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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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Andy Webb
Special Collaborator
Retired Admin
5 stars It's wonderfully pretentious, but that's a good thing!

Tales from Topographic Oceans is Yes's first double album, and it's an impressive show. Inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi, the 4-movement epic starts off with the impressive Revealing Science of God (Dance of Dawn), then The Remembering (High the Memory), then The Ancient (Giants under the Sun), and ultimately Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) (or "we are the sun," for the non-French speakers).

The Revealing Science of God is an absolutely fantastic song, and it's hard to refute that. Opening with a quiet vocal piece, breaking into a sweeping instrumental section, featuring Wakeman and Howe's great prowess, the song is off to a good start. The piece serves as a sudo-overture, using riffs and tones which are used in the other movements of the track. Despite its near 21-minute length, it is a very "popularly-acceptable" track, featuring a nice chorus, not too bombastic instrumental sections, smooth part changes, and beautiful melodies. To listen to the track all the way through is a refreshing and relaxing experience, especially with Steve Howe's magnificent guitar sections. Vocal melodies are near-perfect all throughout, as are the great lyrics. One quarter down, and we're off to a great start, and really puts the Mood for a Day (good insinuation? I think so).

The Remembering opens with a folk-y section very reminiscent to Mike Oldfield's work. The entire track is lighter than its predecessor and has a much more folk-inspired sound. The intro in this song drags a little bit, as the guitar and vocal part repeat on and on for 3 minutes before breaking into something new past the 4 minute mark. Despite this, the reed organ and rotary guitar sound is a nice instrumental duo. The track doesn't vary as much, and isn't as interesting as TRSoG. Around 11 minutes, half way through the song, it finally picks up, but then slows down. The work "Relayer" is repeated frequently, which is probably foreshadowing for the band's next album. Overall, this side is a little bit less exciting and more folk-y, similar to Mike Oldfield in the sound. It drags at times and picks up at times, making this track about average.

The Ancient opens with an eerie percussive section, introduced by a gong and continued with some hi-hat smacking before breaking into a faster paced and exciting instrumental section with all 4 instrumentalists, most notably Wakeman's keyboard sound and White's rim hits, and then Howe and Squire coming in. The song is the most exciting of the 4, and is drastically different from TRSoG and The Remembering. It is more bombastic, and is much more experimental. The instrumental sections are odd and exciting, and really keep you on the edge of your seat until the next part change takes you on a sweeping melodic journey. Overall, the piece may alienate a few classic symphonic fans as a weird bombastic attempt at hard rock, but will attract more fans that are looking for something eclectic and different.

Ritual is the song that ties the 4 mammoth movements together. Opening with a Peter Gabriel era Genesis like guitar solo, the instrumental section is spectacular, combining all the sounds from the rest of the album into a great intro. The "catch-phrase" Nous Sommes du Soleil is heard all throughout the album is a great addition, especially with the instrumental section behind it. Riffs and melodies heard throughout the rest of the album are revisited here and in great new ways. Overall, this is one of the better tracks on the album. It is the longest, exceeding 21 minutes, but is so massive in its depth and magnitude that I wish it was longer.

ALBUM OVERALL: If I could give this album 100 stars, I would. I may be a bit partial to long pieces, such as The Flower King's Garden of Dreams, Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, any Mike Oldfield piece, or Transatlantic's Whirlwind, but even those are nothing compared to the gracious magnificence of Tales. If you can, buy this album. I found it in vinyl in my father's basement, and was nearly jumping up in down in joy. It is an essential prog album.

Andy Webb | 5/5 |


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