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Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 2353 ratings

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5 stars There is a certain mystique surrounding this album, of a Serious-Prog-Fans-Only type.

Perhaps I could try to dispel this misconception, as someone who's by no means sold on all prog rock. To give some context here, I find much prog music only really succeeds on an intellectual level, and lacks any real depth of emotional engagement. This is why I feel Tales From Topographic Oceans to be one of the finest examples of this type of music. It's intellectually and technically absorbing certainly - but it also has a genuine emotional and spiritual depth which makes it truly special.

I find it hard to believe that a number of people find Close To The Edge, for example, to be a finer album. Close to the Edge is pleasant enough, but at no time, for me, does it reach the heights or depths that this album has to offer. The first of the four movements in particular - The Revealing Science of God - which I'm listening to as I write this, is special from start to finish. It begins with the sound of the ocean, from which the first tentative notes of the theme emerge, like Botticelli's Venus from the waves. This then develops into Anderson's driving hypnotic opening chant. After about four minutes (amazingly - it doesn't seem anything like that length of time) the full band is in, reprising the main theme. From there we proceed thru various sections, some of which mirror themes that will be returned toin the other three parts of the work. "I must have waited all my life for this... moment"

At no point does it seem to me (who have very little tolerance for meandering pointless prog widdlings, or bloated padding of any sort) that something unnecccesary is being done here. Everything is in its place, and I am carried naturally along. When it rocks it does rock, and when it subsides into gentle lyricism, there's a beauty and simplicity there that is in no way forced or artificial. The slower passage at about ten minutes is one of my favourite passages of music, and is something which persistently echoes into my life at unpredictable moments, even when I haven't listened to the album in a year or more. The wonderful slow rising mellotron lines, Chris Squire's spot-on bass playing, the vocals when the same passage is repeated later, have a timeless quality about them.

In fact, this timeless feel gets close to the heart of what I find precious about Tales From Topographic Oceans. Against any criticism of the length or content of this album, whether by detractors of this type of music, or by fans who have never quite clicked with this particular album, or by Wakeman or whoever - I would offer this line by William Blake. "The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure." For me, the worth of this music, like Blake's idea of wisdom, is something not swept out by the clock.

Or by the stars for that matter - but to give it less than five would simply be a travesty.

organica | 5/5 |


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