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5 stars It's the album people love to hate! Overblown? Padded? Pretentious? It's probably all of these things, but give it a chance - it's magnificent ands comes from a time when some bands could write what they wanted without the record company breathing down their necks. What a shame the production quality, even in remastered forms (so I read), is lacklustre and lacking the crystal clear sound of Close to the Edge.
Report this review (#13195)
Posted Thursday, December 18, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars Give a chance to this record! Don't be scared by the length of the songs and listen to it several times: you'll definitely begin to love it. Certainly there are some weaker moments (and probably a version during about 1 hour would be perfect) but you'll find out also some of the most beautiful themes and atmospheres yes have ever composed.
Report this review (#13196)
Posted Thursday, December 18, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars There must be some missunderstanding ("Genesis"!!) out there; True artists create their music, poems or paintings without asking for permission concerning measurements. I've rarely heardcomments on the time used by Beethoven in a symphony ("-Sorry boy, we have to expel you from the Vienna school"), or the inches used by Monet in a canvas? ("-Oh, is that really an impressionist?") It is not by definition that "prog tunes are abnormally long". They could be like 15 seconds as well, and still be masterpieces. A true artist uses the time that he/she needs to express what's essential. Britney Spears, on the other hand, sings a song that is put in her hand. ...And it must keep to a format for several different commercial and practical reasons. So please accept the terrible progboys in Yes and say "Thank you" for "Topographic Oceans". This music cycle might amuse or thrill you, comfort or please you. And, not even on the sleeve you can read how long it is. If you have the original vinyls, however, you can see how long the resp. four parts are. Does it make you more happy? Not me - I just love the music. So does Gustav Mahler, I suppose.
Report this review (#13127)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars Close To The Edge is perfect. Even if Yes had stopped making music right there, they would still be one of the top few best bands ever and could already lay claim to some of the greatest albums to ever come out of rock. But what firmly cements Yes' status as the farthest-reaching band of all time are the two albums that came next: the unsurpassed twin peaks of TALES and RELAYER. Each exponentially deeper than CTTE in terms of both scope and musicianship, it's only natural that many fans (and even certain band members) will begin to fall off at this point, and thus never behold Yes in their true splendor and forever be confused at the ardor of those who have. Simply put, Tales From Topographic Oceans is one of the most magical and beautiful recordings of all time, and the empty critiques of the unknowing can never reach it. Musically speaking, what we have here is over 80 minutes of Yes' most daring and sophisticated explorations yet: deliberately recapitulating themes, carefully arranged instrumental sequences ("extended solos" to the musically deaf ear), breathaking vocal harmonies, oceanic soundscapes (thanks mainly to Rick Wakeman, the bewildered oaf), classical-worthy acoustic performances... needless to say, this is not a "one listen" album -- this an album that grows with you in time, becoming an ever more rewarding musical experience as you gradually come to terms with its immense magnitude over repeated listens. We are in a completely different territory than the Bruford days: the climb may be rougher for some, but the peaks are higher beyond compare. If you want to begin to explore the true pinnacle of Yes music, invest some time in appreciating this vast and immortal masterpiece, then brace yourself for the utter transcendence which is RELAYER. Happy listening.
Report this review (#13208)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars Progressive rock did not "progress" past this point. A double album, one epic track per side based on the teachings of a spiritual buddhist master. There is no guitar playing anywhere that sounds like this. I suspect that in a higher level of existance the record shops will be full of albums if this magnitude but here on planet earth only a few individuals who have come to the end of their karmic cycles and thousands of lifetimes are ready to embrace Topographic oceans. Sound pretentious? Yeah, but what if I'm right? The earth still flat is it?
Report this review (#13130)
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Definitively over the edge and sunken in the depth of the ocean

Well it appears that most big prog groups were bound to make a big blunder, and this double album is certainly their first one, but hardly their last. Obviously the group's success with their previous two opus went straight to inflate some member's ego, and certainly Jon Anderson's. He was already guilty of that esoteric crap in the group's lyrics, but here he goes way overboard with his tantric BS. I guess that Howe got cornered and stuck to develop music around the lyrics, which is probably why the music sucks as well, even if not as badly as the that sung guru smut. Apparently, the only one keeping his head (not for long since he's gone after this disaster, is Wakeman, although in terms of embarrassing crappy projects, he's got no lessons to take from anyone. The newcoming Alan White (ex-Yoko Ono Plastic Band) hasn't got much to say in the group's direction, and he's got much to do to fill Bruford's shoes.

Four sidelong tracks expressing four state of minds or awareness, season, elements or dimension (who cares, really??), but AFAIC, they all suck the big one. Sounds a bit harsh??. Well imagine the headaches I had to suffer after just one side of this album?. Coz, aside Ritual, there is hardly breathing space or slower moments and these "things" are way to wordy, and Jon's irritating vocals are overly present and tend to hide whatever interesting (if any) musical ideas behind them. The only redeeming quality of this album is the outstandingly superb Dean gatefold artwork (clearly my fave of the band), but it's definitely nowhere near close enough to save this dreadful dreck.

Too demanding for the listener to be regarded this as good stuff, I simply don't know anybody who admitted listening to the whole two records in a row (let alone to two separate sides in a row). This is tedious at best, boring certainly and annoying at times. This is the drop that filled the bucket for a lot of casual prog amateurs back then and Works from ELP, made it overflow.

Report this review (#13210)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pretentious, bloated, egotistical, reputedly loathed by Wakeman (but in truth just thought of as 'too long' by him - he told me himself); 'Tales' is all these. It's also my favourite album of all time. This, for me, is the definitive symphonic pompous intelligent prog rock album - and I love it.
Report this review (#13128)
Posted Monday, February 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rule number one in Prog: Never let your concepts exceed your abilities. Yes failed to follow this rule on TFTO and the resulting album is a true mess-terpiece. God love 'em, you can hear what they are trying to do with this thing, but when you hear them fall short of their goals it makes you suppress a laugh. Kind of like when your college professer forgets that he moved his chair and falls flat on his...back when he goes to sit down. It was a very ambitious project and they gave it their all, so A for effort, C- for execution. Perhaps given more time and concentration they could have raised this album to meet their own high standards. In the liner notes Jon Anderson explains that he and Steve Howe worked on the music in hotel rooms by candlelight while on tour. They should have turned on the lights.
Report this review (#13211)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars So here is in lies one of progressive rock's most arguable albums of all time... some love it , other hate it and others don't get it... I must tell you that I love this album and always have. IMHO this is one of YES' most progressive works, featuring 4 side long tracks each building on one another and setting quite a memorable mood from start to finish. What I have always loved about "Topographic" is that although it captures the signature YES sound it really takes the band in a new direction and builds a wonderful and highly original soundscape for the listener to get lost in. I am sure most of you have this recording and fall in one of the camps I mentioned earlier and I would strongly suggest you pick up the re-mastered version of this album.
Report this review (#13107)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Beware of those lengthy footnotes!

Ah, "Tales from Topographic oceans", do you love it or do you hate it?

Even the band members themselves are divided on this one, Rick Wakeman having publicly derided it. Indeed, one live performance of the album in its entirely gave rise to the legendary curry incident. (For more information, see the opening chapter of the excellent Yes biography "Close to the edge"). Personally, I love "Tales..". Yes, it is excessive, indulgent, long, etc., but it is also thoroughly enjoyable.

The original LP has one track per side of a double album. Unlike "Close to the edge", in this case each track is a single complete piece, i.e. the songs are not made up of individually named sub-sections. The story behind the concept is suitably obscure and indulgent, the inspiration being taken from a "Lengthy footnote on page 83 of "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramhansa Yoganada".

"The revealing science of God, Dance of the dawn" kicks off side one. For me, this is the best of the four tracks. Anderson is in fine vocal form, just as well really as this track has the most vocal passages of the four. Wakeman's keyboards are dominant throughout, although rather uncharacteristically, this is in the form of sweeping synth layers for the band to build on, rather than virtuoso performance. Towards the end he breaks loose, and slips in one of his breathtaking synthesiser solos. There is a beauty and atmosphere to this track which sets it apart from the others.

"The remembering, high the memory" is fairly similar in structure to the first track. Once again, Wakeman's keyboards are much in evidence, and Anderson is called up for vocal duty frequently. The overall composition is not quite as strong as "Revealing science of God", but it's pretty damn close. There's a wonderful section midway through, which has an oceanic feel, Wakeman's synths plunging ever deeper, before Anderson pulls things back to the main melody for the uplifting conclusion.

"The ancient, Giants under the sun" is the one track which in my opinion does not make the grade. The first half consists pretty much of Steve Howe practicing his scales on lead guitar. Had the track started when he swapped it for the acoustic one half way through, the album would have benefited immensely. The latter half of the track features a beautiful Howe and Anderson duet, the rest of the band having little input to this section. Lyrically, the song is one of Anderson's most poignant and accessible, complementing Howe's fine acoustic guitar solo perfectly.

The final track, "Ritual, Nous Sommes Du Soleil" is slightly harder than the first two, with a dynamic percussion section, which is particularly impressive live, where it is often extended.

The sleeve is one of those famous Roger Dean creations, and must surely rank among his best.

The recently remastered and extended release is lavishly packaged, and includes an instrumental intro to "Revealing science of God" (not previously released), plus two full length studio run throughs of that track and "The Ancient" (which includes an electric version of the second half of that track). These additional tracks are interesting but not essential.

I readily acknowledge that "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is controversial, and wide open to criticism, but for me, it's one of their best.

Report this review (#13124)
Posted Saturday, April 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans: You either love it or you hate it. I love it personally, even if the music is overlng and somewhat repetitive. The music is beautiful the whole way through, the vocal parts are subperb, and the musicianship is excellent. If you are a Yes fan, or a fan of 70's Progressive Rock for that matter, this is essential for your collection.
Report this review (#13125)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I think it's the worst YES album: even big generator is better! Well, I never decoded this music. Quite boring and insignificant! Rick WAKEMAN's keyboards often consist in linear mellotrons and organ, less great than on close to the edge. It seems they do not play with full intensity. Songs are often lengthy, and the airs are quite not catchy. The mellow bits are boring, and it's hard not to zap to another bit. Nevertheles, it's still the good YES sound and they play well their instruments, that's why I give 3 stars, no more!
Report this review (#13170)
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sometimes a good idea is just that. And many a muse's gift bestowed in a late-night reverie loses its lustre in the lucidity of morning. But STEVE HOVE and JON ANDERSON, architects of the inscrutable four-movement "Tales From Topographic Oceans", dragged their bandmates through the musical wilderness in search of their holy grail all the same. The four parts, each a little over twenty minutes in length, apparently relate to the four parts of the shastrick scriptures (ANDERSON further obfuscates the album's intent with predictably vague interpretations of the individual movements). The lyrics, credited to HOWE and ANDERSON, are more spiritually inclined than past efforts, but otherwise stick to the successful idiom of word-painting rather than literal description. The music, credited to the band, is the real problem. There are isolated moments of majesty that recall the high points of "Close to the Edge" and "Fragile", but they're separated by often-chaotic interludes that feature little of the dazzling musical interplay that fans had come to expect. "Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)" is the most effective of the four movements in that it sounds like an actual "band" effort. "The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)" and "The Remembering (High the Memory)" feature some inspired passages, but these are generally the result of HOWE and ANDERSON working in unison while the rest of the band lumbers along. CHRIS SQUIRE's bass is rarely its old acrobatic self, the Fish-like segment in the second half of "The Remembering" notwithstanding. RICK WAKEMAN is clearly bewildered by what to do with these arrangements, dabbing at the canvas unsuccessfully throughout. Alan White's tribal percussion succeeds in a few cameos, including an impressive section in "Ritual", but the fact remains that BILL BRUFORD would have better balanced the bandmates' tendencies to go off in their own directions. The album's low point occurs with "The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)", a noisy avant-garde experiment that ill befits the band. While fans, who would follow their once and future kings anywhere, gave YES the benefit of the doubt, critics of the progressive rock movement found plenty of ammunition on these two records. As for RICK WAKEMAN, he left to follow his own white whale on his "Journey to the Centre of the Earth".
Report this review (#13209)
Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Among their best efforts but not altogether successful. There are some drawn out streaches on side two and three and side four does not make it as a whole. The production is muddy in places and there are too many overdubs for these great musicians to really be HEARD. Also, White is not quite the equal of Bruford. Great stuff can be found on all sides, though. And side one is everything Yes stands for when they are at their best: invention, power and melodic beauty. All in all a small disapointment - a good one that could have been really great
Report this review (#13113)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars "Tales From Pornographic Oceans", or was it something to do with Topogiggio, that mouse on the Ed Sullivan show? I can't remember. This is one silly album. Lots of long winded nonsense, at least in my book, which is the book I am writting from, so there. Rick Wakeman was a pretentious fopp with a cape and that kind of sums up this record...maybe it should be refered to as "cape rock". Of course, Rick was later to go on to such stellar heights as that crazy opera on ice thing. He was always thinking wasn't he. I heard a story once about how he refused to go on stage because, honestly, someone had stolen hi cape! How bout that! It wasn't me...I was no where near the arena. Back to the music (as the crowd shouts..."do we have to?"). Well, come to think of it, no we don't. I thought this record was an immense piece of crap in the mid 70's and holds up as such today! Now don't get me wrong, if you are into this kinda know sub par classical inspired drivel disguised under cape as a rock band with loftier intentions and actually playing rock & roll music while pondering the outer reaches of, well, Topographic Oceans...then by all means this is for you. Take it...please...far away from here. In closing I wll say, I liked the first 2 yes records...loved the third...liked the 4th a lot and tolerated the 5th. From there on's really a fast downhill slide into, well, a toporgraphic ocean somewhere. This LP is one of many reasons why punk rock happened, for that alone, we can praise it, and for no toher reason than that.

Dear Richard....hope you have no more incidents involving loss of capes or mistreatment to any horses you know that may be likely to perform on an ice surface.

Dear Steve. What the hell happened? You were so great in The In Crowd and Tomorrow, not to mention The Yes Album and Fragile. Was it peer pressure?

Dear Jon. Um...the lyrics here are, do have a nice voice.

Dear Chris. You kicked ass from The Syn onwards...I don't hold you responsible for any of this mess.

Report this review (#13133)
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The love it or hate it double album. I think the reason why some fans, and band members dislike this album is because it takes a long time to build up and because there is so much material it requires a lot of patience and the right state of mind to listen to. One flaw of the album is that if you listen to one of the tracks individually they are not as impressive as when you listen to the album as a whole because the first track is an excellent build up to the remembering and it continuouslly progresses into better pieces, just very slowly. I think it was silly to include ritual on the recent ultimate collection as it feels like they've taken a snippet from the album whilst if you listen to the rest of the album first the song seems much better.

If none of that compells you to listen to this album then it is always nice to see yes do something different as this album is very experimental and uses many different styles and sections including mellow organ and piano pieces, pounding basslines and guitar/piano battles. Not to mention the incredible drum techniques in ritual. The lyrics show that this album is a concept album about ways of life and the life of yes and refers to christianity at times. Anyone will have to appreciate the almost impossible task of producing 80 minutes of perfectly orchestrated music. This album has its ups and downs but after you settle into it you will love it as much as close to the edge, relayer and fragile. Perhaps this one is different because the other albums just mentioned really grab you by the balls and always entertain whilst this album takes a while to get going. Jon Andersons vocals are still upto par as usual. This is brilliant stuff and i think it did well for yes. I would much recommend this album over anything after relayer. In a word...yes.

Report this review (#13134)
Posted Saturday, July 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars

If you really need to figure this album out, you will need a set of headphones, a comforable chair, and a good old fashioned doobie. It is a psychadelic masterpiece. Through headphones the sounds are coming from all over the place and it's just the most amazing sounding record. Some folks said it was boring, but I think it's designed for the space out. They bring you back when they need to tell you something verbally and then send you back off to space out some more. It's just mind bending and beautifull.

Report this review (#13136)
Posted Saturday, August 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars YES`s less accessible album. Mainly, an album composed by basic ideas by Anderson and Howe, later completed by musical ideas and arrangements by Squire, White and Wakeman. If "Brain Salad Surgery" by ELP could be called "excessive", this could be called "two times excessive". If some critics of prog rock call this kind of music as "excessive", this album is maybe a good example for them. Still, this album also has good things, despite being the YES`s album which I don`t listen very much to. Every "Movement" (as Anderson calls the songs in the sleeve notes) of "Topographic Oceans" has some good melodies, very good keyboard arrangements (even if Wakeman has said that he doesn`t like this album),very good drums and percussion by the then newest member of the band (White) and the usual very good bass guitar parts by Squire. But I don`t understand the meaning of some parts of the lyrics, which as part of a "conceptual album", had to be very important."The Revealing Science of God" is the best song in this album, more accessible than the rest of the songs. "The Remembering" has very good melodies, and it reflects "tranquility" and "musical atmospheres". In this song, Wakeman`s keyboards have a more important role. "The Ancient" is "noisy" sometimes, but it is "Universal" in giving importance to the contributions of several Civilizations to the development of Humanity. In this song, the best thing is an acoustic guitar section with lyrics, which is played sometimes in the present in YES`s concerts (called "Leaves of Green" by some fans in concert reviews in the website "Forgotten Yesterdays"). "Ritual" has some good things, too. In this song, White and Squire have their most important contributions. Howe reprised in this song his "signature melody" from the "Close to the Edge" song. Squire plays a bass solo, followed by White`s drums and percussion solo. After this, the song returns to the musical theme of the start of the song, but the end of the song is like an "anti-climax" because it ends abruptly, and with the sense of sadness or even disillusion (at least for me). Maybe this album could be better if the four "Movements" were originally recorded for one L.P. in shorter forms. But being a double L.P. album, it has a lot of ideas which sometimes seem disconnected one from the other, like the members of YES were struggling how to fill four sides of a double L.P. album. But this album was a good attempt to expand musical ideas over the main conceptual theme of the album. But it also is not the best start for someone who is new to YES`s music.
Report this review (#13141)
Posted Monday, September 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Nous sommes du solei....we laugh when we play...du solleil du soleil"....nothing short of majestic. I cannot for the life of me understand the negative hype about Tales From Topographic Oceans. It has four exquisite sets all unique in their own way, it has four sets of wonderful music complexities. It is progressive rock at it's best. It is art. It is not pretentious.Sure Howe and Anderson were more influential on this album but so what? If you cannot understand the ambience of Roger Deans cover in relation to the album content, you have missed something....look again, listen again too this thirstless classic.
Report this review (#13142)
Posted Thursday, October 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars YES' Tales From Topographic Oceans is one of the few works of progressive rock that can truly be called symphonic. Two of YES' contemporaries; ELP and Genesis, for instance, both of whom come under the "symphonic" banner, never wrote anything as symphonic in nature as 'Topographic Oceans'. What about The Lamb lies down on Broadway, I hear you ask. Well, it's pretty ambitious, that's for sure, but not particularly symphonic. It does have recurring themes, but they're not interconnected in any way. It still remains an album of mostly self contained songs. What about ELP's 'Karn Evil 9', then? Well, okay, it is in three parts just like a standard classical concerto but there's no attempt to integrate the themes, by which I mean, the four movements are self contained and share no common material. Topographic Oceans', however, displays a network of themes and motifs which are carried over from one movement to the next and which give the overall work a structural logic. This not only makes 'Topographic Oceans', broadly speaking, symphonic, it also makes it to some degree "Romantic" in the symphonic tradition inherited and modified by Beethoven; developed by Berlioz, and greatly expanded upon by Mahler. I know I've probably overemphasised and exaggerated the importance and use of symphonic principles in 'Topographic Oceans', however, the point I'm trying to make is, for a mere Rock 'n' Roll album, 'Topographic Oceans' was, and continues to be, a spectacular achievement; a courageous and ingenious attempt to imbue rock music with some of the mystery and depth usually only associated with the Romantic/Symphonic tradition. Interestingly, the only other band from that era to come up with anything remotely comparable to 'Topographic Oceans' is Jethro Tull. Tull's 'Thick as a brick' fulfils some of the criteria needed to be called symphonic; namely, extended form and recurring themes. Ironically, Tull aren't labeled as a "symphonic" rock band, (no mellotron?) which just goes to show how misleading such labeling can be.

The music on this album is startlingly original, Anderson and Howe must have been particularly inspired when they wrote it. The playing is wonderful, too. The only real let- down is Rick Wakeman's decidedly uninspired contribution. It seems plain to me that Wakeman is completely out of his depth on this album. Anderson and Howe are steering the music into turbulent, uncharted waters, and Rick's beer belly and cape are no longer enough to keep him afloat. His trite, cod classicism sounds clumsy, ungainly and incongruous amidst the beautiful melodies and unusual harmonies sung by Anderson, Howe and Squire, and set beside Steve Howe's angular and idiosyncratic guitar parts, Wakeman's relentless diatonicism sounds especially bland and irritating. It is again ironic that Wakeman is renowned for writing symphonic/classical-style music, when, as anyone who's heard Jon Anderson's (as yet unrecorded) orchestral ballet will know, Anderson has a much more sophisticated understanding of what constitutes symphonic music. And the fact that Wakeman is so obviously floundering on this album, suggests that his grasp of the symphonic, and of what the rest of the band is trying to achieve, was somewhat limited, to say the least, which is a shame, as his technique is beyond reproach. Having said that, there's a fine moog solo towards the end of the first track, which is Rick's finest moment on the entire album, and one of the highlights of that particular song. And if you like lush mellotron textures, you'll love the second movement, 'The Remembering'. All in all Wakeman's best playing can be found on the first two tracks, he's way out of his depth on the last two.

One of the most striking things about 'Topographic Oceans' is its unearthly quality. From the very opening bars an other-worldly presence makes itself felt. A big factor in this is Jon Anderson's unique voice and equally unique lyrics. Much has been said against Anderson's lyrics, indeed, many YES fans have even been critical of them. In my opinion his lyrics from the 'Yes Album' to 'Relayer' are some of the most original and beautiful ever written.The first track on 'Topographic Oceans'; 'The Revealing Science of God' presents us with some great musical themes, too: two good examples are the soaring synth melody which bursts in directly after the vocal intro, and the erratic guitar theme, reminiscent of 'Five Miles High' by The Byrds, which pops up throughout the four movements. All the Yes trademarks are here: Chris Squire's distinctive and intelligent bass playing; Steve Howe's frenzied, jazzy/countrified guitar playing, which ends up sounding neither jazzy nor countrified, but, rather, ends up sounding completely alien, especially on the 3rd movement 'The Ancient' where his guitar playing steers the music through countless time and mood changes. This track is the most extreme thing ever written by YES , and in my opinion is the best track on the album. Allan White's contribution cannot be overlooked either. His deliberately tribal yet sophisticated drumming on 'The Ancient' and 'Ritual' adds to the unearthly, ritualistic nature of the music. The percussion onslaught towards the end of 'Ritual' is particularly intense, with White hammering out the bare rhythm of some of the recurring themes, notably the agitated guitar theme from 'Revealing Science of God'. Am I alone in thinking Allan White is much more suited to YES' music than Bill Bruford, whose contribution to 'Close to the Edge' was,in my opinion, almost as incongruous as Wakeman's. It seems Bruford made the right decision to join King Crimson when he did. It's just a pity Wakeman didn't leave after 'Close to the edge', too.(Not to join Crimson, I hasten to add. ) God only knows what 'Topographic Oceans' would have sounded like had the astonishing Mr. Patrick Moraz been involved in its creation. One only need listen to 'Relayer' to get an idea of how much imagination, energy and skill Moraz brought to YES - the first two attributes being something sadly lacking in Wakeman.

Having dwelt on the cerebral and technical aspects of 'Topographic Oceans" I'll end this review by quoting from a fellow reviewer and YES fan, Paul Cromton, who in his recent review of 'Close to the Edge" made this beautiful observation. . .and I quote. . ."you also have to understand that it's not important to understand, and that Prog Rock is feeling and emotion. . ." This is especially true of YES's music. And in order to fully appreciate it, one must be prepared to engage with it on an emotional level, for that's where its real power lies. So, when all is said and done, 'Topographic Oceans' has to be YES' greatest achievement. It is intelligent, sincere, ambitious, inventive, evocative, emotionally charged, and highly original music. And if it has any shortcomings, they're due to the fact that the keyboard player's heart wasn't in it, and his head wasn't up to it. This album is essential. I give it *****

Report this review (#13143)
Posted Friday, October 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I love Tales and think that most people who do not like it just do not appreciate the qualities that make music serious art. I enjoy rock music, but so much of it seems to lack artistic integrity. Many pieces of classical music are long and intricate, and the same is true with jazz. Yes' music is complicated and many of their best pieces are long and intricate. If all a person is used to with music is a three minute thrill in the form of so many rock songs, Yes music will be lost on them. But if you really want and appreciate music that contains genuine emotional depth, Yes may be appealing. In a nut shell, that is why I think Tales is a master piece, rock music with true artistic merit, to stand the test of time (though maybe not popular taste).
Report this review (#13146)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Soaring, beautiful music from the UK's finest-ever prog band, but one which still divides fans and critics 30 years on. I feel sorry for Jon Anderson sometimes, having to defend this album when not even the whole BAND were into it at the time. Rick Wakeman famously hated it and all of the group have agreed at various times down the years that it could have done with a bit of editing. Personally, I like the way they strike out into a kind of jazz-fusion vein on side three (The Ancient) and would have liked to have heard more. It only really crops up again on Soundchaser on the follow-up, Relayer.Rounding off that section with the delicate and highly melodic Leaves Of Green guitar/vocal duet also acts as a nice sweetener for the forthcoming onslaught of Ritual, arguably Yes' greatest epic piece of work, with only Close To The Edge, Awaken or Gates of Delirium coming close. From Ritual's searching opening passage, until Steve Howe locks into the main riff and Anderson's vocals make their understated entrance, through the three-man percussion tour de force by way of some astonishing warp-speed playing from Chris Squire until the closing section rounds off both Ritual and Tales... itself with a delicate fade, it stands as one of the finest pieces of rock music ever recorded. Most of the lacklustre parts of TFTO that some would see discarded are on part two, until Howe's brilliant folky acoustic guitar brings the piece to life, and even the first side, which was the first part of the album to be reinstated when Wakeman and Howe rejoined the band, is lacklustre in places. As regards Anderson and Howe's lyrics, yes they are over-reaching and pretentious, but surely that's the whole point? Let's not discard ambition in case someone laughs and says we're getting above ourselves. The words just add further colour to an already dazzling palette. The sleeve packaging is probably Roger Dean's best-known painting - apart from the Yes logo itself - which is saying something given the man's career. Definitely not an album any self-respecting prog fan should be without, although go for Close To The Edge and Fragile first if you're just discovering Yes music. Then go for the hard stuff!
Report this review (#13147)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
3 stars Someone once remarked that if you look up the word "pretentious" in the dictionary, you will see a picture of "Tales From Topographic Oceans." I wouldn't go quite that far, but I can see why some people might agree with that. However, if I had to use only two words to describe this album, they would be "maddeningly inconsistent" - especially from a band as great as Yes had become at that point.

The blame for this rests squarely on the head of Jon Anderson, not only for forcing this bizarre and self-indulgent (if not blatantly ridiculous) concept on the band, but, along with blameworthy Steve Howe, not allowing Squire, Wakeman or White to contribute to the initial ideas, structure and writing of the piece. Can you imagine any other great prog bandleader - Gabriel, Hamill, Fish, even Fripp, for Pete's sake - doing something like that? Writing - especially prog writing - has always been, and should be, a group effort. Indeed, of the other eight seminal prog bands (Crimson, Floyd, Moody Blues, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, VCGG, ELP), I simply cannot imagine any of their leaders doing something like that. It is virtually the antithesis of what progressive rock has always been about: collaboration and multi-level input.

There are two additional reasons why Tales is not as good as it might have been. First, it was written for LP, not CD; i.e., each "section" had to "fit" on an LP side, which set up "false" parameters for the songwriting. As Rick Wakeman has pointed out, had the CD format been available at that time, Anderson might not have been as self-indulgent, and the band might have been able to make Tales a far better edited, more cohesive concept.

Second, to my ears, there is no question that the entire concept of Tales was "written to be performed." That is, although it is ostensibly a "studio" album, Anderson had to be well aware of the power that Yes had "live." Having just come off a wildly successful tour, I believe that, in writing Tales, Anderson ultimately had the stage in mind. And although this is obviously debatable and unprovable, if you listen to the entire album in one sitting (which I did), this comes through pretty clearly.

The question then remains: how does one measure the "success" of the Tales concept, and its execution? Obviously, as a reviewer, one begins by doing it subjectively. In this regard, I believe that the album is occasionally successful, and occasionally not. [N.B.: With the exception of our feelings about "The Ancient," I strongly agree with most of Dave Connolly's review, which I highly recommend.] However, I think there is another criterion in this case, one virtually forced on a reviewer by Anderson himself: that is, to compare the four sections of the album to Anderson's notes for each. In this regard, much of the album fails, since it does not express what Anderson himself wanted it to express.

Anderson describes the 1st movement ("The Revealing Science of God") as "an ever- opening flower." Lyrically, this may be so. But musically I do not hear this. What I hear is a composition that "doesn't start anywhere" and "doesn't go anywhere." It has a few recognizably "Yes"-like sections, but "says" little, and certainly doesn't "unfold" like a flower. Of the 2nd movement ("The Remembering"), Anderson says, "We relate to.our own Here." Again, lyrically, this is expressed. However, although the composition is more cohesive than the 1st movement, and has a nice build- up and some good sections, again, musically, it "says" little.

The 3rd movement ("The Ancient") "probes still further into the past." Here it is the lyrics that fail to express the intent, while the music is the most creative and "compelling" of the movements. Although the middle section is a bit long, the drums, percussion and guitar successfully evoke various ancient cultures, and the song wraps up with a very direct appeal to protecting life, both individual and collective. The 4th movement ("Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil") is described as "Seven notes of freedom.We are of the sun. We can see." Here, lyrics and music converge successfully to express their intent. The opening theme (which is reiterated later) does, in fact, use each of the seven notes of the scale once, and the finale is Yes at their most Yes-like, with unpretentious pomp and circumstance.

"Maddeningly inconsistent," as the second half of the suite (3rd and 4th movements) is so much more successful, compelling and satisfying than the first half (1st and 2nd movements). And herein lies what I believe is the crux of the "love/hate" debate that surrounds this album: for those who love it, it not only "measures up" to prior Yes albums, but takes them a step further by creating a double-album-length concept suite that "opens up" the possibilities for thematic exposition of ideas; for those who hate it, it not only does NOT "measure up" to prior Yes albums, but takes a step backward by allowing Jon Anderson to impose an almost painful level of self-indulgence on the majority of his bandmates, ending up with an inconsistent "mish-mash" of ideas that are not as well-realized, -developed or -executed as they should have been. For those who have never heard it, it is certainly worth a "once-through," preferably in one sitting, with headphones. However, given the lack of cohesion and number of inconsistencies in both lyrics and music - especially from a band that had more than proved its ability to handle difficult, complex concepts ("Close to the Edge") - it must ultimately fail as a truly great work, much less a masterpiece.

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Posted Saturday, October 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
James Lee
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If you prefer The Yes Album or Fragile to Close to the Edge, you'll likely think that Tales is going in the wrong direction. Diffuse and sprawling, with very little in the order of "hooks", this is one of the most impenetrable YES albums in their discography.

But so beautiful...without the constraints of delivering more concise songs, the band manages to weave shifting soundscapes out of half-songs and melodic allusions, without ever seeming incomplete. Except for an unusually subdued Squire, nothing is missing; Wakeman's synths and mellotron, which occasionally seemed out-of-place on the previous albums, are now perfectly situated in the mix- and along with the layered vocal harmonies they provide a lush and complex wall of sound (predictably, Wakeman was dissatisfied with one of the few examples of instrumental restraint in his history). Howe's infamously thin and lonely tone has become less harsh, and he explores a range of other sounds as well (including a fade-in technique, somewhat reminiscent of Hackett, that seems to be this album's signature lead guitar sound). White may not quite have Bruford's formidable chops, but he is by no means a slouch- and not a bit inhibited on his first outing with the band (check out the "Lark's Tongues"-like opening of "The Ancient" or the tumbling exotica near the end of "Nous Sommes du Soleil").

Once in a while, the players seem to be re-hashing past melodic lines. "Revealing Science" has a section very like the verses of "Close to the Edge". During "The Ancient" I can hear a "Siberian Khatru" guitar part pop up and the nylon-stringed section occasionally reminds me too vividly of "Mood for a Day". The "Close to the Edge" main melody is directly referenced at the beginning of "Nous Sommes du Soleil", though very briefly (and the phrase "total retain" even makes an appearance). One could argue that these are more stylistic resemblances than self-plagiary, and either way it probably won't conflict with your enjoyment. Even the occasional clumsy transition between passages fails to jar the smooth overall experience.

And this is more of an experience than a proper album. Mood is paramount, although message is also inescapable. The entire album is indeed a spiritual manifesto, but one of such gentle peace and beatific intent that it is impossible to chafe at its overt nature; it's not so much a persuasive tract as it is a pan-denominational ode (and at nearly an hour and a half, it's definitely not a Missa Brevis). Anderson's lyrical approach on this album soars with evocative but increasingly abstract poetry; it's a sure turn-off for the more literal-minded listener but pure delight for anyone who prefers non-linear modes of expression. I suppose the message of "Tales" could rile those who have some aversion to 'hippie cliches' like peace, love, and nature...but if that's the case, YES is not the band for you- not with Jon Anderson in the fore, anyway.

If, on the other hand, you'd like a New Age or Post-Rock soundscape with a little more spiky rhythmic rock bite, Tales is perfect. If you like jazz fusion with a little less unrestrained virtuosity and a little more classic (if exotic) rock foundation- again, Tales is perfect. If you want a transcendent escape hatch to a engrossing and detailed sonic world, there's few albums that will do it better (or for as long). If you wanted Close to the Edge to last for 80+ minutes, Tales will almost satisfy that urge as well...just don't expect the same sense of structure, climax or closure. This is a journey to be undertaken solely for the pure beauty and gently uplifting pleasure along the way.

Report this review (#13151)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This review has been a long time coming. I have listened to TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS a lot lately, and I have given considerable thought to the rating attached above, vacillating between a low of two stars, and a high of four. Finally, I have concluded that this is a "good, but non-essential" Yes album.

Part blundering behemoth, part lissome lass, TALES is easily the most controversial of the classic Yes recordings. The lack of planning in its formation, and the artificial structure imposed upon it by the desire to fill four LP sides with four long suites (see Prog Archives Special Collaborator Maani's excellent and informative interview with affable former Yes keysman Rick Wakeman) caused Rick Wakeman's departure from the band, and prompted at least one wag to dub it a "Topographic Turkey" upon its 1974 release.

Reviled by some, praised to the high heavens by others, TALES can divide a roomful of Yes fans quicker than Mariah Carey can shred an old progger's eardrums. Each of the album's suites, for my tastes, contains moments of great power and even beauty (like many others, I particularly favour "Ritual," finding it the most unified of the quartet), but each is also marred by awkward passages that smack of "padding," and a comparative dearth of cohesive and vital ideas. There is great music herein, with all of the essential dynamics and elements of classic Yes, but I believe that TALES would have been better pared down (given time, group will, and, above all, a willingness to compromise from vocalist Anderson, whose brainchild TFTO was) to a stronger, single LP-length album.

I'm glad to own a copy of TALES, but it will never displace its magnificent and masterful forerunners THE YES ALBUM, FRAGILE, and -- Yes' crowning glory -- CLOSE TO THE EDGE in the heart of this longstanding fan.

It's not for everyone, but confirmed followers of the band should give TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS a go. Locating the rewards it has to offer from the depths of all its aural "packing material" requires patience and commitment, but there are some shining pearls to be pulled from 'midst the musical midden.

Report this review (#13152)
Posted Tuesday, November 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
el böthy
4 stars Tales from topographic oceans... by far Yes´s most controversial album ever. This is just extreme. Extreme in time (no song last less than 18 minutes), extreme in instrumentation (as all Yes 70´ albums) and extreme in opinions about it. Some love it, some hate it, and some just don't get it. I don't love it, but I can see why some do. I don't hate it, but I can see why some do. And I do understand it, but I also can see why some don't. I like it, quite a lot actually, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece. For once, I don't know if can say that the songs individually are perfect, they really aren't, especially The Ancient for it's long and boring intro (funny, at the same time the last minutes from the Ancient are by far the best of the whole double album). The four pieces work better taken as a whole. and here lays the bigger problem. It's a double album which, at least I, rarely listen in it's entirely. It's just too much, having they made two 20 minutes epics and two 10 minutes song or so, it would be so much better, probably perfect, but, hey! Who knows for sure? This is not an album than you just say: "Ah, I will listen to it while I'm waiting for the bus..." No!!! It's not that type of album, here you must really say:" I will listen to it here, alone, in my room, with full concentration!" It's a very special piece of work, and it can't be taken as any other album, even as any other prog album, and that's saying quite a lot. But if you are in the right mood (and you got some time) ... it can be an incredible experience
Report this review (#13154)
Posted Friday, November 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars So this is the one. This is the album you quickly hear rumour of as the music of Yes enters your world. It's the 'inevitable prog double album', the conceptual epic, the one made as the core of the band flourished both internally as well as in the public eye. Rick Wakeman didn't like it, openly disparaged it, says he hated playing on it, to the extent that he resorted to funny routines on stage, eating curries while he slogged through solos. At a point you have to ask yourself - does any of the anecdotal historical veneer actually matter? Does it actually reflect this work?

