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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2327 ratings

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3 stars This review has been a long time coming. I have listened to TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS a lot lately, and I have given considerable thought to the rating attached above, vacillating between a low of two stars, and a high of four. Finally, I have concluded that this is a "good, but non-essential" Yes album.

Part blundering behemoth, part lissome lass, TALES is easily the most controversial of the classic Yes recordings. The lack of planning in its formation, and the artificial structure imposed upon it by the desire to fill four LP sides with four long suites (see Prog Archives Special Collaborator Maani's excellent and informative interview with affable former Yes keysman Rick Wakeman) caused Rick Wakeman's departure from the band, and prompted at least one wag to dub it a "Topographic Turkey" upon its 1974 release.

Reviled by some, praised to the high heavens by others, TALES can divide a roomful of Yes fans quicker than Mariah Carey can shred an old progger's eardrums. Each of the album's suites, for my tastes, contains moments of great power and even beauty (like many others, I particularly favour "Ritual," finding it the most unified of the quartet), but each is also marred by awkward passages that smack of "padding," and a comparative dearth of cohesive and vital ideas. There is great music herein, with all of the essential dynamics and elements of classic Yes, but I believe that TALES would have been better pared down (given time, group will, and, above all, a willingness to compromise from vocalist Anderson, whose brainchild TFTO was) to a stronger, single LP-length album.

I'm glad to own a copy of TALES, but it will never displace its magnificent and masterful forerunners THE YES ALBUM, FRAGILE, and -- Yes' crowning glory -- CLOSE TO THE EDGE in the heart of this longstanding fan.

It's not for everyone, but confirmed followers of the band should give TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS a go. Locating the rewards it has to offer from the depths of all its aural "packing material" requires patience and commitment, but there are some shining pearls to be pulled from 'midst the musical midden.

Peter | 3/5 |


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