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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover

TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2355 ratings

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Space Chief
3 stars Yes' "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is the most controversial Prog album of all time. Barring the discovery of King Crimson's long lost "Nashville Madness!" album, it always will be. Is it a well thought-out, enlightening piece of Prog magic as its supporters claim? Or is it as its detractors say, an overlong, boring piece of pretentious crap? The answer is somewhere near the middle.

I would like to get something out of the way. This album is always being attacked for its "nonsensical" lyrics. I've never understood why they say this; "classic" Yes songs such as "Starship Trooper", "Roundabout" or "Close to the Edge" make even less sense than anything on "Tales". If it has the Yes logo on it, you should know full well it isn't going to make any sense. Besides, I believe Jon Anderson was somewhat- trying a technique used today by groups such as Radiohead and Sigur Ros: Using the voice as an instrument rather than for communication. Now, on to the songs.

"The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)" starts with some "ocean" sounds, some keyboarding, and leads to Jon's "Dawn of Light" chant which is one of my favorite bits on the album. Then we get the opening riff, Jon starts singing, and the song goes on from there. "Revealing" is a very good track in places and is the second best on the album, but goes on too long and seems to lose steam halfway in. The biggest disappointment comes at the end, where we're expecting a big climax, and then-it simply fades out. Nevertheless, the good outweighs the bad, and it is an overall success.

"The Remembering (High The Memory)" follows. It's the most keyboard-heavy song on the album, as seen by the long, dull "topographic ocean" synthesizer stretches which dominate it. These keep the song from being a Yes standout, and it's a shame, considering how good the "Other Skylines" and "Relayer" parts are. The song does tighten up for the ending, though.

"The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)" is definitely the weak point of the album. Yes are clearly being experimental, with mixed results. The "Tribal" part has a few good points (The riff from "Siberian Khatru" shows up) but most of it passable at best. The part beginning around the 8:40 mark is particularly bad. Luckily, a wonderful Spanish guitar solo starts leading into the plaintive "Leaves of Green" section. This saves the song from total mediocrity and is one of my favorite parts of this album. There's something wonderfully ironic about how most of the keyboard- heavy, "enlightening" stuff on the album is outclassed by a simple little guitar ballad.

"Ritual (Nous sommes Du Soleil)" is the most cohesive and overall best song here. It's suprisingly rocking (Compare to "Remembering"), tight and a standout of Yes as a whole. It starts as a standard Yes song, with the guitar doing stuff, and continues to the very interesting part around the 11-minute mark. Then the song realizes it's been too good and throws us just what all music needs- a tribal drum solo. This part just seems like random noise as opposed to music, and besides, drum solos are never that good anyway. Luckily, the lovely "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" floats in, and after, a very un-Yes-like and haunting ending to the album.

The Rhino Remaster also has two bonus tracks- early renditions of "Revealing" and "Ancient". The former is thorughly unremarkable, and the latter continues the tribal-experimentation approach before an electric(!) "Leaves of Green".

"Tales" is a very "extreme" album- When it's good, it's great, but when it's not, it can be just plain dull. Yes had reached a point where they had nearly complete creative freedom and ran with it- something all of us can apreciate. However, there are times where it seems to forget the listener entirely. "Tales" is not Yes at their best- I would not choose this for Yes beginners, try "Fragile" first- but it can be very enjoyable.

Space Chief | 3/5 |

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