The answer is: no, it doesn't. What we have here is one of the greatest, most far-reaching albums ever made. Despite his undeniable moments of greatness, Wakeman was just a bit of a clown. 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is a four-suite, progressive, poetic tapestry depicting the human perception of time and memory, from simple everyday awareness right through to the oldest ages of the earth. And I said 'poetic', which means this is not a geology paper - Yes have observed myths and dreams from all over the world in telling their tale, Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec, as well as modern meditations, fusing an astoundingly rich level of lyrics with complex, symphonic rock of vast scope.

It starts immediately, although it had already begun, with an absolute monster first verse charting the birth of consciousness in a world of information - the dawn of light, the dawn of thought, the dawn of power, the dawn of love - and builds wonderfully with the trademark Yes vocal harmonies, here at their most fluid and dynamic. This first track deals with the present, and a person's memories of their own life, becoming aware of things, in music that is vibrant, familiar, but very progressive, moving through episodes of full-band rock balladry, smooth mellotron/guitar soundscapes, and darker sections of confusion and questioning. Lyrically, the piece briefly begs to go further back in time, but has a satisfying conclusion in itself as the contemplation inevitably returns to the individual, 'seekers of the truth' made whole as reason guides their continuing life.

The next piece, 'The Remembering', looks further back in time to days so far on the edge of memories that they seem like we ourselves never even lived them... 'stand, on hills of long forgotten yesterdays'. These are the archetypes, imprinted memories, illusory but powerful parts of who we are, which drag us out of the tiny period of time in which we have existed, realising how far back our collective lifetime begins to stretch. Moments of both peace and war lie there, long before even your own civilisation was born. This is carried by music much less pronounced, less familiar, where the ethereal keyboards of Wakeman successfully do their job whether he realised it or not. The first few minutes of this track are perhaps the most beautiful on the record, a simple, slow guitar motif by Howe rendered hypnotic by a flurry of modulation effects, over which the band sing in beautiful unison.

Track three is where the album reaches apogee, the point most far out, as the band attempt to go yet further into the past, to a time actually beyond memory, but when our planet was nevertheless still here. The raw, primordial sounds cast out by the band conjure up the imaginings of various cultures on these ancient times; a time where the elements roamed free, unperceived, as gods - giants - unto themselves, a grand drama of nature playing out on a timescale so immense it seems almost foreign to us. In a master stroke, the band close the track by dragging all of this back to the self once more with a folk-tinted madrigal about the far more immediate world and its issues. Incidentally, for Steve Howe fans it's worth noting that the classical guitar in and around this particular section is perhaps the most exquisite he has ever written and performed, I don't know of anything else like it.

All of this has been of course a prelude to the final suite, 'Ritual', which ties together all of the themes so far (as well as, strangely, a lick from 'Close To The Edge') and returns to the present, uniting the larger perspectives of our past with all that we deal with from day to day. Despite the love song which speaks of the companionships we hold dear, the mid- section of this piece is the most aggressive and tumultuous yet, signalling less than wholesome times ahead.

This review is merely an outline - the details are for the listener to experience. 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is arguably Yes' best album, marred I feel by speculation about the band at that point, its placement in a now unfashionable time, and years of unhelpful press. 'Pretentious'? Anyone who says so cannot know the meaning of the word - music cannot 'pretend' when it comes to material with this much relevance to anyone alive in the real world. This should be owned by everyone, and if your pets will sit still, make them listen to it too.

Report this review (#13155)
Posted Wednesday, December 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars maybe it's just me...but i don't think that yes ever intended to write this album to please anyone other then themselves. so it begs the question why people can slate this album to death the way they do...all the silly questions of why, what,.....think about the time....1973, who else was writing such composistions as these? hmmmm? no one that i can think of. ok, so rick wakeman didn't like the album...blah blah blah...well i have heard rick wakeman quoted as saying..."everyone thinks that eddie offord was the best yes producer, myself, i believe that trevor horn did the most for the band, and would love to see him come back." well...lets see....trevor horn did most of the 80's yes....that was their most successful time period, because they went more pop oriented. it seems to me that rick liked the more straight forward stuff, so it's no wonder he didn't like this album. (your loss rick) i believe that you have to have an extremely deep taste in music to understand this album. it's a concept album...plain and simple, and in my of, if not the greatest progressive rock album of all time. even close to the edge, which is incredible...didn't come to the scope of this album. it was done on a completely different concept. jon had an idea with that he and steve wrote together for the most part. when i breakdown this album...all 4 parts to me interconnect quite well...all the vocals move and tell such a story, that only a real life landscape could compare to. the only part of this album that i think could have been a little better...were the drums. alan white's 1st album...still finding his way, much different style then bill, yet still quite effective with ritual being alans' shining moment. when i 1st bought this album i did not like it as much...but over time, it began to make sence to me and the ideas behind it became all that more incredible to me. being a musician myself, and playing prog an accomplishment. to this day the music is original and doesn't sound at all dated. i recently bought the new version of this album, and the additon of the ocean sound with steve's extended intro is absolute MAGIC. i would recommend this album to any prog fan....maybe not as a 1st yes album to own, but definately essential to any collection of music. as jon anderson said.... after the critics bashed this album "the next thing yes will do is put the bible to music, alright...i'll show you suckers, it can be done." well jon, you and the guys did...and this album will live on forever, as a gem in the world of progressive rock.
Report this review (#13156)
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have never understood why this album elicited such antipathy. It is the logical conclusion to what YES was working towards on the previous albums. It compares favorably to "Close to the Edge" and "Relayer" and is only a notch below them, in my mind. Admitedly, the concept of the album is overblown, but one could listen to the music without reading the liner notes and never know the album was based on "Shastras." It is quite possible to ignore the concept and enjoy the music...and even some of the lyrics. The first movement and the last are excellent pieces of music with all the marks of what YES fans like about YES. The second side is less good, but still quite listenable. The third side is experimental and meandering, but still features a superb classical guitar section from Steve. Embedded within each of the sides one can hear real SONGS, mostly with the mark of maestro Anderson, that are beautifully melodic and brimming with expansiveness, hope and promise. The ending section of the fourth side is particularly charming and beautiful. Again, I can't for the life of me figure out what is so objectionable about this album, or why it is considered to be so different from the albums which surrounded it. The 70s career of YES exhibited an almost perfect bell curve in terms of the length of their pieces: "The Yes Album" had six songs, "Fragile" had (effectively -- minus the solo features) four songs, "Close to the Edge" had three songs, and "Topogrpahic Oceans" had two-songs per record...the peak of the bell curve. Then YES came down the other side of the "bell" -- "Relayer" had three songs, "Going For the One" had five songs, and "Tormato" several more. "Topographic Oceans" was the peak of the bell curve in terms of the ambition and scale of YES's work. Why lovers of "Close to the Edge" and "Relayer" can't seem to wrap their ears and hearts and minds around this album is something I can't understand -- but then again, I can't understand why anyone could prefer KISS to YES, but millions did back in the 70s. Ah well...

Don't start with this one if you are a new YES fan. But if you work your way up to it, via the previous releases, you will find great playing and some fine writing in the first and last "movements" of this most ambitious of YES masterworks.

Report this review (#13163)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sorry, but I can't share all that enthusiasm about this album. After their 3 previous great albums, this double album with a song on each side and that nice cover could have been a masterpiece...but it fails. Don't get me wrong, the first track is pretty good (even if the first time I heard it i thought it was the worst one on the album), and it has a nice melody, and a few nice moments, but the rest is boring and I can't even remember a second of it. A very controversial album of course, and I guess it makes good background music or something. If you're new to Yes or prog rock, keep away from this one.
Report this review (#13165)
Posted Sunday, January 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars True Prog Masterpiece Album of All Time!!! (IMHO)

Well, it's an album that has created various kinds of reactions or "controversy" - if I can simply mention it - in the mind of listeners. Even, some readers and reviewers of this website are complaining about how come this site putting it under "suggestion" box. It is all well understood, because even long before the album reached the listener, there was intense conflict among band members in the making of this "big project" that resulted in Rick Wakeman leaving the band after "Tales Tour". The album was considered too personal for Jon Anderson that was inspired by a book Autobiography of A Yogi introduced by Jamie Muir, percusionist for King Crimson. The two gentlemen talked about meditation in music (1). -- Jon had taken notice of a footnote in Paramahansa Yogananda's book that described four Schastic scriptures covering various aspects of religion and life (2). -- "As I read them I became engrossed with the idea of making music around the concepts he spoke of, making a four-part epic built around the four-part themes of which I was reading" said Jon in 1974 [(1), page 44].

While on tour, Jon and Steve conducted candle light sessions, working out the basic structure for each of the four compositions inspired by this concept. Rick was not in agreement with the idea as he put it in 1974: "Yes was heading towards avant- garde jazz rock and I had nothing to offer there" [(1), page 45].

So, what can you expect? --- If things were not in a "full swing" during the making of an album, you would then guess the result: it was not an album that fully represent the synergy of all members in the band. If we look at the other side of the story: it might be the end result represents the best as it single mindedly transpose the wild ideas of two masterminds of this album: Jon and Steve. So what we listen to as a final product represents the culmination of combined ideas. So in this case, the listeners respect this album highly in the end. That might not happen if Rick contributed the album "whole heartedly". [Intermezo - any of you have read Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet in Heaven?" If so, this condition of the other side of the story reminds me to the conversation between Blue Man and Eddie. If not, read the book man .!!! Again, I have no financial interest at all with the publisher.]

OK OK . that was history from the point of view of the band. The history that I only knew some decades after I experienced the music of "Tales". My writing herewith is not intended as a defense for any negative reactions toward the album, rather it describes my standpoint on why this album is a true prog masterpiece of all time - for me, personally. I knew this album for the first time when I had listened to and liked "Fragile" and "Relayer" through the cassettes that I purchased, during my childhood (I was about grade 9, I think). At the time, I was not aware which album came first. Having enjoyed (very much) the two albums, "Tales" for me was very hard to accept except the album opener "The Revealing Science of God" - especially at the passage when lyric says "What happen? ." and the acoustic passage of "The Ancient".

I then kept pondering myself: if the band had created wonderful albums like "Fragile" and "Relayer", then .. this "Tales" album should be great as well. So I kept pushing myself to put the cassette on and on until I think about 10 times listening to it then I got the "aha!" experience. Since that happened, I was totally "hooked" to this album! It then became my all-time favorite. Pretentious? Not at all, because at the time I was out from usual friendships enjoyed by most teenagers. Most of them enjoyed the American Top 40 - I remember that these songs were the hits: "Magic" and "January" by The PILOT, "You Make Me Feel Brand New" by Stylistics (remember this group?), "Dream of Me" by Mac and Kattie Kisson, "House for Sale" by Lucifer or even disco music "Do It" by BT Express etc. I had to have that cassette if I wanted to get along with the rest of the crowd. I did not "dare" to tell 'em about my "true blood" which is the kind like YES, ELP, JETHRO TULL cause they didn't know. Well, only some of them knew it.

During digital era, I purchased the CD version of this album. I then purchased the remastered expanded version by Rhino when I saw the band performed Second Leg Tour in Singapore, 25 Spetember 2003. The Rhino version is packaged excellently with colorful sleeve notes by Mark Tiano and two bonus tracks. I still keep the original CD as the Rhino version does a good thing on packaging only, while the sonic quality is even worse.

The Revealing Science of God

This was the first track that I could accept easily at first listen. It starts off nicely with a quiet passage that fetures Jon's voice. [The expanded CD by Rhino has approximately 2 minutes opening soundscape in ambient / atmospheric style before Jon's singing. It's probably the original LP's version. I'm happy though with the fact that Rhino has put it back]. The song performed in relatively medium tempo with complex composition but nice melody.

The Remembering

It was a bit complex for my ears at first listen, but I could enjoy this track peacefully right after approx 5 spins. Rick Wakeman plays much more with his keyboard / moog instruments - sometime even with mellotron. It's relatively a complex track but it has a very strong tagline melody that becomes familiar to me having listened to more than 5 spins.

The Ancient

This is where Rick has ever mentioned that Yes was heading into avant-garde jazz rock fusion kind of music, I think. It opens really really "weird" for me at first couple of spins. It's an exploration of cymbals and keyboard followed with a lengthy opening of "not nice" percussion sounds augmented with long sustain howling guitar. It's not a typical song that create listening pleasure at all. It seemed to me "unstructured". It even was worsen by the sonic quality that was not up to the standard. I complained a lot about this loose structured track. That was my first impression, of course. The more I played it, it grew steadily with me. I especially love when the vocal starts to roll and also when the acoustic passage comes into play with stunning acoustic guitar work by Howe combined with Jon's voice. Oh mann ... this is a great offering from the band!!


This is the final chapter of the concept album that opens nicely with ambient opening and powerful voice of Jon Anderson. The composition is complex but there were pieces where the music built around regular beats that ease us to emulate the melody. Steve plays the long sustain guitar work combined with some fills during transition. Alan plays his drum wonderfully, accentuating the movement to other segments. Chris bassline performed in solo style (plays like a melody) during segment changes - to a quieter passage, for example. I became much acquainted with the song since it was perfomed "live" in YESSHOW.

So what .?

Ughh .. quite a long writing... Having described all my views about this album, what is the point then? Would it change your view? I doubt it. In fact, it's not my aim to change your view about this album. Whether you like it or you hate it, just be it. It's like an increasing number of thoughts flowing about the prog-ness of Radiohead, and the debate or polemics on "whether or not Radiohead should be covered in this site", just be it. Just let the reader of this page be his / her own judge. As far as "Tales" album, I still consider it as "true prog masterpiece album of all time!!" (in my very humble opinion, of course). You may not like the music, but you should not miss the album if you want to explore progressive arena. Let's respect individual opinion, because it's prog man ..!! Keep on Progging.!!

Topographically yours*,

GW - Indonesia

*) I lent this idea from my progmate who is a Yes die hard fan: Suryo.

Reference :

1. Yes Stories - Yes In Their Own Words; by Tim Morse, St. Martin's Press, 1996 .

2. CD Slevee Notes, RHINO re-mastered and expanded edition of "Tales from Topographic Ocean", by Mike Tiano, 2003.

Report this review (#13166)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Nothing I will say here hasn't already been said in the prior reviews, but it's a must!

This has got to be the best progressive album ever and just couldn't stand not reviewing it! I'm a quite a fan of JETHRO TULL, MARILLION, ELP, and many others superb progressive bands. But somehow they seem to lack the spiritual appeal so abundant in this album. If you listen carefully enough to each track, it is guaranteed that you will never hear the same song every time. The tracks seem to hide a misterious and marvelous message, explorable only through one's mind. I may never find this message, but I'm surely not willing to, because the exploration brings me to a higher state of mind. It's surely difficult to mention the tracks separately, because they are like life itself: every moment is marked by nothing but your reactions to it, and that's why they may never sound the same.

All my life I have listened to music thinking it was a wonderful art, but after listening to this album, I truly realised what is 'art'.

Report this review (#13167)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is a remarkable album. It was in 1973 and it still is today. It seems that many Yes albums have attained that lofty status over the years. This one in particular was risky; in that it was such an enormous undertaking and so complex to record and mix. The result was a definitive progressive rock masterpiece that served as a benchmark for all other aspiring like-minded groups to follow.

This album marked the departure of drummer extraordinaire Bill Bruford and the emergence of Alan White. Did this all-important change affect the group? I dare say it did not. White was every bit adept with his drum kit as Bruford was. It is also interesting to note that this was not one of Rick Wakeman's favorite albums and hence his departure was eminent as well unfortunately.

Well, on to the brighter side of things. This beautifully remastered copy comes housed in a nice slipcase with the old-fashioned gatefold album sleeve style to emulate the original vinyl release, which I absolutely love. With the exception of one track, "The Ancient Giants Under the Sun," which clocked in at 18:37, the other three songs were over twenty minutes long! What a marvelous achievement. At the time critics surely must have thought it was a bit self-indulgent, but after all this was a band with a string of successes behind it and why not push the envelope one more time to see what would happen? Thank the good Lord they did, where would we be in progressive rock right now without pioneers like Yes, I shudder at the thought.

There are two very remarkable and entertaining bonus tracks on this remastered magnum opus, "Dance Of The Dawn (Studio Run-Through) " and "Giants Under The Sun (Studio Run- Through)." They are both studio practice sessions. It gives you a glimpse of each composition in its infancy. I do not think I need to add anything else except that you should get all of these remasters, they are essential for any progressive rock collection.

Report this review (#13168)
Posted Sunday, January 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars "Tales" is usually referred to as a "love-it-or-hate-it" album. I wish it were that simple. My reaction to it is much more complicated and I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about this album, 20+ years after the first time I ever heard it. I read in the magnificent "Yesstories" book that Rick Wakeman compared the album to a woman's padded bra, in that it looks good on the outside but once you go in to investigate further there's not really too much there. Or, as he put it, it's like wading through a cesspool to get to a waterlily. I don't know if I would exactly use the term "cesspool," but I agree completely with his assessment that it's an unnecessarily overlong, very padded album. All of the songs have their moments --- sometimes even great moments --- but none of them retain my interest all the way through. "The Revealing Science of God," for example, ranks up there with some of Yes' best work of the 1970's until it hits the 8 minute mark, at which point I get the feeling that the band is simply running out the clock until that side of the album is over. The same can be said for the other songs as well. Even my personal favorite track, "Ritual," can't justify its existence past the 14-minute mark. Had the band decided to make a single album (four 10- minute songs would have been great) this might rank right up there with "Close to the Edge," my all-time favorite Yes album, and I think it would still have retained the depth and majesty for which Yes is known. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and instead we have an album of some high points that taken as a whole can be a bit physically torturous to sit through.

By the way, I took the advice of another reviewer and listened to this while high. My impressions were the same.

Report this review (#13159)
Posted Monday, January 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A change in the sound for Yes, Tales was way more epic and experimental than any Yes album dated before (or after) it. It's a complex and entangled album, with mythical and historical lyrics written by Howe and Anderson. I think the music and lyrics fits well to eachother and the atmospheric and dark atmosphere here is chillingly brilliant. There are four tracks here, each one clocking in at over 18 minutes each. You need to study this album at the same time you listening to it, cause it is a bastard to understand musically and lyrically, but it will surely grow on you. I swallowed this one pretty well at my first listen, but it growed on me even more after some more spins. It's not the best Yes album though, as there is some flaws here (part's drags on for too long etc.)

Bill Bruford quitted right before Close to the Edge was released so Yes found Alan White, and he was a great replacement, IMO. His powerful and nearly thundering drumming style fits this album very well. Steve Howe's guitar noodling here is an acquired taste, and the tone on his guitar is very weird here, but surprisingly fitting to the music. The production is excellent and adds the special mood and atmosphere to the album that makes Tales Tales (if you know what I mean). It's not perfect though, but it's definetly a excellent and bold release from Yes. 4/5

Report this review (#13176)
Posted Sunday, February 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Notorious TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS!!!!! This is the kind of thing that happens when a band starts to unshackle themselves from the laws of rock physics. YES decided to answer to no one but their concept...sink or swim....damn the torpedos. Well what can I say that hasn't already been said. This is a great album if you care to swim through the prog murk to get to its' greatness. HOWEVER!!!! This album will test your patience and on side three your patience will not be rewarded. Side one (The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn) is the true meat of the matter. Tightly controlled and moving at a leisurely pace it comes and goes like a ghost."The Remembering/High The Memory" is good too if not as compelling as side one. Side three ("The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun") is a tuneless mess....and side four (Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil) has great moments which never jell into a cohesive whole and the french is just annoying. It is however a brave attempt to bring something different to the table. YES would pay dearly for that and their second most important member left because of it. TFTO broke all the rules and attempted to stretch the boundaries of a very limited art form however in their zeal to pursue art they abandoned not only commercial values but their listeners as well. This album is mainly a museum piece...a marvel to be gawked at but not felt.
Report this review (#13177)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars I didn't read all of the 4 & 5 star reviews posted (there are just too many), but I'll bet there isn't one of those reviewers who was already a big Yes fan, expecting another masterpiece, when this album first came out in 1974. My friends and I loved "The Yes Album", "Fragile", and "Close To The Edge", and had great expectations for this new double-LP set with the great cover art. None of us liked it, even after listening to it for months on end. The radio stations stopped playing it after a couple of weeks, and the consensus was that it was a complete dud. I tried getting into it several times over the years, with no success. The problems? An almost complete lack of melodicism; there are a couple of pretty good songs mixed in with a whole bunch of noodling. Also, Alan White was, and still is, a competent but unoriginal drummer. Bill Bruford remains, to this day, one of the best drummers in any style, and Alan White sounds like a session man. In addition, the four tracks should have been broken up into listenable chunks, especially on CD. Jon Anderson's lyrics are "hook"-less here; where before his word stew was evocative and inventive, here we have nothing better than "What happened to this world we once knew so well?" Once again, if this had been their debut, or if the three previous albums had never existed, this would have seemed like a breakthrough effort, worthy of praise. And they did some great stuff afterwards, so it's not like they ran out of good material.
Report this review (#13178)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars The classic "love/hate" Yes album is that way for a very simple reason--there's lots of stuff here to love, and lots of stuff here to hate. Rick Wakeman is right--they had enough good material for more than one record but not enough for two. It would be interesting to see how this album would have turned out today with the different set of recording limitations, but onto the album . . . It seems like the two best tracks, "The Revealing Science Of God" and "Ritual," have the majority of the strong music and strong arrangements. Both of them still have some moments that drag on a little bit, but "Ritual" especially deserves to be in the classic Yes category. The other two tracks are fairly experimental, but tend to be mostly filler without the tightly arranged segments that made the other Yes epics classics. This is a pivotal progressive rock album, and one that every prog fan needs to hear at least ten times to see what they think of it, but it's certainly the worst of Yes' classic era. I wonder how much the addition of the far more conventional Alan White led to the sprawling arrangements, as I'm sure that Bill Bruford would have helped sculpt the strong moments here (of which there are many) into more cohesive arrangements. A good Yes album that merits mutiple listens.
Report this review (#13180)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Despite having bought the double-LP in 1974, before discovering this site last year I had not realised that this album generates a lot of debate; it seems to be an album that many love to hate. Even Wakeman stated in his interview on this site that he hates it (I did know that he left the band because of it). Given the ambitiousness of the project, and the fact that some of the music is actually very good, it's a shame that the album is not more popular. Mind you, at the time it reached no. 1 in the UK charts and no. 6 in the US charts. Howe, Squire, Wakeman and White all do a good job, and you certainly can't fault their playing. Wakeman's keyboard work does not stand out as much as it did on "Fragile" and "Close To The Edge", though. And, although I quite like Anderson's voice and nonsense lyrics on the previous albums, I find his voice less pleasing on this release, and the nonsense lyrics less vivid.

In some ways I'm surprised that some of the YES fans who rave about the band's earlier work don't like this album. If you could draw a line from "The Yes Album" through "Fragile" to "Close To The Edge" and then extrapolate that line I reckon you'd more or less end up at "Tales From Topographic Oceans". In my opinion the band's music gets more pretentious and twee as the band evolved through those albums, and to me "Tales" is the obvious end result. Although I enjoy "Close To The Edge" a lot, to me "Tales" is not a million miles away from "Close To The Edge"; both are flamboyant and the music not that dissimilar in my opinion. Granted the music on "Close To The Edge" is probably better, but I think it is actually less adventurous, less varied and less sophisticated in many ways than the music on "Tales".

When I bought the double-LP I have to admit that, on first playing it, I was a little taken aback by what I heard: something more ornate and rambling than the band's earlier albums, slightly more commercial-sounding in places even. But I quickly grew to like it, albeit not as much as the earlier albums. Part of the reason, I think, is that it just goes on too long. Had the project been cut to one LP with the best parts extracted and reworked to be more cohesive, it may have been more successful. Nevertheless there *are* some very good parts to the music, and it does make pleasant listening. Unlike the band's previous albums, I can put "Tales" on as background music. I don't mean that in a damning way, just that the music does not grab my attention in the way that the earlier albums do. But I can still tap my foot or hum along to the music, which is very melodic in places. The 'Nous sommes du soleil' parts of 'Ritual' are very summery and upbeat, albeit rather twee. Mind you, 'The Revealing Science Of God' is probably the most twee track on the album and, in my opinion, it and 'The Ancient' are the weaker of the four tracks (although still melodic and reasonably pleasant listening).

A concept album, Anderson conceived of the 4-track project when reading Paramahansa Yoganada's spiritual book "Autobiography Of A Yogi", and you can hear Indian and south east Asian influences in the music, sometimes slightly as in 'The Remembering' and at other times heavily as in parts of 'The Ancient' and 'Ritual' (sitar and chimes, for example). However, overall the music is a bit of a mishmash: for example Howe's lovely acoustic guitar (English medieval-sounding) in 'The Ancient' is at odds with the clashing Buddhist cymbals at the beginning of that track. The brief synthesizer solo in 'The Revealing Science Of God', whilst a real treat for fans of the instrument, seems out of place to me, almost thrown in.

My ranking of this release in relation to the earlier YES albums can be guessed by the order I replaced my long-lost LPs with CDs: "Fragile", "Close To The Edge", "The Yes Album" and "Tales". Actually, "Tales" was the last YES release I liked enough to buy; despite its popularity I found "Relayer" too much to stomach.

Given that I did eventually get "Tales" on CD to replace my long-lost vinyl, but some time after getting the other albums on CD, I would rate "Tales" as a 3.5-star album if such a thing were possible. As it's not, I'll settle for 3 stars (Good, but not essential). I'm probably being a little harsh on the album but "Tales" is not quite excellent and neither is it essential in my opinion, even though it does still make for good listening if you're a fan of symphonic Progressive Rock. I'd say that it's still a worthwhile investment if you like the earlier YES albums.

Report this review (#13190)
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Tales" is a flawed masterpiece; there's no doubt that the album lacks the impact of the three albums that preceded it. Although certain passages do achieve the excellence of its predecessors, the momentum they build up is diffused by overly-long, less-inspired passages that pad out the album.

And I believe this meandering quality is primarily due to the radically different aesthetic approach Yes took when composing this album. An earlier reviewer commented that he was somewhat mystified how a devout fan of "Close to the Edge" could, in good conscience, claim to not like "Tales," his point being that the increased complexity of the "Tales" must surely mean that it is as good or better. But anyone who truly appreciates CTTE and "Tales" does not suffer this confusion.

The difference is this: CTTE is an album composed of pieces that were crafted as individual songs without the burden of a having to conform to an overarching preconceived idea. "Tales" was inspired from the start by the Buddhist work "Autobiography of a Yogi," which Anderson and Howe conceived as a double-lp size project to celebrate four themes of within that text, each to be an album side long.

So instead of crafting more complex songs that naturally evolved out of earlier shorter versions and grew to their appropriate length, Yes was saddled with the burden of composing four 20-minute songs celebrating a predetermined theme. In contrast to this, the song "CTTE" began as a much shorter fragment that Howe had come up with. From there, he and Anderson began to organically build the song out with the inspired help of Squire, Wakeman, and Bruford. The end result is a piece that is varied and complex and that ventures where few prog rock songs up to that time had ever gone.

On the other hand, "Tales" compositions often sound somewhat stitched together; there are excellent sections but often they are over-extended or padded out with uninspired instrumental work. Indeed, given the compositional limitations, I'm surprised the album is as good as it is. Howe and Anderson should be especially credited with working out the many excellent passages. (Squire, White and Wakeman, you can tell, are less integrated into this album which also accounts for part of its problem.)

Another factor that hinders the listener's response to the album is the band's announcing on the album's cover what inspired the work and what all four songs are about. Unfortunately, doing this cannot help but somewhat inform a listener's reaction even before the first note is played. It limits the power the piece may have in its own right. Part of why CTTE succeeds is that we are NOT told what inspired the songs. Generally speaking, the true impact of a gifted artist's work always transcends whatever inspired him or her to compose it. As Robert Fripp often points out, the music (and poetry that accompanies it) is made manifest via the artist, who is in sense only a conduit of the powers of music. Indeed, a good argument could be made that Yes's overly-conscious approach toward crafting "Tales" adversely affected this intuitive process.

While an impatient listener may view "Tales" as flamboyant or pretentious, I don't think it is. Pretentiousness suggests an attempt to put up a false front, to pretend to be more than you are. Those who listen to Yes's music in a cursory way often confuse ardent thought with pretentiousness. However, the truth is that "Tales" is remarkably heartfelt and an admirable attempt to craft musical magic out of the artists' spiritual world view. While the spiritual ideas are less compelling to me, the music and lyrics it inspired hold up well after 30 years (god, has it been that long!).

Oddly enough, I actually like and appreciate this album more than I did when I first bought it. In some ways, it's an album that requires more patience and concentration to listen to than I was willing to give it back then, especially if you want to get why it is ultimately a failed masterpiece. But there is little doubt that this album was created by a progressive rock band at the height of their powers, and were I to draw up a history of progressive rock, I would devote a fair section of the course to Yes, particularly the six- album period between "The Yes Album" and "Going for the One." While "Tales" doesn't reach the artistic perfection of "CTTE", it certainly is an excellent addition to any serious progressive music collection. Four stars.

Report this review (#13192)
Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A follower to "Close to The Edge", which was claimed to go too far. I'm not sure about this though, as two tracks of the four are excellent ("The Revealing Science Of God" and "Ritual"), and the third one "The Remembering" is also very good. "The Ancient " is a bit poorer experiment, but even it has some good moments in it. I like these epics by YES, as they are quite logical rich and logical as compositions, like the classical music which the band had studied when doing these songs. As a teenager I learned to listen longer musical pieces by listening this record while doing something else, and it was a valuable lesson! I recall that found out that "The Revealing Science of God" had similar structure as RICHARD WAGNER's "Tannhäuser" overture.
Report this review (#13212)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I first got into Yes around 1974, which was when I started taking an interest in prog, although I was well aware of them, and other bands like Floyd and King Crimson, long before, thanks to friends of mine. However, I didn't buy this record until 1977, as there were so many conflicting reports about it at the time. The prevalent feeling was one of disappointment, but a few critics called it a masterpiece. Well, when I bought it, I have to say I was one of the disappointed! After the majesty of 'Fragile', 'Close To The Edge', 'Relayer' and 'Going For The One', this seemed utterly tuneless, overlong and, frankly, boring. Of course, I was only 18 at the time. I played it a few times, but only really liked side four, 'Ritual'. Then I sold, or swapped it for something else. Recently, however, a friend of mine purchased the remastered digipack version, with two extra tracks, and extra notes to go with the original ones, oh, and some nice pics too. Having borrowed and listened to it, I am now ready to do a review of it, while it is again fresh in my memory. Firstly, I have to say I can appreciate it a lot more now. Tracks 1 & 2 are really very good, with plenty of typically Yes moments. Howe's guitar is the dominant instrument on the album, but that is only to be expected, seeing as he and Anderson wrote it between them. There is more melody here than I remembered. Squire's bass is rather low in the mix, but still there, and Alan White is impressive on his debut for them. Wakeman's keyboards, although not as obvious as on previous records, are effective, gently pervading much of the material in a non obtrusive way, the mellotron especially being used to great effect. Track 4 is likewise very good, but now I don't consider it any better than the first two. The weak point is track 3, which, whilst retaining some melody, goes off on a tuneless tangent a little too often for me, with Howe sounding like he is not sure how to fill in some of the spaces, so letting his guitar meander somewhat pointlessly at certain times. Nevertheless, the whole album is rather better than I had thought it first time around. The bonus tracks on the remastered version are studio run-throughs of the first and third tracks, differing slightly at times; interesting but no better than the final versions. The vocals are rough, to say the least, and down in the mix here and there. These tracks are non essential, but nice to have, and they don't interrupt the flow of the album proper. So, after all the hype and controversy, is this album a) A masterpiece, or b) an overblown bit of disappointing fluff? In truth, it is neither as good as some suggest, nor as bad as others hint at. A long way from being their best work, but worth having. It is still recognisably Yes, although new fans should not acquire this one until they have the other key albums, such as 'Fragile', 'Close To The Edge', 'Relayer' and 'Going For The One'.
Report this review (#13213)
Posted Sunday, April 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a great album to be sure; it is certainly Yes' most ambitious (though not necessarily best) effort. I prefer the first disc to the second, though I think Rituals is perhaps the best song of the four. But every song has a few downer moments where the ideas just fall a bit flat. This is the one album I wish the band would go back to and re-record, cutting about 5 minutes from every song. I can only imagine...

That said, I believe this is an album that will transcend time. When people look back a hundred years from now and consider the music of the late 20th century, this album will be regarded as a masterful work. It is the progressive rock equivalent of Vilvadi's Four Seasons, though I doubt "Giants under the Sun" will become a part of the wedding playlist.

Report this review (#13214)
Posted Thursday, April 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
2 stars Loved The Yes Album, liked Fragile and Close to the Edge, bought this expecting more of the same. Result: bafflement. I listened to it again and again (NEVER in one go!!) but I simply cannot understand how five extremely talented musicians could fail so badly at the composition stage and press on anyway. It's everything that makes some people hate prog rock; a pretentious, overambitious concept with far too much complication and no soul. Even the title is pretentious - what the hell is a "topographic" ocean (it can't exist!)? Sure, they play it well (which is why it manages 2 stars) but that's not enough. It's more a technical exercise in flashiness and self indulgence than an attempt to make real music and Wakeman was wise to get out. Ironically, their next album (Relayer) was a lot simpler and a huge improvement so perhaps they learned from this. Greatest album ever? Please don't make me laugh!
Report this review (#13215)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars - If the master JS Bach came to me and told, hey boy, i know you like my music, but I have no idea of your time music, what do you recommend? I would put this album to the player. - If the master WA Mozart asked me, come on fellow, play me some good melodies you like. I would push the bottom PLAY on my player. - If the master Lv Beethoven did the same I would make him listen to that album. - If some of the 20th century guys, e.g. Stravinsky had it, hey, young chap, is there something what could compare to my Blessing of the Spring in your times? I would sit him down in a sofa and let him listen the tales and replied, hey master, this one I like more. - And if you ask me what do you like, I would reply: YES. They are brave and magnificient musicians with the knowledge and skill. So how could it be that so many people even those who like earlier and later works of YES dislike this album? I think, that they find it too demanding. If it had been recorded as four different albums always containing one big and 2 smaller tracks (like ctte or relayer), I am sure they would have loved them. Indeed, it is not easy to follow four big movements after one another. My experience is that as a teenager I liked Yes starting from 90125, drama, tormato to close to the edge. But as soon I touched the tales I escaped crying, oh that's too much!!! But later, I found a lot of different music, mainly the classical one, and I have realized that tough music demands tough ears and open hearts. I found the Passions of Bach, Don Giovanni of Mozart, the 9th one of Beethoven, or the above-mentioned the Spring of Stravinsky. They all are different but have something common. The great genious was put into it and hence it wants your full attention and skill to listen. And if you really want then you succeed and then you really find the treasure. And the tales are of the same sort, only made by rock tools. Some say that it was just over the edge, but I say, no, here they climbed the edge down to the roots of the ancient sea, here they were digging in the primary sands, here they followed the old simple and deep song of unceasing waves always attracting the human soul.
Report this review (#13218)
Posted Thursday, May 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars The most useless exhibition of self-proclaimed musical "intelligence". I bought this album when i was 15 and for years i tried to penetrate the ostentatious complexity of the musical fabric, always thinking I was inadequate for such a "masterpiece"... After many years and many musical experiences (rock, jazz, classical), now at 46 I fully realize that nothing was wrong with me and my ears, the undisputed truth is more simple: peel the paint and you willl find NOTHING. Silly bombastic ideas, poorly developed, french quotations, all inteded to cover with a big smoke cloud the very essence of the musc: an absolute empty space.
Report this review (#13222)
Posted Sunday, May 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion, this is not a 5 star album by any stretch. Also, there are no specific reasons why it is not. It just fails to reach that classification. It does reach the 4 star tier, but it does not offer enough to land it that fifth star. 4 stars means that the album is an excellent addition to any prog collection, and I feel that's exactly what this would be. By all means, don't start your journey with Yes here. The Yes Album, Fragile, and CTTE come first. Then this. If you are already a big Yes fan, then you gotta have this. If not, get into Yes a little bit first. But this would make your collection even better if it was present.

