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Wormboy View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Tales From Topographic Oceans
    Posted: June 06 2005 at 15:09
OK, I'm new here, and perhaps this question has been digested ad nauseum.  So please bear with me.


Has anyone else have the experience that Yes' "Close to the Edge" is absolutely an incredible achievment, and man, how well can a band work together towards a common goal, and then feel like they're falling off a cliff when they listen to "Tales From Topographic Oceans," which was the next studio album from Yes?

I listen to this album, and my take home message is "Tales from Coprophagic Oceans."  How can you go from so good to so bad in ONE studio album, with only one person leaving (and was Bruford that essential to the "Edge" sound?  Dunno, maybe he was.  Certainly I never liked White's rockier style as much).

Now, I know that part of this is subjective, obviously.  There is a lot of amazing musicianship on "Tales," and there are many different points where I say, "man, that is a cool riff," or "I really like that groove, how creative."  There are some great melodic lines here.  But for most of it, the word that springs to mind is BOMBASTIC.  It's like Yes took on and conquered a totally ambitious project with "Close to the Edge," then totally let it go to their heads on Tales.  They went off the deep end.  And in so many ways!

Let's see if I can be specific.  First, the lyrics.  Now, let me say up front that Jon Anderson has always been my least favorite part of Yes.  But I see his merit, and I even like the kind of "meaning but no meaning" of many of his lyrics.  But the totally trippy flower child mysticism of much of "Tales" seems off the deep end to me.  "Nous Somme Du Soleil?"  Right, peace man.  But I can't believe he followed this up with "we love when we play."  Well, I USED to love when you play. :(

Like I said, there is amazing musicianship here.  But so disjointed!  It's like everybody in the band it trying to be a total virtuouso, and is trying to feature themselves to the loss of the whole.  In spite of the promise of some spiritual compositional unity, many of the songs seem to wander, like they are a collection of cool riffs.  They lack the unity and movement of "Close to the Edge,"  where even diverse styles work together as a compositional whole.  So, compositionally it feels to me like Anderson and Howe wrote an album and invited the rest of the band to fill in their parts, with some solos to satisfy their egos.  "Close to the Edge" felt like an album where the whole band worked together for a long time to create a harmonious whole.  In other words, "Tales" feels like a recent King Crimson album--"we all kick butt so let's throw together a cool album where we each wrote different songs, and we'll get some cool fills to satisfy each member."

And let me just say that I want to take Steve Howe's pedal steel guitar from the 4th track (album side) and freakin feed it to him.  Look, Steve.  We all know that you are king-god guitarist, but w**king off on the pedal steel for several minutes is not attractive.  Just because you CAN do something does not mean it SHOULD be done.  In fact, this last should be the motto for the entire album.  So much of this is ideas that should have been tossed in the garbage heap.  But Howe's endless, self-indulgent pedal steel howling takes the cake, and is emblematic of the problem with the whole album.

Finally, I think ambitious, 20 minute compositions are a good thing.  Really, I do.  But when you have 4 such tracks, and nothing else, on a double album, perhaps you need to reflect a bit, hmm?  Perhaps you are being over-ambitious, egocentric, FREAKIN STUPID?


Now, in general I like progressive rock.  I'm a big fan of most of the major classic 70s giants, and some minor ones as well.  I love yes, and really enjoy many of their songs.  I especially find their "golden era" to be some of the best prog rock.  BUT, one of the biggest cautionary messages I see in prog rock is this: just because something can be done, doesn't mean it SHOULD be done.  And this sums up most of "Tales" for me.  A lot of neat little riffs, melodies and whatnot, all tied together in one huge, messy, undigestible whole.  Plus a few nauseatingly awful moments (pedal steel reprise).


Thank you.  I've been wanting to get that off my chest for 23 years, ever since I first bought and listened to "Tales from Topographic Oceans."  Finally I found the forum for my rant.  Thank you for reading.  Nothing to see, move along....
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:31
Thank you. This is exactly how I feel too. They did CTTE and thought "Well how can we top this?". Just ocassionally less is more...

