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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2347 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars I hate to straddle the fence of this incredibly divisive, love-it-or-hate-it album, but 3 stars is the only thing that fits.

The legend of TFTO is that, while on the CTTE tour, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had a slumber party where they stayed up all night writing the outline for what would become this album. As magical as that sounds, here's the problem: it sounds like Steve wrote all his guitar parts in one night. That's because more than half of his contributions here are noodled.

Besides track 2, the last part of track 3, and a few melodies on track 4, Steve's guitar lines sound completely improvisational. Maybe that's just my untrained ear talking, but all in all, the guitar does nothing overall for the sound. I almost feel bad for the other musicians, turned down in the mix, waiting patiently for Steve to wank through these songs with no concern for what the other instruments are doing. The guitar indulgences are made accentuated by the fact that Rick Wakeman provides little more than uninspired mellotron background sound, Chris Squire's bass is turned way down and robbed of its elemental power, and Bill Bruford has been replaced by the inferior (but no slouch) Alan White. Furthermore, the album has a terrible production and shrill guitar tone throughout, which almost completely ruins this version the 4th track, Ritual.

Not to diminish my reputation as a life-long progger, but the songs here are just too dang long. Don't read me wrong, folks, there ain't nothing wrong with a twenty minute tune here and there, but the quality of the material here does not justify the length. The first track starts amazingly, goes strong for about ten minutes, and then dissolves into boring interlude tedium which really fails to excite. A big let down over CTTE's title track. Track 2 its much better, but still suffers from too many interludes as the band tries to pad out the space and fill up a double LP. Track 3 suffers from Steve's atrocious experiments in avant-garde, which go on about 8 minutes longer than necessary.

So why am I giving this album a generous 3 stars? Here's why. 2 of the songs work real well. Track 2 is an awesome and completely original hippy-ish tune that you can easily get lost in for 20 whole minutes. Track 4 is also incredible, or at least it would have been if it had been played much faster and had better production (the live version on Yesshows is far superior!!!). Parts of 1 and 3 are very good, but they are scattered between boring interludes and you unfortunately cannot digest those numbers as a whole.

Bottom Line - if Yes had exercised a little self-control and refined these songs to the 10-15 minute pieces they deserve to be, we would have had a excellent single LP. After that, if the production and the guitar tone had been worked on a little better, this could almost be a 5- star album like CTTE. Unfortunately, that is not what we get. Take this album for what it is - an interesting, somewhat failed experiment in the Yes catalog. Do not expect a masterpiece.

TwoCents | 3/5 |


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