The Revealing Science of God - In my opinion, this is the best song on the album. Yes, better than Ritual. Usually, Ritual is seen as the best song on TFTO, but I have to disagree. Ritual might be tied for second in my book. But anyway... The Revealing... is perfect Yes. It might not seem that way at first, because compared to CTTE, this is going in a slightly different direction. But if you sit back and listen a couple times, you will realize that this is Yes in every way. An evolving Yes. A Yes that is trying new things, doing new things, being progressive. That's what this album is as a whole. A progressive band being progressive. Some people are blind to this. Some people see 4 side-length songs as ridiculous, but it is not. It's progressive.

The Remembering - Also tied for second place on this album. In contrast to the first song, I lost interest when I first heard it. I was immediately pulled in by the first song, but here, it seemed boring. Yes, I know, I was wrong. As the band says, this is the song where the "Topographic Ocean" itself is introduced, and you can actually hear that in the beginning of the song. Basically, it is a fantastic song, but The Revealing... overshadows it a bit.

The Ancient - The weakest song here. But by no means average or sub-par. It is a great song. But when surrounded by these other three behemoths, it's the weakest track present. It's also the most "out-there" of the four songs. Again, it's Yes experimenting and doing new things. Listen to the beginning and you will understand exactly what I am saying.

Ritual - This is where everything comes together again. The album climaxes and culminates in this song. Tied for second place (as I said before), it offers a lot as an album closer. It brings back themes from everywhere on the album, and towards the middle, it enters a very, well, cool/interesting phase. I can't even describe it, it's the part that begins around 14:20. You'll see.

This album is the album that shows the evolution of Yes. After Yes lost Bruford and gained White, the band knew that new and different things would have to happen. It was truly a blow to the band when they lost Bill (one of the best drummers ever to exist), but White does not disappoint. Overall, it's simply a very good album. 4/5 stars.

Report this review (#13228)
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Those long Yes songs!

These is a different album from a dinousaur band, previously they released Close to the Edge with 3 songs, and this is a double CD album in which every of them we will listen to a couple of songs, long songs of over 15 minutes each. Their imagination flew over the minutes and what they actually created was an enourmous album, that you either love or hate, you may find it awesome, or boring, and as an extra thing, keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman left the band after this record because he thought the band changed direction and he didn`t like what they did after all.

The Revealign Science of God, and Ritual are my favouriter songs, all great musicianship, solid sound but in the end i think it tis a bit inconstant, that is why i think this album deserves 3 stars, it is great and very different from their previous releases, but i dont consider it as the masterpiece some other people think it is.

Report this review (#13230)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I usually agree with Hugues' reviews and this is no exception! It must be said finally loud and clear that many of our beloved prog bands occasionally produced crap albums and totaly uninspired works. YES is no exception and as one of previous reviews noted well, this album is perhaps a good example why some music lovers hate progressive rock. Double LP of boring, quasi-philosophical "space" trips with lots of pompose and over- grandiose music solos, lacking basic emotions needed to intrigue the listener. I already stated in "CTTE" review that if it was a peak of their career it also announced a downfall to the arena of showmanship of "rock dinosurus", which created some of the most empty and self-indulgent music in the world and invoked the coming of the "punk saviours"! Granted, YES produced even worse albums than "Topographic" (see "Tormato"), but here it all started. I could personnaly listen only to some parts of "Ritual" without the urge to approach the turntable , lift up the cartridge, take the record, place it back into the sleeve, put it on the shelf and forget about it forever. If you are a newbie into prog, avoid this. Listen to the first five albums and if you get yourself addicted to YES then you may wish to complete your collection with this one. 1,5-2 stars.
Report this review (#35208)
Posted Saturday, June 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Of all of there albums they had done before and after of this album in the 70's, Fragile and CTTE can be comparable to each other and Relayer was more of a jazz classic and GFTO is a very good accessible style of prog rock album. But TFTO stands out for the extreme side of Yes. You either get it or you don't.

At first, after listening to the album for the first time, i thought it was not bad, nothing special or nothing awful about it either. But when the magic grows on you on how the songs are structured and comparing the concept to the instrumental pieces, it just simply flows so well.

Although I don't think 'The Remembering' is fantastic, you have the other three tracks that are in a completely different mould to each other. 'The Revealing' is a bizzarely good way to start which has experimental style vocal parts at the begining. But even though Rick Wakeman disliked the album, he does a pretty good job on the keyboard solo clocking through at 17 minutes of the track.

'The Ancient' is what I call a tuneful avant-garde masterpiece. Sounds unusual at first, but you at least know that it works so well. Steve Howe's solo at the beginning is amazing.

But the best track of them all is 'Ritual' which is probably the best song Yes have ever recorded in my opinion. The trippy jam at the beginning flows so well and how it starts off with Jon Anderson's vocals at around 5 minute of the track fits so well. One hell of an epic masterpiece.

So really this album is a classic, but I'm still not sure if it's their best album. Fragile, Close To The Edge, Relayer and Going For The One are the other best albums they have done. But TFTO stands out for showing Yes more into the extreme side.

Report this review (#36375)
Posted Monday, June 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Following this site's classifications, I'nm giving this album 4 stars - it is an excellent almost essential addition to any prog rock fans collection, but part of the reason for this is it was a milestone in the music of Yes, where having been close to the edge they went over it (ouch, sorry for that!). It is of course the album which caused Rick Wakeman to leave (for the first time)! Parts of the album, particularly the first and fourth sides, show Yes at their very best; but in places very weak tunes are expanded and re-worked until nothing much is left. For me, the opening section of side/track three - Ancient under the Sun - is pretty turgid although I understand it was impressive live. I've come to appreciate side 2 - the Remembering - as being quite atmospheric but it's not in the same league as CTTE, or some of their later meisterworks. Another criticism is that with the arrival of Alan White, they lost that subtle, jazzy touch of Bill Bruford; it wasn't unitl the next album, Relayer, that Alan White really made his mark in Yes.

However, no self respecting prog rock fan should really be without this in his or her collection!

Report this review (#36731)
Posted Friday, June 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rating: 3 / 5

Yes's 1973 monster, TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS is the most divisive album in the bands four decade history, and is hard to review. Though roundly trashed by critics, TALES managed to become a huge hit for Yes. Some fans immediately hated it, while others thought it was the equivalent of a new bible. TALES represents Yes at their most indulgent and pretentious. This album, along with ELP's WORKS (1977) are generally considered the greatest examples of the excesses of the Progressive Rock movement. It consists of four side long suites, and conceptually revolves around spiritual, Shastric [eastern religious] scriptures. Wow...the 1970's. Anyway, this concept was put forth by Jon Anderson (Vocals) and Steve Howe (Guitar), and the band went along. Anderson and Howe wrote all the material here, and clearly got taken away. The lyrics are as obscure and nonsensical as they have ever been, and the music isn't much easier to follow. Yes definitely tried very hard to get four sides of music ready, but fall short. Large stretches of this album are boring, intermingled with occasional, beautiful passages. As always with Yes, the playing is exceptional. Newcomer Alan White showed he could fill in for drummer Bill Bruford (recently departed for King Crimson) on the live YESSONGS (1972), and does well here. Since Howe composed the majority of the material, Wakeman's keyboards are pushed to the sidelines. In fact, Rick Wakeman detested this album so much he left the band in 1973 before the tour, and has blasted it in interviews ever since. The best song is probably Ritual, which can also be found on 1980's live YESSHOWS. This is definitely not the album for beginners to start with, and out of Yes's six albums from 1971-1977, this is the weakest. 3 stars, due to occasional moments of brilliance (after all this is Yes), but overall, this is an album for diehards. 1974's next offering from Yes, RELAYER, is far superior.

Report this review (#37241)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
1 stars This is Chapter Two of MY BIGGEST PROGROCK DISILLUSIONS. Halfway the Seventies I started to discover Yes and was especially carried away by their masterpiece "Close to the edge". In my soccer team there were a lot of progheads and we had heavy, black and white 'coloured' discussions about this 2-LP from Yes. I was impressed by the fact that our captain could sing the whole spoken intro from side 1, so I decided to buy this album. The first session was a hugh disappointment, I couldn't believe my ears that Yes had delivered such a boring 2-LP! My conclusion was that Jon 'Napoleon' Anderson had been too dominant in pushing Yes to accept his over-pretentious Far-Eastern philosophical ideas. If you read the books from Yes about that period it's incredible that Jon got away with his weird ideas about creating pleasant atmospheres with hardboard cows! Side one has a fine moment with Wakeman solo in the end, side three features an inspired Howe but side two and four are so boring, too fragmentic and without any direction. Wakeman was fed up with the whole situation and could hardly inspire himself to contribute anything. So during the tour he started to eat Indian food (delivered by a roadie) because he was almost without work! TALES from Yes? NO!!!
Report this review (#37486)
Posted Friday, June 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Tales" is an album for sensitive listeners. Yes trying to upgrade their music with even more classical influences and textures working together with espiritual themes as a real concept album (the unique Yes concept Album!). It was the only way Yes could try after the prodigious "Close to the Edge" and it was, indeed, a very ambitious project. When released ,it was called pretentious and inconsistent by the criticals. To make things even worse, keyboardist Rick Wakeman left the band with lots of negative comments about the album. Forget it! Play the album! Criticals brains are too small to understand "Tales" and Wakeman was very busy with his solo career . Yes was taking too much of his time . He wants to leave the band and his coments about "Tales" was just an excuse.

Do not be disappointed after the 1st heard! Play it again ! "Tales" is very complex and goes better and better every time you listen it! Every minute will worth! "The revealing science of god" opens the album. It's a pure Yes suite in the best terms. Then "The remembering", the 2nd music, a marvelous, beautiful 20 minute epic with Wakeman keyboards traveling into space in one of the most underrated Yes musics . "Ritual" is fantastic. Pay attention to the bass line at the final part of the music, Squire in a very inspired moment . Almost the whole album is amazing. Of course it has low points and sometimes sounds a little repetitive and boring,but it is a 80 minutes double CD with 4 musics! If it sounds pretentious (and in fact it is), I bet that Yes was the only band capable of doing it with such a consistence.

Now the real truth :after "Tales" Yes turned his own musical ambitions to low levels. Of course, there is others great albums then, but they where not evolutive in Yes music. They point to another directions, try to revive previous Yes works, be more commercial or praise the critics. "Tales" was the last effort in a classic and confident direction, was the last time "Yes" try to overcome themselves. If "Tales" has succeeded and acclaimed with same enthusiasm as "Close to the Edge", the Yes career would be different. Yes lost some of this musical ambition and confidence after the unfriendly album reception and things changed after all. Although "Tales" is rarely listed as the best Yes album , i can assure you it's the most important one because was the turning point for Yes career. After "Tales" Yes would never be the same.

Report this review (#37951)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is brilliant. While it is true that the tracks are some of the most complex you'll hear from Yes, you must take into thought the complexity and genius of it. To be able to make something so difficult for people to understand is truly a good showing of the real talents that these men have. Everytime I listen to the album my imagination is set wild. The music here creates beautiful imagery. I think that if people would listen to it for more than a few minutes or more than just once that they would finally "get it". Beautiful album just beautiful.
Report this review (#37961)
Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Shame on anyone who doesn't like this album, as it is an absolute masterpiece of 70's symphonic prog rock and is one of the most significant albums in the whole genre. Tales has always been an album that divides Yes- and prog fans into two groups; those that love it to bits, and those who bitterly hate it. I happen to belong to the former.

Okay, the music is extremely experimental and mystic (because of Jon Andersons' lyrics mainly..) and really really hard to get into, because of the fact that Tales consists of four movements that all clock in at approx. 20 minutes and don't have a lot to grasp with the first listen, but Tales needs quite a few listens before you get what it's all about. It's worth it, believe me! Every track has the trademarks of Yes' music; fantastic complex compositions with long technical solos for Howe and Wakeman, the voice of Jon Anderson that everyone knows, and especially the unique and outstanding guitar sound and technique of the one and only Stewe Howe.

So as a conclusion, please don't judge this album by one listen, give it time 'cos that's what it needs. You'll end up loving this album with all your heart and treasuring it as one of the most loved and played album of your collection!

An essential masterpiece that belongs to every prog-rock collection.

Report this review (#39066)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3 stars

This is a solid epic style yes material, but it has 3 main flaws : weak overlong soloing, the feeling that the songs seem too long, and of course, a disappointment after Close To the Edge

I'll go over each movement.

First Movement 8/10 : It starts with a brilliant almost trance-inducing vocals that is followed by a good riff .. then it just seems like soup ... it has barely a structure and goes nowhere with good sections in some places and a couple of great solos. This is the best of the 4 movements, and while the structuring of the song is very lacking, the musicianship is superb.

Second Movement 7.5/10 : It is a good epic. It starts with a great melody, but unfortunately it drags for many minutes. Then its gets slow (may become boring sometimes), until it starts picking up toward the 'relayer' lyrics which is fast, bombastic and very good ... then it gets slow again.

Third Movement 5/10 : this is not good! ... it is basically a failed experiment. It has slide guitar solos that sound terrible, some overpadding in a place in which the guitar plays the same thing but each time it adds 2-3 more notes (just like lateralus's bass guitar buildup which is better), it is redeemed a bit because it has one of Alan White's best drumming rhythm I ever heard. Finally it gets prettier and acoustic, but less interestic, and the solo drags and recyclies too much material

Fourth movement 5/10 : sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful. The guitar soloing is terrible in many places for me and sounds like improvising while recycling some material of close to the edge. If the beautiful 'we love when we play' didn't exist, it should get 4/10.

Overall, this is a mixed bag. I recommend it to fans of relayer, and structureless epics like some of King Crimson.

My Grade : C

Report this review (#39182)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars You know, sometimes it's not right to compare things, especially apples and oranges like Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans. However, the apple in this situation definitely lets you know what kind of potential it has. The stunning consistency and the sheer melodic power that Close to the Edge is not matched with Tales from Topographic Oceans. The concept of the album is indeed nearly unapproachable, 4 20-minute songs that carry a largely uninteresting concept and a giant smoldering aura of being overindulgent. Taking such a giant step within an album's can spark someone's interest for sure, or it definitely couldn't to a certain listener. That's why you'll find the opinions on this album to be a mixed bag. Yes can't help themselves but to create very beautiful moments within a piece, and they sure have a lot of room here, but is the album something that can truly reach you on a whole and keep you enthralled? It isn't.
Report this review (#39492)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars So the lucky question of the day is "how does a band come up with four twenty-minute suites and record them in a period of one year?" Well, Yes, having conquered after Close to the Edge was a success, took everything further with Tales From Topographic Oceans, their most ambitious projecy, and apparently a black-white double album. Now this review is solely a personal one, but I actually was captivated by the mystery here. The four tracks move together like a four-piece symphony, one after the other, and the passages are simply beautiful musically. Guitarist Steve Howe is the standout here musically, with some strong rhythm and lead lines throughout, especially on "The Ancient." Alan White is on drums for the first time, and there are points where he seems uncomfortable (I have a Bruford preference also), but White is quite solid nonetheless. Chris Squire remains, well, Chris Squire, one of rock's most creative and talented bassists ever. Rick Wakeman's keyboards are more melodic and atmospheric this time around, which sounds nice, but that should help clarify why he left Yes after this album. The big Achilles on Tales From Topographic Oceans is that Jon Anderson, who still shines vocally, is a bit more nonsensical in terms of his lyrics. Then again, this time around Anderson and Howe both were responsible for the themes to each of these; are Eastern religions intense? There's no true favorite of the bunch, though it can start to wear on the ears depending on the listener. Four twenty-minute tracks will not be easy to stomach in one sitting; it's better to listen to at least two tracks at a time in my perspective. Things started to tumble a bit after this album, but if you are a consummate progressive-period Yes fan, this is necessary for a collection. 78/100: VERY GOOD
Report this review (#39519)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I do not understand why some fans of prog. rock hate this album. It is not pretentious. It was my first full-length studio album by Yes(after the compilation Classic Yes). Of course it was not love at first listening , but after a several time it "clicked". An extraordinarly beautiful and uplifting album , with really oceanic soundscapes and breathtaking vocals. For the latter,. the opening composition is the best showcase. This album shows Yes at their most experimental, along with the successor of this album, the also fantastic Relayer. The band incorporates different sound from the world, (especially from India and South America), some jazz fusion to enrich their trademark symhonic prog sound. The experimental nature of the album is the most notable on the Ancient, which is the most "difficult" track of the catalogue of the band. It's hard to pinpoint one highlight of Tale, actually all 4 tracks are highlights, however sometimes I feel The Remembering a little bit too long. Although it would be interesting to know how would this album look like if there was a possibility of the CD format at that time. Hats off to Steve Howe for his "extended " soloing! His acoustical guitar playing on The Ancient is amazing. This is actually mainly his album, and of course Jon Anderson's. Maybe Jon could have find a better inspiration than Yogananda, the original ancient Hindu writings are muc more valuable, or a more recent author like Sri Ramakrishna or Sri Ramana Maharsi stand miles above Yogananda. But this does not ruin the musical experience, this is an album that is really able to lift you above the gruesome banalities of the so called everyday life, if you give the chance this gem. I would not say that this album is perfect(What or who is perfect in this world BTW?), but if something is essential for any serious prog listener, thaht is Tales from Topographic Oceans.
Report this review (#40768)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Prog's most infamous moment and it is 95 per cent likely if you are a prog fan you'll come to feel you have blown the dough. If you are not a prog fan you get this album to taunt your prog friends. It starts well for the first eight minutes but then the first side runs out of gas. The next two sides have little going for them other than the occasional mast inspired playing by WAkeman or Howe. Don't worry about the drum solo you'll be thoroughly suffering from wake deprivation by then. Maybe they could keep playing this album at Guantamo Bay till the terrorists start talking, And I haven't even mentioned the lyrics yet
Report this review (#42006)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I wasn't sure what rating to give this to reflect the mixed emotions this one brings out in prog fans. I first picked it up over 10 years ago, and had waited a while from the first time I'd been aware of it because of friends and some Yes fans warning me that it was not their best work. When I finally listened to it I was unsure how I felt about it. But after 3 or 4 complete plays, some themes and melodies started to play in my head and I grew to love it. It became my favorite album at the time and I listened to it a lot. After picking up the latest remaster, I have reevaluated somewhat. I still like it, but some of the charm has worn off a bit. For instance, I would agree that if they had made a single album of 4 10 minute pieces, this could have been the best Yes album of all. But that said, I still think it works well. For those who criticize the album for being pretentious all I can say is: why do you listen to symphonic progressive rock if you don't like pretentions music??? That is one of the halmarks of prog. If these guys didn't have pretentions, their music would be the poppy Beatles inspired dross of the first two albums. So I think that in the case of this album, pretentious is not an insult but a compliment. This album is a lot to take in at once, and I would suggest that it requires at least 4 full listens to really sink in. It is not perfect (hence the 4 stars....and I did consider a 3 1/2 rating, but it deserves the half star for controversy factor alone), but it is a quality Yes album and a mostly successful experiment. If you are expecting another Close to The Edge or Fragile, you will be dissapointed. If you are willing to open your ears and give it time, I think you will find it to be a satisfying and interesting listen.
Report this review (#42020)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I wanted to like this album. I mean really, really wanted to like it, if only to prove snotty critics wrong. Turns out, much as I hate to admit it, I was the one who was wrong.

All right, TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS isn't "the worst album in rock history", or whatever other hyperbolic anti-prog B.S. churned out by Dave Marsh and his ilk. It is, however, a chaotic mess of an album with very little of what made Yes so appealing. It's also a textbook case of what can go wrong when one has a concept for an album without having set a note of music down yet.

So much of the album feels forced. For a band that made their name with dramatic, bold ways to open an album, the lackluster, monochromatic opening to "The Revealing Science Of God" (with Anderson reciting in a monotone) can't help but come as a letdown. Some parts of the track do eventually grow on you, but there's still an awful lot of filler, clearly present to stretch out the track to fill an album side. It doesn't prepare you for "The Remembering", where the filler starts taking over, and one begins to wonder if this really was the same band that brought us CLOSE TO THE EDGE.

Disc Two is an improvement. "The Ancient" finally gives us something a bit lively, opening with a powerful (if a tad overextended) guitar solo and maintaining a "Siberian Khatru"-ish level of intensity until the acoustic coda. Likewise, "Ritual", which still suffers from the stretching all the other tracks do (not least of which the percussion/synth section, which is at least not your typical drum solo) also features moments of greatness that bring back bittersweet memories of CTTE. The closing minutes, featuring a gloriously emotional guitar solo from Howe, is particularly sublime, emphasizing everything that's great about Yes.

In spite of the high points late in the disc, Yes really dropped the ball on this one. It's one of those ideas that sounds better hypothetically than in real life; the idea that this SHOULD have been "Close To The Edge" × 4, but sadly it wasn't anywhere close. I suppose disappointment was inevitable, considering they'd already attained the summit with CTTE.

I must say, though, I never expected them to fall off a cliff afterwards.

Report this review (#42907)
Posted Monday, August 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the gold standard of progressive rock.

This album is to progressive rock what Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is to jazz, and what Zeppelin IV is to classic rock.

At it's finest, Classic Progressive Rock is about impeccable virtuousity and out-of-control wreckless abandon all at the same time.

This band dared to fail. Instead of performing music that was comfortable. Music that was a logical next career move.... Yes upped the ante as artistes.... Here was a band that was on the cusp of financial greatness.... and what do they do? They release this album: The definitive progressive rock album. One of the most inaccessible albums of all time. It wasn't for another ten years that these musicians started making the music that the record companies wanted them to do.

I will say that Tales From Topographic Oceans takes a few hundred listens before you get into it and it becomes a part of you......

Report this review (#44301)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first learned this album about 9 years after the fact.

I'm a pianist, and one day I decided to buy the two folios of Yes that were available at the time (this was the during the first period they were broken up, after Drama). Of course, in them were the four tracks that make up Tales From Topographic Ocean (all albums up through Relayer in them, with Dear Father tacked on the end), severely edited of course, but they're there. I'd only actually heard Yessongs, Tormato, Fragile, and what was on the radio.

I learned them without ever hearing the record, so I had the benefit of using my own imagination on the songs' arrangements. The upshot is because of the editing, the sides break down into songs for me ... there's just four titles.

I thought the interspersing of the songs themselves was interesting -- for example, Revealing Science for me is like three or four different shorter songs mixed up -- where the second verse would come in, you get a section from another song.

Then I heard the record, finally, after approximately 4 years of playing it myself, for myself. It must be said that while I love the album now, I found it hard to make it through the parts that were edited initially.

I also found the performance stilted all the way through, preferring the live tapes I've heard since -- Jon sings to the click-track, holding each note precisely, for example .... a bit too perfect, a bit too tight, more just get the notes than injecting shaping on the phrasing and dynamics. Very mechanical in execution.

But I still have my imagination, and in my head I have my very own Tales From Topographic Oceans, shaped and dynamo. Is what was released a masterpiece? No, but it could have been, all the way through. Does it detract from listening to it for me nowadays? No, it remains a favourite. Jon Anderson keeps threatening to return to this album. Maybe I should ring him up and suggest that if he's going to do it, let's get on with it. In the meantime, what we have is very nice to have, but it doesn't sound finished, and maybe that's the charm as to why it's so fascinating.

Report this review (#45650)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was introduced to Yes as a kid back in 1980 through this album. Off course it was too radical for me back then (consider I am a Bangladeshi-- and the only way we got rock music was through the people who bought these records abroad). I still have the double album (by the way, it says copyright 1973-- while in this forum, this record has been marked for 1974). There are so many negative reviews about this one and I do not agree with most of the negative observations. One should listen to this album keeping in mind that this is an exceptional example of extreme progressive rock in which you should expect to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. If you are pre-occupied with other affairs of life, don't listen to it. I agree with some negative remarks that the album could have been tightened at places. For instance, Revealing Science of God could have been better if it cut short some instrumental parts after 9 minutes and bring it down to 15 minutes-- instead of 20 minutes. The second piece, The Remembering, is highly underrated. Its a show-piece of Howe's elaborate works which I still enjoy after 25 years of listening to this album. The Ancient is rather a difficult piece to like instantly-- minus the acoustic part in the end. The Ritual grabs you right in the beginning and there is a general consensus that this is THE piece. I would also laud the high quality recording of this album. Back in the vinyl days, it delivered unbelievable sonic depth-- bass and rich texture of key boards. But above all, I vote the cover of the Tales as one of the best covers that impacts your mind. People who have not seen the cover before they have listened to this album will not get into the right mood to listen to it. This is an album that was made for you to wander around within your mind. Roger Dean did a nice job that leaves you mystified and prepares you to listen to it. Too bad, the CD covers are too small to have that impact.

Report this review (#47028)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Prog music is about being forward thinking, spacey if you like. It's about being epic and profound and even long winded and indulgent. This is Yes's finest hour. Fine. 80 plus minutes. Deal with it. Why the four star rating then? Because, and only because it's too long to listen to as often as I would like. I've listened to it a trememdous lot, and it's Because of that long winded pomposity that I know I'll never be able to grow tired of Topographig Oceans.
Report this review (#50795)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think this is a great album. I like music that demands something from the listener, and also is thougt through. And the parts I suspect some call boring i think are just setting moods or "building" the piece. As for the lyrics, they are deep, but so what? this also demands something from you. And even if the pieces are long, the melodies and harmonies are great. I've only enjoyed "fragile" after about two listenings. The other Yes-albums I have has taken more listening, but I enjoy them all so much now. They have really grown on me
Report this review (#55666)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This isn`t as bad as it`s detractors would have you believe, but it isn`t a great album by any stetch of the imagination. I cant imagine anyone lese but the hardcore Yesfans really loving this album. It is definitely an ambitous work and if the last album was aptly titled Close to The Edge, this album should have been titled Over The Edge. Its oultandish , enormously overdone and very much overkill. With all that being said, the playing on this album is superlative. Even if Squire, White, and especially Wakeman were not on board with the concept, they do contribute a great deal musically to this album. There are people here who dissected this a hell of a lot better than I could, so I`lljust give a brief overview. This album is based on the Shastric scriptures,or at least Jon Anderson`s reading of it. Still,when one listens to Anderson`s lyrics, especially on this album, you are left wondering what the hell is he going on about? Pretentious, you may ask? Defintiely!!! Yet, there are people who still insist on interjecting meaning into the lyrics of Anderson when he ohad once stated he utilized wordplay similiar to the way an artist uses an array of colors when painting. It is a bit much asking anyone, except hardcore Yesfans to sit through 80 minutes of pretentious verbiage. If there is a connection to the Shastric scripures on this album ,only Anderson can answer for it. And from what I understand ,he only leafed through excerpts. So what qualifies him to be an expert?? What really gets me is when some people state you have to have a higher form of intellect in order to understand the lyrics.There some who have stated that on various message boardsIi have frequented. That`s the very attiude that has made others think of progressive rock,it`s musicans and fans as stodgy and pretentious.Yes, I do like much of progressve rock, but it`s reputation as pretentious is somewhat deserved whether you may like it or not. I am not an Einstein by any means,but I`m far from an idiot. The album doesnt work for me. I gather if you are on the same train of thought as Anderson and his partner in crime in conceiving this `concept',Steve Howe , then perhaps you`ll be able to glean a lot more insight into this album than I can. There are some fine musical moments.; The Revealing Science of God moves at a sprighly pace and one of the more inspired moments is Wakeman`s keyboard solo towards the end. The Remembering take a little too long to make it`s point, but when it gets into the chorus section of Relayer, it picks up rather nicely. The Ancient ,for me is just hastily thrown together, save for the beautiful `leaves of green' section. And the final track, Ritual, tries to brng it all home, but to me it`s akin to four tracks stitched together, much like Frankenstein`s monster. Dont get me wrong, Squire`s bass solo is one of the best he has ever played, and the percussive section is imaginative,but it seems to me Yes had a mondus operandi of whatever I can think of next wothout cohesiveness . Its not their best,but it`s certainly far from their worst effort. The two stars are for it`s ambitousness . I do appreciate the fact they were making music on their own terms with a major label, something that could not be done at all nowadys, but its not an album for everyone. Perhaps if they took the time to hone it down, it could have been more bearable.
Report this review (#55742)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hoo boy... what can I say about this one that hasn't already been said? Well after much consideration I have concluded that while certainly not as good as Close to the Edge, it's at least good enough to rank with the other Yes albums of this era. "Revealing Science of God" is the most successful of the 4 pieces, perhaps their best attempt at an extended suite. And considering how much Rick Wakeman hated this stuff, his solos are incredible, and Howe's not too shabby himself. "The Remembering" is pretty good too, but takes a little too long to really take off -- 10 min. into the piece! Once it does though, there's a great "Fish" style base groove that the band uses to jam cohesively, and one wonders just how much Phish was inspired by this kind of thing, really. Anderson's lyrics are as painterly as ever here. "The Ancient" is sort of the opposite: it starts out strong with an extremely experimental passage that sounds sort of like an Arabian Nights version of Larks' Tongues in Aspic, but the acoustic section to me sounds inconngruous in comparison (it's basically "Mood For A Day" with lyrics" which is fine, but just doesn't sound like it belongs in the same song). That minor complaint aside, it just might be the most gorgeous, delicate passage Yes ever played. "The Ritual" is Yes at their most bombastic and operatic, which can be good -- for a little while... like the Dead's 23-min. plus "Dark Star" it's just too much of a good thing! And then there's that drum section, you'd think a drummer as talented as Alan White would be able to make this a little more interesting, but as it is it always makes me want to fast forward to the next part. Those flaws aside, this is still very good music, and god knows Yes has made worse albums than this. With a little pruning and fine tuning, this could have been as good or better than CTTE, it's pretty darn appetizing as it sits.
Report this review (#55761)
Posted Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is one of the greatest musical works ever written. Even Beethoven's symphonies were criticized in the same way when they were performed during his lifetime. Of course, today, they are known as masterpieces. I also advise you to get Tales From Topographic Oceans and listen to it with a clear and open mind. Don't expect to like it or understand it at first. Listen to it repeatedly and you should start to hear things here and there that you like. In time it will start to come together like a puzzle and make perfect sense. It's a lot of fun because, at that point, you will start to notice things that you hadn't before. So, just give it time.
Report this review (#55944)
Posted Friday, November 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Before I purchased this album, I heard a lot of controversial opinions about it. I wasn't quite sure whether to give it a try or not. Nevertheless I did. After listening, I was disapointed and thought I would propably never listen to it again. For some reason I listened to it for second time and liked it much better. After third time I considered this a pretty good album.

All songs are great, best one propably "The Revealing Science Of God". Only weak point is the middle section of "The Ancient", which seems unstructured and maybe even irritating. This song could have easily been a lot shorter and therefore propably better. Other songs are top class Yes epics.

If you have time and patience, give this album a try. You need to listen it many times in order to really get it. Get "Close to the edge", "Fragile", "Relayer" before this album, but you propably know it yourself.

Report this review (#56310)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars For all those who say that this is the "worst" Yes album or that it is "over-indulgent" or "just plain silly", I say, "Listen to it again, in its entirety."

The four songs are meant to be listened to as a whole, in that order, and if you can give the time to it, less than sitting down to watch a standard movie, you'll understand why this is Yes' finest hour. This is true symphonic-prog- it can only be appreciated by investing the time in it. After the amazing vocal intro of Side 1, we are introduced to the main theme of the piece which doesn't come back to you in full force for a full 65 minutes (!) Bow down to thine masters, oh fans of prog! It meanders, it explores, it pushes limits. The lyrics can be strange, but when you know the general theme (God is the Sun we are made of the Sun, etc.) they begin to make a bit of sense. This is a brilliant album. How it was written, recorded, and performed live, I will never know (and I'm a professional musician.) Please listen to this again if you didn't like it. Trust me.

Report this review (#56990)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Okay, don't get me wrong here; I love Yes, and I LIKE this album. In parts. I have listened to both discs all the way through back-to-back a number of times, and the conclusion I always come to is that there is some brilliant stuff there, but that the whole thing could be abut half the length it is and still include all those great moments. The Remembering is, in my opinion, the only track that holds the listener's ear all the way through in the same way, as, say, Close to the Edge or Heart of the sunrise might. I find that all the other tracks, although good (I mean, this is mid-70s Yes; the band's best period) tend to get a bit tedious in parts, and, in some parts are a bit rudimentary for my taste (the endless major runs of The Revealing Science of God and the stringy cheese of The Ancient)- however, there are moments in these tracks which are pure genius- check out the synth solo on TRSOG, and the dreamlike first movement of The Ancient for evidence of this. A good album by general standards, but not up to that of Close to the Edge or Fragile.
Report this review (#57141)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A confounding double album in that it in the right mood it can take you on a floating exhilirating journey for an hour and a half but listen to it when you are unwilling to pay full attention and it can meander harmlesslessly and aimlesslessly like some floral patterned wallp-aper. Worse you can listen attentively in some moods and you will hear flaws and padding annoying percussion and whining guitars and limp squishy keyboards as background filler, no wonder wakeman was unimpressed.

Today i listened to side three the ancient for the first time in years and enjoyed it, even the percussive avant garde opening section, oftenthis section can be too demanding but not today. So what does it sound like? well i do not have the technical background but in terms of mood and feelings it is like this:

The Revealing science of God is a track that floats like a perfect fluffy white cloud in clear blue skies with wind gently billowing through leafy trees while you lie on alushly grassed spot in the sun.

Add in a babbling brook tumbling gently along through round pebbles rocks and bouldersand you have side 2 the remembering.

Side 3 is a hike through a swamp of sounds followed by a stroll through a gladed woodland on a warm spring day and finally

Nous sommes du soleil is a beautiful summers day, clear early then becoming sultry with a brief clearing storm followed by cooling breezes with resplendent sunshine late into the evening before setting magnificently on the horizon.

This how it feels to me to listen to Tales it is not a high energy Rock album altough live it is much more energetic and can induce tears of joy ( see Yessymphonic, Yesshows or Keys To Ascencion) As mentioned earlier at other times Tales can sound less joyous

Therefore this album is a difficult one to review, at any time depending on my mood i can give this 3 4 or 5.

So on balance i would say it is worthy of 4 stars.

Report this review (#57510)
Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Okay here I am reviewing the most critized album of all of Progressive Rock. Tales From Topoagraphic Oceans. You either love it or hate it and thankfully I love it! It may be long and hard to listen at first but after 3 or 4 listens you will begin to appreciate what is a fantastic album. Rick Wakeman is great throughout on keyboards and Jon Anderson's voice is on top form all the way through. The instrumental part in Ritual is one of the best ever in my humble opinion. Get the expanded edition for not only the great album remastered but with two bonus tracks. Trust me it's worth getting!
Report this review (#58663)
Posted Wednesday, November 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This IS the best Yes album - it has focus and direction with each song being complete on its own but also contributing to the whole story - don't worry too much about what that story is all about, just sit back and listen and marvel at the wonderful music - I bought this album in 1974 and I still listen to it every now and then (CD these days) and it still sounds fresh and vital just like it did then - I also bought Close to the Edge and Relayer and I'm still trying to get into those! I like double albums and those with long extended songs so this suits me down to a five star.
Report this review (#60222)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Simply the best album ever......HONESTLY! When I first heard it 30 years ago it blew me away (I still have the vinyl first edition)....... and even stories about Rick Wakeman eating curries during live performances due to chronic boredom.... does not diminish the achievement of this truly great album. I've heard it so many times and hear different things every time. It's a multi-layered masterpiece..... a Mozart piece of the 20th century........ And I still get goose-pimples when I hear Jon Anderson start the piece with ..."Dawn of......." I saw it live twice as well.... and loved every note.

It truly is the best Prog. Rock spectacular ever. How can a group turn out a double album with just 4 songs? Incredible!

Genesis managed only one epic like this (one side given over to 25 minutes plus to Supper's Ready from Foxtrot)

Relayer comes close to rivalling it but loses control as the members of the band let it rip and have a good time trying to drown each other out...... not that I have anything against Patrick Moraz.... he gave the group a real zip when he came along...

But Topographic Oceans is my Number One Album of all time...... by a mile......

Pure magic!!!!

Listen to it as loud as you can on a good system with a decent bass, not the rubbish you have to listen albums on nowadays which only seem to have a moderate bass and lots of tinny treble......... get a bass system with BOTTOM! It will just leave you with your tongue hanging out drooling for more!

Report this review (#60243)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I so greatly appreciated the last review concerning this album that I found myself needing to "second the motion". Far and away my favorite piece from one of my favorite bands of all time. I began listening to Tales decades ago , and still enjoy this masterpiece, immensely. Late night, with the headphones on, it is so enjoyable to immerse myself in the beauty and emotion of this grand work. Pretenious? Overblown? For some maybe,( In all honesty, those stinging words could one use to describe most if not all of the gems of our beloved genre) yet for I, how glad I am to not let a critical spirit keep me from enjoying one of the greatest efforts in prog history.
Report this review (#60260)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have waited a long while to review this and I think I'm finally ready. Anyway this album was a bit of a disapointment for me, I think because I expected four epic songs of the Close to the Edge/Gates of Delirium/Awake caliber, but instead you get four cohesive, if somewhat fluffed pieces which work much better as a whole album than individual songs.

