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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2348 ratings

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4 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans may be the most important prog album ever, but it is by no means the best. It is certainly a controversial one, causing disagreements between many prog fans over whether this album is truly great. For me, this album is very enjoyable, but falls short of being a 5 star album by its lack of consistency.

-The Revealing Science Of God- Depending on whether you own the 2003 remaster or the original edition, the album starts with Jon giving an amazing Dalek-esque chant. The lyrics are still as inaccessible as ever, which is what you come to expect from Yes really. The song itself is definitely prog-standard, with the feeling that it is split into different (although unnamed) movements. The main theme is actually very catchy and reprises many times throughout the album. However the flaw in this song is that there are not enough heavy instrumentals to rock you (towards the end there is such an instrumental but it disappears very quickly). In fact there is quite a lot crammed into this song, and its very confusing to listen to for the first time. However it is a good opener and grows on you with time.

-The Remembering- Yawn. The first NINE MINUTES of this are really quite dull and folky. You really aren't sure where the song is going. After that, a catchy theme finally comes in, and the song starts to get (mildly) interesting. The word 'Relayer' is repeated giving birth to the name to the follow-up album. The song starts to really rock with Squire's heavy distinctive bass coming through loud. Then there is a 2 minute ambient section before the outro begins. And my what an outro it is, the best on the album in my opinion. Jon yelling 'RAINBOW, SUNRISE' and Howe's thick guitar is a very good way to end the song. There is a complete lack of consistency in this song, with the first 9 minutes being extremely dull, and the last 3 minutes being awesome. Sitting through those first 9 minutes will pay off though.

-The Ancient- Side 3, and the shortest track on the album at eighteen and a half minutes. However, this song is a total mindfuck. This song sounds nothing else in the Yes catalogue. The first 12 minutes consist of one of the weirdest and least accessible instrumentals ever, briefly punctuated by Jon's ever bizarre, sometimes nonsensical lyrics. At around the 13 minute mark, Howe goes headlong into an awe inspiring acoustic guitar solo which makes a nod to 'Close To The Edge' (listen carefully at 13:26). Afterwards there is a lovely peaceful acoustic song, which is cheapened by Wakeman's whiny sounding keyboard, but is beautiful nonetheless. You could have forgotten the clusterfuck that went before if it wasnt for the 1 minute outro that seems to reprise some of the bizarre themes from the earlier part of the song. The weakest track on the album.

-Ritual- This is my favourite song, all in all very well balanced, if maybe a little drawn out at the end. The opening instrumental lasts for 5 minutes, and was in fact sampled by the hip-hop group De La Soul for their song 'The Grind Date'. This instrumental is lots of fun, and the guitar solo towards the end reprises not only 'RSOG' but also 'CTTE' yet again! Then there is an approximately 5 minute vocal section which is sublime. After this comes the main instrumental of the song which lasts about 6 minutes, the first half is mainly devoted to Squire's bass which is slightly subdued by the rest of the band. The second half is a very peculiar drum solo which features most of the band on timpani, and Yes-newbie Alan White giving it all he's got on the drums in the meanwhile. This sinks slowly into the final verse of the song and then the outro. Both of these last parts are nothing but exquisite. A beautiful end to such a bizarre album.

This is one of those albums that you want to enjoy to the 5 star level, and some people obviously can, by looking at other reviews! Four 20 minute songs seems to be the formula for a winner in terms of prog. However there are too many weak points, I feel, for it to be a masterpeice. However, I do recommend it to everyone, because you won't know what it's like until you try it!

baz91 | 4/5 |


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