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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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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.

Atavachron | 5/5 |


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