Well anyway, this album could have been great. A lot of stuff on here is classic Yes, but it is lost in all the pointless filler soloing. I think Yes could have cut the album down a good bit, and made things a little more epic. That's the thing, this album is big on being *pretty*- but there is no beauty ala Soon or parts of Awaken. It stays like the same mood the whole time.

Most of the great parts here are from Jon Anderson himself, because the intrumental parts are not great. I think they should have cut this down to about 50 minutes, and it would have worked way better, and been more cohesive. However, while this was a disapointment for me, there is enough good stuff to make this better than Fragile, so 3.75 it is. 4 stars.

Report this review (#60600)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I heard some prog-fans talking about TFTO as a masterpiece: I really don't understand. I'm a really great fan of prog music, but I think this album has not enough ideas to build so long tracks!! Generally, I think it is not fundamental to do long songs, solos, etc...; every musician must concentrate also on the melody, it's important. Yes didn't do that on this album. I found it boring and every time I try to listen it, from the first note to the last, it results impossible to me: I really don't enjoy myself in listening this album!!
Report this review (#62690)
Posted Sunday, January 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've read most of the reviews here of this album and can tell that this album is no less controversial today - even amongst YES's most ardent fans - than it was when it was released. I'm sure I can't add much of value to what's already been said about this album and I'm not going to try to win any arguments, but I have to say that this album was one of the most important steps along the way to me becoming a die-hard YES fan.

It was some friends in college who first introduced me to YES. I didn't yet own any of their albums, but whenever I was over at their place we would listen primarily to YES (ELP's Brain Salad Surgery and Vangelis' La Fete Sauvage were other favorites). And pretty soon, whenever I was over there, I would specifically ask to listen to Tales (I used to mistakenly call it Tales from "Topographical" Oceans). I sensed there was not so much enthusiasm for this album, although none of them would ever admit to not liking it.

But this album truly fascinated me. The music was not easy to appreciate on the first couple of hearings, but I sensed that there was something there worth paying attention to and trying to dig out. And when I did finally buy the album, I often made it a point to listen to the whole album from beginning to end, often replaying certain parts that seemed odd, meaningless or even fatiguing to me.

A lot of people here have used the word "pretentious" to describe this album. I can't completely disagree with that. Especially now that I'm in my mid-40s and have broadly experienced life, some of the ideas in this album seem less deep than they once did, and to commit nearly 80 minutes of music to those ideas does strike me as either pretentious or self-absorbed. But I think the album does deserve a good, thorough listen from anyone who considers themself a YES fan.

I give it 4 stars and a recommendation to everyone who has not listened to this album for a long time to go back and dig more out of it.

Report this review (#65613)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album has been reviewed thoroughly on this site, but I would like to add a few thoughts. I will not give this album 5 stars. Tales certainly does not have the impact that other classic Yes albums have on the listener and there is too much of a controversy about this album. Tales is either great or crap depending of one's point of view. I think that by rock music standards it is indeed overblown, pretentious and self-indulgent. By classical music standards it is not. I always looked at this album from a classical music point of view. Then it makes sense (well, the lyrics are as crazy as any Yes album). Many people here say that nobody could listen to the whole album is one piece. Well, I always listened to the whole album, though not as often as other Yes albums. Then again, I listened to Wagner's Siegfried in one piece... Haters of this album dismiss it completely as crap. I suggest them to listen to a Black Eyed Peas album to find out what is really crap music. Then probably they'll be more appreciative of this album. This album will always be given as an example of why progressive rock was great or bad, but I think it will stand the test of time as an attempt of a rock band to transcend the too tight rock music realm.
Report this review (#66212)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars OTT or what? Yes it does have its moments but they could have quite easily done this on one album rather than drag it out over 2 - it reminds me of the advert about who can eat 3 shredded wheat - who can listen to all 4 sides of Topographic Oceans? I thought there would be casualities afterwards as this was definitely retro step for the band after producing so many classics in previous years. Yet they've released Big Generator, Talk and are still going! I've seen them twice recently and used the Revealing Science of God as an excuse to go to the gents.
Report this review (#68760)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my favorite Yes recording, and I have them ALL! of the BEST prog-rock recordings of all-time. Certainly in my top ten...sometimes even ranking higher. But more on that later...

What baffles me the most about the low ratings for this album is that the VAST majority of these low ratings are probably coming from die-hard Yes fans! THAT, I cannot and will probably NEVER understand.

First of all, some of you are saying that this album is pretentious and that the lyrical content is absurd! Dah! When did Jon Anderson EVER write anything that wasn't pretentious or absurd???!!!

From the VERY FIRST Yes album we knew what we were getting. There was no doubt 30 years ago and there should be no doubt today as to what this band was and is all about. They were all about cosmic lyrics and long, drawn-out music. That's what attracted us to the band in the first place.

Please don't tell me that you found comfort in Jon's lyrics at ANY POINT in time during the bands prolific output. Or that you "connected" to anything that Jon ever had to say. Please! Don't tell me that! Because THAT would be the most pretentious of all things.

C'mon, people! Some of you die-hards are saying that Close to the Edge is Yes' magnum opus but forget(or blatantly overlook) that Jon penned the following lines:

"A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace, And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace, And achieve it all with music that came quickly from afar..."

And whom amongst us YesHeads doesn't feel a tiny bit embarrassed whenever we hear Jon say, in a melancholic tone........

"In her white lace You can clearly see the lady sadly looking. Saying that she'd take the blame For the crucifixion of her own domain..."

LOL!!!!!! What da! If those two examples above aren't the epitome of pretentiousness and absurdity, then please tell me what is?! Yet, some of you are acting as if though to be SURPRISED by the music and lyrics found in Tales! LOL!

I have always taken everything that Jon writes with a grain of salt and only look at his voice as dressing for the rest of the music. I couldn't care less what he is singing about, nor what Wakeman or anyone else has to say about Jon's philosophical viewpoints. All those things are superfluous

Anyway..............that being said...

This is my breakdown of TFTO(asterisks stand for star ratings:

1.The Revealing Science of God:.*****..This is simple a GREAT piece. One of the band's best work EVER and probably only second to the Close to the Edge suite, but not trailing by much. The melodic interplay by Jon's voice and the instruments is mesmerizing. By far my favorite piece in concert and one which the band seems to nail live each and every time.

2. The Remembering:.*****.This is a highly accessible song with some of Jon's best vocals. His voice is dead-on in tune and doesn't reach those screeching highs he often misfires on. Steve's acoustic work is sublime and comps Jon's vocals perfectly. The jam at the end is utterly exquisite offering the prog-rock connoisseur everything that is craved. Rocking drums, thumping bass, wicked keys and tasteful guitar. The more I listen to this piece the more I realize that it's one of the bands hidden treasures. Quite mellow actually and would serve as a perfect intro to someone who's never heard anything prog.

If the recording session would've ended with just the first two pieces I'd dare say that the resulting CD would be ranked right up there with CTTE and Fragile. But the band didn't stop there and gave us ONE more CD..

3. The Ancient: .****...Without a doubt this is the least accessible of all four pieces and by far the most experimental; and quite honestly I feel that this piece may be responsible for some of the more negative criticism., It weaves heavy drum-guitar interplay with some classical guitar and soft vocals. The changes from one theme to next are abrupt and do not flow nowhere near as smooth as the first two pieces. But let me put it this way: I'd bet if this piece had been done by King Crimson instead of Yes it would be considered by many as one of KC's best work. This is the kind of stuff that KC was doing but yet no one complained when Fripp was doing it? Why was it so bad when Yes did it? I know the answer to that question: because Yes raised the bar so high with the first two pieces by creating highly accessible, lyrically sweeping music that The Ancient pales in comparison.

4. Rtual.*****....This is the one that you want to crank up and let the bass hit your chest! A GREAT lyrically sweeping piece with the customary Howe slide guitar (he even throws in some well-known phrases from Close to the Edge). This one offers some of the most complex time changes of the entire album toward the beginning of the piece. Listen to Chris' bass during the first bridge and during the concluding jam...excellent! Steve's rhythm electric work on this one is superb. Jon's vocals are reminiscent of some of the earlier stuff from, say...Starship Trooper ." This is classic Yes and there's nothing about this one that should have surprised anyone. Top notch stuff.

Overall, I gave three pieces five stars and one of the pieces gets four stars. It may not be a perfect five, but considering how strong the five star material is I give this album an overall five star rating.

Again, I cannot understand why YesHeads don't like this album. Prog newbies or heavy metal proggers not liking it, or even hating it, I can clearly see. But YesHeads?! Sorry, but I will never understand that.

Report this review (#68800)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion, This is one of the best Yes Albums, WITHOUT QUESTION. The Melodies, Lyrics, and overall sound of the album are amazing. I dont understand how Yes fan's who like albums such as "Close to the edge" can dislike Tales from topographic oceans? When i think about almost every song on this album has similar qualities to songs like close to the edge. Each song on this album is unique but somehow it all ties together in the end. It's hard for me to explain, But I believe that if you are a true Yes fan you will enjoy this album, Atleast after a few listens.
Report this review (#69027)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I might as well wade in on this controversial album and place my two cents down on the progressive rock counter. It's a flawed masterpiece, to be sure, but what an aural adventure! After CTTE I think they couldn't help themselves but to follow the side-long opus trail that they had been so encouraged to follow by the voracious audience that was eating up everything they put out. Me and my friends included. By then we all worshipped at the Yes altar with good reason. Their music was innovative, courageous and inspiring at a time when top 40 radio was still in command of the biz. When this came out we couldn't wait to plop it on the turntable. It was, with the help of mellowing agents (If you know what I mean and I think you do), a religious experience. When I think of this album I recall driving through the Rockies in a funky Audi with a friend on the way to a gig in Estes Park and this cassette blaring through the speakers. If this music is pretentious then so are the mountains in Colorado. All I know is that it fit the scenery (and age) perfectly. Was Yes full of itself? Probably. Did they do the best they could? Definitely. Did they go too far and veer "over the edge?" Well, that's up to the individual listener. To me it's light years better than Tormato, which is when I lost interest in what they were doing, but that doesn't redeem it totally. That being said, the reissued version from Rhino is excellent and makes up for many of the original pressing's shortcomings on vinyl and fans might want to invest in it if they haven't already. "The Ancient" grates on my nerves a bit but once you get through the strange first half of the song it mellows considerably yet it still remains the weakest of the four. But there are moments on "The Revealing Science of God," "The Remembering" and "Ritual" that continue to amaze my ears even after all these decades. TFTO still pales in comparison with the three albums that preceded it and doesn't hold up as good as Going for the One or Relayer but it will forever hold a place in my prog heart as being the right album at the right time in my life.
Report this review (#69337)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Prog's most notorius album is nowhere near as bad as the media would have the public believe

Side 1 The best of the four with some good melodies and contributions from Wakeman. The most enjoyable of the four and very good for the first ten minutes but petering out.Wakeman never sounds inspired after this side

Side 2 Nothing I like about this side. Seems to be nothing happening and going nowhere with no hooks

Side 3 Seems to be the most coherent structurally of the 4 with some quite good passages but at other times it can feel like an overextended jam. Creativity is high here.

Side 4 This side starts well but again I think they had run out of ideas and started jamming to fill in the space.

Potentially a masterpiece because creativity was high but they never had the material to sustain the concept for four sides and lyrically it is uninteresting not even creating the word imagery of other Yes efforts.

Report this review (#69883)
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#70097)
Posted Monday, February 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well folks this is the album whether you love it or hate it you decide. I was very worried when i bout this two disc set (for 11.99 by the way heheheh) that it was gonna be horrible like most reviews have said. However i love epics and dude out of all the CDs i have this is the only one with 4 songs all at a great rate of 20 minutes which sparked my attention of how much instrumentation they can put in for a four song 20 minutes each CD. Well they're are some weird moments in these songs but don't let that dissappoint you because Yes to me is one of the best old prog rock bands in making epics. I think the stucture of the song was brillant as each member displays his talent on each track. As we have the vocal talents of mr. Anderson on THE REVEALING SCIENCE OF GOD, and we have mr. wakeman dealing with some spacy keyboard stuff on THE REMEMBERING, we have many guitar styles of Steve Howe on the guitar and sometimes crazy weird song of THE ANCIENT, and then the awesome rhythm section of WHITE AND SQUIRE in RITUAL. Now this is a love/hate album but hey almost every band i know has these kinds of albums so their is really no trouble in them heck i buy them for the heck of it and i still love them. i definitely it a 5 star for the concept and the structure that the band has made for TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS but i do give a 4 for the songs i mean i like them all the same but a times i don't like certain sections that they bring in the songs. Still if you wanna just relax this is the album to buy because i always feel better when i'm done listening to this album.
Report this review (#70870)
Posted Wednesday, March 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I won't bother going over each song but briefly, as some excellent reviews have already done this, particularly those by Ryan and corbet. The point is, I've come to a conclusion; that this album sounds more like Yes to these ears than any other Yes album, even Close to the Edge. It's the band weaving a magical soundscape that penetrates the soul and delves deeper than any Yes album before or after. It's experimental, going beyond the bounds of music past, which is what Yes is all about. Yes has no "best album", but this is the most "Yessy" album, in my opinion.

The Sea: "The Revealing Science of God" is my personal favorite, especially the two brief percussion-chanting sections, and the "dawn of light" chanting intro.

The Stars: "The Remembering" is a magnificent, spacey piece, with great keyboard and moog elements; it compliments "Revealing Science" perfectly.

The Jungle: "The Ancient", which unfortunately even some TFTO devotees turn down, is actually my second favorite; I don't think it's as inherantly weird as many people have stated it. Howe's guitar playing is on fire in the beginning, and as many have noted the acoustic ballad portion is excellent.

The Clouds: "The Ritual" closes off the experience, with some excellent guitar and percussion. The last two minutes or so when the movement picks up and starts darkening is probably my favorite moment of the song.

I had my doubts from all the negative feedback, but this is absolutely Yes. Just plain, naked, pure Yes. Tales From Topographic Oceans, from the slow fade-in of "Revealing Science" (added to the remaster) to the closing chords of "Ritual", is the crafting of a musical world that only Yes can create.

Report this review (#71827)
Posted Monday, March 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales is one of the best Yes albums ever. It´s obvious step after Close to the Edge and I don´t understand that same people likes Close but hates Tales. Close is match more difficult album than Tales. Tales has harmony from the beginging to the end, it´s musical voyager, Odysseus, Ulysses, a journey to the ancient world, from creation till the end of times, it has it´s own world, own music. It takes you somewhere else, some another place and time, but the music is´t so difficult than many times people says. It has much acoustic quitars, much simple but beautiful melodies that grows little by little to huge atmosferes but everything is nicely under control. After short kaos in Ritual everything comes down to their own places and the harmony of the universe is perfect. Band made magnificent musical adventure and they survived! Well done! You must remember that this kind of music didn´t exist before! From a rock band to this is a long way but they made it in a few years! Is this rock or what, nobody can tell, it is it´s own kind of music, little bit same made Mike Oldfield with Tubular Bells, something that nobody ever done before. They create new kind of music, they were pioneers of trying limits of creation of music by rock band´s formula. Much further you can´t go without loosing control. Crimson and some other band´s tried but many failed. Yes didn´t fail.
Report this review (#71923)
Posted Wednesday, March 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I know that this is probably the most widely detested of Yes' catalog, but I don't base my musical criticisms on what other people think or write.

I remember purchasing this album when it was released and being quite overwhelmed by it's beauty and frenzied creativity.

This may be Yes at their most bombastic, but rather than compare it to their other works, it is what it is...and I still enjoy listening to Tales to this day.

Report this review (#72435)
Posted Monday, March 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#73945)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars After "The Yes Album" and "Fragile" this release was the one that really got me into Yes. The four songs, each of them clocking 20 minutes, are simply amazing, beautiful and somehow relaxing! If you listen closely you can easily imagine the world shown by Roger Dean on the cover and the great musical work that is creating it. My favorite songs are the first and the last one. It's weird to hear yes singing "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" in french. I don't think it's possible to skip anything on this album! If you do, you'll break all the atmosphere! I'd give this release a perfect note, a must for any symphonic prog fans and a good recommendation for any prog listener.
Report this review (#75056)
Posted Saturday, April 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hands down Topographic Oceans is my favorite Yes album and one of my favorite albums period, definitely a "if you were stranded on a desert island" albums. One of the aspects that draws me to progressive music is "the epic". I love to be taken from one place to another, that when I finish listening to an album I feel as if I've been somewhere. Much like the symphonic poems of Respighi or the Strauss' this set does that and on a grand symphonic scale. A very bold outing at the time I feel that this is Yes at the peak of their form, their "voice" in the world of progressive music.
Report this review (#75067)
Posted Saturday, April 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' is an album of considerable scope and complexity. Consisting of four large scale arrangements, the work is reputedly based around the Shastric scriptures. It's seems fairly unfathomable as to how exactly the scripture is manifast in the music and lyrics in other than very abstract terms - however, it is quite clear that the scope of the scriptures gave Yes plenty of freedom to experiment compositionally. Each piece may be viewed as a landscape, the music taking us on a journey through often very differing terrains, the lyrics through various aspects of our consciesness.

'Dance of the Dawn', the first arrangement to feature on 'Tales from Topographic Oceans', is introduced to us by the sound of waves. On top of this backdrop are crafted the albums opening notes, Steve Howe making use of the volume control on his guitar to fade in each plucked note individually - creating a sound similar to that of a violin. Rick Wakeman adds to this opening texture with underlying keyboard chords. This figure is repeated, with the inclusion of lyrics, sung principally by Anderson, but rich in vocal harmony in typical Yes style.

The music thereafter sees a polyphonic arrangement of guitar and keyboard, interwoven throughout the melody. Alan White, whilst not nearly as technical as Bill Bruford, aids the transition between contrasting themes with appropriate drum fills. He is underpinned by Chris Squire, who plays a complex and important bass part. Much variety of musical material is presented to the listener within the piece. If we employ the journey metaphor, the ultimate destination and apex of 'Dance of Dawn' is a fabulous, sweeping keyboard solo, such a one as has surely inspired keyboardist Jordan Rudess in his work on Dream Theater's 'Octavarium'.

'High the Memory' is lesser in tempo, but more atmospheric and lyrically profound than the arrangement prior, reaching back through time into the memories forming a part of ones individual consciousness. Anderson's vocals are sometimes harmonized by Rick Wakeman on keyboard as in the second lyrical figure; interestingly the third sees the harmonisation of vocals undertaken by Chris Squire on fretless base - a touch most pleasing to the ear. Wakeman creates most of the atmospheric textures which occur throughout the piece (and album), adding much to an effort he would sadly, later deride.

'Giants Under the Sun' reaches further back through consciousness and human history, receding into the realms of lost civilisation. It is the most experimental of the four compositions musically. A gong heralds the start of the arrangement, which is remarkable for being especially percussive. Alan White plays a hollowed out log and uses brushes on an aluminium sheet to create an intersting rhythmic effect at various locations within the music. Rick Wakeman creates ritch, amospheric bursts of sound on keyboard, equally percussive.

Following the initial theme of forgotten civilisation, comes a beautiful 'remembrence', a celebration of more recent civilisations and what they have impressed upon the culture of today. Howe plays an extended solo movement on classical guitar. This transcends into a peaceful vocal passage, before the primary theme is briefly re-instated and the piece brought to its conclusion.

'Ritual', the last of the four arrangements, is included in Yes' '35th Anniversary' compilation and concert DVD, being more accessible than the other three. The primary theme is particularly prominent, introduced by Howe and sung to the words 'Nous sommes du soleil'; 'We are of the sun'. The arrangement contains a Gamelan inspired percussion solo ensemble, feuturing the whole band playing timpani behind the lead of Allan White, who once again uses brushes on an aluminium sheet to create a very particular sound. The Gamelan passage is almost mesmeric - but by no means unpleasant, and reflects the diversity of musical material to be found on 'Tales from Topographic Oceans'.

Included in the CD package of 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' are studio run throughs of 'Dance of the Dawn' and 'Giants Under the Sun'. These working versions of the arrangements yield insight into the creation of the album.

'Tales from Topographic Oceans' is to my mind a masterpiece. A word of warning however - the album is not for those without patience, and willing to give it a few listens in order to grasp an understanding and appreciation for the music. When you do though, it's splendour will never leave you. Five stars.

Report this review (#78318)
Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ah, the controvrsial "Tales". Definitly one of the oddest albums out there in the context of format (two LP's containg four side-long epics). A little over done and drawn out in many places

As manyy have said, a little overblown but it's an album you have to listen to several times. I've given it three shots and I've grown some appericiation for the music.

The best track is the first epic on the album "Revealing Science of God". Great synth in here and the lyrics are as the band described them "An ever opening flower". There are so many layers to you could write a book (and the song is long enough to). The most accesible song here. The music is complex and shows a whole lot of effort was put into this album even though at some points it sound unimanginative

"The Remembering" is a little bland at first listen, but mostly because of the dreamy quality that Yes was trying to get across, one of those songs that "grows" on you

"The Ancients" is the weakest point and and almost useless track. Despite a few good solos, the length of this songs makes them not worth the wait.

"Ritual" is a good end to this epic of epics that is "Tales". A heavy song that redeems the album after the pointless "Ancients" and has some cool percussion. The bass is exceptional too. Lyrically, this song is excellent.

Pros: Controvrsial, so it's definitly prog, nice instrumentaion on sevral songs and the best lyrics comming from the band

Cons: LONG. You can't just sit down and listen to the songs on this album, unless you're trying to fall asleep. Nice listens when you have it on as background music

Four stars simply because Yes was creating music that they WANTed to make, not what record companies wanted (as I'm sure they weren't happy with this). That is essence of a true prog rock band, to play what you want, not to write radio friendly pop tunes

Report this review (#79226)
Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is the album most music journalists use as an example when they want to show how "pretentious" progressive rock is. A sprawling, almost impenetrable concept album with only 4 songs spread over 4 sides of vinyl, it must be pretentious, surely? Well, it's Jon Anderson's concept based on the autobiography of a Yogi and, as usual with Anderson's lyrics of that period, it's hard to fathom any meaning behind lyrics like "Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources, chased amid fusions of wonder" but musically it surely deserves to rank amongst the Yes classics, although opinion is divided on this.

Each side of the album highlights a particular member of the band. "The Revealing Science of God" is Anderson's but the whole band is in top form on this track, particularly in the instrumental section towards the end. This is probably the most popular track on the album and has often been played live. The version on this edition has an extended intro before the vocals, consisting of sea noises and Howe's guitar gradually appearing. "The Remembering" is Wakeman's feature. He disliked this whole album and left the band shortly after (perhaps it was the cardboard cows that did it) but some of his finest work is on this album. There are some great keyboard sounds on this track, as opposed to the cheesier sounds on later albums. This number takes a while to get going but after one of the Wakeman solo spots, it gets into the "Relayer" section and picks up momentum. From then on until the brilliant climax, this is one of my favourite Yes songs.

"The Ancient" is the most controversial number. This is Steve Howe's side and if you dislike the wailing steel guitar that he used on the "Going For The One" title track, then you will not be too keen on this. He screeches away over some excellent rhythm work from Squire and White and you will probably either love or hate the first section of this song. There is some clever percussion work going on under the guitar, including a xylophone or something similar, but the guitar can be a bit off-putting. It eventually fades away into the beautiful "Leaves of green" acoustic section and this may come as a bit of a relief to some. Not an easy listen.

"Ritual" is Squire and White's track and so features a lengthy and dramatic bass and drum/percussion solo section. The opening few minutes of this number is one of the best parts of this album, as is the closing section after the drum solo. This is another very effective live number and is featured on the "Yesshows" album.

The recent Rhino remaster of this album is an excellent package, highlighting the cover which is one of Roger Dean's best. The songs themselves sound better than ever and you can hear instruments that weren't discernable on the original CD. It has bonus tracks which are rehearsal versions "The Revealing Science of God" and "The Ancient", which are really of historical interest only and unlikely to be played that often.

The question is - is this pretentious twaddle or a major work of progressive music? Well, in my opinion this album features some of Yes' finest work and, although it's not an easy listen and probably not the place to start from for new Yes fans, it's still a major work.

Report this review (#80650)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
King of Loss
5 stars Pretentiousness and amazing technical abilities are some words that sum up Yes' musical career and Tales From Topographic Oceans summarize every single point of that. Following the cement performance of Close to the Edge, Yes kicks it up a notch with this very ambitious, and I mean very ambitious performance. Tales From Topographic Oceans is a sprawling 2 side LP and is packed full with 4 large epics, which are nothing sort of spectacular. The incredible musicianship, the talent, the use of different instruments on Ritual are some of the things I can say, but other than that, I can say one word- amazing.

Revealing science kicks off this amazing 2 LP album with the traditional Yes song, perhaps one of my favorite all-time Yes songs, very concrete and filled with a great solo by Rick Wakeman and great instrumental passages.

Remembering is by far one of the most complex 70s Prog songs of all-time, with its amazing structure, technicality and beautifully crafted lyrics reminds me of a beautiful, lush landscape that is printed out on the dazzling cover. Easily Yes at its best.

The Ancient is heavily weighed by many as a track that is almost all filler, but I disagree with that idea. The track serves its purpose with Yes' great performance and beautiful atmopsheric sounds. The track constantly reminds me of Pink Floyd at times and the soft sound really rings out. This track is the "weakest" of the Tales tracks, but it seems that all sides of Tales are very good.

The album ends with Ritual, on Side 2 of LP 2. It is a great finisher, with the typical Yes instrumental passages, added with the usual great chorus. Another great song and probably the best Yes album ender.

Tales might be ripe with distaste and controversy, but I find Tales from Topographic Oceans a refreshing, experimental project. It definitely ranks up there among the best 70s Symphonic Prog albums of the 70s.

Revealing- 97% Remembering- 97% The Ancient- 90% Ritual- 93%

Overall- 94%

Report this review (#81006)
Posted Monday, June 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars ahhh... Tales From Topographic Oceans... The album has been reviewed many many times and I prefer to review albums that are less known but in this case I'd like to offer up a few words about probably one of the most infamous albums in the history of prog. The stories that surround this album are legendary. We've all heard about the wooden farm animals and scenery that was the compromise reached in whether to record the album in the city or the country. The apprehension of some members to the concept that in one memorable case, Rick Wakeman, led to publicly trashing the album and leaving after the following tour. Punk groups using this album to point to everything that was wrong in rock. Well all may be true, which adds to the lore of an album that is a must in any prog fans collection.

The album as most everyone knows was a double vinal four song album.. adventurous to be sure but not unique of course. What was unique was the album itself. 'Tales' unlike previous albums, was not just four songs across two Lp's but a conceptual album in which the 4 songs were interlaced conceptually and musically, forming a symphony of 4 movements. The concept itself, based on a book of Hindu scripture. Not exactly an easy concept to drop on the western rock public. Never before in the context of rock has anything to this scale been done.. much less by a group on top of the music world. Imagine a top group like that attempting something like this today. The results...oh... those vary wildly amoung the individual listeners. Remember though that progressive rock in it's highest expression, and make no mistake.. this is it, is art. Art is supposed to be evaluated and reflected upon by each individual, and that is why this album has opinions ranging from.. the greatest musical work of the last 50 years to being on the top 10 list of worst albums ever made. If art and progressive rock are designed to provoke and stimulate.. then this album succeeds far more than any progressive rock album ever made.

As far as the album itself. The music has been reviewed to death so I'll just mention a few points on the music. Each of the 4 movements spotlights a particular aspect of the group. The first movement: Shruitis which contains allusions to the element of Air spotlights vocalist Jon Anderson. The second movement: Suritis alludes to water and spotlights Wakeman. Though Wakeman was not a happy camper during the sessions actually may have done some of his finest work with Yes on this album. A true professional. The third movement: Puranas alludes to earth and is a spotlight for Steve Howe, electric and accoustic. My favorite movement of the four. The fourth movement: Tantras alludes to fire and is a stunning spotlight for the rhythm section of Squire and White.

One point on the music. A commen criticism of the music itself is the alleged padding that took place to get the album to fill all four sides of vinal. In my eyes that is like saying that Rubens uses too much red in his paintings. This album may have been more consise but at what cost.. the shear majesty and scope of the music that's what. What some see as filleror padding is to others meerly time for reflection of what has been said and heard and contemplation of what is to come. A shorter edited album would be...just another Close to the Edge.. and what we love progressive rock for is ambition, reaching for the stars, and exploding the popular notions of what rock is and should be. In that this album accomplishes in spades.

5 stars question.. there aren't many albums that are a must for any prog collection, however this is one is. It is in my humble opinion one of the 5 greatest albums of all of prog. Right alongside albums like King Crimson's debut as a milestone in the progression and history of progressive rock. An album capable of showing the beauty of prog, and yes, to some the excesses of prog run amuck. If you don't have an opinon on this album... then you really don't know prog.

Michael (aka micky)

Report this review (#83286)
Posted Sunday, July 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars An unfortunate addition of someone's prog music collection.

That should be the tag for this album. An unfortunate blunder in the history of progressive music. It's not so much that the whole album is awful. Some parts are fairly interesting, that is until you realize there is no point to it. If you will notice, the band has lost all concept of transition in their work. Parts come and go for no apparent reason other than to have change. Sounds are just sploched randomly together and the album Tales is what comes out.

This album reminds me of painters who will just throw colors on a page and see what happens. That's about the same analogy for the music found here. The most noticeable thing to me is the horrid guitar tone that is used. The fact that it is used often makes it worse. It's one of the most annoying tone's I've encountered in the history of music. It's thin and makes you cringe. The bass is also horribly done with heavy vibrations.

Then you have the random playing and note selection. It's not even so much that it isn't in unison. I can appreciate bands where the members more or less "do their own thing". Kong is a good example of this. Here, however, none of this works, everything sounds out of place.

A heavy amount of "doodling" is involved on this album. Howe plays with no real purpose, it's not even that its wankery, like Dream Theater mostly is, it's that it sounds like some 14 year old kid in his garage toying around with different notes. I can record myself playing random notes just fine, anyone want to buy my work? Anyone think it will be a masterpiece of progressive music? Probably not. However, my name is not nearly as recognizeable as Yes is, so I guess I lose in that match. One can certainly sympathize with Wakeman for leaving after this.

The best thing about this album is you only have to hit "skip" 4 times and the atrocity is over.

Not even recommended for completionists. Unless you want to explain to all your friends why you have this horrid album in your collection.

Report this review (#84662)
Posted Monday, July 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After Yes's proclaimed masterpiece Close to the Edge (which I don't really see as a masterpiece) they decided to embark on a large scale project that would eventually turn up to be one of their most controversial (if not the most controversial) albums in Tales from Topographic Oceans. Gone from the original lineup was drummer Bill Bruford (who actually left towards the end of the Close to the Edge sessions) and in came ex-John Lennon/George Harrison drummer Alan White (who would appear on every Yes album after this one). Also worth noting is that Rick Wakeman despised this album when it was made and felt that there was too much padding, so after the subsequent tour, he made his first of many extis from Yes to pursue a solo career. This album seems to have a lot of varying opinions, as it would blatantly show the pretentious and over-indulgent side of progressive rock and yet show some great music and some inventive pieces that would really show that Yes could produce many large-scale compositions. I actually rate this on the same level as The Yes Album, as it is a good album, but it could have made a great single album and not the epic double album that it became.

The album opens with probably my favorite piece of the four tracks, The Revealing Science of God. With the Rhino remaster, the original and more ambient intro was tacked on and it really opens on a mysterious note. Although the lyrics are as dense as ever and really sound disjointed and make no sense at moments, the vocals are stellar, with lush harmonies from Howe/Squire/Anderson. The main motif for the song is also very majestic and meanders at a modest pace and never really gets out of hand. The performances from all the musicians is also top notch, with great noodling from Howe and shard and concise basslines from Squire, some great floating keyboards from Wakeman (who also reintroduces the main theme from Heart of the Sunrise in one of his keyboard solos), and some top notch and precise drumming from White. The Remembering is an ok track at best, but it could have been edited heavily as there seems to be a lot of over indulgent work, especially from Howe (who gets his own acoustic break in the piece that really seems to go nowhere). It has a nice melody, though, and I'm quite fond of Anderson's vocals on this piece, as well as the many harmony sections.

The Ancient is the most senseless and dense piece on this album in my opinion, and it also is much like The Remembering, ok at best. Although the percussion is at its best (a hollowed out log was used during the percussion break if I'm not mistaken) and the subject matter of the piece is unlike anything Yes had done at that point, it doesn't really serve any true purpose and there is a lot of filler on the piece. Ritual, though, redeems those two pieces as my second favorite piece on the album. All the elements are there, a great bass solo break, a great tribal percussion section, some melodic and majestic work from Howe (who also reiterates the Close to the Edge main theme on this piece) and some very soft spoken and inspired lyrics and vocals from Anderson. In the end, the first and last pieces of the album would be the best, and while the middle pieces had their moments, they could have been heavily edited.

Overall, Tales from Topographic Oceans is the most controversial Yes album and one of the most controversial albums in progressive rock, all of this is opinion of course. As I stated above, the opening and closing tracks are stellar and were well conceived and never really bored me, but the two middle pieces were underwhelming and they could have been heavily edited. If this album was a single album rather than a double album, I think it would have been given more favorable reviews and wouldn't have been so controversial. If you are a fan of over indulgent and pretentious symphonic rock, then this album will be right up you're alley, but if you don't like songs that meander and don't really come to a sensible conclusion, then you may not like this album. Me, I'm in the middle. 3.5/5.

Report this review (#85206)
Posted Sunday, July 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is something special in the symphonic sub genre. It seams many people still fear what is different. But differences are what make prog special. With that being said, this album has some very low points, and will prove to be extremely daunting and boring - especially for listeners accostomed to highly strung, tight, compositional, prog-metal-ish type of prog.

After the first 59 seconds of the first track, it is obvious you are in for quite a ride. Anderson's singing has a beautiful rhythm in this section, it feels loose, and simultaneously tight as other musicians join in before the instruments take over.

Musicianship is high on this album (as all Yes albums). Alan White is welcomed to the band in this album, and does a fantastic job. He has a hugely different style than Bruford, which feels and sounds refreshing for any Yes fan that knows the Bruford era (too) well. Though White is unquestionably lacking the flavour and precision of Bruford, it is very easy to forive him. The largest fault I can see is the fact that Howe's guitar is the foreground for most sequences. It would have been nice to hear a bit more from Wakeman, or even (gasp) a bass solo from Squire.

This album is a moving experience that at some points demands much from the listener. But the listener can easily ignore the call to listen, and lay back in relaxation and let the music do all the work. The experience is equally rewarding: listening carefully to the music will give a greater understanding (which to some may be preferred), whereas letting the music do the work will leave the listener in a state of stupor and trace-like unawareness.

One thing I love about these tracks, is how captivating and alluring they are. Especially the latter tracks, it's as if the band is pulling a veil over your eyes. To some that may not appeal, but for the more daring and ambitious folk, it is an adventure unforgettable.

Unfortunately, despite all the amazing things about this album, it is a little redundant, and even boring at times. Give it a try, anyway.

Report this review (#86559)
Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Everthing a prog fan could possibly want. My favourite Yes album, an absolute masterpiece. What I love about this album is the strength and diversity of the songwriting, joy and meloncholy, rhythm and melody are strectched acroos this magnificent album.

The first movement - The Revealing Science of God, starts of with a fantastic science fiction beginning; the best I've heard hands down, and then it starts rumbling to the classic theme tune and Jon Anderson sings the question (backed by Howe and Squire) "What Happened to this Song We once Knew so Well?" - he is asking why humanity cannot remeber its origins. This section always sends shivers down my spine> There is a lot of beautiful atmospheric keyboards but Richard Wakeman that convince your imagination that you are travelling a strange lonely planet full of mystery, I love it. There is just so much more brilliance on this track perfect 10/10.

The second movement The Remebering has some of my all time favourite Yes material in it, the cheerfull classical guitar part with Jon Anderson saying imaginative lyrics like "...Remember to Sail the Sky.", is just brilliant it is both meloncholy sounding yet joyful, the ending to this movement is really powerful and majestic and will leave you gasping 10/10.

The third movement The Ancient has a excellent tribal feel to it, fantastic percussion and brilliant guitar, bass, and keyboards; if you are a fan of rhythmical music like Can, you will love this part, it ends with a terrific classical guitar piece played by Howe, which complements the dark primeval music on the rest of this movement, it is like the aga of enlightenment has come after the dark ages, excellent 10/10.

Part four The Ritual, is a cheerful and at parts Beatles influenced piece, that at times has tinges of darkness. My favourite Steve Howe solo is at the end of this album, it sounds dark and confused; absolutely incredible its the kind of music that one would think is only possible in you dreams, but Howe made it possible 10/10.

This is a fantastic album, with so many moods, I really cannot understand why some people dislike it, its fantastic, fantastic virtuoso music with incredible imagination, innovative, beautiful and devine sounding yet at time dark and forboding, with well written songs and clever lyrics. Maybe some people just hate perfection. Buy it , its essential.

