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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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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.

Sinusoid | 2/5 |


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