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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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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".
daveconn | 3/5 |


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