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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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The Quiet One
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Tales from Calm and Majestic Oceans

Here, me, reviewing another highly acclaimed controversial album, this time from the classic Symphonic Prog band, Yes. Yes' previous effort was the highly succesful Close to the Edge, one of the pinnacles of Prog, alongside the controversial of Brain Salad Surgery, as well as with Tull's magnum opus, Thick as a Brick, to name a few. With Close to the Edge, Yes had culminated with perfection, 3 incredibly crafted songs, completely flawless, however with Tales From Topographic Oceans, there's quite a radical change.

With Alan White as a newbie, his place in this album, doesn't deserve the mention. Not that he's a bad drummer, but unfortunately, in this album, specifically, Alan is barely heard in the mix, and comparing with Close to the Edge's fierceful and complex drumming of Bill Bruford, Alan just falls flat and boring(I repeat, in this album). However, thinking it twice, I could mention his interesting rythm he settles in the middle of Ritual.

Despite not having a challenging drumming, the rythm section is not completely lost, Chris Squire is still in perfect shape, even better than in Close to the Edge, I dare to say, delivering one of his most recognised bass work, in the song Ritual. However, Chris is not the main performer here, like he will be in Relayer and Drama, alongside Steve Howe...

Talking about Steve, luckily him, he wrote all the the songs with Jon Anderson, so you can expect his guitar to shine out, even if he has been shining since The Yes Album, his presence here, is over the top, in the acoustic and electric, even having a completely solo spot, in the song, The Ancient.

Having mentioned Jon previously, I'll have to say that his vocals here are still in great shape, however his lyrics-writing ''skill'' haven't improved, you can't expect understandable lyrics, at all. If you're a lyrics-lover, you can't expect any good from this album. Back to the vocals, there's some excellent harmonies, shared with Chris' and Steve's backing vocals, specially in the song The Revealing Science of God, where Jon can shine on his own as well, in a short section, with his angelic voice.

Now to Rick Wakeman, as very well most know, Rick himself was and still is disatisfied with this album, due to Jon's and Steve's control on the song-writing, not letting Rick express his ideas, however, as much Rick thinks he couldn't contribute in Tales as he desired, if there's one thing I love from Tales, it's Rick's keyboards, from truly stunning Moog solos, to subtle, and wonderful, Mellotron chords, specifically in the song, The Revealing Science of God.

Now to a bit more detail of the songs, like the title of my review describes, ''Calm and Majestic'', those 2 words truly say what this album is. In difference with Close to the Edge, having moments of symphonic awesomeness, Tales From Topographic Oceans shines out because of tranquil chords, and climax's, specially in the song, The Remembering, almost the entire song has a dreamy and chilly atmosphere, with all the instruments going subtle, don't get me wrong, the song is not boring, each moment is quite nice, with mellow harmonies, and melodies all through the song, while no instrument shining out, this just makes the composition and achieved atmosphere, shine.

Now, to The Revealing Science of God, so as to not make you think Tales is completely a dreamy album. As I mentioned before, The Revealing Science of God features a spectacular intro, from the vocal harmonie, varying from soft tones, to some well-delivered powerful ones(not heavy), then moving to Rick's absoloutely ear-crying moog, such delightness and power, which soon let's Steve deliver some great guitar playing. As a whole, The Revealing Science of God, features the best composition Yes has ever done, maybe not the best solos(however featuring, nonetheless, a killer moog one), but there's definitely no dull moment, quite the contrary, each moment has it's highlight, which needs many listens to totally perceive the whole amazing and grandiose composition, definitely 'Epic'.

Leaving Disc 1 aside, now to Disc 2, with maybe the most challenging compositions Yes has ever done, just below The Gates of Delirium from the next album, Relayer. Disc 2 opens with The Ancient, the song that still costs me to get into out of the 4 song here. Featuring some very dissonant notes almost all through the song, reminding me to Gentle Giant's dissonance and oddness, while having top-notch musicians, the whole composition doesn't flow normally, however like I mentioned before, here Steve Howe has a solo spot on the acoustic guitar in the last 6 minutes, really beautiful and great, making worthwhile the song, at least for me.

Now, finally, to the highly acclaimed epic, Nous Sommes Du Soleil(Ritual), with the already mentioned jaw-dropping bass perfomance all through the song, the song-writing of this one compromises of the themes from the last 3 songs, so you can expect some cliches, however this just makes Ritual Yes' magnum opus, with the ideas of the 3 previous songs into one, just makes a stunning song, taking the wonderful moog melodies and great, competent musicianship from The Revealing Science of God, while from The Remembering, Ritual takes it's soft soundscapes and passages, and finally taking The Ancient's weirdness, however all these themes are not united at the same time, if not each giving it's time to develop and truly shine.

Tales From Topographic Oceans is definitely not your typical Symphonic Prog album, however, such brilliance forged into this album, must not be ignored by any means. Not as perfect as Close to the Edge, nor as complex as Relayer, however none of those 2, share the mightiness this one has, making a easy 5 stars album, despite some flaws.

If you like to go through deep listens again and again to a album, to really get what the band has created, this one is definitely for you. NOT a easy album to get into.

The Quiet One | 5/5 |


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