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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2334 ratings

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4 stars A very good album that showed promise of being a great one, "Tales of Topographic Oceans" suffers from one consistent flaw throughout every song, and it's none of the things people would presume, such as the length or the psychedelic excursions. Rather, the trouble is the endings.

The things that many people found troublesome about this album-the song length and the pretensions of grandeur, mainly-are aspects that I honestly have no trouble accepting. The only song that lacks a convincing hook and a reason for being as long as it is is the first song(sadly also the longest); the rest are simply expanded to be able to carry their themes and operatic scope across, and while interest wanes at some points for the most part they carry out their duties well. The album has an odd tonal mix of whimsy melancholy-when Anderson sings "Don the cap and close your eyes, imagine all the glorious challenge", he's clearly wishing for something that could be, not for something that is currently attainable. Much of the album is like this-hoping and pleading for the human race to get their act together before it's too late. It is in many ways a logical extension of the themes and sound of "Close to the Edge", and for the most part it succeeds.

The trouble is that none of these grand, epic songs know how to close themselves out-the last minute or so each one doesn't feature anything conclusive about the near-half-hour of music you've just consumed, choosing instead to either fade out or simply wander away. This lack of finality to each grand theme leaves the listener feeling slightly cheated, as though one has just sat through an essay without a thesis, and it calls attention to the weaker parts of the songs that, while they are few, feel far more significant than if any of the songs were able to close themselves out in ways that matched their epic scope. The fadeout of birds and nature on "Close to the Edge" gives the listener a moment of meditation and perspective on the song that had just come before it. The uncertain closings of "The Remembering", "The Ancient" and "Ritual" simply leave one feeling confused and wanting. And believe me, "wanting" is the last thing one should feel after having heard 20 minutes of Shastic interpretations!

The potential for a magnificent album was here-can you imagine if each song had managed to fulfill its promise up to the very last minute? They don't, however, and while that doesn't take away from the pleasing, thoughtful experience of listening to each song through, it does leave one with an overall feeling of dissatisfaction. Still, I'll give it 4 stars, simply because the music itself is quite wonderful and profound, even if it can't quite hold up its end of the bargain in the final analysis.

40footwolf | 4/5 |


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