Report this review (#86709)
Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources...."

"Force the bit between the mouth of freedom didn't we learn to fly, Remember to sail the skies."

"Where does reason stop and killing just take over Does a lamb cry out before we shoot it dead?"

"We hear a sound and alter our returning We drift the shadows and course our way on home Flying home Going home"

Each quote is from each of the four songs and I include them to explain perfectly what this album is like. The albums lyrics are only influenced by Jon, he is the main focus of the album. I think not only to match the dynamic intensity of his voice is his lyrics. Each song focus' on the themes of self discovery, meeting, learning, and fighting. A very "earthy" feel they have, but I'm perfectly fine with that.

Without a doubt this is Yes' most mature(prog), album todate, and is what either "makes or breaks" the fans. If you can't tell which fan I am yet, it's the latter group. This album is what helped me fully understand all of Yes' others afterwards that always try to beat the technique, musically, lyrically, and progressively, but always succeed in failing. I put this album on the top of my Yes and prog list. My favorite song of all time is on this album, guess which one.

This album musically is just as fantastic as the lyrics and themes. The album helps explain the lyrics, so for the listener to fully understand the album's themes, you should focus on the music just as much as the vocals. This music is full of colors that Yes have not even painted with untill now. Any one who enjoyed that impacting opening sequence of Close to the Edge, with freestyle like soloing will most certainly worship "The Ancient", and this song has even more themes in it than any other Yes have ever done, the music is a clear evident of this.

I think the best way to approach this album would be to be already familiar with Yes' previous album, Close to the Edge, and if you like that album you're sure to love this one, just give it the time. I started numerically with the album, only listening to one song at a time, once I enjoy I let myself move on to the next song. It worked out fine within a few weeks and now I use this album for a bible, anytime I'm confused in life, I just give this baby a listen.

I recomend to only listen to all four peices when you have lots of attention to spend, and when you arn't distracted.

My favorite album ever and I recomend it to any Yes fan who knows a bit about prog already. Enjoy.

Nous sommes du soleil!

Report this review (#86786)
Posted Saturday, August 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars What an album, and what a controversy. I can understand how some might have problems with it, but for me, this is the definition of prog. I got into the genre (I only knew it as art rock then) because it seemed as the musicians were trying to create symphonies in rock. I can't think of a better example than this. Four songs (or movements), running around 20 minutes. There is actually very little that resembles traditional pop song structure. The beauty is that it all holds together as one piece, without seeming directionless. They are complete compositions, with a commonality.

The majesty (or pomposity, as some would say), is exactly what I would expect for artists trying to hit the heights of symphonic music. It's actually necessary. Yes delivers full force. Everyone gets to shine, and in many different ways. Wakeman's keyboards are espescially tasty on "The Revealing Science of God." Steve Howe is showcased on "The Ancient," playing many different styles. "Ritual" brings it all home, and has wonderful vocals. The only lesser point might be "The Remembering," which does go on a bit. However, It's still a beautiful piece.

I just purchased the remaster, and it is even better. More of the nuances pop out. I can take or leave the bonus tracks, but the sound quality is worth the price. This deserves to be heard in all of its glory.

I went many years without hearing this album, and that is a shame. It is terriffic achievement, and should be heard by every prog fan. You don't have to love it, but it must be experienced. If you are not sure what symphonic prog is, look no further.

H.T. Riekels

Report this review (#87781)
Posted Monday, August 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars No other album on this site has divided reviewers as much as TFTO. An album said to be a "love-it or hate-it" piece. I, for one, am among the former group, as Tales is my favorite Yes album.

While seemingly the point where even certain band members hated it, Tales From Topographic Oceans must be viewed as a journey. It begins with The Revealing Science of God...a powerful piece with great work by Howe and Anderson. The Remembering is a much calmer and poppier piece (as close as it comes on this album) with mellow vocals by Anderson, and simpler and more repetitive song structure.

Next, comes the most controversial track on the album: The Ancient: Giants Under the Sun. While this song ends on a smooth and melodic note as many yes tracks do, throughout most of it Yes dares to venture into unchartered territory. Much of this track contains dissonant structure, which strays from much of what Symphonic Prog stands for. This sort of music would receive high praise on a Frank Zappa album, but somehow when Steve Howe plays it, many argue that it's bombastic, meaningless, etc.

The final track on the album, is the often overlooked tour-de-force of the album: Ritual; one that I wish had been performed live more often. This track begins with one of Howe's greatest solos then progresses and constantly builds energy until it's thrilling and emotional finale.

While this album may not be a masterpiece or essential to someone new to Yes or Symphonic Prog, I believe it can certainly grow on listers: apparently many disagree.

Report this review (#87946)
Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm not a huge fan of this album, but it is essential. Here, Yes did the final work of progressive rock, a concept album, 20 minutes song, and every single track is no doubtly, the progressivest thing ever released. And it's probably because of that, most of persons dislike this album.

The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn: In my opinion, the second best track, a little bit worse than "Ritual". It begins with the voice of Anderson, and Howe's guitar "crying" in the backgroud, a catchy start... And the music starts very well... But it goes ahead, and it start to borrow me... After de first 15 minutes, the thing starts to change (but it's a hell wait for this 15 minutes) It's here were the song really start, it leads you to an amazing Wakeman's solo, and back to the first moments, you think: that thing again?. But don't worry it's not the same thing, it's much better, and finally the end of the song... With Anderson saying: and you, and you, and you, and you... That's the best part of the song, 4,5 stars becouse of the last five minutes. 4.5/5

The Remembering - High The Memory: Jesus Crist, at this point i was thinking: I hope they keep the level, becouse another 3 tracks with 20 minutes... please, 3 really good tracks. This song don't let you down, but don't make you happy too... diferently from the first track, that makes you sleep but wake you up and what a waked! This song is more light, more like a ballad... Again, the end of the song, the lst five minutes, it's the peak! Were Howe really starts to play... but nothing amazing like the first track... 3.5/5

The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun: Whow! Now the thing is going better! Welcome to the band Alan White! And Howe starts to play violin with his guitar, really nice start! But the song keeps like that for 15 minutes again* -.-" Finally Howe pick's his classical guitar and the song change a little bit and this is kind of pretty... Nothing fantastic... Only the start is fantastic, but it is REALLY fantastic... 4,5/5

Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil: The Last chance of Yes to do something really good, And here it is... The nice beggining, with Howe playing like never! You start to think: is this another Close to the Edge? It's not another CTTE, but almost that! And the song calms down... Anderson start to sing... And the song continue, with Howe leading it. In the 13 minute, Howe start to play diferently, what's going on? 14 minute, White starts to play, the song change, it's life if a Ritual was really happening! And it all stops! Anderson voice... Flying home... Going home... We love when we play...Nous sommes du soleil. STOP! "Nous sommes du soleil, we love when we play..." THIS is really emotive, we are the music, and we love to play it, this IS Yes. 5 Guys who really know music and want to play it! Becouse they like it! That's the fantastic, they want money, but that's not their first objective! And the song is over... This is a toutchy song... and fantastic at the same time... absolutely AMAZING! 6/5

Overall: 4.5/5 Here, 4.5 is 5 stars, so, it's five stars...

* Just to let something really clear, when i say that the song is the same for 15 minutes, im not saying that it's exatly the same thing, this is progressive rock, so it has to change, but it's the same atmosphere.

Report this review (#88894)
Posted Sunday, September 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars The main problem with TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS is that Yes forgot how to ROCK.

It's true, you could also blame Jon Anderson for his silly lyrics (the American critic Bill Martin is way off the mark when he ascribes to Anderson ideas from classical philosophers) but these are no less absurd than the ones on CLOSE TO THE EDGE, which is commonly called a masterpiece. In fact, if you judge Anderson's words simply by their phonetic value (by the way they sound), you may come to the conclusion that the former milkman from Lancashire is a rather effective lyricist.

No, the main problem is this: on TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS you won't find ANY extended passages with the energy and speed of "South Side of the Sky" or "Siberian Khatru". Many parts of this double album (most notably on "The Remembering" and "The Ancient") seem bloodless; the (originally) side-long compositions collapse like an overcooked pudding. I'm pretty sure that's why Rick Wakeman disliked the album. When Wakeman first devoted an extended suite of his own to spiritual themes (on NO EARTHLY CONNECTION, a weird attempt to explain where music comes from), he made sure that every single part of his suite sounded catchy.

TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS, on the other hand, seems an attempt to write a-prog-symphony-with-words; something similar to Gustav Mahler's SONG OF THE EARTH, perhaps. If the album turns out a failure (in part), it's still a noble failure. We shouldn't blame the band for being "pretentious". I agree with Andy Tillison (of the Tangent) that we should praise them for being ambitious.

Back in the 1970s I thought the dreamy bits in "The Remembering" (particularly Rick's melancholic Moog motif, and his extensive synthesizer 'symphony' toward the end of the piece) were among the album's highlights. I also thought Jon's singing on "Nous sommes du soleil" was very powerful - but now I feel his vocals goes on for too long. Nonetheless, Anderson's eventual reprise of Side Four's main theme, followed by Steve Howe's final solo, must be one of the most magical moments in the Yes catalogue (beautifully captured in the LIVE AT QUEENS PARK RANGERS video).

Nowadays I particularly love "Dance of the Dawn", the original first side. Some eight or nine years ago, when I hadn't heard TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS for a while, I travelled to London to attend, for the first time in my life, a performance of a Bruckner symphony. On the bus I made the mistake of listening to Yes, and "Dance of the Dawn" moved me so deeply that nothing in the concert hall really touched me - even though the performers were Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I then realised that, in spite of all their imperfections, Yes had created something very special. (This idea was later confirmed when I bought KEYS TO ASCENSION, where the piece sounds even more convincing than in the studio.) I mean, take that passage where Jon sings: "They move fast, they tell me" and "Getting over overhanging trees" - isn't it one of the most wonderfully romantic things Yes have done?

I don't know how you'll feel about this album. I grew up with it, much of my teenage longing was intertwined with it, and when I first got to know it, my knowledge of English was limited, so I didn't notice its awkwardness the way a native speaker would. Maybe YOU will find it too much to take. But in my mind it will always be a true progressive masterpiece.

Report this review (#91271)
Posted Saturday, September 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is one of those albums that I've been listening to for ages and I know it as if its second nature to me. I can recall all the lyrics and melodies throughout all four songs and more than often find my self indivertibly humming out these tunes. "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is a very controversial album both now and when it was released. I don't think anyone had gone so full out in terms of experimentation and it caused much controversy within the band and during the "Tales from Topographic Oceans" tour the band members refused to speak to each other. Luckily this was only a temporary thing and these days the guys are good old friends from way back. "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is very successful in both England and the US reaching an astounding number 1 and 8 respectively. This was the first of just two Yes albums to top the English charts the other being 'Going for the One" which was released in 1977.

Coming off the success of 'Close to the Edge' (4 UK, 3 US) Yes went to an even further extreme by creating something so experimental, and amazing. Close to the Edge was adventurous but this was something else, four songs, each lingering around the 20 minute mark and exploring something different both conceptually and musically. Jon Anderson got the idea when he was waiting for the band's next concert to start in Tokyo. While waiting he began to read through Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi" of shastrick scriptures which spoke of religion, social life, medicine, music and architecture. From this the band derived their next concept and the album was recorded just eight months later.

The album was written/conceived mostly by lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe. They decided to split the album up into four songs each addressing a different aspect of "Yogi."

1st Movement: Shrutis. The Revealing Science of God. The Revealing Science of God is described as being "an ever opening Flower from which simple truths emerge examining the complexities and magic of the past and how we should not forget the song that has been left to us to hear. The knowledge of god is a search."* The song begins with a fast-paced vocal section with a menacing beat building up to climax where there is a flurry of guitar and synthesizers. After this there is a slower, more atmospheric section with harmony vocals and a strong underlying bass progression with heavy guitar synthesizer over the top. The rest of the song progresses in much the same way with mellow sections, rapid sections and then more illustrious passages. The vocals of "Revealing Science of God" flow like clockwork and some great lyrics emerged from this song. Lines like "getting over, over-hanging trees let them rape the forest thoughts will send our fusion clearly to be home" sound beautiful when sung in this song. The bass and guitar work is amazing here!

2nd Movement: Suritis. The Remembering. "All our thoughts, impressions, Knowledge, fears have been developing for millions of years. What we can relate to is our own past, our own life, our own history. Here, it is especially Rick's keyboards which bring alive the ebb and flow and depth of our mind's eye: The Topographic Ocean. Hopefully we should appreciate that given points in time are not so significant as the nature of what is impressed on the mind, and how it is retained and used."* "The Remembering" is my personal favourite from "Tales from Topographic Oceans" and it is the most beautiful. The rolling, mystical atmospheres conjured by synthesizers are otherworldly and the vocals harmonies add to this feel. The opening line "As the silence of seasons on we relive abridge sails as to call light the soul shall sing of the velvet sailors course on" creates an image of a velvet sea in one's mind. "The Remembering" is really hard to define apart from being very mystical, the ending of the song is some of the best music I've ever heard and the guitar solo at the very end of the song is the icing on the cake. AMAZING!

3rd Movement Puranas. "The Ancient probes still further into the past beyond the point of remembering. Here Steve's guitar is pivotal in sharpening reflection on the beauties and treasures of lost civilisations. Indian, Chinese, Central American, Atlantean. These other peoples left immense treasures of knowledge."* "The Ancient" gets a bad rap from most people, even some fans of "Tales" dislike it. "The Ancient" is another epic masterpiece to me and the opening is certainly something different. Again, the opening line is fantastic. The last 6 minutes of The song displays some of the best Steve Howe guitar work ever. He plays an acoustic guitar which is backed by vocals from Jon Anderson and Chris Squire who sing in harmony. The vocals are great in this section and over time one comes to enjoy this part of the album a great deal. The closing to the song leaves it almost unfinished, a minor point though compared to the grandeur of the rest of the song. Steve Howe is pivotal in this song and his guitar work here is a highlight of the album.

4th Movement Tantras. The Ritual. "Seven notes of freedom to learn and to know the ritual of life. Life is a fight between sources of evil and pure love. Alan and Chris represent and relay the struggle out of which comes a positive source. Nous Sommes du soleil. We are of the sun. We can see."* The final epic journey of "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is perhaps the most Yes-like of all. It displays all the characterises that we all love about Yes, including lyrics in different languages! This is a song where the entire band is working together amazingly well; all the instrumentation is done to perfection. Some of the great Yes music emerged from this song.

1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn (5/5) 2. The Remembering - High The Memory (5/5) 3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun (5/5) 4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil (5/5)

Total = 20 divided by 4 = 5 = 5 stars Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

"Tales from Topographic Oceans" is one of the very best albums out there, trust me. Many people have trouble absorbing this scale of music, it is really, very intense and a lot to comprehend. For all people beginning with "Tales from Topographic Oceans" I just want to say don't write-off this album. Give it at least two months to sink in; this music defiantly isn't for prog new comers. I'd recommend "Tales from Topographic Oceans" to all Yes fans and symphonic prog fans. This album is one of the greatest things every written in my opinion, although many disagree on that point. To fully appreciate "Tales from Topographic Oceans" you'll need two things: A good pair of headphones and a quiet room. The better the headphones and the quieter the room the grander the experience will be.

* Quotes taken from "Tales from Topographic Oceans" CD booklet, written by Jon Anderson.

Report this review (#91901)
Posted Monday, September 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I have to say that when I first heard this album a year or so after it was released, I didn’t just not like it, I actually hated it. Of course I was something like fourteen years old at the time and my favorite songs were stuff like “Hitchin’ a Ride” and “Love Rollercoaster”, so this was a bit beyond my ability to deal with at the time. It’s only been in maybe the past ten or fifteen years that I can actually listen through the entire thing without getting bored or distracted, although it’s not the kind of album one listens to all that often.

Musically this is quite an achievement, I suppose. Four lengthy and complex works that tell the story of – I don’t know, yoga or something, not sure. I know there is a Buddhist influence of some sort to the lyrics, although I doubt if too many fans at the time (or since) have really taken the time to try and decipher the meaning, if there is any.

It’s been said that this album, along with Genesis’ ‘Lamb…’ and Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick helped to hasten the downfall of progressive music in the mid-70s. Perhaps. It is a pretty pretentious piece of work, full of incessant noodling on the part of Rick Wakeman (who has argued repeatedly he never liked the album in the first place), as well as by Steve Howe. That said, in recent years I’ve taken the time to really listen to Howe’s guitar work, and for the most part it is quite spectacular, although I must admit the band could have accomplished just as much in a much abbreviated fashion, ie., without some of the long and seemingly pointless instrumental passages.

If I had to pick a favorite track, it would be “The Revealing Science of God” with its highly recognizable vocal peak around the fifth minute, although every time I crank this one up I find myself fiddling with the turntable’s volume because it takes so long to actually register on the mixer’s LCDs. I actually love Anderson’s vocals at the end of this song, along with Howe’s harmonic guitar accompaniment. Unfortunately the rest of the album is not as strong.

This is particularly true of “The Remembering”, which has all the trademark sounds of a symphonic progressive epic, but in the end fails to really capture the imagination. It seems like a twenty minute-long track should merit more discussion, but I really can’t think of much more to say than that. It is what it is. Selah.

“The Ancient” on the other hand has some terrific acoustic guitar with a mystic and sometimes jazzy feel to it, but here again there seems to be quite a bit of showing off, particularly on the part of Wakeman. I really don’t understand why he pans this album so much considering the integral part his keyboards play in it.

“Ritual” is the strongest track as far as Chris Squire’s contributions are concerned, although Howe is omnipresent here as well. This is also the most energetic track with some torrid climaxes of keyboard and percussion effects, along with Alan White’s thunderous drum solo around the middle portion.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this album, except that I think accusations it was a key player in progressive music’s demise are probably just as inflated as they are true. I wonder if this would have been better-received if it had been released prior to Close to the Edge, instead of in the midst of a mid-70s pop and punk explosion. Perhaps. In the end though this is an essential album for Yes fans, and probably for progressive music fans in general. But when considered not just for its historical value, but also for its actual artistic merit, it has to be considered no better than pretty good. So three stars it is.


Report this review (#93276)
Posted Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the longest and weakest album from Yes' period of great music (The Yes Album to Going for the One). With that said, it is still a decent album. If you listen to it for the first time, and are familiar with Yes' music, then you will not be surprised by what you here in the first two songs. Both the Revealing Science of God and The Remebering have great melodies, changing tempos, mystical lyrics, etc. Each song is about 20 minutes, but does not carry the impact that other Yes epics do, such as Close to the Edge and Awaken.

As for the second disc, songs 3 and 4, it is really a let down. The Ancient is barely music until the last 5 or 6 minutes of the song, and then it is a simple acoustic number which is really nothing special. Finally, Ritual starts out good and stays good for about 10 minutes. It sounds similar to the first two songs, but then it turns into crap. There are completely random changes between drumming (not really a drum solo), and dissonant guitar and keyboard. The last couple minutes of the song try to be melodic and bombastic, but it doesn't fit in after all that noise. Basically, the second disc sounds like it has a lot of filler.

I think that this album would have been a lot better if the tracks were all shorter and more focused. The first two songs are good, but not as good as other Yes songs. The last two songs are barely enjoyable. Definitely the worst of the best Yes albums. Get it for the first two songs if you enjoy Yes' music.

Report this review (#94437)
Posted Friday, October 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tales" is usually referred to as a "love-it-or-hate-it" album. I wish it were that simple. My reaction to it is much more complicated and I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about this album, 20+ years after the first time I ever heard it. I read in the magnificent "Yesstories" book that Rick Wakeman compared the album to a woman's padded bra, in that it looks good on the outside but once you go in to investigate further there's not really too much there. Or, as he put it, it's like wading through a cesspool to get to a waterlily. I don't know if I would exactly use the term "cesspool," but I agree completely with his assessment that it's an unnecessarily overlong, very padded album. All of the songs have their moments --- sometimes even great moments --- but none of them retain my interest all the way through. "The Revealing Science of God," for example, ranks up there with some of Yes' best work of the 1970's until it hits the 8 minute mark, at which point I get the feeling that the band is simply running out the clock until that side of the album is over. The same can be said for the other songs as well. Even my personal favorite track, "Ritual," can't justify its existence past the 14-minute mark. Had the band decided to make a single album (four 10- minute songs would have been great) this might rank right up there with "Close to the Edge," my all-time favorite Yes album, and I think it would still have retained the depth and majesty for which Yes is known. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and instead we have an album of some high points that taken as a whole can be a bit physically torturous to sit through.

By the way, I took the advice of another reviewer and listened to this while high. My impressions were the same.

Report this review (#95708)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#96909)
Posted Thursday, November 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Enough! I've never understood the debating over this album. It is without question the most complicated and transcendant piece of rock music ever created. I've never understood how fans of Yes turned on this one. After Close to the Edge people were clamoring for more, all amazed by the length and majesty of the title track, they wanted even more of what it is that Yes did. Nothing else was like it. Tales is the natuural progression. Just as they took a leap from the 7-10 minute song length for the previous album, they leaped again from the 17 minue mark to these four songs clocking in at 20 minutes each. They result is one huge 80 minute piece with reoccuring themes, angelic vocals, and both cultural and out of this world music. This is exactly what Yes fans dreamed they would do. This is what they were meant to do. This is not music to play for anyone. This is music for music fans. Huge, epic and intricate, it requires you to stretch your conceptions, to live with each moment of the song and dares you to geuss what can possibly follow what you're hearing from moment to moment. Each song demands something different from you, and if you're like me, you'll tackle them at different times. It took me one full year after hearing it to fully understand what was going on with track (side) three. But I'm better for it. Music that inspires you to grow can not be taken lightly. Too often we settle for the catchy tune we can play and be done with on the drive to the store. You'll actually need to sit down, stop talking, and think with this album. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere or your mind is consumed with the stresses of your day, it will be lost on you. Impatience will ruin it. You have to accept that you'll be there for a while. Dark Side of the Moon was released the same year. That album is revered by many, and it's focus is on all of the ills of man. This is just the opposite. It is a celebration of humans, taking inspiration from various religious traditions and cultures and the wide array of knowledge that we have accumulated over the years. When it was released it was the highest reaching rock album of all time. 34 years later it still holds this title with no fear of losing it. It is unwavering and unapologetic for being what it is. Treasure this album because no one has dared to do anything like it since, and no one seems to want to. Even if they did, they aren't Yes and wouldn't be able to come close to pulling it off like this. Not even Yes themselves would ever reach this peak again. We're all fortunate that at one point in time someone out there really tried to take this genre to a place that would illuminate and enlighten it's listeners in the ways that only the great composers of the past could. I haven't dicussed the actual songs at any length because my wods woudl fail them, a person must hear for themselves. A dazzling success. Six Stars.
Report this review (#102289)
Posted Saturday, December 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars This was taking prog rock to the extreme.. It took a while for me to play this right through. Its just too much to digest after the classic "Close To The Edge". It would have been a lot better if it was single album and each track was only 10 mins long, they drag each track out too long.. "The Ancient" could have just been a 4 minute track (Leaves Of Green) section. The drum section in "Ritual" is overbearing.. "The Revealing Science of God" as well as having a terrible title, is just dull. "The Remembering" doesnt get going at all (and it has 20 minutes to do so!!)

It does hurt me terribly to slag off an album by one of my favourite bands, but with "Tales" I was so disappointed.

I really felt for poor Rick on this album, and can fully understand why he chose to leave the band, it must irritate him that he still has to play tracks from the album live.

Report this review (#103052)
Posted Thursday, December 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars TOO GOOD TO BE REAL¡¡¡¡¡

This album is more than rock, maybe more than prog; but it's very hard to listen, because it's too complex and i'm not talking about the length of the songs, i'm talking about the orchestration of the instruments; just brilliant.

congratulations to Yes for create this wonderful music.

Report this review (#104964)
Posted Saturday, December 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was introduced to Yes with this album and Songs.

Complex, challenging, pretentious, self-indulgent ..... certainly.

Do not expect to bowled over by this one at first listening. In fact a reasonable reaction may be "what a load of pretentious BS". Then you go back to it ... "not so bad". and another time ... "this one is growing on me". Twenty-five years after buying the double album it still captivates me. This is my favourite Yes album, but it took me about 10 years to come round to that conclusion.

It's an absolute essential in any self-respecting prog collection.

As for the music: since each track is one side I find it difficult to pin down a suitable decsription: these are not Sibelian Tone Poems but that's the closest parallel I can think of.

The Revelaing Science of God lets you know what you're in for right from the start: this ain't MTV prime time. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Jon Anderson & Steve Howe. I'm so sad I went out and grabbed an old copy of the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yoganada, just to read the footnote. BTW I'm none the wiser.

Ritual is a classic, Nous Sommes du Soleil is another: The Ancients never quite hit the right buttons for me.

Report this review (#104970)
Posted Saturday, December 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars "Make sure your reach does not exceed your grasp"- Testament's "Envy Life"

Tales From Topagraphic Oceans came after the prog masterpiece Close to the Edge and, perhaps just as important, Bill Bruford's departure. His replacement was Alan White, an exceptional drummer who had an unenviable task. The rest of the lineup remained the same, and Jon and Steve set out to write an ambitious follow up. The decided to adapt Hindu Shastric texts into four extended pieces, each taking up one side of vinyl. Each song deals with a section of text. Upon the first listen, I noticed a few things. First the positive: Steve Howe's guitar dominates this album in a way it never has before (or since). Rick Wakeman contributes some truly dizzying passages. Now the negative: Chris Squire's bass has been relegated to the back by Steve's new dominance. Jon Anderson's vocals, though far from bad, aren't as beautiful as those on previous records. Alan's kitwork lacks the originality of Bruford's, though he displays a lot of skill.

The most negative thing about the record is that, with the exception of the stunning opener, it's boring. Each suite gets bogged down with technical displays. Yes always knew where to draw the line between over the top and just downright ridiculous, and they pole- vaulted over the line on this album. The best method for listening to this, as others have stated, is to spend time on each song, but that severely detracts from the album's cohesiveness. The concept is completely lost if you have to listen to each song several times before advancing. You feel like you're playing some role playing game, not listening to music. This album can be enjoyed by fans (I've come to like it), but the failed concept makes The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway look almost perfect. If you are new to Yes, do NOT start with this. Get Fragile, The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Relayer before touching this.

Grade: D+

Report this review (#105077)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars So, here we are with one of the most contravertial work of Yes ! My entry to Yes was "Yessongs" which I purchased in November 1973. Their first studio album I purchased was "TFTO". I bought it second hand a few weeks after its release from a deceived fan (already) ! And I quite liked it. At the time, no one was arguing about the fact of getting four tracks to fill a double album. Isn't it what we call YesEpics ? People say it is a pretentious work. Well, I do not know. To me, it does not sound more pretentious than "CTTE" which I consider as a masterpiece of the genre we all love and one of the many highlights of the band.

It is true to say that if they had stuck to a single album (my original one being a double vinyl) they should have produced another masterpiece. Actually, the first LP is absolutely gorgeous. "The Revealing Science Of God" and "The Remembering" truely belong to the most elaborate and nice YesMoments. Incredible bass and guitar playing, subtle keys and great, great emotional vocals. IMO, the vocal parts are absolutely MAGICAL on those two tracks. There are less musical passges than average here, so the amount of text to be remembered (hence "The Remembering ? - just kidding) is really impressive. You'd better not suffer from Alzheimer to perform that one. This reminds me of a comment from Ian Anderson saying that they were scared to S H I T before their supporting tour for "Thick" because they were afraid to forget something. I guess Jon (the other Anderson) must have felt this as well. Unfortunately, the second disc, is way behind. "The Ancient" being really boring all the way through. Fortunately, it is the shortest track (still over eighteen minutes) ! "Ritual" is again far much better, it rocks solidly and Steve's guitar is really great. But the song has also its weaks : a quite dull section that will last for almost three minutes with some "percussion" work (from 14'15 through 17'00). This section reminds me of the later "Waiting Room" from Genesis on "The Lamb". It is beautifully followed by the closing part "Nous Sommes Du Soleil - We Love When We Play"). It is a pure marvel of almost five minutes. It is the core of the inspiration of a future epic to come : "Gates Of Delirium" and its wonderful closing section "Soon".

I have listended extensively to this double album (YES, IN A ROW). I can only advise one thing : if you can get hold of the remastered version, there is an alternate version for "The Revealing Science Of God" which is really worth and almost on par with the final one. I only had wished that instead of a studio run-through for "Giants Under The Sun" (The Ancient") which is as boring as the final version, they would instead add an alternate version of "The Remembering". But maybe this was not available. With this remastered version, you'll get an additional forty minutes of TFTO. Isn't it great ? Four stars.

Report this review (#105315)
Posted Tuesday, January 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Just took the album off the turntable for the first time in yonks....I'd always thought that Bruford played drums on the album.....I'd also always thought that the album sounded hollow - that the spirit was still there, but the inspirations seemed to be waning....I'd also always thought that Howe had never sounded better, that his peak with Yes was on TFTO (I now think Howe sounded best on TYA). I was wrong on all! The musicianship really shines through some shaky material....the pieces are much too wordy and the instrumentation and arrangement seems awkward and overly busy. There are some truely brilliant passages....and some just a bit too over the top. But, though it's an uneven record, it still rates with some of their best work.
Report this review (#105343)
Posted Wednesday, January 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars If ever an album's concept and accompanying sleeve notes illustrated why something like punk was going to happen sooner or later, it was this album. However this is supposed to be about the music (but honestly, have you READ the sleeve notes!).

Anyway, ignoring THE SLEEVE NOTES for a minute. This was the studio follow up to Close To The Edge. Now personally I belong to the group of people who think CTTE is one of THE definitive prog albums of all time and pretty much unsurpassable.

And sure enough Yes were unable to surpass it, opting to release a double concept album based on.sorry, veering towards mentioning the sleeve notes again there.

The four parts of the album each occupy a side.

It's a shame they didn't opt for a novelty 3 sided package because side/track 3 would be utterly forgettable. The only reason it's not forgettable is that it's such a self- indulgent racket, consisting largely of a slide guitar solo by Steve Howe over percussion and bass.

Leaving that aside, the rest of the album is not bad. But 'not bad' is hell of a long way from 'unsurpassable'. For me I think side 4, and particular the "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" section is the most pleasing. But surely that's wrong. This is Yes we're talking about! It's not about being 'pleasing' or 'nice' What I loved about CTTE was the incredible interplay of each musician's parts. I could happily forget the fact that I never had a clue what on earth Jon Anderson was singing about because the voice was just another instrument. Here it's an irritation and that instrumental interplay isn't there to the same degree.

I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars.

Sorry, it's going to be 2.49 rounded down, largely because of the damn sleeve notes and also because I just asked myself the question, "Do I want to listen to Topographic Oceans again later". To which the answer was "Nah, not really, maybe in a couple of months or so"

Report this review (#105347)
Posted Wednesday, January 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my very favorite Yes-album and the song 'The Remembering - High The Memory' is one of the best tunes ever written. So much emotion in those melodies, the theme's, it's a very complicated piece of music, but nearly perfect. Respect for Rick Wakeman's contributions. I think all the four pieces combined are creating one masterpiece of music. I don't understand people saying this is 'too much' or 'too long'. Even the experimental 'The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun' is flowing from scary, biting guitar-sounds to a lovely acoustic piece with beautiful melodies. On the last piece, 'Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil', everything comes together for a final blow. I agree CTTE is Yes' finest work every, but to me, this is the ultimate Yes-album.
Report this review (#106415)
Posted Sunday, January 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars YES went too far. What a deception!

"Tales from Topographic Oceans" has everything and seems appetizing for every progressive rock fan: four pieces of 20 minutes long, strange names, mysterious title and a superb art cover (always!) by Roger Dean... And the follow up to their masterpiece, the epic "Close to the Edge". Difficult to resist...

However, after the catchy first minutes of "The Revealing Science Of God", the whole disc starts a mad enterprise. The tracks are filled with nonsense, chaotic vocals, inappropriate musical changements without transitions... Just too difficult, too complex to follow... The tracks could have been divided, there would not have been a great difference, but here pieces of themes are just assembled together to "make a 20 minutes suite"... If you're in the appropriate mood, "The Revealing Science Of God" and "Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil" are good. The other two tracks are more ambient.

This controversial album gathers nearly all the elements which make people hermetic to progressive rock. After several listens, it reveals however some nice passages. If you are new to YES or progressive rock, do not start with this album. "Close to the Edge" or "Relayer" are a much better choice.

Report this review (#108161)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans is so difficult to judge, because it is almost perfect in some ways, but almost pointless in other ways, depending on how you regard it.

Then, I'll try to show both points of view, also with some quotations from "Close to the Edge, the story of Yes", their great biography by Chris Welch. First I'll expose why is it a masterpiece, then I'll analyze why is it hated by so many people, and finally I'll try to judge it impartially

1st: Tales is a masterpiece After the wonderful Close to the Edge, Yes had no limits. With this great album, with only three long and well-developed pieces, Yes was, indeed, very close to the edge of rock music, expanding it with a classical way of composing and arranging. The complexity of the songs and the virtuosity of the players achieved a peak that could hardly be dreamed of ten years before, when rock music was necessarily simple. So, what they did? They presented their fans with another complex masterpiece, more ambitious and longer. This time, they created a concept album, based on the book "Autobiography of A Yogi". Actually, back in 1971, Steve said: "Jon and I were working on some new songs which possibly will have a religious feel.". This may be either Tales or Close to the Edge, which also dealed with Buddhism, and deep religious feelings. But here they had 80 minutes, to develop this masterpiece.

First movement starts with a cappella vocals by Jon, and they become increasingly harsher, when joined by Steve and Chris's vocals, and a great sustained guitar. After this, we have a long and beautiful song, with good melodies and an outstanding Keyboard solo. Second movement is somewhat stranger, with some bars in 7/4 signature, used very well by the band, and carried by Wakeman's elegant keyboards. Third movement is where Yes is definitely not afraid of experimenting. After a very original beginning, with great percussion, Steve Howe's slide guitar owns the song, with a lot of feeling. He even quotes Siberian Kathru, here, so powerfully! Yes were really wanting to progress, to do different things, and that's what we see here. After the jazz influenced part of the song, another surprise: it turns into a beautiful acoustically driven song, heavenly sung by Jon Anderson. Steve shines here again... he could just accompany Jon with chords (like most acoustic songs we here nowadays), but he does a remarkable job, with interesting solos. Rick's work, though very, very subtle, is great, too. In the end, the full band gets together again, to close the song as majestically as it begun. Fourth movement is mind-blowing since the first seconds, with a strong introduction, followed by Howe developing a theme that has been used, though very differently, in the first two movements. This song is the most melodic, with Jon's lines "Nous sommes du soleil" matching the melody perfectly (this was one of his great gifts, he could really match words with melodies). After that, we are presented with three instrumental moments when one member is at the forefront, and can show his ability and feeling: first Steve, then Chris, and finally Alan. After the drum solo, the "Nous somme du soleil" theme develops into a more conventional song, with good vocal harmonies and great singing by the three singers. This song would also be majestically played alive, in Yesshows, and in Symphonic Live. Shortly, what we have here is Yes progressing, breaking musical boundaries, with great musicianship and composing skills.

2nd: Tales is an over-pretentious and pointless album By 1973, Yes were highly considered by rock fans and also by critics. The good reception both for their ambitious album "Close to the Edge" and for their complex and long concerts made Jon Anderson think the band's way towards complexity should continue. Now his dreams were yet more ambitious: a concept album with four sidelong songs, about oriental ideas and religion. Steve Howe liked this idea, and they started to compose together, without the other members. They became so ambitious and maddened by this idea, that Jon actually wanted to record the album in a forest at the dead of night. The themes were all about mother earth and the ritual of life and he wanted to get in the right frame of mind and closer to nature. When the time for recording the album came, they had a problem: they definitely didn't have enough material for a double album. Then, what they though? "No problem, let's fill it with repetitions and improvisations".

"The Revealing Science of God" starts with a long vocal section, that repeats its melodies a dozen of times. When the listener is sufficiently tired of this, a new section comes. It could even be good, if it didn't last for almost 15 minutes, with the same musical ideas coming in and out, without developing. Then, comes a keyboard solo that seems totally out of place, and after it, the song ends in the same boring way it begun. "The Remembering" is even more repetitive. All its melodies are good, but all are repeated ad libidum, and get exhausted, just like the listener. "The Ancient" has been defined by Chris Squire as "A bit of a drag". His powerful bass style can hardly be heard in this song dominated by Howe, and lots of pointless guitar solos, that come from nowhere and go absolutely nowhere. Michael Tait, the band's roadie and lighting engineer said: "We used to get in the studio without any ideas. And the studio was costing five hundred dollars an hour". That can be clearly noticed here. With a lack of what to play, Steve just improvised on the guitar, and the band accompanied him, without distinction. Later, Steve changes to the acoustic guitar, and starts a beautiful duet with Jon Anderson, but it just lasts for too long, just like all the rest of the album. "Ritual" seems to be the most cohesive song, with good instrumental work, until it breaks into a longish solo by Steve Howe. From that point, other pointless segments, without relation between them, are added, to make the song bigger. After a long bass solo, without good melodies, but full of feeling, comes a drum solo, absolutely repetitive and boring. After it, the band recreates the "Nous sommes du soleil" theme in a twee song, followed by some repetitive instrumental, that closes the album. Altogether, Tales has an island of good music, circled by an ocean of self-indulgence, poor themes and pointless repetition. Being more concise: first two songs are meaningless repetitions, and the last two are meaningless explorations of the instruments.