Edit: And the production on that album is truly awful.


Edited by Trouserpress
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:40

 My dear!

"Tales from Topografic oceans" is IMO the best recorded piece of art in any genre EVER! It is in EVERY way far SUPERIOR to "Close to the edge" and I think "Close to the edge" is one of the best albums I've heard. That is how fantastic "Tales from Topografic oceans" is to myself and many with me, it's simply the ultimate progressive piece of music ever written. Can probably never become better!

Thanks

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:40
I was planning to buy that album, I'm not sure if i really want to anymore
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:43
Originally posted by Dreamer

I was planning to buy that album, I'm not sure if i really want to anymore


If you're not adverse to downloading music on a "try before you buy" basis then grab an mp3 of Ritual. It's the best track on the album. If that strikes you as brilliant then get it. If not then maybe have a rethink for now. If you're serious about prog you'll need it sooner or later, if only for the historic value.

If you don't own at least 3 Gentle Giant albums then you've got other things to be buying first anyway.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:44

Originally posted by Dreamer

I was planning to buy that album, I'm not sure if i really want to anymore

Please make up your own mind, friend. Don't let others scare you! With ALL respect, "Tales..." is as near the kingdom of heaven I will get in this life! I'm serious now. It is to me, like a......well...words can not describe the pleasure, happiness and joy that I feel so deep inside when I'm "within" this masterpiece. It's above all other records, IMO! This isn't just music! It's beyond that!!! ALL, IMO!!!!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:53

The band tried something different with the album. Some like it, some don't.

I like it.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:58
I'm listening to it (Revealing Science) right now on the internet radio.  TFTO is a great album.. I think most of you that have problems with it, must be because you're not really Jon Anderson fans, but the music on this is lovely.  Steve Howe and Chris Squire do some really lovely work on this... makes you want to chill and and enjoy life more.. and anything that does that for me.. is one hell of an album...
THIS IS ELP
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 16:59
I gotta tell ya in my earlier days of prog listening, when I was about 13 or so, TFTO was my all time favorite album. It proudly wore its excesses on its sleeve and seemed to try and encapsulate EVERYTHING that defined prog, distilled into one double album. But as I got older, my tastes changed (and I became exposed to exponentially more prog) and I just thought it was self indulgent, purile, and just confusing and tuneless in some places. That being said, right now I feel pretty middle of the road about it. It is not as horrible as its detractors say; there are moments scattered throughout of high quality music, mostly in Revealing Science and Ritual (trouserpress is right again, an mp3 of Ritual would be a good reference for the spirit of the album). But by the same token, it is not a classic prog album. Especially when compared with other Yes albums around that time (CttE, Fragile (must be Italian), and Relayer) it is unfocused and in serious need of editing. In fact, anyone here clever with Sound Forge or something similar should try a one CD edit of this record, would be  an interesting experiment and undoubtedly better than the original!Smile

All in all, I own it and like it, but havent listened to it in its entirety for a dozen years or so.

Edit: P.S. to Dreamer: If you are a Yes fan and have already heard the essentials (CttE, Fragile, Yes Album, Relayer, GFTO) and really dig 'em then you certainly should pick it up. But for the more casual Yes listener, make sure you have all of the above first, then give it a try. Who knows, could become your favorite (but prob'ly notWink).

Edited by Nipsey88


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:02

Originally posted by Nipsey88

I gotta tell ya in my earlier days of prog listening, when I was about 13 or so, TFTO was my all time favorite album. It proudly wore its excesses on its sleeve and seemed to try and encapsulate EVERYTHING that defined prog, distilled into one double album. But as I got older, my tastes changed (and I became exposed to exponentially more prog) and I just thought it was self indulgent, purile, and just confusing and tuneless in some places. That being said, right now I feel pretty middle of the road about it. It is not as horrible as its detractors say; there are moments scattered throughout of high quality music, mostly in Revealing Science and Ritual (trouserpress is right again, an mp3 of Ritual would cover most of the good music on the album). But by the same token, it is not a classic prog album. Especially when compared with other Yes albums around that time (CttE, Fragile (must be Italian), and Relayer) it is unfocused and in serious need of editing. In fact, anyone here clever with Sound Forge or something similar should try a one CD edit of this record, would be  an interesting experiment and undoubtedly better than the original!Smile

All in all, I own it and like it, but havent listened to it in its entirety for a dozen years or so.

