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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Beware of those lengthy footnotes!

Ah, "Tales from Topographic oceans", do you love it or do you hate it?

Even the band members themselves are divided on this one, Rick Wakeman having publicly derided it. Indeed, one live performance of the album in its entirely gave rise to the legendary curry incident. (For more information, see the opening chapter of the excellent Yes biography "Close to the edge"). Personally, I love "Tales..". Yes, it is excessive, indulgent, long, etc., but it is also thoroughly enjoyable.

The original LP has one track per side of a double album. Unlike "Close to the edge", in this case each track is a single complete piece, i.e. the songs are not made up of individually named sub-sections. The story behind the concept is suitably obscure and indulgent, the inspiration being taken from a "Lengthy footnote on page 83 of "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramhansa Yoganada".

"The revealing science of God, Dance of the dawn" kicks off side one. For me, this is the best of the four tracks. Anderson is in fine vocal form, just as well really as this track has the most vocal passages of the four. Wakeman's keyboards are dominant throughout, although rather uncharacteristically, this is in the form of sweeping synth layers for the band to build on, rather than virtuoso performance. Towards the end he breaks loose, and slips in one of his breathtaking synthesiser solos. There is a beauty and atmosphere to this track which sets it apart from the others.

"The remembering, high the memory" is fairly similar in structure to the first track. Once again, Wakeman's keyboards are much in evidence, and Anderson is called up for vocal duty frequently. The overall composition is not quite as strong as "Revealing science of God", but it's pretty damn close. There's a wonderful section midway through, which has an oceanic feel, Wakeman's synths plunging ever deeper, before Anderson pulls things back to the main melody for the uplifting conclusion.

"The ancient, Giants under the sun" is the one track which in my opinion does not make the grade. The first half consists pretty much of Steve Howe practicing his scales on lead guitar. Had the track started when he swapped it for the acoustic one half way through, the album would have benefited immensely. The latter half of the track features a beautiful Howe and Anderson duet, the rest of the band having little input to this section. Lyrically, the song is one of Anderson's most poignant and accessible, complementing Howe's fine acoustic guitar solo perfectly.

The final track, "Ritual, Nous Sommes Du Soleil" is slightly harder than the first two, with a dynamic percussion section, which is particularly impressive live, where it is often extended.

The sleeve is one of those famous Roger Dean creations, and must surely rank among his best.

The recently remastered and extended release is lavishly packaged, and includes an instrumental intro to "Revealing science of God" (not previously released), plus two full length studio run throughs of that track and "The Ancient" (which includes an electric version of the second half of that track). These additional tracks are interesting but not essential.

I readily acknowledge that "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is controversial, and wide open to criticism, but for me, it's one of their best.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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