3rd: Tales is a good album, but with some flaws and over-extended. This album really could have been shorter, but I try to see the good point: for Yes fans like me, it's a unique opportunity to listen to the band jamming and improvising, something we would never be able to listen in their other albums. I give the album four stars, because it's generally a good piece of music, and a very particular and original album. Although it is definitely a bit dull, especially if listened an entire album, it shows, more than any other album, some aspects of Yes, the most important progressive band, in my opinion.

Report this review (#110518)
Posted Friday, February 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars It has been about a year since I first wrote a review for this album, and given that I intend on regularly reviewing for ProgArchives again, I feel my review for this album requires a significant rewrite. My old reviewing style tended to be a bit of a "music for deaf people" description, which, upon realization that most of the visitors of this site were gifted with hearing, didn't make a great deal of sense.. Also, given that the initial "wow factor" has now escaped me for this album, I no longer consider it to be a masterpiece of the genre, though it's not far from it. On with the review, which will contain bits and pieces of my last review with considerable revisions.

Tales from Topographic Oceans was the result of a massive change in musical direction and, as some would say, the increased pretentiousness in certain Yes members, particularly Anderson and Howe, who were the prime songwriters for this album. In its day, its release was in part the catalyst of a huge backlash against progressive rock, ultimately resulting in the downfall of the genre to more raw and simplistic genres of music such as punk and new wave. The album still polarizes prog listeners even today, but compared to the seventies, the number of people who appreciate this album is probably much greater.

I've always been of the belief that our current musical experiences are the result of every musical experience that came before. And perhaps this is the problem with this album. It may be impossible to fully appreciate this album with a background only in symphonic prog and other mainstream '70s prog bands. As stated earlier, this album represents a huge change in musical direction for Yes. While their previous three albums had catchy, repeated melodies at every turn, tight musicianship, and besides Close the Edge, fairly conventional song structures. This album, in contrast, consists of only of four songs, each in the neighborhood of twenty minutes. Each song is a sprawling epic filled with drawn-out experimentation.

One of the chief complaints for this album is that it is bogged down by filler. I don't see where the source of this complaint lies. Even listening to small glimpses of the album results in a pleasant listen, in my opinion. The problem probably lies in the oft-lack of melodic resolution. For this reason, I can understand the criticism that the album at some points doesn't seem to really be going anywhere, though I don't necessarily subscribe to this belief. Melodic resolutions exist on this album, even if few and far between; they just require patience to realize.

My favorite track on this album is The Remembering, while my least favorite is Ritual. That said, I don't think there are any altogether bad songs. And indeed, that would be a pretty impressive feat to muster for an album whose songs are each as long as they are. The Revealing Science of God is probably the most accessible track on here, partially because many people will lose interest after the first song on this album. It contains the most melodic hooks of this album, I think. The Remembering, while not quite as accessible, is probably the most rewarding song on here to familiarize oneself with. The spacey interludes placed throughout this song seem to grow in power with each reiteration until the epic conclusion, which has always made my hair stand on end.

The Ancient contains some very creative guitar work from Steve Howe, and is always an enjoyable listen. Ritual is the only instance at which point Jon Anderson's voice has actually annoyed me, which is probably my main source of dislike for this particular composition. His French accent (or lake thereof) tends to bother me a bit. Melodically, I don't find the song particularly pleasing, though it's not an altogether bad track. Ritual's climax lies in the highly unusual percussion work that occurs roughly halfway through the track. This is one of the highlights of the album.

Tales from Topographic Oceans isn't an altogether terrible album, nor is it the masterpiece some make it out to be. It's an extremely rewarding experience when one finally becomes capable of truly grasping this album. Given all of the positive reviews of this album besides mine, it must contain at least some musical merit, right? I'd recommend for those who still want to give this album a shot, don't try drilling it into your brain on a regular basis, but rather give the album a try every few months or years. Also, given the length of the album, it's probably a bad idea to attempt to appreciate the whole album at once. Unlike many albums, I don't feel this one needs to be listened to as a whole to get the full feeling. Take each track one at a time.

It's hard to compare this album to other Yes albums as it does tend to deviate from the rest of their catalog. Unlike Relayer and Close to the Edge, I have to be in a certain, very specific mood when listening to this album, but when I am in that mood, I feel that I reap more rewards from this album than any other in Yes' discography. I'm not quite sure whether or not this is my favorite album of Yes, but it is still a necessity for any aficionado of the band. Recommended for fans of Yes and fans of psychedelic music.

Report this review (#114296)
Posted Monday, March 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars It seems to me that after Close To The Edge, Yes were focused on one thing only: finding a way to top their previous work. Well, I don't blame them for it. Everyone here knows that pushing the boundaries to the extreme IS the essence of progressive rock. With TFTO, Yes simply stated that they were not afraid to go even further with their ideas, which shows just how bold these guys were to have attempted such a large-scale work.

Tales From Topographic Oceans is quite a journey. Each of the four side-long suites is packed with fresh ideas and superb playing from all members. Howe and Wakeman share the lead in most of the passages but Squire and White join them with really powerfull bass and drumming. Jon Anderson also makes a great performance on vocals, and his lyrics bizarre as ever. I must say that this album does take a while to truly appreciate, but it is immensly rewarding when it finally clicks. I'm going to give this one four stars because I can't really say it tops Close To The Edge, but it is nonetheless a high quality recording that will take you to another world.

Report this review (#114929)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is now well known that you either like or dislike this album. As an avid yes fan, I have to say that this is one of their best. Listening to it is a little tiring with 4 very long tracks changing the album's momentum continuously, but after 2 or 3 runs you start feeling its magic. The album is packed with terrific work from Steve Howe and Chris Squire. Rick Wakeman does give you an impression that he wants out (he did leave after Tales) although he has 2 very nice solos in there, and Alan White does a good enough job not letting you miss the brilliant Bill Bruford. Surprisingly, Jon Anderson sings his utmost best; the amazing lyrics are -as always- beyond this world and are sang beautifully.

"The Revealing Science of God" is one of the best ballads I have ever heard, a great progressive song as well as a great tune with a beautiful ending. "The Remembering High the Memory" and "The Ancient Giants under the Sun" are more technical; the latter having a nice classic guitar piece in the middle. "Ritual" is also a great tune with very nice bass work, and again, nice vocals at the ending.

All in all "Tales" is a must for all Yes and progressive rock fans. You have to remember that this album came after the best ever progressive release -"Close to the Edge"-; expectations were high and critics very harsh.

Report this review (#115695)
Posted Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is not really an album review. Yes, I liked it, and under certain conditions, you can too. Let me explain.

This really is a masterpiece of music, but whether or not you will enjoy it is a case of emotional conext; it very much depends on what mood you are in. For instance, If you are in the mood to listen to such hard hitting bands such as Metallica, Korne or Saxon, then don't bother. I would even say if you feel in the mood for prog metal bands such as Dream Theatre or Tool, then don't give this a spin.

What you need, is a long evening where there is nothing on telly, you feel extremely relaxed, and want to while away the hours reading a book on the sofa. Thats when you take out this album and stick it on. If you're thinking, well, hang on a minute, I'm a Yes fan, I've listened to all of their other albums, its no problem, You really should know it is absolutly nothing like any of Yes' other works. In fact, I doubt there are any other 4x 20 minuter albums out there, so you don't have any idea (unless you've already heard this and are reading this review for no particular reason). Close to the Edge & Gates of Delerium are totally different in structure and attitude to Ritual, The Revealing Science of God, The Remembering & The Ancient (thats the order in which i prefer the sides, from best to worst), which are really four parts of one piece.

In summary, if you have the patience, you'll probably love it, But if you don't, you'll hate it. It all depends on the circumstances of that first listen, In my opinion, and whether or not your mind is open to the idea. Well, this is prog after all, its' not pop, So the chances are that if your browsing this site then you'll like it. But be warned.

Oh, and this is the one Yes album above all others that you probably should pay the least attention to whatever Anderson is going on about. Some of it is good (mostly during Ritual), wheras the rest is, well, see for yourself.

Report this review (#115955)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sometimes I asked myself why I ever say: "Close to the Edge is the best Yes' album and one of the symbols of progressive-symphonic rock". When I am thinking about this, I conclude that's impossible for me to say WHY "Close to the Edge" is better than "Tales from Topographic Oceans".

I think "Tales from..." is a masterpiece of progressive rock. Surely, more overrated than "Close to the Edge", an album which a lot of people know. I have to recognize that I didn't want to listen "Tales from..." complete, because I considered it was a boring album. I never liked the double albums. But it's excellent. It mix experimentation, symphonic rock, psychedelic sound, is a conceptual album, with some folk aspects, a lot of keyboards, ambient sounds, Eastern influences... Even Alan White replace Bruford in a correct way. What more can I ask? Four long themes with a spiritual meaning... in the classic line of Yes. However, some prog fans criticize this album. I can't understand.

In conclusion, "Tales from Topographic Oceans" deserves SIX stars, but this rating doesn't exist. Then five: essential, a masterpiece of (progressive) music.

Report this review (#115981)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Yes, this is a controversial album. And yes, I'm on the side of those who believe this album is the definition of progressive music. Long but not boring. Adventurous. Beautiful. That point in a band's career when all the pieces come together through chance, and the Genie gets out of the bottle. Most importantly, the album, along with Yessongs and Close to the Edge, has the ability to take the listener to that special place, that other world depicted so successfully by Roger Dean. I don't need to go into much detail when discussing classic albums, they have already been disected in so many lengthy reviews. Long term I will be a stingy awarder of the 5 stars, but with Topographic there is no denying. This is the real deal and so superior to what passes today for music. While everything through Drama would have its moments, this would be Yes's last truly great moment. For newbies to Yes however, this is not the place to start. It is the place to end. Start with The Yes Album or Fragile, then Yessongs and Close to the Edge, then this one. With those 5 you have Yes's best work. If still interested which I'm sure you will be, you can proceed with what preceded them and what came after.
Report this review (#116259)
Posted Saturday, March 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Highest progressive adventure ever?

During the last months before TFTO, Yes experienced their first experience with a real duel between keyboard and guitar sound in Fragile, after the all-guitar dominated The Yes Album. By the time that Rick Wakeman joined the group, Anderson was becoming more interested in instrumental music, and the band was giving an essential step out of the vocal harmony oriented sound. Heart of The Sunrise and their cover version for America were signs of this change, being the two first Yes songs to pass the mark of ten minutes. Close to the Edge wasn't at all the definitive step on progressive rock, as the suite idea was formulated by Eddie Offord, and it was dominated by Anderson's voice and lyrics. Anyway, even in more lightweight songwritings like 'And You And I', Yes was showing a move, yet modest, into the realm of huge progressive rock ambitions. But, by no meanings, one could imagine that the band's next step was to be one of the most dangerous and intricate adventures of the genre. An eighty minutes, four songs containing album, but YET DOMINATED BY ANDERSON'S VOICE AND LYRICS! Anyway, by every single meaning, Anderson and Howe managed to put out four master songwriting opus, full of spiritual and indulgent lyrics, and that, with bless of luck, fulfilled all progressive ambitions the band could have. Bill Bruford left to be replaced by Alan White, which is much more of a drummer (at least a rock one) than Bruford would ever be. Steve Howe is at his most inspired moment here, and his guitar work is one that no blame can be put in it. A true class of clean, smooth, mellow and acoustic guitar sound. The Revealing Science of God is the most acessible song of the album, with strong and beautiful lyrics, covered by a wave of excellent keyboard work and flowing guitar licks, that carry the song for several minutes, until the first side is over. The Remembering is the andante movement (one can note that this is in fact, a rock symphony, with four movements, presto, andante, scherzo, presto). Rick's keyboard work is dreamy and beautiful. Anderson sings in a slow and soft driven mood. This is arguably the most cosmic, dreamy and mind-travelling song ever did. When you find yourself lost in so many minutes and listening to the 'relayer' part, it seems like you're really in the bottom of a topographic ocean. The second side is the avant-garde, less comercial, more self-indulgent one. Alan White simulates a xamanic ritual with the percussion, and steve keeps on fuzzing around with the guitar. The songwriting is very fine, similar to what was done on Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow album. Kind of a ethnic sound. The acoustic section is sublime, maybe the highest point of the album. Steve shines on his Martin 00-18 and Anderson sings like a embarassed angel. Ritual is a song in the vein yes would keep in developing on Gates of Delirium. The introduction is mind-blowing, with flowing-synthetizers and a reprise of CTTE'S theme. The lyrics and melodies here are those with the most recognizable Yes signature in the whole album. An excellent final movement. Anyway, all I can say is that this is the most misunderstood album in rock history, even being made by a 'standard' progressive band, and is arguably the most creative moment in the history of rock. 6 stars.

Report this review (#116372)
Posted Sunday, March 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Stormy Seas Of Topographic Oceans

Tales From Topographic Oceans has sometimes been solely blaimed for the downfall of prog after mid 70's. I can't deny that the massive album is partly a failure and very bombastic, yes, even boring. On the other hand the album does have lots of beautiful soulful parts that will stay in your mind forever. The album has been many times cited as the most ridiculous album of prog, mostly because its lenght and far out themes. I can assure those people that Yes wasn't the only one sailing in the borders of what we consider "normal" music. There are many other examples such as Mike Oldfield with his Incantations and especially with Amarok.

Lets get to reviewing. The gigantic album is opened with The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn (the longer the better seems to go for with the titles too) is exellent opener. The beginning is amazing when Anderson creates pressure with his vocals which is finally released with amazing grandiosic intrumental choir. After that theres some singing and long instrumental parts which don't unfortunately have the same kind of power. The opener is a miniature version of the enitire album: it has some amazing and powerful parts and parts with sheer beauty. It unfortunately has very boring parts which really seem insignificant. "Getting over wars we do not mean" is especially one of those amazing parts that gives me the shivers.

With the moderately good opening we hit the low spot with The Remembering - High The Memory. Lets just say that it has some nice playing and I can't find any part that is bad but unfortunately the whole song seems to insignificant as it doesn't stir any emotions. Too much lenght with too few thoughs results in pure boredom. Unfortunately the seconds cd is opened with The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun. Like The Remembering, The Ancient is pretty insignificant song. The only good part is when Steve takes his acoustic guitar and delivers perhaps the best solo on classical guitar ever. Jon singing is also particulary good.

The last song, Ritual, is one of the best songs Yes has ever crafted. Perfect musicianship, geniosity through the whole song and strong emotions is what Ritual is all about. Let me just say that its the perfect ending for unfortunately not so good album.

Summary: I might sum up and say that the album is extremely two sided. It has two good songs, of which one is perfect and two weak songs of which one has some good parts. You might think that in that case the album deserves three stars but when I think about it I cannot find any parts that are complete disaster. Some are just more boring.

At that time Yes was sailing in the stormy seas of topographic oceans. Yes was starting to split up and there were lots of thoughts that were never finished or thought through. After Tales Wakeman decided to leave and the album left an ugly stain to Yes in eyes of many people. On a final note I would like to say that no matter how weird or even ridiculous, Tales From Topographic Oceans is also an album that can easily require more than ten listenings before one can truly review it.

Report this review (#120604)
Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Recent whispers from my prog fairy urged me to purchase a CD copy of this much maligned and oft criticized opus. I had bought it when it came out in 1974 and even saw the supporting concert tour. I had recently read that many of today's stalwart prog musicians consider Tales to be a hallmark masterwork.( Nick Magnus, The Tangent, the Flower Kings and Glass Hammer among many others). Why was then this album so controversial, I must admit that I was also not blown away and gaga when this was release in the mid 70s, sandwiched between CTTE's brilliant aura and Relayer's exotic symphonics. Perhaps the answer lies in historical context. In 1970, pop music was still a 45 RPM single business, and the LP was really an innovation. The suddenly, there was a wind of change: longer songs meant longer albums , ushering in the advent of the double album which was a bit hard to digest all in one gulp (Beatles White Album, Elton's Yellow Brick Road, Who's Tommy) . It was very common to hear criticism by the Lester Bangs' of this world (read music journalists scorned by Zappa) that 1 hour plus musical statements were "overblown" and my favorite term, "pretentious"!!! Progfans had no problem flocking to the magnum opus/concept album, as the more music, the merrier. Let's not forget that RADIO was the motor of the music industry, three to four minute songs were the norm. There was no video or Internet yet!! Look back at the reality: How does "the Lamb" and "the Wall" rate compared to previous works by Genesis or Floyd. Few would argue that these extended vinyl were superior to the well known jewels. Epic albums are devoid of hits, that mega song that has everyone dancing in the isles. What makes "Tales" so lavishly difficult to harness is that it was created with the intention of being one piece of music in 4 movements, very much in a classical music setting and to underline this truth, the supporting concert was dedicated to the whole album plus a greatest hits package. The bottom line is that this work is one of those complex examples of what makes progressive rock so impulsive and personal. I know what I like and I like what I know . 4 soleils
Report this review (#124789)
Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

We are in 1974. YES is at it's peak musically and commercially! Concerts are sold-out. Each memeber (less newly arrived Alan White) is on top of any music poll for favorite artist in their own category. They are on the cover of every music magazine in the world! They are the face of prog! So what can go wrong with them??

With the release of TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS, the first critics will appear and the attacks against the once invulnerable mighy YES will shake a little bit the foundations of this great band. What is the cause of this uproar? YES have gone too far, to keep it simple; they have supposedly become fat, indigest, pompous, pretentious and other nice names. For others, TFTO is the pinnacle of music and a major prog achievement.

So who holds the truth? Let's find it somewhere in between. I think this is the story that 4 20mns long ''epics'' that could have been 10 mns each long and would have produced another masterpiece, or better some songs could have used some editing, but it would have made more of a 3 sides album.

I don't agree with the critics saying it's pompous or pretentious as if there is one thing prog music is allowed to is to be pompous. Otherwise, listen to Sex Pistols. a lot of classical composers can also be classified as ''pompous'' if we go this way .

Let's start with the good one: THE REVEALING SCIENCE OF GOD. this song is as good imho as CTTE or GATES OF DELIRIUM or AWAKEN! great intro,nice melody. great Wakeman parts , nothing to modify. THE REMEMBERING: that's a great song, delighful singing, nice musical breaks (Wakeman again) BUT definitely could have been shortened. I didn't count how many times ANDERSON sings the main theme, but i know quite a lot. THE ANCIENT is the song which carries the most blame, i think. I don't care much for experimental HOWE and YES, but the second part is better. RITUAL is another fine song, not as good as THE REVEALING SCIENCE, but stands by its own merits, especially the wild part at the end when everybody gets excited; another classic YESmusic tune.

So to resume, i have 3/4 of the album i really enjoy, and so it's is an excellent addition to the YES collection with all its strength and a few weaknesses.

Because of those weaknesses, i cannot give the full 5 stars as it's not perfet, nonetheless it's a great album, thus i give 4 stars.

PS: When Big Generator or Talk were released back then, who wouldn't have prefered something like TFTO. Let's be honest!

Report this review (#126687)
Posted Sunday, June 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans was the follow-up to Close to the Edge. Having made an incredible masterpiece in Close to the Edge, the band tried taking long extended pieces another step forward. This time it would be four side-long songs on a 2-LP set with times running from 18:34 to 21:35. Quite an undertaking I'd say. Unfortunately, I think the band failed on this one. I believe Wakeman also agrees with this assessment as he has been quoted as such. That's not to say it doesn't have it's moments. The Revealing Science of God and Ritual are very nicely done. I have more of a problem with the other two songs which seem way too long and uninspired musically.

The lyrics are even more obtuse and confusing then on previous works, with a concept that is apparently too incomprehensible for my little brain to handle. But that doesn't really bother me and it's not the reason I would give this a better-than-average rating. For some people it might be an issue. If this is you, you've been warned. My main reason for a lower rating is chiefly the music. Long parts of the songs seem like they were not thought out real well and the overall performance seems more forced than anything else. Plus, it takes some time to digest this work.

Tales from Topographic Oceans is more or less a big mixed bag. And that is clearly noticed from reading the reviews presented here at Prog Archives which run the gamut from one star to five. I really like part of it, part of it I can't sit through. Three stars (good, but non-essential) seems to be a fair rating to me. Definitely worthwhile for Yes fans.

Report this review (#129023)
Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Yes

Tales From Topographic Oceans - 1973

So what's wrong with this album? Well nothing really. Probably because things might not happen in the order some listeners prefer or the right length of the track - whatever. If you are brought up on formatted pop or rock tunes and expect that here - forget it. This is Yes, a collective of some of the most gifted composers and musicians of the 20th Century.

They do not think like a record company would prefer them to do, well, not until 1983 anyway. They do not record how a radio station would have them record. The tracks are not nicely indexed into easily and evident morsels like its contemporary The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. Oddly, in places Yes is musically going where Pink Floyd may have done so had Ummagumma (1969 studio album) - The Man The Journey (a related but concert only experiment also from 1969) may have gone. They have that four piece cyclical concept and experimental attitude in common not to mention the percussion suites. A feature of rock in that time was to climax a set with the drum solo and this was probably a consequence of that idea. Onto the album.

The Revealing Science Of God is a tight structured song and lasts 20 minutes. Songs are only supposed to last 2, 3, 4 whatever minutes is that not right? Yes are breaking boundaries and rebelling against constraints that society and oddly, of all people many Yes fans would impose. Please, only give us 10 minute pieces, our attention spans are good for that but no more the attention spans are not that well developed. Actually your attention spans are fine. Lose the politics of this album and, well, listen to the music, it's quite generous. Had Yes done as their audience demanded they may well be accused of cannibalization of their own music or boring repletion as they re-write Close To The Edge. But Yes progress and so should we.

The Remembering is a beautiful piece with textural mellotron work moving elegantly around the themes underpinning the weaving structure. The imagery I find is very Roger Dean like with the atmospheres quite in keeping with the artwork of Yes albums. There is a terrific surprise with the song-within-a song Relayer toward the end.

The Ancient: Giants Of The Sun a piece most often slated. The staccato drumming, searing slide and pedal steel guitars, abrupt rhythms driven by shocking percussion do not make a pretty listen but it's hardly ugly, a kind of sophisticated primeval moment in keeping with the theme of the piece. It's burning, a very heated piece indeed. Not easy listening at all, Yes have thrown down another challenge. This piece is, like The Remembering, really 2 pieces. Leaves Of Green is a classical piece, not overly detailed but superbly executed, it has to accompany the vocals without actually being obvious accompaniment. Beautiful piece it is too. How about that? You really do get 1 long piece followed by two pieces per CD or LP. It's just not indexed that way - mainly because of the recurring themes.

The Ancient was the first piece of this album I ever heard. On AM radio would you believe on a Saturday afternoon in 1976. But while this pretty much went over my then 12 year old head for the most part I was blown away by the depth and complexity. It made everything else sound so small and ordinary - unless it was The Who, Zeppelin, Genesis, or Floyd. Ritual features some more of that almost Floyd-like experimentalism. Lovely guitar work, superb melodies and vocals all hijacked by the waiting giant, the bass guitar that takes Ritual on an incredible fast paced melodic high then allowing the way for the percussive experience underlining the need for order from chaos. Perhaps this highly structured section, the percussion, is the next stage on from the staccato power in The Ancient. The Ritual melodies return and the album fades on the denouement on the theme of We Are Of The Sun, Nous Somme Du Soleil. From Giants Of The Sun to We Are Of The Sun. The circle is complete and the celebration of the first Revealing to The Remembering where we as people emerged to gain our civilisation. The album continues on a more primeval vein letting us not forget that we are violent and primitive but with certain rituals, laws, customs. Acknowledgments that we can become more than what we were.

I rather think the album is not so much based on the Shastric Scriptures but rather what Messrs Anderson and Howe gained from the philosophies. Really I've no problem with the lyrics, they seem quite straightforward to me, unlike some of those of Close To The Edge. They're sung in English, and yes, they do require some scrutiny; there are no repetitive choruses hammering home the point ad infinitum ad nauseum.

This is a fine, cohesive work full of depth and clarity. The music crosses boundaries and progresses and has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences in Yes' music which is pretty much all enjoyable, requiring quite a lot of the listener but this is Yes. Still, it's all laid out for you, no need to get worried about music length at all. I mean, really, something goes on for 20 minutes and this is a problem?

My copy is the SACD Japanese LP replica. Sounds fine but the remaster has, so I've read here on this site an extra 2 minutes introducing The Revealing Science of God. Interesting. The whole album lasts the length of a CDR (probably why the resurrected intro so we have to buy the whole thing again rather than just get a burn on a disc for the extra 2 minutes). Oh, there are the bonus tracks but they're not on my replica. This is another gripe I have about remasters and reissues. This demand on the purse for re-buying recordings does no one any credit. Just a small comment on some of the politics of the recording: as we all know Rick Wakeman left because he thought the work was not up to standard. He later said something about if a piece takes 2, or 8 or 20 minutes to develop then so be it. He had his opinion and I rather think he has amended it.

As far as I can tell Yes got this one right. Fantastic listen and unlike a lot of challenging music works quite well as background as well as imaginative foreground music. Listen with an accepting open mind and Yes take you on an incredible journey which brings you home on an optimistic but mysterious note. A truly unique album and absolutely indispensable.

Some may say begin your intro to Yes with something easier but how and why? Hell you can't go wrong with Close To The Edge, The Yes Album or Fragile or the sublime Yessongs. Or Topographic Oceans.

Yes challenged their audience but the critics got in the way, not to mention the constraints of the rock and roll environment Yes were perceived to be operating in. But this is the new classical music, it's not really a rock record. It can be avant garde, with a strong philosophy based on an understanding of oriental knowledge. It is symphonic, has some truly great tunes, it is abrasive and heavy, lilting, atmospheric and is its own creature.

This is the true rebellion against the constraints of rock, all the reactive punk styles ended up doing was enforcing the corporate nature of most mainstream western music in the past 30 years. Thanks a bunch for that. You want pretentious? How about punks deciding they could force their attitudes, inabilities to actually play on a public that were so stupid they accepted it, for a year and a half until the awful reality dawned. Too late, the restrictive format killed the progressive star and unless you were looking for a musical challenge no one would be around to present it to you. But the rest of us can listen to Tales From Topographic Oceans and marvel at the bravery of this band and the depth of this cyclical (in a kind of figure 8) creation. Thank you for reading, I hope it helps you.

Report this review (#130401)
Posted Friday, July 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
The Pessimist
1 stars Oh dear. That is all I have to say for this album, as it is a massive downfall in Yes history. Undoubtedly, The Yes Album, Fragile and CTTE were masterpieces, and won most Yes fans out there, but this particular album was a waste of space. OK, it has its moments, e.g. the opening 2 minutes (bar the ridiculous chanting at the beginning) of the first song, the guitar solo in the middle, and the main vocal harmonies in Ritual, but overall it's a good idea gone horribly, horribly wrong. I would have appreciated it more if they'd have taken the good bit6s of this album and woven them into Relayer in places because the length, pretentiousness and tunelessness of Tales are beyond measure. A waste of time, money and talent in my opinion. Even Wakeman got pissed off at this album!
Report this review (#131034)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I admire the scope of the vision captured in Tales. I tried really hard to like this album, to love it even. But for all my trying and admiration I can't. All albums need a vision behind them, but Tales shows what too much vision and not enough reality will do for an album. Things come and go throughout these 80 minutes without any apparent reason or direction. The music changes but it doesn't grow or go anywhere. It has some really great moments, but at times they seem to be just out of luck, like in their roundabout meandering they finally hit on something good.

The only consistently good part of this album comes from the rhythm section which has been pushed into the back for Tales. Instead we have far too much of Steve's guitar. Take that in unison with Steve giving one of his most indulgent and uninspired performances and the good results are few a far between. Wakeman has some great parts, but mostly just boring ones. I've never been a huge fan of Jon's voice, but it certainly has its amazing moments. Hear though it just wears on me though thankfully it's not all too present.

I don't think this is the worst thing ever recorded, and Yes would certainly put out worse than this later on. However, the lack of direction really detaches me from the whole experience even when a moment of beauty does creep its head out of the dark.

Report this review (#132434)
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most misunderstood album in the history of music? I wouldnt doubt it. This is the point in Yes history where J Anderson says the band was high in creativity and low in energy, which is basically the description of tales in a nutshell. Remember this is after the extensive and exhausting tour of CTTE and Fragile, and additional touring for Yessongs, so everybody in the group is probably sick of each other or wants to take a break, but fans wanted som new stuff so they went in the studio to record tales from topographic oceans.

The music of this album is definately the most spacey Yes will ever get, with Wakeman experimenting with more synthesizers and the new member Alan White with his mellower drum style than the very energetic Bruford. This album is a major breakthrough album for Steve soloing wise. In earlier studio albums Steve has never really been able to show off his real skill in his solo's, Starship trooper he has a typical classic rock solo, in Fragile he shows his skill with a classical guitar, and in close h the edge he has a very bad electric solo on siberian khatru. On this album though, he has a very descent solo on each song without him being rushed to get it over with, and not too long and drawn out, but his best song electically is obviously The ritual. Besides Steve, everyone in the bands gets a very nice lead line at least once. Wakeman has one on the opening track that is awesome and for once isnt an organ solo, but this is his only one on the whole album... probably the reason he quit afterwords. Chris and Alan each get some solo time on the ritual, making the song the most pretensious.

The songs themselves are very mellow and melodic, occasionally building up into an exciting climax, but dont get your hopes up for an aggressive album if you catch my drift. The opening song, the revealing science of God, is excellent, with a really cool vocal opening, then an awesome keyboard riff, this song probably is the most uh... radio friendly, even though this album got no radio attention at all. The next song, the remembering, is my favirote, it's very easily the most laid back and most resticted, barely more than an easy keyboard ebb and flow keep this song moving, absolutely awesome, this just shows that Yes can get away with awesome music without being overly pretensious. The second half is obviously more experimental and aggressive. Starting this second song is the ancient giants under the sun, probably the most experimental, and my least favirote with the first twelve minuetes being an ear piercing slide guitar and caceman drums. The song does eventually save itself with a beautiful second half of Steve Howe classical guitar and Jon Andersons amazing flowing voice preaching anti war and vegitarianism. The last song, and certainly not the least is the ritual, basicall all it is is a pattern of solo's with some singing here and there. Myfavirote solo is probably Squires first solo on the fourth minuete.

A good album that would set the dividing line between early seventies Yes and ltter seventies Yes. This poor album was beaton to the point of where it was considered the reason why prog left the mainstream. I dont think that way though I rather think it's a solid...


Report this review (#134677)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I would have to say that this album and ELP's Works 1 are the two most blasted by critics albums of all time progwise; double albums with long songs, pretentious, long-winded and difficult to sit through. Of the two, Yes's most ambitious album is hands down the better of the two IMHO. Having over 300 reviews, I'll keep this as short as possible. The easiest of the four songs to get into, "The Revealing Science of God" has some of their best melodies and hooks ala "Close To The Edge". If your fav is that disc, you'll love this song. Although I was never really into "The Remembering", I can now say after multiple listenings lately the song has grown on me and is a really wonderful and challenging song with some excellent segments with very memorable hooks, a bit fragmented but rewarding nevertheless. The song that is for me their worse song from the classic period, "The Ancient" has the band playing some RIO, advant garde style prog and coming off with that 'pretentious' tag. Wakeman has practically nothing to do on this song and it suffers. It also has the beginning of Howe's grating, and ugly sounding guitar twiddling that will crop up more and more on forthcoming albums. I usually skip over it, (yet on the new re-master, they play an early run-through that's a bit more pleasant, but not by much). The album ends on a high note. "Ritual" has everything that fans of the band clamor for, exciting drumming by newcomer White, remarkable bass by the master Squire, finger-licking good plucking by the second master Howe and some of Wakeman's most underappreciated work from the classic 70's, just mindblowing. But the cream goes to the top with what I believe is Anderson's best singing, it's just plain stellar! It's easy to get down on this album because of it's length and breath of work. Challenging, (which all good prog should be), it takes multiple listenings to even take in the scope of it's legend. If you leave this album as the last to listen and/or purchase from their classic 70's output then you've made the right choice. Don't begin with this album because it's not their best, but it is nevertheless a must have. In any event, turn out the lights, close your eyes, open your mind and let the sounds soak in. I guarantee a memorable experience.
Report this review (#134845)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Jeez, no wonder Bruford bailed, with Wakeman not far behind.

I didn't like this then, and I don't like it now.

In order to enjoy the music presented on Tales, I would think that the listener's blood saturation of THC would necessarily need to be at a level that would render said listener somnolent, if not catatonic.

Not that there aren't beautiful musical moments here. For The Revealing Science of God and The Remembering, I noted about four minutes worth of interesting material, which means you are getting about a 10% return on your time spent listening. The Ancient is a bit better, but still not up to the standard Yes set on their previous releases. Ritual resorts to recycling riffs from Close To The Edge, and still goes nowhere.

If Yes had not been at the top of their commercial popularity at the time, I'm fairly certain the label execs would have never released this one. Really. Listen.

I take exception with the critics of the time, who bemoaned the "self indulgence" of Tales. Self indulgence is not the problem here. The problem is that there's no compelling music. I didn't listen to the critics, I listened to the 80 or so minutes of music here, and I never bought another Yes album.

Report this review (#134846)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars One can only wonder what went through the head of Bill Bruford when he first listened to "Tales From Topographic Oceans", if he listened to it at all.

Most definitely, Yes' most controversial album, "Tales" has split Yes fans since its release. It is certainly highly ambitious as it is closely related to to Eastern religions and philosophy. Anderson and Howe had a strong vision but unfortunately, it never accomplishes what they set out to do. They overextended themselves and tried to force it to be much much bigger than it needed to be. It would be like an artist who created the most beautiful painting and then realized it only took up 1/5 of the canvas. Rather than changing it or redoing it on a smaller canvas, he desperately paints around it with bland colors that do nothing but fill up the empty space. Some of Yes' best and most beautiful music is to be found here. The acoustic sections are particularly splendid. The problem is they are surrounded by far too much clutter. Had they spent more time refining the album and had it been about half in length, it would have worked much better.

Rating: 2.5 Stars/ just did not come anywhere near it's potential as a creative and interesting concept.

Report this review (#136424)
Posted Wednesday, September 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars They went over the top with this one. Good moments, bad moments and a lot of self indulgency. It was hard to listen to it all then and it is now. Reveling Science of God and Ritual are the truly stand out tracks that seem to have a coherent form. The other tracks have some good parts here and there, but they are surely exercises on virtuosity and ideas that really did not work out very well. I guess every major band had to do an album like this to try out their bounderires and possibilities. No wonder Wakeman never liked Tales From Topographic Oceans. It is no Close To the Edge, Fragile and much less The Yes Album. The fragile balance between simplicity and technique had been broken. Even Yes had its limits. Four massive opus a la Close To The Edge in such a short time were too much, no matter how good the musicians were in general and Anderson in particular, one of the most creative and imaginative songwriters ever.

Not a bad album but if you´re new to Yes (anyone here is?) this is not a good starting point. You have to have a lot of patience and time to enjoy it all. Better get to it bit by bit. I found it too tedious, even for a Yes maniac like me.

Report this review (#136610)
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't recommend this album to other person, if he is a big Yes fan. The reason is because if he is not a big Yes fan he never spends his time in order to listen this lengthy album. In other words, if you don't invest time in other to understand this album you can't access it forever. It took a lot of times for even me, a big Yes fan, to like this albums. However, this album has four great songs. Marvelousness of "The Revealing Science of God", peacefulness of "The Remembering", awfulness of "The Ancient", and magnficence of "Ritual" make this album one of my favorites.
Report this review (#140913)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was really looking forward to reviewing this album. One of the most pretentious pieces of art ever created by a human. I find it humorous that Wakeman complained about this album, then went on to make "The Six Wives of Henry VIII." Oh well. Despite it's goal, there is actually a lot of good music on TFTO. The first Epic I would call Yes' second greatest epic, behind Close to the Edge. The second song took a little while longer for me to digest. By track 3, I'm usually a little worn out, and Howe's aimless guitar scales don't help much. Track four does a good job of bringing everything full circle. It is not a starting point for prog fans, but it's a good album to have. Every so often, I'm in the perfect mood to hear this album, and it really puts me in a good place, but a lot of the times, it just puts me to sleep.

