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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2357 ratings

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Midnight Lightning
5 stars Oh boy, this album just sounds so good and interesting to me. This is quite a change from what Yes did before it, for example, there is very little here in the way of hard rock, like on Roundabout or Siberian Khatru, and there seems to me to usually be more of an emphasis on ambience. While there are no "solo songs" like each member had on Fragile, there are several sections which focus on particular members. Oh, and this is the first Yes album where there seems to be one underlying concept. I guess the concept essentially boils down to philosophical reflections on 1) God, 2) the human mind, 3) ancient civilizations and 4) human life. It might all seem at first like a load of new-age philosophy balderdash ("Sunlight, rainbows... Asking for the source..."), but for me it works. I find the lyrics to be deceptively deep and meaningful, and if nothing else, conducive to evoking thoughts, emotions and mental images that help to understand the subjects of the songs. The music is as ambitious if not more so than the concept, with some very unique combinations of sounds. There are only four long songs with themes that come and go throughout. Despite there only being five musicians, they are all excellent, and so many cool things are happening here pretty much at all times. Many people have described the music much better than I could, but I'll try to just quickly mention a couple of highlights from each song:

The Revealing Science of God: The atmosphere slowly intensifying as Jon incants, building up to the main theme and welcoming us to the album, and Wakeman's solo near the end which is accompanied by a constantly changing rhythm, to me it sounds even better than the equivalent Wakeman solo near the end of Close to the Edge. The Remembering: When a more uptempo part suddenly appears out of the calm atmosphere with an acoustic lute-like guitar and some bouncy bass, and the part after Jon says "And I do think very well" for the second time near the end, perhaps the most rocking part of the album. The Ancient: What the heck is going on with the frantic percussion+keys, wah-wah bass noises and an intriguing guitar solo over it all at the beginning? I don't know, but I like it. And Steve's classical guitar playing in the second half is lovely, some of the best I've heard from him. Ritual (Hard to say for sure, but perhaps my favorite song on the album): Jon heartwarmingly singing "Nous Somme du Soleil (we are of the sun), we love when we play" with some uplifting music near the beginning, and later the super cool "drum solo" section or whatever it's meant to be.

This whole album just makes me feel so good. Even though it's not everyone's cup of tea, and it's quite unlike any other Yes album, this is my favorite of theirs, and I feel it's an essential masterpiece of progressive rock. I would recommend every prog fan give it a good couple of listens and see if it grows on them. For me it's easily 5 stars.

Midnight Lightning | 5/5 |


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