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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2353 ratings

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5 stars In one of the great ironies in the history of Yes, Tales from Topographic Oceans begins with a direct, almost pedagogical introduction by Jon Anderson. Unlike Close to the Edge or Relayer in which the listener has the complete imaginative autonomy to make all pertinent connections, Tales from Topographic Oceans contains an introduction. Anderson straightforwardly acknowledges the source of inspiration for this work, The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansha Yogananda. Of course, real critical acrimony greeted this album upon its release. I recall one solid review by Time entitled, Rock Goes to College. To me, this is the quintessential exemplar of progressive rock.

As with most others, I do consider Close to the Edge Yes' crowning achievement. However, let's go back to those late nights/ early mornings in 1972 and 1973 as Yes toured Close to the Edge and Jon Anderson and Steve Howe discussed Yes' next imaginative extension. Now, based explicitly on an extra-musical source as described by Paramahansa Yogananda in his Autobiography, the Shastric scriptures of Hinduism, Anderson and Howe grounded Yes' potential new work directly in a way of wisdom that seeks to synthesize eternity and temporality, transcendence and finitude, salvation and the grittiness of our cultural responses to the Human Condition. A few years earlier, John Lennon (with Alan White at the drums) urged us to Imagine. Here, Anderson and Howe issue the same challenge.

Yes, because Tales from Topographic Oceans challenges the listener, it will always remain a divisive work. We all know that Rick Wakeman grew less and less fond of it as Yes toured the album. Yet, in its ambition and scope, Tales represents a logical development of the germ of an idea begun in songs like Survival, Astral Traveller, and Starship Trooper, extended in Heart of the Sunrise, and, of course, culminated in Close to the Edge, And You and I, and Siberian Khatru. Wakeman has stated the album needed redaction. Well, the band gave that to us again in the form of Awaken.

In his introduction, Anderson reveals that the Topographic Ocean is his metaphor for the mind's eye. Here, there are no boundaries, musical and non-musical: Talk to the sunlight caller, Stand on hills of long forgotten yesterdays, We are of the Sun, Force the bit between the mouth of freedom, didn't we learn to fly/ remember to sail the skies. . .. The music, whether improvised in the recording studio or not, displays this freedom as well. Now, Mr. Wakeman, performing The Revealing Science of God at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo in 1996 wasn't that difficult!?!

As Anderson, Squire, Howe, White, and Oliver Wakeman prepare to tour North America this summer, let's recall the wonderful audacity of the band's exploration of the mind's eye in its oceanic ventures.

ken_scrbrgh | 5/5 |


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