Please don't!!! It's would be like cutting the smile out of "Mona-Lisa"

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:06
  • SHRUTIS
  • SURITIS
  • PURANAS
  • TANTRAS

Four movements - each exquisitely different, a veritable masterpiece of progressive rock........It has everything and is definately a progressive rock paradigm.......

If Music be the food of Love, Play on.......
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:08
Originally posted by Swinton MCR

  • SHRUTIS
  • SURITIS
  • PURANAS
  • TANTRAS

Four movements - each exquisitely different, a veritable masterpiece of progressive rock........It has everything and is definately a progressive rock paradigm.......

You've got it! That's the way one must look at it to get it!!!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:09
Originally posted by flowerchild

Originally posted by Dreamer

I was planning to buy that album, I'm not sure if i really want to anymore

Please make up your own mind, friend. Don't let others scare you! With ALL respect, "Tales..." is as near the kingdom of heaven I will get in this life! I'm serious now. It is to me, like a......well...words can not describe the pleasure, happiness and joy that I feel so deep inside when I'm "within" this masterpiece. It's above all other records, IMO! This isn't just music! It's beyond that!!! ALL, IMO!!!!



Well, yes, it's all IMO!

And yes, he should make up his own mind.  Listening to some downloads before beuying is probably a good idea.  Probably ttrue for all prog rock, since it's a disparate group, with finincky listeners, like me! 


I agree that Ritual and the Revealing Science of God are the best two, erm, "tracks."  Both have some really cool parts to them.

Edit:  I guess what always frustrated me is that these cool parts were never really realized.  It's like the pieces were all there, but not put together quite right.  I think I see what they were trying to do, but it's like looking through a fogged-over window.  And keep in mind that I'm a real Yes fan.

As for the four movements, yeah, I got that.  I spent a lot of time meditating on this album back in the day, and I gave the whole thing a double re-listen recently.  I came away now (20 years later) with the same conclusion as before.  Brilliant musicians who shot too high and didn't pull together their idea.  They never expressed it clearly.

But, to give them credit, they do deserve respect for aiming high.  BOY, did they aim high.  But as my pop always said, "shoot for the fence and hit the ground, shoot for the moon and hit the fencepost," i.e. you'll never amount to much if you don't TRY.  But I do think he meant for the progression from one step to the next to be in slightly smaller steps than CttE to TfTO! ;)


But yes, Flowerchild, part of my problem is probably that Jon Anderson has always been my least favorite Yes member, and TfTO is a VERY Jon Anderson album.


Edited by Wormboy
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:11
I needed a long time to digest Tales ... . But at the end (30 years before) I was happy having gone through this process of listening. It's not a simple album. It's not as variable and fast as CTTE. But finally it is rewarding. It is like Fjord in Norway - deep, long and cold. But you have to get there by feet. It will last. But just try it. Not everyone is getting to the top.  - Good luck.

I saw YES live in Munich. Was tremendously impressive. But it was that time. You know?


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:14

I love TFTO. It took me a long time before I listened to the album, because of some bad reviews.

It has become one of my favourite Yes albums! I like it better than Close To The Edge. The music has more room to breathe, and there are so many great melodies on the album, and a lot of experimental, but beautiful playing.  

It's like stepping into another world. It's very good, I think .

