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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2354 ratings

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Winter Wine
5 stars One album I've had the strangest relationship with would be 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'. When my dad first handed me his old vinyl it felt like Christmas, Having heard 'Close to the Edge' and 'Going For the One' many times before I was delighted to be handed Tales, Twice as much Yes, Has to be good!

So before I rushed into putting it on my dad informed me that there was only four songs! I for some reason didn't really think that was a big deal at all, So maybe I wasn't the typical 14 year old, But I took his advice and listened to one side for a while before moving on. And so I did. However, After listening to only the first two sides a good few times and enjoyed doing so, I was in no humour to put on the last two sides. And I didn't, Until a couple of months ago when the melodies of the first two tracks suddenly popped into my head and I thought, Oh God I must hear them again. I put the entire record on. Now the first track that I hadn't heard yet was 'The Ancient', So what do you think I thought of it?

Utter madness, Noise, Stubborn ear splitting pile of crap. Next up 'Ritual', Delightful! The easiest side long track I've ever gotten into. So after many, many listens of the entire album and put more thought into it than my schoolwork for the past five years, I now have come to one easy conclusion, The album is a masterpiece.

The music is incredible, It can be dreamy and reflective, Noisy and aggressive, Lively and rhythmic, Mellow and calm, Almost everything really. Although the album is mostly created by Jon Anderson and Steve Howe, The whole band shines throughout. Alan White replaces Bill Bruford and straight away sounds at home, Coming up with many great percussive ideas and giving a solid backing to the tracks. Chris Squire's bass doesn't seem as propulsive as on previous albums as there is not much opportunity, On 'Ritual' however his bass is very powerful, Chris Squire is still Chris Squire and does great work. Rick Wakeman, Ah, Not as pivotal in the creation of the album as you may already know, But his playing and sound is extremely important on this album. He creates, as Jon Anderson says 'A flow and depth' to the music, And I strongly believe his work on Tales is some of his very best.

So how do the main two fare? Well, of course. Steve Howe says that some of his best guitar work is on Tales, And who could disagree? Not me anyway. The songs appear to be structured around Howe's guitar, almost. Jon Anderson seems to recieve a terrible amount of criticism for this album, Now come on, He did not invade Iraq!! He gave his all (Albeit some strange circumstances) in creating this very spiritual and positive work and I think he succeeded.

That said, The album does have its share of flaws. Padding occurs in some tracks, Though maybe not as much as you'd expect, And sometimes there is a lack of energy that was most likely brought on by extensive touring, Or constant arguing I'm not too sure. Also many people seem perturbed by the length of the album, Which is only spread across four tracks. However, Because of the ambition of the work, And the goals it set to achieve, I think that these are not major problems at all. As Howe says 'There's a reason why it was so long, Because we were exploratory. If Yes weren't exploratory we wouldn't have bothered to write so long, And we wouldn't have bothered to explore so many ways of doing our music'

To analyze the tracks would maybe take a lot of time, But I will briefly sum up what is great about each one, If I can do it justice, Give me a Nobel Prize -

'The Revealing Science of God' - Ony of the more accessible tracks on the album. If you buy the expanded and remastered edition of the album (Which I did recently and am ecstatic, It's all done very well) then you will have an extra two minute intro to this track that never appeared on the original album, Which is unfortunate as it sets a sort of 'earthy' atmosphere right from the start. The Revealing is simply trademark Yes, Many different sections that alternate between mellow and rock. Beautiful and unforgettable melodies. Jon explores some wild lyrical concepts but if you use an open mind, You can develop your own meaning to his words, Which is why I enjoy Yes so much, The avant garde lyrics have always captured my imagination. Steve adds great guitar and Rick creates a wonderful backing atmosphere before he gives us one of his greatest (And most violent sounding) synth solos ever, A fantastic climax before the odd spoken word outro finishes on a softer note.

'The Remembering' - The most overlooked. More dreamy and wandering than the track beforehand, Very relaxing. Again many noticable, distinct sections. My favourite would have to be the folky section in which Anderson sings 'Don the cap and close your eyes, imagine all the glorious challenge, Iron metal cast to others, Distant drums'. There is a very strong sense of nostalgia in this track, Which I think is what Anderson set out to achieve, This is shown in lines such as 'Wait all the more regard your past, Schoolgates remind us of our class, Chase all confusion away with us'.

'The Ancient' - The crazy one! The tribal feel to this track has grown on me an incredible amount, Howe brings in themes from the tracks beforehand (And album beforehand) and makes them seem how they would have sounded like two thousand years ago. Very effective, If at first frustrating. The acoustic section that takes up the second half is very beautiful, Great acoustic guitar and Anderson's melodies are perfect, Although at first I thought his vocals in the 'crazy section' sounded slightly weak. Just don't ask me what 'Naytheet, Ah kin, Saule' means!

'Ritual' - The most accessible. I feel that 'Ritual' is slightly like a twenty minute 'Starship Trooper'. Driving bass, Catchy melodies, Very rhythmic. Of course there is more to it than that, The closing 'Nous Sommes Du Soleil' section can only be described as perfection. Wonderful piano from Wakeman and very touching singing. Great way to finish what can only be described as a journey.

If you've read all that, Thank you! I appreciate it. 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' has become my second favourite album after 'Close to the Edge', And I feel that there is a lot be said about it. The album received a critical thrashing on release (Although perhaps strangely, Time magazine ranked it as one of the best of the year!) and I think Yes created something that demands much more appraisal than it gets.

Winter Wine | 5/5 |


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