are to be found here in this tune, top notch musicianship, the bass of Mr. Squire is absolutly not on this earth here, impressive bass lines, some chops are simply complex as can be, the druming of the new member Alan White is great, the Steve Howe guitar is complictaed and Wakeman is one the bariccades and Andersone done some of the his most beautiful vocal lines he ever written and sing so far. To me is a a fairly good towards solid album, the rest of the 3 pieces , while are ok most of the time, not have that special magic going on of previous albums, and in places they reach so far with the progressive arrangements, that sometimes they gone to far even for the usual prog listner. To me this album is one of the most progressive, to progressive in many parts albums ever written, in a the true sens of the word, meaning literaly speaking this is to progressive for my taste, if is possible something like that Tales from the topografic ocean really done it. 3 - 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#991652) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, July 04, 2013

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is going to be my first review here in progarchives, so I have chosen to talk a bit about this album, which seems to be one of the most debated works in all progressive rock history. When I started in the vast world of prog, at first I guided myself only with the best rated works on thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1173302) | Posted by modest ubermensch | Saturday, May 10, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I hate to straddle the fence of this incredibly divisive, love-it-or-hate-it album, but 3 stars is the only thing that fits. The legend of TFTO is that, while on the CTTE tour, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had a slumber party where they stayed up all night writing the outline for what would be ... (read more)

Report this review (#1167828) | Posted by TwoCents | Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | Review Permanlink

1 stars I am not going to give a history of the album etc because it's been covered amongst all the other reviews, but I want to give my opinion on an album which I feel is poor to say the least! I recently bought the yes albums box-set which is inclusive of all studio albums until Big Generator, an ... (read more)

Report this review (#1134516) | Posted by Kevman28 | Thursday, February 20, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An ambitious album to say the least. Four songs that last about 20 minutes each. You will find great YES material in between lots of filler. If this were a single album, it would work better. The 2 songs I would choose to make it a single album would be "The Revealing Science Of God: Dance Of The ... (read more)

Report this review (#1091634) | Posted by thebig_E | Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I entirely agree with the PA menber SILLY PUPPY in their review #1071234 about "Tales from Topographic Oceans" when he says "This double album that followed CLOSE TO THE EDGE had the unfortunate problem of being compared to the last album " and I want to add some other considerations: startin ... (read more)

Report this review (#1075019) | Posted by maryes | Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A colossal failure or progressive rock masterpiece? Well kind of both. Not an album that will produce immediate praise and i think that is what causes this album to get panned. When Yes came out with Close To The Edge, they were on a major roll. Three incredibly successful and thoroughly enj ... (read more)

Report this review (#1073993) | Posted by ster | Friday, November 08, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is one of if not THE most divisive album in prog history. This double album that followed CLOSE TO THE EDGE had the unfortunate problem of being compared to the last album (another masterpiece) and being panned by critics (but not universally so) and Rick Wakeman himself who left the band af ... (read more)

Report this review (#1071234) | Posted by siLLy puPPy | Sunday, November 03, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I am totally baffled by this album. Not a born YES fan, "Relayer" and "Yessongs" broke the ice with me back then. To the point of deep appreciation and further interest in the band's works. Well, this album though served as a stumbling block. I just could not get into it for anything. I t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1036730) | Posted by BORA | Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Triumphant. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is perhaps one of the more controversial prog albums, and for good reason. Some loathe it, some love it. I fall into the second category. I find the album to be a triumphant work of art from tip to toe. This album is divided into four movements, ... (read more)

Report this review (#939622) | Posted by The Mystical | Friday, April 05, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is the album that divides the "sorta prog fans" form the "true believers". I will say that I think CTTE is ever so slightly better, but CTTE is not a double album or nearly so daring. This is a prog album for the faithful, by the best prog band at their height of power. What some criti ... (read more)

Report this review (#922912) | Posted by progpunk67 | Sunday, March 03, 2013 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the most polarizing work ever done by the classic Yes lineup. Even though Bruford had left during the previous tour, having decided that he had gone as far as he could go within the Yes scope, his replacement, Alan White does a fine job at the drum set. Since ... (read more)

Report this review (#913317) | Posted by wehpanzer | Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've had a copy of Tales from Topographic Oceans essentially since I began listening to progressive rock about eight or so years ago. It was only recently however that I've finally been able to nail down my opinion of this album. It is one that I enjoy greatly and listen to on a fairly regular basis ... (read more)

Report this review (#899101) | Posted by R-A-N-M-A | Thursday, January 24, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars After the ambitious and successful "Close to the Edge" and its "live" spin-off (and also quiet a display) "Yessongs". It was a mystery to me what could follow next. After all; that work was the 5th studio project at the time. In prog those days; that was like an almost complete discography. So wh ... (read more)

Report this review (#890887) | Posted by admireArt | Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What to say about this odd recording at times I absolutely love it and other times it baffles me????, So Bill Bruford decided to leave Yes to join the great Crimson King(see my reviews on that great band, haha), he was replaced by Alan White formerly of the Plastic Ono Band and John Lennon's solo s ... (read more)

Report this review (#890868) | Posted by ProgMetaller2112 | Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 ha ... (read more)

Report this review (#832511) | Posted by Josef_K | Thursday, October 04, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is structurally very much like a symphony. One must admire how the band crafts such a work, with recurring melodies intricately and subtly woven into other sections of the album. From the perspective of a prog fan, the dull or excessive moments are few and far between. The album should be ... (read more)

Report this review (#753846) | Posted by hol0015 | Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is written with magic and this magic will be experienced by listening! The Tales of Topographic Oceans is the record of Yes which fits best with the mystical landscapes on some of the Yes album covers. This music is spoiled by magic and mystical itself. It's written from a spiritua ... (read more)

Report this review (#730100) | Posted by the philosopher | Monday, April 16, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4.0 stars I absolutely love the first and fourth sides of this album. Let's have that be understood right now. If Yes would have only had those sides, this album would definitely get 5 stars. "The Revealing Science of God" is a great, classic Yes song. I personally think that it showcas ... (read more)

Report this review (#645635) | Posted by bb1319 | Sunday, March 04, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans aroused in me a spirituality. In the first auditions i was really intrigued with the trascedental beauty of this album. Jon Anderson is an enlightened man, that even in the distance we may feel that the guy has a different light from other people. And all the band membe ... (read more)

Report this review (#643724) | Posted by AdrianoR. | Thursday, March 01, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans is often regarded as minor work between its precedent and following studio albums. The critics are usually right when they say the album is too long but they are not when they come to terms with its music. It is true, though, that there are moments that are a bit too ... (read more)

Report this review (#618878) | Posted by ibnacio | Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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