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:16
Originally posted by flowerchild

Originally posted by Nipsey88

I gotta tell ya in my earlier days of prog listening, when I was about 13 or so, TFTO was my all time favorite album. It proudly wore its excesses on its sleeve and seemed to try and encapsulate EVERYTHING that defined prog, distilled into one double album. But as I got older, my tastes changed (and I became exposed to exponentially more prog) and I just thought it was self indulgent, purile, and just confusing and tuneless in some places. That being said, right now I feel pretty middle of the road about it. It is not as horrible as its detractors say; there are moments scattered throughout of high quality music, mostly in Revealing Science and Ritual (trouserpress is right again, an mp3 of Ritual would cover most of the good music on the album). But by the same token, it is not a classic prog album. Especially when compared with other Yes albums around that time (CttE, Fragile (must be Italian), and Relayer) it is unfocused and in serious need of editing. In fact, anyone here clever with Sound Forge or something similar should try a one CD edit of this record, would be  an interesting experiment and undoubtedly better than the original!Smile

All in all, I own it and like it, but havent listened to it in its entirety for a dozen years or so.

Please don't!!! It's would be like cutting the smile out of "Mona-Lisa"



I understand your point flowerchild, I really do. But if we were too afraid to go back and change art, then we wouldn't have the wonderful remakes of Star Wars IV-VI. Um, wait a minute... I think I just made your point for ya.LOL

But seriously, I may not be the superfan of the album that you are but I do like it. And honestly, don't you think that there are a lot of moments in there where the band is floundering between two movements during a song, fudging their way into the next melody? Or floundering DURING a song (The Ancient comes to mind)? Like I said, lotsa good stuff happening in there, but sounds like the musical equivalent of killing a fly with a shotgun. Sure it works, but not nearly as effectively and neatly as a flyswatter.



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 17:17
Originally posted by flowerchild

Originally posted by Swinton MCR

  • SHRUTIS
  • SURITIS
  • PURANAS
  • TANTRAS

Four movements - each exquisitely different, a veritable masterpiece of progressive rock........It has everything and is definately a progressive rock paradigm.......

You've got it! That's the way one must look at it to get it!!!

I'm interested, Flowerchild & Swinton, how long did it take you to 'grow' into TFTO?  Weere you able to get into it and understand it almost immediately, or did it take years?  (This is a serious question, because I think maybe I ought to give it another go)...

February's Listens:
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 18:06
Originally posted by fandango

Originally posted by flowerchild

Originally posted by Swinton MCR

  • SHRUTIS
  • SURITIS
  • PURANAS
  • TANTRAS

Four movements - each exquisitely different, a veritable masterpiece of progressive rock........It has everything and is definately a progressive rock paradigm.......

You've got it! That's the way one must look at it to get it!!!

I'm interested, Flowerchild & Swinton, how long did it take you to 'grow' into TFTO?  Weere you able to get into it and understand it almost immediately, or did it take years?  (This is a serious question, because I think maybe I ought to give it another go)...

I loved it from start, never understood the critics at all, still don't. For me it was, and still is just the same as if u put the SONGS; "Close to the edge", "Gates of delerium", "Awaken" and...let's say.."Ritual" on a double-album...I hear no difference comparing those songs, never has...I really don't understand the debate at all. It's all the same fantastic Yes-music to me from "The Yes" album to "Going for the one". I think both KC and GG are harder to get. So, the answer to your question is: I loved it from the first second, almost 30 years ago and still does...perhaps even more!!!

Perhaps some people think you have to "try" to love prog...well, in my case I must "try" to STAND pop... For me,"Tales..." is quite easy-listening.



Edited by flowerchild
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 18:51
I think Tales is 'massive' to say the least. It is an extremely hard album to listen to, even for seasoned prog heads like myself. I still find it a bit over-the-top and will only listen to it on occasion. That in no way means it isn't a good album, its just so difficult to get into.

Musically, I think the bookends to the album are very well done. In between, well after 40 minutes already it starts to sound like a giant mess (Partly why I can't get into the later Flower Kings albums). But it is prog, and well...this is pretty much as far out as your going to get with Yes and many others. Experimentation at its finest!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 06 2005 at 19:10

TFTO= Awesome!

But of course as indicated above no other Yes album comes close to Close to the Edge. I think it is definitely good, but not the best.



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