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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2334 ratings

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5 stars Review Nš 9

This is my first review of a Yes album. I bought my vinyl copy in 1976 and it became my first album from them. The main reason to be it my first choice to review a Yes' work on this site, besides being my first album from the band, is especially due to other two factors. In the first place, I always loved and considered it one of the best albums ever made. In the second place, it's one of the most controversial progressive albums, probably the biggest of all, and it's also one of the albums that most divided critics, fans and even the band members.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is the sixth studio album by Yes and was released in 1973. It topped the British charts and reached number 6 on the American charts. Originally, it was a double vinyl LP, consisting of a theme divided into four parts with about 20 minutes length each one, with some religious concepts, and which has broken all the previous artistic boundaries. It was a project of Jon Anderson and Steve Howe, completed by musical ideas and arrangements by Chris Squire, Alan White and Rick Wakeman. As I wrote above, when the album was released the reactions were divided between fans and critics, and it even provoked divisions within the band members. For instance, Wakeman who publicly derided the album, was forced to leave Yes at the end of the recording sessions. He was been replaced by Patrick Moraz on their next seventh studio album 'Relayer', released in 1974. He only returned to Yes, in 1977, when they released their eighth studio album 'Going For The One'.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is a concept album based upon Anderson's interpretation of four classes of an Hindu Scripture, collectively named Shastras, based from Paramahansa Yogananda's book, the 'Autobiography Of A Yogi'. In 1973, Anderson was introduced to Yogananda's book, at Bruford's wedding reception by Jamie Muir, then the King Crimson's percussionist. So, from there, Anderson managed to create the Yes' strongest and most spiritual lyrics, and as we can imagine, the concept itself is enough to bring goose bumps to many people.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' has four tracks. The first track 'The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn)' is a brilliant piece of music. Lyrically, it examines the depth of the past and displays the ongoing search of God. Musically, it's beautifully built in the beginning, with ethereal passages in the middle and with a climax ending, which bring to the track an incredible finish. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the best pieces of music ever written. The second track 'The Remembering (High The Memory)' is a very complex piece of music. Lyrically, it affirms that the past informs our current thoughts. Musically, it's one of the Yes most ambient pieces of music. It relies heavily textures and ambient atmospheres to communicate the musical ideas. Their melodies are some of the most subtly powerful musical moments that I have ever experienced. The third track 'The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun)' continues in the correct musical direction of the all album. Lyrically, it explores history previous to human memory and reflects on past civilizations. Musically, it continues the ethereal and oceanic dreaminess of the previous track. It adds a raw and powerful edginess that really pulls the album together. It doesn't disappoint me, even in a slightest moment. The fourth track 'Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)' represents an excellent end to the album. Lyrically, it portrays the positive results of the battle with the evil. Musically, it's a very complex composition, where the pieces are the music built around regular beats that ease us to emulate the melody. This is the best known part of the album and it brings to it a real fitting climax, both sentimental as mysterious.

The art work of the album (design and illustration) was made by Roger Dean. He designed many of the group's albums, forming a continuing story in pictures. Dean has also created the Yes' logo. The cover of the album has often been included in lists of the best album covers of all time. Dean is one of the most famous artists on albums covers.

Conclusion: 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is a very innovator and courageous album that deserves to be more considered and better rated on Progarchives. In my humble opinion, this isn't an album too pretentious, ambitious, megalomaniac and lengthy, as some say. It's as good as it gets for Yes, besides 'Close To The Edge' and 'Relayer'. It's practically impossible to follow up a masterpiece like 'Close To The Edge', without disappointing a great amount of fans. However, I am convinced that it suffers for being a concept album released in the 70's. If it had been able to be recorded on one only CD, I sincerely think that it would be even a better album, and probably better appreciated. I sincerely think that 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' belongs to the rare albums that achieved the status of being one of the best masterpieces of all time. Unfortunately, it soon became a Yes too underappreciated piece of music.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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