I think I just like the idea that an album like this exists. The concept is so over the top, that I just have to suspend all my skepticism about the existence of any real theme in the lyrics and just pay attention to Jon Anderson's beautiful diction and tranquility. 4 Stars. It really is excellent, but no masterpiece.

Report this review (#141030)
Posted Saturday, September 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars This one seemed to split YES’ audience on two almost equal groups. First guys claimed that this is the best album ever made, second folks roared that YES has died completely for them as a favourite band (resurrected with “Relayer”?). It’s not that much different, it even has some direct quotations from previous songs (that what I dislike here, btw), but the main problem is that it doesn’t worthy of 80 + minutes. It could have been a pretty 45-55 min long album, probably, the best one from them. But sorry, the second LP is a total waste of money/ time for me (except for few moments), it adds nothing, only makes that wonderful album less wonderful. So, 2 stars is a predictable mark for the half of possibly 4-stars album.
Report this review (#141754)
Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ''Close to the edge'' marked the last work of Bill Bruford with the classic Yes line-up, as he went on to join King Crimson.While touring with Joe Cocker, drummer Alan White was asked to fill Bruford's shoes.He had three days to learn the band's repertoire, as the band was about to hit the road for another exhausting tour for the promotion of ''Close to the edge'' (resulting to the triple live album ''Yessongs'' in May 1973).While in Japan, Jon Anderson was caught up by ''Autobiography of a Yogi'' by meditation guru Paramahansa Yogananda and was instanly impressed by its spiritual content.In April 1973 he explained his intentions for a lengthy work to Howe.Upon returning to UK and after some rehearsals at the Manticore Studios in Fulham, the band recorded the album during a 4-month session at the Morgan Studios in London.It came out in December 73' as ''Tales from topographic oceans'', a double-vinyl issue, highlighted already from the start by Roger Dean's futuristic cover.

''Tales from topographic oceans'' has been the most controversial album of Yes' complete discography, a journey to the world of pretentiousness, excessive pomposity, egoistic virtuosity and unexplained self-confidence.It contains four lengthy pieces, close to or over 20 minutes long, each caught with one of shastras' classes.My opinion on this album is that Yes' were in such a creative orgasm at the time, that they couldn't do wrong by recording and releasing such a super-ambitious project.In fact the opening disc with ''The revealing science of God'' and ''The remembering'' sounds almost flawless to my ears.It's certainly exaggerate, symph-based Progressive Rock, but contains tons of brilliant moments, it's one of these rare times that superficial ego's are good with the composing levels.No less than two excellent, multi-parted suites with atmospheric textures, surprising time signatures, symphonic orchestrations and irritating mono- and multi-vocal harmonies.Superb guitar work by Howe, just listen to his lovely acoustic spices, no doubt his electric bursts are beautiful and complicated as well, and even Rick Wakeman, who ended up close to refer to the album as the bottom of the barrel, performs amazingly with some incredible Mellotron, organ and synth flashing, and those flute strings are really awesome.There are no trully bombastic orchestrations to be found, but the material is extremely rich, personal and inventive.

The second disc is a bit weaker, the reason being ''The ancient'', which unsuccesfull predates/immitates KING CRIMSON's experimental edges at some point.Yeap, part of this sounds like experimental/Avant-Garde/Ethnic Music nonsense with the dominant percussion prevailing , it's not even coherent enough, but even this hole contains some brilliant moments, Howe qualifies here as a a top world guitarist with his neurotic and jazzy plays and his interplays with Wakeman are among the best in the league.''Ritual'' is a winner, this is Yes at its best, awesome Symphonic Rock with full-blown Mellotron and synths, great melodies, superb tempo changes and moods' switches and Anderson performing in a confident and convincing way.I don't know if this the best composition in here actually, but I love the sound and arrangements, Squire's bass is awesome and White comes as a real monster behind its kit with his proulsive drumming.And those soft atmospheres and spiritual soundscapes changing with the emphatic, complex symphonicism is mind-blowing to say the least.

I really like this work.Three out of the four tracks belong among Yes' top 10 highlights in my opinion, even ''The ancient'' contains some nice stuff as well, despite being too experimental.Highly recommended, I won't say this is a masterpiece, but it's Progressive Rock at its most epic delivery.

Report this review (#146933)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Turgid tales of topographic boredom....this record cost all of my disposable income for a month, back in the days when records were expensive and treasured luxury's. So I can tell you I was not impressed by the seemingly endless doodlings that greeted my ear. Rick Wakeman aptly spent most of the recoding session pissed and preferred to spend his time with Black Sabbath rather than put up with the pretentious duo of Howe and Anderson who dictated this record between them. If this had been more of a group record it might have been good instead we are presented with four sides of music that are exactly four tacks. All of these tunes sound similar. Of course during this long record there are moments that work...but who cares. Roll on relayer.
Report this review (#150186)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars 5 STARS, not a doubt in my mind.

How progressive music fans could rate this album so low is beyond me. This is a perfect example of prog rock; an epic, long, symphonic, groundbreaking concept album. It does take a few listens to really get into, but then, doesn't all great music?

The Revealing Science of God (10.5/10) This is one of my favorite songs (as are all of the songs on this album). From the chanting at the beginning to the chanting at the end, this is nonstop progressive beauty. The middle part (they move fast/they tell me/but I just can't believe that I can really feel it, etc.) gives me goosebumps and sends me into deep trances. It is just so desperate and powerful.

The Remembering (10.5/10)- Another epic that is beyond flawless. Rick's keyboards paint an ocean, a topographic ocean. Jon's voice entrances yet again.

The Ancient (9/10)- My least favorite of these four epics (although that's not saying much). The guitar soloing in this one gets rather pointless and monotonous. However the beautiful acoustic Leaves of Green section of this song raises the grade considerably.

Ritual (10.5/10)- Incredible. The first ten minutes are so dark and light at the same time. So dramatic, so... so... epic. The insane drumming part is too much for some listeners, but is a necessary part of the song. I love the first ten or so minutes of the song the most, and that extremely heavy climax during the guitar solo is classic.

5 stars beyond doubt. This is one of the most essential masterpieces ever created. Highly recommended to anyone with ears, especially progressive music fans, and ESPECIALLY those with patience who share a passion for epic music.

Report this review (#154421)
Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The most controversial album in prog history, and here I am reviewing it at 330 in the morning. Ok well here it goes. Conceived during the tour for Close to the Edge, John Anderson and Steve Howe would get together at 1 in the morning, after the concert was over, and have candlelit sessions stretching into the morning. Between the two of them, they laid out the structures of it all. When they brought it out to the rest of the band, Wakeman didnt like it much, and it showed as he soon left the band. Ok, enough background, on to the music.

Revealing Science of God: Highlight of the album, too bad it came first and not last. Great spacey opening and chanting vocals building into a hard rocking climax. The many changes this song goes through are so smooth and great that its over too soon, and you wish it would last longer. theres some great piano and synth work from Wakeman, even though he was disenchanted with the album and its music. The rocky-rolly part from the beginning climax is revisited near the end, and the outro is a reprise of the chanted opening section.

The Remembering: Great Lute work from Howe, reminiscent of Ive Seen All Good People. very good overall, with a pick up in the music leading us back into classic Yes style, a lot like the revealing science.

The Ancients: A lot of people dislike this song, and its true the slide guitar solo accompanied by seemingly primeaval drumming is too long and noisy, but the ending acoustic part, for the last 6 minutes or so, is incredible. I dont see why they didnt make more of the song like that. Sadly, this song falls flat on its face.

Ritual: A step up from Ancients, but still not on par with disc 1. The Close to the Edge theme is revisited for a brief moment, and this whole song is filled with Steve Howe. The chorus, however, is great. The ending is a little inconclusive, and Serves as a kind of, "What will happen now?"

Overall, an ok album, it would have been better with just disc 1, and the last part of Ancients thrown in there somewhere. The one time in my opinion, that a double album went overboard (excepting the Flower Kings and their excessive use of the double album).

Report this review (#154552)
Posted Friday, December 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Before I start, I should remark that I have not properly listened to this album. I HAVE listened to it, but not considered every composition on it fully.

But to me, with my relatively limited view on progressive rock, spanding such names as Pink Floyd, ELP, ELO, Yes, Tasavallan Presidentti, Wigwam, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield, Pentangle, Rush and The Super Furry Animals, this album stands out as almost perfect symphonic progressive rock.

Maybe the instrumental part is not as breathtaking as in other Yes albums, partly as this album is more inclined towards feeling rather than virtuosity. It is a pity that Bruford is not on the drums anymore, as I think that White falls short of him in almost every respect. I am a drummer myself....

But what really makes me think that this is something really special in the prog rock genre is the fact that it is a double album with four tracks, each trying, IMHO, to replicate one view, one impression, one feeling. Each piece is a slow gradual building up of just that. This of course makes the pieces long and complex and, some would say, boring.

Consider for example The Remembering/High the memory. It is mellow, seldom swingy until the very last minutes of it. You really have to dedicate your 20 minutes to listening to that piece, otherwise it will not strike. But when you do, it is highly likely that its shear beauty will strike you. However, it could maybe be called otherworldily hard to grasp. Its slow progression almost exceeds perfection, in my opinion, and I understand that many, actually partly including myself, find it hard to appreciate this slow progression.

I would go as far to calling this the Ulysses of Prog. Few read it, even fewer truly understand it and very few appreciate it fully. But for those who do all that, it is probably nothing but breathtaking. Personally, I am a slow and bad reader and have not read it, but I hope I will someday.

I just don't seem to be able to say everything I feel for this album, but to me it stands as one of the best prog albums ever, or at least as one of those that are 'most prog.' Highly recommended, but not to first-timers.

Report this review (#156516)
Posted Tuesday, December 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me, Tales From Topographic Oceans is the best Yes album. Four 20-minute-long tracks, one a side. This is a very particular and underesestimated album. But how can you forget an album which propose you the magnificence of 'Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil' (as a French, I'm very proud to see this song has got a french title !) ? And this beautiful sleeve by Roger Dean... Definitely, Tales From Topographic Oceans is, more than Close To The Edge, Fragile and Relayer, a masterpiece, and THE Yes album in excellence. 80 minutes of pure prog-rock splendor.
Report this review (#157015)
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars To most of the people The Ritual is the best track of this album...I disagree. Side one is far more better.both tracks are very much listenable,they both have the peak of the song in the right place-at the very end :) a lot of fragments are repeated-some people find that boring and unnecessery,but those are the ones that don't understand classical way of composition.It has it's meaning and psychological effect,I assure you...Side two is questionable-the Ancient is totally weird (for me ,at least). I don't listen to it anymore,it makes me nervous... If I really have to,I skip to Leaves of green- a nice acoustic elfish part of the song-a total contrast to the first part! And The's ok,but whole that dark magic stuff in the midlle...what for?! it could have been a nice ballad-single..I can't see it in a range of an epic...Hey,but that's me.Who am I to argue Yes...Nous sommes du Soleil...:) THE GOOD: The whole first side,the leaves of green,fantastic cover by Roger Dean,the idea of Jon Anderson,the playing from every member in the band THE BAD: The noise of the Ancient,the noise of the Ritual,global result of Anderson's idea,AND what's most important-the fact that this album displeased mr. Rick Wakeman and made him leave the band(for the first time:)) CONCLUSION:Anderson made up all that lyrics,so the band had to put it in music,the result-4 (questionable) --If I had the chance to put Tales together, it would look something like this: 1. Revealing science of god (the same song) 2. Leaves of green (edited) 3. High the memory (the same song) 4. Nous sommes du soleil (edited) --this way,it has two epics and nice (edited) ballads between would be much more listenable,and it would sell better.hehe 4 stars-excellent addition to any prog music collection...(I would give it 5 stars,just because of those who hate Tales,but in this's not really a masterpiece) Farewell,farewell...
Report this review (#157140)
Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Like many of the above reviews, I love this album.

If anything hearing them played live is even better. Keys for RSOG and symphonic for Ritual.

I saw yes in the 70's, 80's and 90's, the standout moment for me was hearing the RSOG live (mid 90's).

I think that if the album had only contained sides one and four, it would still be a masterpeice, but I love the other pieces as well.

As is clear from all the other reviews, if you not a yes fan, this may not be the place to start - and if you are a yes will have heard this already.

Report this review (#157890)
Posted Sunday, January 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars And here we are at the subject, arguably, of Prog-Rock's demise. There is quite a bit to dislike here; the band really seemed to overextend itself. Rick Wakeman had virtually no impact on the album (which explains why he quit) and Chris Squire didn't seem to have that same pop in the bass as the previous albums did. Jon Anderson made some of the weirdest lyrics I have ever heard in a song. If I had trouble understanding Close to the Edge, I don't have a prayer of a chance on TFTO. But now, the positives...

This album is BRIMMING with potential. It didn't have to be nearly as long as it was. Personally, The Ancient wasn't really my cup of tea, except for Steve Howe and Jon Anderson at the end, who really made my day the first time I listened to it. The first and last tracks, The Revealing Science of God and Ritual are the strongest on this album. Howe throughout TFTO is beastly, and Alan White makes a very strong debut, some of his best work, in my opinion. Ritual has turned into one of the coolest songs to see live, especially when Chris gets a chance to play. But perhaps my favorite moment on this album is towards the end of the second track The Remembering. Anderson, Squire (I believe) and Howe combine to make a simply beautiful, uplifting, powerful harmony. (something they went on to perfect on Awaken) So, would I say this is a masterpiece? Probably not. But, is it essential? I believe that to fullly understand what Symphonic Rock is, one can't stop at CTTE. They HAVE to pick up this one, and see where it was headed. Four and a Half Stars.

Report this review (#159795)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There are good reasons why this album is essential, just one of them being the quality of the astonishing music itself. What is often forgotten is that Yes had, for a brief and glorious time, the publics' attention in a big way due to the success of 'Close to the Edge' a year before. This was an opportunity like no other for the band and they had a choice; capitalize on this surely fleeting moment and release a record geared toward a larger market, or dig-in, wrack their brains coming up with some of the most original rock music ever conceived and release it to a world that seemed ready for such a project. The group chose wisely, I think, and thank goodness. Consequently, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' became a sort of axis, a key shifting point in prog that was both an ingenious example of how far things had come, and a dangerous raising of the stakes that could chase away old and new listeners alike. And these guys had the balls to do it.

Jon Anderson's tedious elf-turned-Hindu mantra drags some for the first of four 20-minute tracks but gives way to Rick Wakeman's squealing synthesizers, the band gradually chiming in-- Squire's sure right hand, Alan White's easy beat, and the gentle drops and volume swells from Steve Howe. It moves on with a springy jam and returns to contemplate and repeat this trade-off. Though always incredibly tight, there are times that feel as if they are making things up as they go, hopping between rockin' drives, dressed-up samba, quiet beach-combing, and invocations of their past with hints of 'Roundabout' here and there. Anderson's commentary on songwriting is a nice break from the shastrick scriptures, and Wakeman's application of the mellotron is just right, serving as a subtle gap-filler. Part two, 'The Remembering', starts as a good vocal showcase (though could have been trimmed in half and been just as effective), has an upbeat acoustic middle, typically hot playing and revamps the main theme before a big, swelling finish. This was symphonic rock like no one had done and I have little doubt even Beethoven would notice, at least enough to roll over. A hot vibraphone sound and Howe's piercing slide grabs the throat for the third movement, 'The Ancient', more echoes of previous work (including a beautiful classical solo from Steve that mirrors 'Clap'), compelling redirections, atonal play and wonderfully goofy experiments, making the second disc as interesting as the first. And 'Ritual' is strong, taking its time with more deconstructions, rich vocals, percussive interludes, and wrapping things up with an arrangement that makes it hard to believe it was just the five of them.

Sure not every moment here will appeal to all people all of the time, but that misses the point entirely. This album is to be taken as a whole, a single entity that may seem excessive but, like a long trip or thick novel, it's the journey that matters as much as the net gain. 'Tales' is a treasure house, and we are lucky to have it.

Report this review (#160267)
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Nous sommes du soleil

This one, is the most complex album by Yes. They got their maximum expression in composition in Tales (as in CTTE and Relayer too). Here, in Tales, the symphonism way of composition achieves its highest point: the counterpoint isn't capricious but it's really deep and complex; there are diversity of sonorities and textures. Also, there are some melodic motives which are recurrent from the beginning to the end of this album.

How to describe the songs? I don't know... First, I have to say there are only 4 songs, very long songs. The first time you listen to Tales, it maybe seems too long, but Yes guys took the time to develop the ideas. I think if you listen to Topographic oceans just twice or three times you will not like it, because is almost imposible to take the album concept for the first times. It's like if you read a long and deep book: the second time you read it, you understand more details and you take the concept better than the previous time.

The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn opens the album strongly. Highlights: the beginning is a 'crescendo' of the voices and instruments. This part is the same that in the coda but there it's re-harmonized and re-arranged. The 'na na na' parts and the keyboard solo. The Remembering - High The Memory is probably the quietest song (with some strong parts, too). The acoustic guitar is awesome, the mini-moog solo is incredible. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun is a very eclectic and strong track with 'semi-tonal' parts, and a beautiful acoustic song. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil: the 'grand finale', an ecstatic song. The percussion solo is really awesome. Great ending...

TFTO has a lot of sides to analyze. For me, it's one of the 3 or 4 most perfect masterpieces of symphonic rock. I don't undertood why many people don't like it. From 1970 to 1974, Yes has an incredible wealth of inspiration, and 'Topographic Oceans' was the most intricate product of that. I can't to describe completely the music with words, so listen to Tales from Topographic Oceans... 7, 8, 9 times at least. For me 5 stars...

Report this review (#161872)
Posted Friday, February 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9.0/10 Incredible

I cannot bring myself to really call this, or better yet any prog album, a pretentious work. This and ELP always seem to get that label. I don't see it as clearly. I think their was alot of excitement here and these musicians are out of this world and can do pretty much anything they want, so this is what you get. And I cannot understand how one cannot hear the brilliance on this record. Almost every song has some incredible melody or moment. I am not as huge a fan of this album as some can be, but I enjoy it very much. This is definitely a break in the perfection of YES, and I think the band must have been having a few problems at this time, I know Wakeman left afterward and claimed he did not enjoy working on I guess that is what did it. Although I find Wakemans choice of notes and rhythm on here to be brilliant.

This is a very long album and a difficult sit through at times, you really need to be ready for ALOT of YES. But every song is enjoyable and some are complete masterpieces; Revealing Science and Ritual...YES would come back to form with a sleightly different line-up on Relayer next, keeping with their new found auras and moods for years to come...this album signifies the end of their golden time for me, though, and everything to follow, while still at times perfect and incredible, would not fulfill the perfection of that line-up ending here. This is a highly enjoyable album, give it a shot, check out the great melodies coming through as always to be expected from YES, pretentious or not this is all genius.

Report this review (#163519)
Posted Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my lost island album. The most complex album which I never tired of. Every listening I find something new that I wasn't aware before. Whether it's the composition, the sound, the improvisations, I don't know. I'm sure that Yes members weren't sure either. I heard that they were improvising on tape, then they have edited the tracks into a song (or more correctly - a track) and only then they learn how to play it from the start to end. It keeps on surprising me over and over. I love it. The most special album ever. This album is a landmark in progressive rock history, and no-one can take it from it. Sometime I feel it was written especially for me... A true hard, undoubtedly, irrefutably, rock solid 5 starts.
Report this review (#163537)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is typically the kind of album for which a grade over five is obsolete, IMO. It's so special, personal and weird that noone else can tell you whether you're going to like it or not.

TFTO is sort of a concept albums with four 20-minute tracks. One of the best Yes has done with Alan White. Very original, very jazzy, incorporating very catchy melodies and psychedelic moods. It's a bit Yes meets Floyd for me, as the songs flow through, in a clean coherent stream.

Musically, great singing by Anderson, one of my favorites. Guitar play is more than essential in this one, as Howe leads the band into each part and mood, while Wakeman stays a bit in the background. Still, the band plays very harmonically as always, imitating orchestras : THIS is symphonic prog.

It's far from being a perfect album or a masterpiece, but it's still a gem of pure Yes music, very close to the heart, and very well written. I think a lot of it was improvised, seing as how the songs aren't as structured as Close to The Edge (the song) for example. Still, they're fluid and light.

A really subjective album for me, an essential one as well. Every Yes fan should have this one. Even it can't really compete with the biggest Yes albums, it remains a very important part of their discography.

4/5 for me.

Report this review (#163541)
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, what an album. I thought I had reached my total Yes appreciation quota with Close to The Edge but after many more albums than that I now found myself contemplating tackling this one. And indeed, that is what a person must do with this album. It is not to be taken lightly like 90125 or Magnification which are both very good albums and easier to handle, but with Tales the listener must be committed to sticking to it, and once you do...its a whole new world. The first song is probably the most regularly constructed piece on the album and will offer the most immediate pleasure, although even then it is a tough one to digest. The second piece is probably one of the most original epics I've heard from Yes...the music is such that it truly takes me away while I am listening to it. The third Ancient song is often ridiculed for having a lack of direction...but for some reason that makes me love it, it lends a confused dynamic to the album which throws you off and brings to mind the imagery suggested through the lyrics. The 4th piece seems to be an accurate culmination of what was used in the previous songs, it wraps up the album quite well.

Lyrically Jon Anderson many times will annoy me but on this album it works for some reason due to the artwork and overall concept. Steve Howe really outdoes himself lending numerous amazing solos to the material, Chris Squires bassing is, like always, so good! Alan White comes in with a more rocking but still dynamic drumming style, not quite Bruford but maybe that was a good thing...and Rick, who was disenchanted with the album still manages to pull off a very backdrop to the music and some very good synth leads.

I don't know the exact concept or what was going through Yes' heads, but it resulted in some truly beautiful music that is exactly where they needed to go, I don't care what others say about over-indulgence or filling up a record side if that was the means to this end, so be it. This album will make your head spin, so after falling in love with Yes's other works, take the ample time and start discovering this journey of music.

Report this review (#164660)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is my all time favourite album. It may not be perfectly structured like CttE, but nevertheless, it's been a pleasure listening to it for more than 30 years. There might be 2 minutes of 'The Ancient' that I could live without, otherwise it's just beautiful. And it's 'lack' of structure allows it never to become boring, you're never quite sure whar happens next, even after many listens. The four tracks are all marvelous, but my favourite for the moment, despite Wakeman's 'plodding', is The Remembering. Five shining stars.
Report this review (#165875)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars In one of the great ironies in the history of Yes, Tales from Topographic Oceans begins with a direct, almost pedagogical introduction by Jon Anderson. Unlike Close to the Edge or Relayer in which the listener has the complete imaginative autonomy to make all pertinent connections, Tales from Topographic Oceans contains an introduction. Anderson straightforwardly acknowledges the source of inspiration for this work, The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansha Yogananda. Of course, real critical acrimony greeted this album upon its release. I recall one solid review by Time entitled, Rock Goes to College. To me, this is the quintessential exemplar of progressive rock.

As with most others, I do consider Close to the Edge Yes' crowning achievement. However, let's go back to those late nights/ early mornings in 1972 and 1973 as Yes toured Close to the Edge and Jon Anderson and Steve Howe discussed Yes' next imaginative extension. Now, based explicitly on an extra-musical source as described by Paramahansa Yogananda in his Autobiography, the Shastric scriptures of Hinduism, Anderson and Howe grounded Yes' potential new work directly in a way of wisdom that seeks to synthesize eternity and temporality, transcendence and finitude, salvation and the grittiness of our cultural responses to the Human Condition. A few years earlier, John Lennon (with Alan White at the drums) urged us to Imagine. Here, Anderson and Howe issue the same challenge.

Yes, because Tales from Topographic Oceans challenges the listener, it will always remain a divisive work. We all know that Rick Wakeman grew less and less fond of it as Yes toured the album. Yet, in its ambition and scope, Tales represents a logical development of the germ of an idea begun in songs like Survival, Astral Traveller, and Starship Trooper, extended in Heart of the Sunrise, and, of course, culminated in Close to the Edge, And You and I, and Siberian Khatru. Wakeman has stated the album needed redaction. Well, the band gave that to us again in the form of Awaken.

In his introduction, Anderson reveals that the Topographic Ocean is his metaphor for the mind's eye. Here, there are no boundaries, musical and non-musical: Talk to the sunlight caller, Stand on hills of long forgotten yesterdays, We are of the Sun, Force the bit between the mouth of freedom, didn't we learn to fly/ remember to sail the skies. . .. The music, whether improvised in the recording studio or not, displays this freedom as well. Now, Mr. Wakeman, performing The Revealing Science of God at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo in 1996 wasn't that difficult!?!

As Anderson, Squire, Howe, White, and Oliver Wakeman prepare to tour North America this summer, let's recall the wonderful audacity of the band's exploration of the mind's eye in its oceanic ventures.

Report this review (#167659)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars As Jon Anderson said they tried to overcome themselves. I thought it's the worst album they ever made, but after hearing Talk I might be wrong. I ask the only one question: why didn't you cut this to 5- minute tracks? It should be better and easier for you and for listeners, as The Tangent practiced in their bebut album. That's the reason why this is the most arguable Yes album. The melodies and rythms are quite good but the track's lenght is awful. As a example, I have to move forward third track up to the end to hear my favourite piece - . It's uncomfourtable, although the album is two-disc and conceptual.

1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn is my favourite. Good epic, like to hear it entirely.4.5/5 2. The Remembering - High The Memory - also a good work. Ballad intro and pretty keyboard sounding. 4/5 3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun - such a boring song. Leaves of Green is beautiful, nothing more.3.5/5 4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Solei - my favourite also. Sounds like anthem sometimes. 4.5/5

4 stars actually, that's all of the lenght, a pity.

Report this review (#167679)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars While many describe TFTO as a love-it-or-hate-it release... I have to go a different route and simply say that it's both: it's so good, I just can't hate it.

There are some truly exceptional moments to discover here... buried beneath the hours of rather bland soundscapes and slow melodies-- and that's the problem. The group choose to focus on high-creativity instead of high-energy, loosing the perfect balance they had attained in their previous three albums. The result are two discs worth of slow, meandering songs which only occasionally catch one's attention, but when they do are really something else. One cannot acknowledge that the band is in fine form, shining most in the delicate textures displayed throughout the album rather than the occasional outbursts of rock which come across as obtrusive to the soundscapes.

Because of this, I place TFTO in the realm of: exceptional background music, suitable more for busying oneself in mental or creative tasks than demanding one's attention. I acknowledge the ambition this release represents-- it's nothing short of sprawling, but many listeners will find themselves enjoying Yes' other more exciting and equally creative releases more than this one.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 2

Report this review (#168395)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the most ambitious album ever done by Yes or perhaps any band ever. Making four extended epic pieces of music is not only demanding of the musicians involved but for the listener as well. I think this is where alot of the critizism by listeners and even band members stems from. Taking the concept of making an epic record with song writing revolving around a religious text in mind, I have to ask myself did Yes succeed to create something great with that concept? I have to say Yes.

Tales From Topographic Oceans was a departure from the accessibilty of the albums that came before it and even after it. To me this makes the album very unique and has not been attempted by any band since, at least in that type of magnitude. Tales From Topographic Oceans is a musical journey with many peaks and valleys along the way but it is those peaks and valleys that make the pieces of music interesting. I gave Tales From Topographic Oceans five stars not on accessibility but on realization of ambition.

Report this review (#173298)
Posted Sunday, June 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
4 stars Review 54, Tales From Topographic Oceans, Yes, 1973


There are, it must be admitted, few albums which exemplify 'prog' as much as Tales From Topographic Oceans does. Both in excesses and successes, the album stands out as a much more expansive and challenging one than Yes' two preceding efforts, and the combination of superb musicianship, the slaughtering of conventional structures, semi- or entirely- nonsensical lyrical material, and an ambition at producing a more primal creature than Close To The Edge without any realism whatsoever included. These make the album pretty much the essence of longer instrumental-based prog, and a huge target for some mainstream critics.

The playing, of course, is good to stunning, with Howe contributing superb acoustic and electric guitar (as well as lute) and White stepping up to the challenge of taking over from Bruford while not aping him. Squire provides some of his finest bass-work, distinctive and potent throughout, with a couple of superb bass solos making an appearance. Wakeman, though not exactly the album's greatest fan, moves to slightly plainer keys than those of the preceding albums (perhaps as a result of the less involving process by which the album was made), but nonetheless gives us some wonderful playing, especially on The Remembering/High The Memory. Jon Anderson is fairly capable throughout, though in a couple of spots he fails to get the menace demanded by the music. Still, his vocal performances are generally distinctive and good. The Yes harmonies, naturally, take their place on the album gracefully.

Despite this excellent playing, I initially did not get the album at all, considering it nonsensical, boring, not worthy of CTTE and generally despicable. However, going back to it after a little while spent developing my musical tastes and ear, I later found it incredibly and inexplicably stunning. This is an album which demands attention and to be listened to in full, and with the energy to engage with and explore its depth. Not casual listening.

The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn opens the album with what is certainly one of Yes' finest numbers. Thunderous rumbling and gentle keys build up a watery, swirling atmosphere, moving to calm when John Anderson's vocal enters, slowly building tension with the strung-together syllables and words. This gradually and brilliantly builds up to the potent bass solo on the line 'Endless caresses for the freedom of life everlasting'. Steve Howe then enters with confusing guitar, and the band really kick off as a whole.

A more rock-based section ensues, with Alan White's percussion standing out especially. Anderson contributes an excellent set of vocals and suitably cryptic lyrics about a search for God or meaning. The harmonies mesh together very neatly, and the piece hums around calmly before shifting into a much faster-paced being replete with Howe soloing and killer rhythm section. Wakeman's keys, slippery and deliberately un-fixed, remain a constant through most of the song, including a softer and slower repeat of the music for earlier sections. Lush mellotron, ARP synths, some form of piano and just about every imaginable keyboard sound turns up to good effect. Of especial mind-blowing beauty is the soft guitar solo-based section (with flutey keys) which takes over at about 15.00 minutes, moving carefully onto more vocals. Of similar wow factor, though of completely different style, is a Wakeman keyboard solo. The piece finally disappears after its range of treats on a mysterious note.

In all this, the band handle very sudden changes in tempo and rhythm flawlessly, moving between a vast array of sounds with a couple of constants evoking the search. The musicianship on this particular piece is truly phenomenal, and, with all members of the band contributing with full verve and energy, it could never have failed to be stunning.

The Remembering/High The Memory follows the stunning opener with a softer and much less dramatic piece to suggest a more reflective mood. Flute makes an appearance, as do lute and all sorts of keys, though more conservative and 'normally' used than on the opener. Squire plays more slowly on a less edgy bass, which does suit the piece but at the same time doesn't feel quite right for a Yes song. The vocals carefully twist and deliberately overstay the bounds they've set for themselves, occasionally dragging the music along with them for surprise value. A mandolin-like guitar sound produces a more slippery atmosphere. There are some very clever examples of the music taking completely unexpected turns, and foreshadowing explosions that never happen. Even if it's not really musically my thing, dragging a little, I can only admire how the band has chosen to create the slight uncertainty and less ordered nature of memory, and there are some incredible moments in this mix, both in the more folky 'distant drums' section and amazing 'alternate tune/view' conclusion (everyone's favourite mellotron tone).

Again, it's not a 100% fixed and structured piece, allowing a huge variety of moods, though in a more conventional frame than either the opener or the follower. Wakeman's keys are probably the standout on the piece, with the multiple vocals coming second. A range of ideas are explored within the general theme of memory and a 'universal' memory, occasionally resurfacing several times. The entire piece doesn't always work for me musically, but most of it definitely does, and the cleverness of the way the concept is explored is always something to chew on during the bits I don't love for their own merit. Objectively another masterpiece song, though not always my thing.

The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun, both the most impressive and the most pretentious 'song' on the album, begins with a gong before the monstrous rhythm section bursts into life with some sort of cut-off or clipped organ/percussion sound rhymically working in the background while Howe screeches primordially and chaotic in the background. Here the intent is to go beyond sense, logic and memory to create whatever was before that. Naturally, this idea is pretentious both in the concept and in the execution (with the unfortunate decision to recite a list of names and places in various languages, most comprehensibly sol - sun and Ilios - (Troy)). Howe is an outstandingly dissonant guitarist and sitarist in this section, and the general chaos and energy of the first part of the piece is only spoiled by Anderson's pretentious moping and a rather more generic set of keys.

From this chaos appears Howe's interesting and emotional acoustic guitar (accompanied loosely by an acoustic bass) and a more substantial vocal from Anderson. The wonderful Spanish-with-just-a-touch-of-dissonance nature of his acoustic solo here gets me every time and it is naturally vital listening for fans of Mood For A Day. Considering that my main reason for admiring Howe's guitar-work is merely that he can handle an acoustic properly and emotionally without sliding into the realm of the generic, this part of the song is a delight for me every time. The song runs madly to its conclusion with a very odd juxtaposition of the forceful riff of the first part, sitar and screeching guitar. A flawed masterpiece in all its glory.

Nous Sommes Du Soleil is the coherent and searching conclusion demanded by the conceptual scale of the album. A thick bass thing opens the piece, which spotlights White and Squire very frequently. Squire, in particular, is a blur receding into the distance on the bass for the entire piece, providing a couple of especially fine solos. Wakeman echoes some of the key sounds on the opener to give us a denser feeling of conclusion and of a cycle. Vocals are densely merged to produce a more tight, warm and communal piece, and the development of the band towards The Gates Of Delirium is at times obvious. A blues-esque faux-conclusion shifts to a percussion showcase (with a saw in the background, if I'm not mistaken), which could perhaps be the best thing I've so far heard from Alan White. Haunting keys loom in the background before the piece moves to a softer conclusion. Howe provides an electro-acoustic thing, while the Caped One moves to a piano for the acoustic, natural conclusion. Naturally, this is not the end, and a stunning Howe solo and more liquid textures conclude the album indecisively.

This piece is probably the one I've got the least to say about, since it's more of a musicianship-based rock piece than the other more imagination-based pieces. Has to be heard to be understood. Again, great piece of music.

The bonus material isn't especially good, with the most interesting aspect being Wakeman's keys on the alternate mix of Dance Of The Dawn. Anderson's vocals are too thin on that version, however, to make it listenable, and the album as it is is long enough to discourage me from listening any further. Probably not worth a repurchase for them unless you really love the album and the band.

Of course, this is a masterpiece. Pretentious, yes, a mess, probably, but a masterpiece. Anyone who claims interest in prog rock should own it, and should take a while to make up their minds about it. If at first it doesn't stick, persevere, and if then it doesn't stick, put aside an hour and a half to listening to it once you've left it on the shelf for a month or two. If you then get it, the time and effort will have been worthwhile. Not to be missed.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: could be TRSOG, but today I'll say Nous Sommes Du Soleil

Edit: I dropped this to a four, since I felt that despite the obvious strength of the other three sides, it's hardly as fascinating as the couple of Yes albums before it, and The Remembering/High The Memory has a markedly feeble moment.

Report this review (#176198)
Posted Sunday, July 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
2 stars There's no question this is the most ambitious recording of YES' careers.The first time I heard it I didn't want to listen to it again. I mean two albums worth of meandering music that lacked melody ? Sure this is YES, and they are all brilliant players, but the compositions are far from being brilliant. It reminded me of how everyone praises TALK TALK's "Laughing Stock" record that is so minimilstic, while the more melodic "The Colour Of Spring" takes a back seat. We all have different tastes and ideas as to what is good and what isn't I suppose. I did play this double album again, and again, and again but still feel this is nothing but Howe and Anderson indulging themeselves. I mean they played this entire 80 minutes worth of music when touring to support this album ! Rick Wakeman was so tired of playing it live he left the band after the tour. Still I can understand and appreciate the 4 and 5 star ratings for this sprawling concept recording. In fact I like certain parts of it a lot, especially Howe's input and Wakeman's mellotron play which is all over these four songs.

Highlights for me are the drumming by White after 6 minutes in "The Revealing Science Of God". Also as I mentioned earlier the guitar work of Howe and the mellotron from Wakeman on this song is outstanding. I just don't like the song. "The Remembering" is boring early but does have a lot of spacey sections.

"The Ancient" is led by guitar and percusion early and later 10 1/2 minutes in. Some nice intricate guitar melodies follow. Howe again shines after 17 minutes. "Ritual" has some heavy bass from Squire. I like the way the song builds to a climax with an instrumental section to follow. White solos 15 minutes in. Mellotron follows while White still pounds away. Mellotron ends it. This is my favourite track on here.

So I guess i'm not sold on this one, but that's ok because these guys have so many amazing records that I do love.

Report this review (#176245)
Posted Sunday, July 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Tales from unique oceans

Some people love this album, while some people hate it. I fall somewhere between these two extremes. I think there is no denying that all the four songs, or movements, are a bit too long for their own good. This especially applies to the second and third movements. But there is also no denying that there are some truly excellent moments on this album.

My personal favourite is The Revealing Science Of God, what a truly unique sound and feeling this song has! While listening to it, it often feels as if it was recorded at the bottom of the ocean! Rick Wakeman's keyboard solo towards the end is one of his best ever, and it has a totally unique sound. The way he can make his keyboards sound like waves is totally amazing.

Steve Howe' guitar sound is, again, totally unique and Jon throws in some of his best vocal moments ever. Chris is great as always and Alan White does his studio debut with the band on this album and he fitted the band like a glove. Some drum parts are amazing and sound, again, as if they were recorded under water! (I mean that in a good way, if that makes sense!). I don't really miss Bruford at all here.

This is not Yes' best album, but it is clearly an essential one for all Yes fans and it is totally (here's that word again) unique - I have never heard anything like this before or since. Are these guys really from the same planet I'm from?

If you haven't heard this album yet, you are in for quite a ride (but with some less than great moments)

Report this review (#176978)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is a near classic. Of note, this one all depends on the listener's taste. If you enjoy classical in the vein of Debussy, Sibelius and Satie - this is symphonic rock for you. The compositions are somewhat impressionistic. Fans of Eno's ambient works would appreciate this, as well(although it actually rocks in a Yes-way. Must be listened to in its entirety to fully appreciate. Yes were always a little ahead of their time. Hard to classify, really. Rocks too hard to be New Age, not ambient enough to be wallpaper. Lyrically off the charts, but who cares. This is progressive rock, after all. Ritual and Revealing Science Of God are two classics on Tales, so you're getting a full 40 minutes of classic Yes. Essentially, this could have been a single album with 2 sides, but still no hits.
Report this review (#178423)
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Not pretentious. Just plain boring.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is widely heralded as the album that started the downfall of progressive-rock's popularity in the 70's. All the excesses of bands like ELP were surpassed by an album with just 4 songs, each about 20 minutes long. What followed was a negative reaction of many critics and fans who thought that YES just had gone "over the edge" of pretentiousness and pomposity. Many of them actually turned into the much less demanding, musically-poor arenas of punk rock, in evident contrast to the symphonic exaggerations of prog-rock. For a lot of people, this album is not as great as other YES' albums just because of that.

It's my opinion, though, that the album is inferior to earlier (and later) albums because it's actually a bad album. It doesn't matter that we just have 4 songs. After all, "Close to The Edge" only had three, and while two of them were "only" 10 minutes-long, that's much longer than the average song length. The problem really is that these 4 gigantic tracks in this album are lacking excitement, entertainment value, and if they try to aim for higher artistic status, they fail miserably.

The first track, which may be the least horrible of the four, never quite makes up its mind about what it truly is. It's never a full-blown symphonic effort as "Close to The Edge", nor is it a long song made of several parts. Themes lack character and the song itself is an exercise in boredom, even though it towers over its awful companions. The second track, "The Remembering", features some incredibly obnoxious vocals (as is the rule in this album, where Andersons seems to have decided to annoy us for annoyance's sake) and it's quite irrelevant. But the disaster really takes place in the third track, "The Ancient Giants Under the Sun", which is the longest boring-track ever recorded. Some bands record boring songs that last 5, 8, even 14 minutes, but YES had to overdo it and record an 18 minute song with absolutely zero coherence, no themes or tunes, and some useless percussion effects and rhythms disguised as "experimental". The album closes with a fourth number that it's actually better than the preceding two but, then again, any song from "The Yes Album" (which I think it's just an OK record) would have done better.

We shouldn't say anything about the musicians as they all had proven their capabilities before. But all that was done for a reason in previous albums seems to be devoid of one here. It's like the musicians play all kinds of solos here just because, well, they could, not because it served the songs better. Wakeman is all but forgotten in this record (he shows he was not really pleased with YES' direction), Squire doesn't amaze us with great bass lines, White is OK but the percussion-oriented third track is atrocious, and Howe usually the most reliable of the lot, only manages to shine with his textures and his acoustic-guitar solo which, by the way, is the only exciting moment in the record as it would seem that "Roundabout" was going to start any second now. Obviously, that doesn't happen, but it's very telling that a look to the past is the only passage when this album emerges from utter mediocrity.

Unlike an album like "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by GENESIS which would have benefited from a trimming job, as it was a flawed masterpiece, no amount of editing or no miraculous scissors would have ever saved "Tales From Topographic Oceans", as it lacks the ultimate essence of any good album: good music.

2 stars, just because there are moments when the art these 5 people were capable of manages to somewhat shine through. But the real rating would be 1.5.

Report this review (#178634)
Posted Friday, August 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars scapegoat (-pg-) n, & v.t. 2. Person bearing blame that should fall on others.

There are those who blame this album for the decline and fall of prog rock. Life is never that simple, of course. The reason for the retreat of prog rock from the limelight had little to do with any specific album and far more to do with large-scale social forces. However, we humans aren't generally patient enough to work through the complexities of such change, so we choose a scapegoat, a symbol that takes the blame that ought to be borne more widely.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is that scapegoat.

It is the scapegoat because, in the eyes of many, it simply went too far. From one album to the next YES went from being the champions of heavy symphonic rock to an outfit that didn't know where to draw the line. Having drawn widespread acclaim with their three-song masterpiece 'Close To The Edge', they took the concept of one track per side and spread it over four sides of vinyl. Moreover, they stretched tracks that might previously have provided five or ten minutes' worth of god-like YES music into self-indulgent, overweight twenty minute marshmallows with no substance. This is YES in decline, desperately trying to paper over the cracks of a band at each other's throats, dominated by ANDERSON's incomprehensible conceptual leanings, rapidly becoming an embarrassing parody of itself. This set the scene for the widespread scorn rock critics began to show towards prog rock, and this album was therefore instrumental in public rejection of the genre.

Hogwash. I intend to offer a spirited defense of this album's place in the list of the true great moments of the genre.

In 1971 and 1972 YES had peeled off a triple-play of incomprehensible brilliance. 'The Yes Album' was one of the best things to that point in symphonic prog rock, and it was equalled by 'Fragile' and spectacularly trumped by 'Close to the Edge'. All three albums occupied much the same musical space: jazz-tinged symphonic prog, dominated by dramatic extended compositions led by an unequalled rhythm section, each song reaching a fiery climax. Compositionally brilliant, with tight musicianship, the band had by this point a sequence of mighty achievements under their belts. Clearly, though, the members of the band were not content with this: witness drummer BRUFORD's departure even before 'Close to the Edge' was released. With pressure from the fans for 'Close to the Edge II', the band recruited ALAN WHITE and set about doing something different, something that would truly extend them as musicians. Drawing deeply from their early psychedelic roots, borrowing from Asian musical tradition and scriptures, and - perhaps most importantly - from their own earlier repertoire, the band created an eighty minute musical melange that, rather unfortunately for their career, defies easy categorisation. The result, for better or worse, was 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'.

The basic shape of the album is thus: the first and last tracks are symphonic pieces in the mold of 'Close to the Edge', though with important differences, while the second track is less easy to pigeonhole, with large quiet, almost ambient sections, and the third track is experimental, filled with Asian sounds and difficult rhythms, much less of a song and much more of a soundscape. It seems to me it is the first ten minutes of 'The Remembering' - before the 'Relayer' chorus - and all but the last few minutes of 'The Ancient' that give listeners the most trouble. To which I can only respond that these listeners have not understood the nature of the music they are listening to. By all means choose not to like them - I'm not sure I 'like' either section myself - but long ambient soundscapes and rhythms and sounds from other musical traditions (in other words, the addition of other musical genres to rock) are exactly the sort of things that made prog what it is. After all, BRUFORD left because YES had become repetitive: 'What finally drove me out of rock'n'roll,' he said, 'was the repetition. That's what had separated me from YES. Why I had found KING CRIMSON so attractive was because they were way more open.' Clearly it was time for the band to break the mold. Unlike other bands who simplified their sound and were vilified for it (I might well be thinking of GENESIS here), YES added complexity and ambition to their music with this release. I contend that, by doing so, they did not help to kill prog. Instead, they helped keep it alive.

I apologise for taking up so much of your time with this argument, and I'll happily admit that it is only a point of view. But I hope my passion for this record will help some people see how essential an album 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is in the YES canon, and in prog rock, whether it appeals to you or not.

One further point. Do anything you can to get hold of Elektra's 2003 remaster: not for the 'bonus' tracks, but for the vastly improved sound. One of the major difficulties with the original record was the production, which was rather muddy and knocked the highlights out of the music, further obscuring an underpowered rhythm section. The remaster addresses this. It really is like listening to a new recording.

The remastered edition begins with a rumble and some plaintive HOWE notes rather than the original ANDERSON vocal, but we're soon launched into ANDERSON's infamous manifesto. Aside from the overt spirituality, what's of interest here is the reappearance of the 'sharp' and 'distance' motifs from 'Heart of the Sunrise', the first of many such moments on this album. This section builds slowly with the addition of harmonies and notably the intense, shrill synth, and segues into a typically wonderful YES melody. The new order is already clear: melody has taken over from rhythm. HOWE and ANDERSON, responsible for the majority of the compositional work, have supplanted SQUIRE and BRUFORD. SQUIRE's rumble is subdued, and HOWE, ANDERSON and WAKEMAN drive this record. This is the single greatest difference between this record and its predecessors. In particular, STEVE HOWE dominates: his guitar colourings, where he makes the notes sound as though they are squeezed reluctantly from the instrument, are the feature of the record. 'What happened to this song/We once knew so well?' ANDERSON asks, a broad hint of the change - and, while he asks the question, listen to the rather ordinary rhythmical backing. SQUIRE's playing all the notes, but the dynamism has gone, and his interplay with BRUFORD is now only a happy memory. The greatness of this album does not come from the rhythm section. This record is about beauty, not power.

That said, the beauty is - well, staggeringly, sublimely beautiful. 'I must have waited all my life for this moment'. And after nine splendid minutes, we move into the next section, with more dynamism and the use of the same opposed two-word lyric lines made famous in 'Siberian Khatru'. YES continue to evoke their own past as they march into the future. The lovely opening theme is reprised, then WAKEMAN gets the first of many chances to drench the record in mellotron. The 'rape the forest' lyric follows, another superb section, followed by a return to the dynamic two-word lyric section. This is a symphonic epic on steroids, not a wasted moment - and oh, listen to the rising and falling mellotron at the fourteen minute mark. Glorious. HOWE dominates SQUIRE at this point (I can only imagine how this would have sounded a year earlier). More beauty follows, with a heart-wrenching section at fifteen minutes (the 'glory to sons' section), the inevitable calm before the storm of the finale. WAKEMAN gives us a simply indescribable solo at nineteen minutes - this is up there with GILMOUR's work. What follows is one of YES' best moments, on a par with the climax to 'Close to the Edge', with HOWE's guitar and WAKEMAN'S keyboard adding that dramatic colouring to the stunning reprise of the main chorus. YES are the best in the business at these high points, and this is another guaranteed not to disappoint. All a passionate reviewer can offer is yet more adjectives in praise of the music. 'The Revealing Science of God' is, apart from the diminution of the rhythm section, worthy of as much praise as 'Close to the Edge'. I cannot understand why this song does not gather the praise it is due - well, I do, given its context.

You see, even proggers didn't have unlimited patience. The drawn out psychedelic noodling of 'The Remembering' swiftly erases the glory of the previous track from the listener's mind. This is such a pity. Soundscapes work on a different part of the mind than does a dense symphonic effort like 'The Revealing Science of God'. They require time to unfold, but are no less beautiful for it. The shimmering combination of ANDERSON, HOWE and WAKEMAN (with SQUIRE and WHITE in some distant room, seldom invited in) invites the listener to use their imaginations rather than just their glands. Without the incessant rock beat we are forced to think, and I do think very well.

Of course, listeners are waiting with increasing impatience for the song to fire up. You've missed the point, lads. Even with the loss of BRUFORD, YES haven't forgotten how to rock. They just don't want to at this point on the album. So why not lie back in the shimmering sea for a while? We'll soon be back in the big surf. In the meantime let the small beauties infiltrate your mind. Beauties like the harmonies in 'winds allow', the emphatic 'I do think very well', and the consistent high quality of HOWE's work. It's on this album he reveals himself as a master guitarist. Like HACKETT he's not an axeman in the traditional rock sense; rather, he's an instrumentalist, adding to a sound.

Listeners breathe a sigh of relief when the 'Relayer' section begins, and the rock returns to propel the undoubted prog of this song towards its fulfillment. All those themes you didn't really hear as you waited in increasing annoyance for the song to 'start' reappear in the last eight minutes, played by different instruments than those that introduced them: propelled by WHITE's drumming, they suddenly make sense. This is a song that requires repeated listens to make sense. So why don't you go and listen to it a few more times? Isn't that what prog's about?

The hiss and swirl of the last quiet section (16-17 minutes) is an extended catching of the breath, a dramatic pause before the finale, but is glorious in its own right, and I adore the rise of the four-note motif heralding the climax. The blissful harmonies are doubled, and the band even has the cheek to reference the previous song at 18:30 as they draw us up into what is 'surely, surely!' one of the most triumphant finales in symphonic prog. Honestly, the wait was worth it - and without the soundscapes, the climax would be nothing more than perfunctory. It is because we heard these tunes earlier that they mean so much more to us now. The song ends with a lovely bittersweet denouement.

I believe 'The Remembering' will repay your close attention.

As for 'The Ancient', it's an experiment, and not an entirely successful one. There's nothing remotely symphonic about this track, and it was a shock to listeners. Much of it brings to mind early krautrock, and is so far from the rest of the YES canon that it was bound to be labeled an indulgence (or simply sh*t in Robert Christgau's infamous review). Though I do love the bright Tibetan crashing cymbals and HOWE's guitar themes, and in the right mood I enjoy the whole cacophonous mess. And everyone enjoys the last six minutes: the classical acoustic guitar, and the wonderful tune ANDERSON sings here, a prototype of what the band produced as 'Soon' from the 'Relayer' album. Indeed, 'The Ancient' is in many ways a precursor of 'The Gates of Delirium'.

The album concludes with 'Ritual', a summary of all that has gone before. In one package we have symphony, power, beauty and cacophony, with many of the album's earlier themes reprised. Like GENESIS' 'Los Endos', it is constructed partly from material we've already heard. Only in such a way can a fourth twenty minute song be palatable to the first-time listener. We are treated to a marvellous intro, filled with fire, melody and swing - and we even get a brief reminder that CHRIS SQUIRE is still with the band. Had this song filled the second half of 'The Yes Album', for example, I'm sure no one would have complained: it's certainly better than what that side of music offered. At 4:30 HOWE references 'Close to the Edge' - these things are not accidental - and reprises the main theme of this song. Entirely aware of the length of the album, YES are making it as easy as possible to assimilate on first listen. The 'Life seems like a fight' section at seven minutes reintroduces YES' lyrical beauty - and references 'The Revealing Science of God' - amid nice basswork and drenching mellotron. We sing the music's total retain - from 'Close to the Edge'. We venture. They move around, tell me. Sound familiar? The repetitive highlight of 'at all' leads to a reminder of 'The Ancient', but this time it sounds fitting in a symphonic context, and it segues into the heaviest and most dramatic moment of the album, SQUIRE and WHITE finally combining in a great instrumental passage, highlighted by HOWE's guitar and WAKEMAN's hissing, spitting keyboard. A truly thunderous moment. Smashing percussion gives way to a triumphant guitar motif, and we're into the album's finale. This time the band vary their formula: piano and ANDERSON's sweet voice round off the concept - 'we love when we play' - and leave room for a last spine-tingling instrumental farewell that finishes on an unresolved chord.


I will say this, though. The loss of BILL BRUFORD, and the resulting down-mixing of the rhythm section, does incalculable damage to the YES sound. Though ALAN WHITE has his moments in the sun later in the band's career, he is nothing more than competent on this album. Not until 'The Ancients' does WHITE do anything that captures your attention, let alone make you gasp in the way BRUFORD did. And SQUIRE's exclusion from the writing sessions for these songs neuters his sound. I lament the loss of that wonderful bass. Of most frustration, however, is the way the studio run-throughs supplied as extras on the remastered version bring the rhythm section to the fore, giving the songs more punch. If only ...

Make no mistake: this is a flawed masterpiece. If five-star albums are required to be perfect, this fails miserably. But if art is supposed to be ambitious, if humans are supposed to reach beyond their grasp, then this is high art. Like anything from the truly great, even the relative failures are of real interest. And this is by no means a failure.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' simply does not, in my opinion, deserve the ridicule it has received.

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Posted Saturday, August 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the sixth album from Yes and it had the ungrateful task of following up on one of the masterpieces of symphonic prog Close to the Edge. There are very different opinions regarding Tales From Topographic Oceans. Some people think this is another masterpiece from Yes while the majority of the fans are disappointed with the album. I´m sorry to say that I belong to the latter catagory.

The album was originally a double LP with four sidelong tracks. A very ambitious project. The music is symphonic and melodic and the songs have complex structures. It should have been every Yes fans wet dream but turned out to be a nightmare for most.

The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn is the first side long track on Tales From Topographic Oceans and it´s the most energetic song on the album and my favorite here.

The Remembering - High The Memory is the second track on the album and it´s generally a more atmospheric ambient song. Beautiful but not as exciting as The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn.

The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun is my least favorite on Tales From Topographic Oceans. The song is too fragmented and even though I have listened to this song many times through the years it never really stuck.

Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil is a better song than The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun, but it´s not better than the two first tracks. I find it a bit weak really.

The musicianship is as usual excellent and new drummer Alan White is a good replacement for the legendary Bill Bruford.

The production is allright but a bit muddy and easily the weakest production on all the classic Yes albums ( From The Yes Album to Relayer).

Tales From Topographic Oceans is not a bad album but it is a great disappointment after the essential Close to the Edge and I can´t get myself to give it more than a 3 star rating. The first two songs are pretty good while the last two overstays their welcome by several minutes and they both make for a boring listen IMO.

Report this review (#182084)
Posted Tuesday, September 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think Close to edge started a trilogy of what I call best Yes albums. Tales from the topographic oceans was released between Close to the edge and Relayer. While not as good as Close to edge this still a brilliant album. Vocal harmonies are excellent. There is also some of the Steve Howe's best guitar work especially on Ritual, which is my second favourite Yes song of all time right after The gates of Delirium. Originally this album had four songs which all took one side of a vinyl and this is still a double album today. This was a very ambitious project with constantly beautiful melodies, some experimantal sounds, thoughtful arrangements and superb songwriting. This a more relaxed sounding album than Close to edge and Relayer but that doesn't mean boring. Ancient giants is the only epic composition on the album which isn't great. But even it isn't bad at all. In fact it has some inventive drum work. It would take a book to write complete analysis of Tales from topographic oceans and I don't want to go in detail.

This album has even more adventurous spirit than many other progressive rock releases. Some people may say this album went too far but this album at least tries damn hard and is a fine artistic expression and statement by the band. I disagree about this album being just a bigger and failed version of Close to edge. It really has its own kind of magic, colours and depth. In fact I think as an double album this even better than Pink Floyd's The wall.

Report this review (#183523)
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like it or not...

...It's hard to deny the progressiveness of this record. A lot of people argue as to just what ''progressive'' is, whether it's a musical style or simply the progression of rock music in general - but listening to this record you know that it simply is progressive rock in its most pure form. A sprawling double concept album released in the early 1970s with four sides to house four songs, the shortest of which is 19-minutes long. If prog music is anything, my friends, it is this. The album is incredibly hard to take in, and indeed, this is a big detractor for the record. While a lot of people appreciate the occasional 20-minute suite, I think we all have to admit that Supper's Ready (Genesis) and A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (VdGG) didn't exactly catch on fast. This album is often called ''one of the nails in the coffin of progressive rock, but it also just as often called ''prog's greatest achievement''. Whatever it is, it gets people talking and it gets the ears tuned in, and isn't that what music is all about?

This is a very demanding listen. When Steve Howe and Jon Anderson sat down on the Close To The Edge tour they obviously had no intention of coming up with the next number one single. With their legendary epic fresh in their mind they set out to create four pieces based on religious texts and the most complex music that they could possibly come up with. The result is something that often turns people off on the first listen, the second listen, and maybe even the fifth listen. Very few people actually reach the point of liking this album, but let's face it - those who like this album LOVE this album. The strange thing about it is that if it's ever going to catch on with you it will do so when you give it ''a second chance'' one day and you'll find yourself whistling The Remembering while you're at work or something like that. This is one that you have you really have to sit down and give your full attention to, but prog heads are usually like that anyways, eh?

The four songs on the album each have a very different flavor. Things range from the incredibly energetic and experimental The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun), with it's very fun sections and whining guitar, to the very moody and mostly slow The Remembering (High The Memory) which features some wonderful vocal passages from Jon Anderson. The two book-ending tracks are the two most talked about. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) is likely the most accessible song and the closest to anything Yes has done prior to this album while Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) has a pretty killer hook in the repetition of the title which makes for a very memorable end to the album. Going into further detail about each song would be nice but terribly redundant on each of these tracks since there's a great number of reviews that has already done so. All that can be said really is that each song contains something for everyone, whether they be the vocal wizardy of Mr. Anderson, the wonderful solos from Howe, Wakeman and White or the ever pressing bass from Squire. The playing on the album is incredibly focused and sharp the the production is top notch.

After this album Yes would go through many a change including the loss of Rick Wakeman resulting in the very mechanical sounding Relayer which would follow up this very organic sounding record, but in itself this is a great album. Most prog fans who like winding passages and epic songs will find a quick love in this record while those who like things to be a bit more concise will likely call this one pompous and pretentious (which it is, but in a good way). To put direct labels on it, it's easy to say that this one is not as good as Close To The Edge, but better than Relayer. Incredibly dense and yet somehow wonderfully addicting, Tales From Topographic Oceans gets a good 4 stars out of 5. Recommended, but take your time to enjoy its intricacies.

Report this review (#184076)
Posted Monday, September 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Oh...Probably the most controversial recording by Yes!The construction of the album is - four full-length composition - around twenty minutes each.This is my sole reason for not listen to it very often,despite its undisputed quality.Moreover,the album is even hated by Rick Wakeman and when he play something from the album he is disgusted!This album is even the reason for his first quit from the band!There is another negative moment about the album - when you listen to it you feel some kind of blunt sound.Its because of the wrong choice of the recording studio. Now it is time for the positive moments about the album.It is really creative and ideaed.These are eighty minutes here and you can find so much ideas - maybe more than any other Yes' album.If I have to put in order by quality the compositions I would say:the first and the last song - above 4.5;The Remembering - under 4.5;and The Ancient - even under 4!If you make the comparison with the other positive and negative moments,the album is on the line between 4 and 5 stars,but is closer to 4 stars.For me 4.25 or 4 and a half stars!
Report this review (#184116)
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans: Masterpiece...

...Love it, or hate it, Tales From Topographic Oceans is a defining moment in our music history. Being one of the most controversial albums of the progressive genre, it needs to be appreciated for specifically that reason. This album is an absolutely essential in your music collection (Prog fan or not), regardless of reviews you've read, simply so you can see what all the damn fuss is about.

As for myself, I love every precious second of the 80 minutes Yes style extravaganza. Yes being one of the pioneers of long playing 'Epic' songs, has broken into untouched territory with releasing a double (concept?) album. I would admire their courage for such an act, even if the album was terrible. However, when I listened to it, what my ears told me was; This is the best damn 80 minutes of my life, escalating my admiration level towards Yes to near god like.

Each song is like an endless dream, doused with psychedelic guitar, enchanting vocals, smooth mood altering keyboards, which add the Topographic landscape to the album, and the hypnotizing, wave like beats brought on by the percussion. The level of musicianship which all five members reach is beyond par of any album before, truly making them all masters of their kind.

Don't be stubborn, listen to the most disputed album from the golden era of Progressive Rock. But remember, whether you intensely attach yourself to this album, or loath every moment of it, remember; Tales From Topographic Oceans is a true masterpiece of our time.

Report this review (#186418)
Posted Sunday, October 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes - 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' 3.5 stars

A collection of good songs with great moments in each of them, but as a whole this album is too much to swallow.

This is regarded as one of the most pretentious albums in the history of music, and I humbly agree. I think it was a bold step for the band and I appreciate the effort. When I listen to each of the songs, I find them all to be good. If I decide to listen to even two of the songs in a row, I easily lose focus and attention, this album was just simply too much to handle in one sitting, which is really unattractive.

But there is beauty contained within this album. Steve Howe's work in particular is his most eclectic effort at the point in time in Yes. Going anywhere from avant-garde, to minimalism to jazz he covers all of it efficiently in his endless bag of tools. Alan White, who replaces Bill Bruford does a good job of stepping in.

This album is mostly indescribable due to the length and the variations in sound. I don't mind any of it, all I am saying it is too much for one's own good. This might be something a die-hard progressive fan would enjoy far beyond anything else.

Report this review (#187009)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars For those not completely decided from the previous 435 reviews and ratings here I offer my two cents on this oft disputed classic.

Perhaps no progressive rock record has generated more controversy, disscussion and pandemonium amongst aficiados as this 6th studio album from Yes. Sandwiched in between the release of what have become arguably two of the band`s finest studio recordings, Close To The Edge and Relayer, Tales From Topographic oceans was issued during a short period during the early 1970s when extended suite-like compositions were in vogue and everybody from Pink Floyd to Jethro Tull were riding this fashionable wave. Hungarian band Omega from behind the Iron Curtain even recorded an epic simply entitled Suite on their 1973 200 Years After The Last War album.

Despite keyboardist Rick Wakeman`s outspoken abhorrence for the work which comprised 4 musically complex peices which each lasted roughly 20 minutes in duration and featured spiritual themes virtually incomprehensible to the average kid buying rock records in 1974 it is to this day one of the biggest selling prog rock albums of all time. Any notions of commercialism were discarded save for a special press package with 3-5 minute suggestion from each track indicated on the actual records sent to radio stations to figure out for themselves what to play. In any case Rick Wakeman departed in disgust, the critics had a field day with it, audience`s attention spans for protracted compositions and thresholds for existential ruminations were tested and by March `74 it had gone gold on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, almost 35 years after it`s release, the debate rages on as can be gleaned just from the reviews on this website alone. With such mixed standpoints, perspectives and attitudes toward the work, to offer a proper evaluation seems nothing short of a futile proposition. For this very reason one can safely assume that it is indeed unquestionably one of the band`s most important albums and with the convenience of hindsight looking back at over 40 years of the band`s work (more than some classical composers!) it is really up to the individual to evaluate for oneself how this paradox fits into the context of a 40 year recording career. The best advice therefore would to be to explore some of their more quantifyable material such as Close To The Edge, Fragile or more recently The Ladder before attending to this esoteric colossus from one of prog`s undeniably bona-fide upholders of the realm.

Report this review (#189614)
Posted Monday, November 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Every once in a while, an album comes out that baffles the senses- usually, it will be one that divides progressive rock lovers. As one group heralds it as nothing short of a masterpiece, many others are quick to label it as "pretentious." I honestly don't understand that adjective in relation to symphonic rock. Compared to most popular music, almost all progressive rock is pretentious. If by "pretentious," we mean "exceptionally composed, using the greatest abilities of all members involved," then I suppose Tales from Topographic Oceans is the most pretentious album I have ever heard. I possess many fond memories sitting in the cold winters of North Carolina writing novels while listening to this album in its entirety.

"The Revealing Science of God" The very first time I heard this song, I could not remove it from my mind. That stormy billow that rises, those quiet guitar swells in the beginning, the very first word sung like a faint light in darkness, the layers of chanting vocals that build to a wondrous climax, the guitar theme that will reappear in nearly every song, the exceedingly wonderful verses that build to the majestic refrain, "I must have waited all my life for this moment," the wild whirlwind of word reminiscent of part of "Siberian Khatru," the amazing vocal melodies that rise throughout the song, Jon Anderson's most mystical lyrics ever, Rick Wakeman's fantastic keyboard work and Mellotron, Alan White's sparse drumming that allows the music to breathe, the special way Steve Howe's guitar work is expressed so perfectly over Chris Squire's more subtle bass playing, that vociferous blast of a synthesizer solo, the perfect series of transitions that bring the piece back to the beginning, even to the chanting that was in the beginning, and finally to that last, esoteric line, "And breath and hope and chase and love for you and you and you," all comprise the greatest progressive rock song these ears have ever perceived.

"The Remembering" How does one follow the most wonderful progressive rock song ever penned? Yes does so with majesty and gracefulness, two characteristics that make up this phenomenal piece. Rarely does Yes employ a Medieval-like sound as Gentle Giant or Genesis did so often, but the woodwind-like synthesizers and Howe's electric twelve-string guitar give it precisely this feel. Like the song before it, it is tightly structured and full of recurring themes. The heavy Mellotron and the spacey sound effects come in between lyrics. The chord progressions are regal and remind me a bit of "And You and I" from the previous album. The middle consists of an upbeat acoustic guitar arrangement. For the most part, Howe's guitar takes a supporting role, but still stands out as it did throughout much of "Close to the Edge" after the introduction. The section during and directly after they sing "Relayer," is one of the greatest moments of the song, featuring a reprise of an earlier keyboard motif and an excellent bass line, just before returning to several vocal sections and some atmospheric keyboard work.

"The Ancient" Unquestionably the most avant-garde song Yes ever recorded, this one has primitive-sounding percussion, swampy bass work, and strange steel guitar that lasts quite some time. As always, the Mellotron is excellent, and adds so much to the song, this time not just lingering somewhere in the background. Even the lyrics are beyond bizarre; the closest thing from Yes I can compare them to are those of "Awaken." Steve Howe reprises several guitar parts from previous Yes songs, including the one on "Siberian Khatru" just after his introduction. The music rightfully has an Eastern feel. After twelve-and-a-half minutes of exotic music, the "Leaves of Green" section begins, which features Howe playing one of his best classical guitar pieces ever, with its own themes. Here, briefly (so briefly one may miss it), he reprises the very first guitar notes from "Close to the Edge." Eventually, Anderson sings, and the music soon adopts a Spanish flavor. In the final part, the steel guitar revisits the song, but the music is unlike anything that came before.

"Ritual" The opening to this piece is grand, featuring a lovely arrangement. Earlier parts of the album come back throughout, not the least of which is the music of the first song that came after the chanting. Squire, who has sat in the background for most of the album, lets it rip with one of the greatest progressive rock bass solos ever, and his bass playing stays aggressive right on through. Each transition is praiseworthy, never odd or unnatural. The lyrics are again numinous, but they have an uplifting feel about them nonetheless. White's drumming stands out more, as there is even an outlandish but fitting percussion solo in the middle, which builds over synthesizer, until the peaceful respite of Howe's quiet electric guitar arrives, leading into one of the loveliest parts of the song. Near the end, Howe once more plays the main theme of the album, only the music is in a minor key. The final, almost ceremonial moments nearly incite meditation.

Report this review (#193539)
Posted Monday, December 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales from memorable musicians

Being described as the most perfect example of self indulgence in progressive rock , Tales of Topographic oceans truly does honor to it's reputation. But where does that self indulgence come from? Of course from everywhere since it's a really complex piece of work both musically and lyrically. However , it's 20 minute epics may have been overwhelming by it's length in the 70's ... but in the CD era there are some bands that make this songs look like top 40 singles. Want some examples? Transatlantic , Flower Kings Dream Theater , The Tangent and I can go on for a while. Even in the early 70's filling a record with four monster epics wasn't the most innovative thing you could aim at : Both Tangerine Dream and the Soft Machine were pioneers in that aspect with mixed results. And don't get me started on Miles Davis!

The main aspect of Tales that some seem to have problems dealing with at first listen is that the four songs lack the punch and "catchiness" some of the early Yes classic's had like Siberian Khatu , All good people and Roundabout. In Tales , Yes adds athmospherical sounds to their usual pallete of music and also includes Eastern and Indian influences on the mix. This fact alone seems to discourage many people who are expecting a more prog-ROCK album. As a record , Tales is probably the purest form of prog ever made: Thought provoking , neverending and unique.

But in my opinion , the main fact that put people off from appreciating Tales are the lyrics written by Anderson and Howe. There are many thesis around the net trying to figure out the meaning of mysterious , yet beautiful phrases like: "There is someone to tell you , amid the challenge we look around in unison with you" or " Out in the cit running free , days pass as seconds turn the key". The thing is , Anderson is known for using his voice as other instrument and taking that into account , his lyrics may not be as linear as other band's. However Tales is a concept album based on Eastern religion and for us mostly westerners is pretty tough to deal with.

While writing this review I was listening to this record and I found out that The Revealing Science of God is probably Yes's stronger epic. This song does have some structure unless other epic tunes since Anderson goes over and over the same pattern all over the song (What happened.... or They move fast , they tell me...) , but everytime he does his voice gets better and better. This first cut will also show us a particular aspect as regard's Tales: Rick Wakeman's keyboards arent that prominent but I find this to be a good move. Instead his Mellotron sounds in the background most of the time with great results. Also there are some little Moog solos as well. In contrast Steve Howe dominates this song from start to finish delivering some of his finest guitarwork and never going over the top.

The remembering is probably harder to get into than Dance of the Dawn because of Anderson's melody while singing. It sounds pretty ankward at first. But the playing is top notch all over the song , there is some overwhelming Mellotron at 9 minutes and then the song suddenly goes acoustic , reminding me of "All good people". Some may find this part a little lame , but I like it. Like on the opener , there are plenty of memorable memories and riffs for you to remember. This is more than necesary when a record is so vast as Tales.

The second LP presents us " The Ancient". A gong opens this number followed with some Jamie Muir- like percussion , this is really unique in Yes catalog. Suddenly a burst of King Crimsonish Mellotron appears. I am hearing Larks Tongues in Aspic?? Or is it Starless and Bible Black?? After that confusion Jon Anderson starts telling the different names some antique civilisations gave to the sun god while this track starts sounding like a symphony. This is too much for my senses! When this long instrumental interlude comes to an end there is time for Steve Howe to shine: An acoustic guitar solo much like Mood for a Day or Horizons put this song at ease after the closest Yes got to avant garde ever.

The last tale will be the most popular one , Ritual. This one features a long guitar introduction by Steve Howe and the somewhat famous drum solo by new member Alan White.There also is some amazing playing by Chris Squire on here making a tight rhytm section. Jon Anderson leaves us some really good melodies and memorable verses like: " Open doors we find our way , we look we see we smile/ Surely daybreaks cross our path , and stay maybe a while" or " Dreams are say to blossom courage , constant to the soul".

Overall , I think that my review of this record is more than positive. But I realize that Tales could be quite a challenge for the newcomer so I suggest listening to their earlier albums before facing this double LP beauty.

Report this review (#200855)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Woooo

I've been listening to punk since 1977 (when I was six) and I always thought progressive rock was a load of old twaddle made in hermetic conditions by impossible posh mummies boys who coudn't even BEGIN to envisage what a dole queue looked like. And lo and behold that's probably true...but what great noises are made herein.

I still listen to bands like Discharge, Germs and Sham 69, and I'm not going off them. But this album (and prog rock in general) is an absolute revelation. Anderson is a completely ludicruous lyricist and the concept is, well, beyond words, but the music here is truly awe-inspiring. I only heard this for the first time three months ago and it's got to be one of the best things I've ever heard. It doesn't equal Relayer or Fragile (in my opinion), but after thirty-odd years of listening to the Lurkers this makes a most refreshing change, and you simply cannot fault a band this brave, daring and original.

All punk ass motherflippers should give it - and other great prog bands like Genesis and VDGG - a long hard inspection because this was FAR from the worst music of the 70s: that honour goes to all those awful boogie bands and trilly twee folkies Whispering Bob used to wet himself over.

Report this review (#200911)
Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the culmination of the symphonic progressive rock movement, bands like King Crimson did move into jazzy/avant-garde territory, but symphonic rock did not progress past this point. For that reason alone every prog fan needs to give it a listen. Another reason that on the whole, although undoubtedly dragging in some places, it really is an awesome album. Like a symphony, it only gets more and more rewarding with repeated listens.

The Revealing Science Of God (Dance of the Dawn) - this is the best song on the album. That chanting in the beginning is sure to make some cringe, but it is actually quite pretty and then you get to the meat of the song. This song has some absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful passages. Also notice how the song is one big, deliberate buildup to the climax. One of the best things Yes has ever done and the most accessible part of this album.

The Remembering (High the Memory) - this piece REQUIRES repeated listens, but it will grow on you. The soft parts will be dragging at first until you really grasp the song and realize how gorgeous these keyboard passages are. The acoustic guitar bits are great, and the Relayer! chorus really adds some energy to the piece. I love this one as well.

The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) - really the only mi[&*!#] on the album. The instrumental ideas are very cool and interesting, but it devolves into an avant-garde guitar collage after a while that REALLY drags, before segueing into the beautiful Leaves Of Green passage. I liken this to the dreary instrumental part of Moonchild. The rest of the album is so damn incredible, so don't let this bit ruin it. Let it grow on you and you will be able to enjoy it.

Ritual (Nu Sommes du Soleil) - a very nice closer that might be THE most progressive song ever written Really. This song is all over the place. It starts with the albums only true sing-along moment, then going into a great Howe section in which we reprises Close To The Edge, then the bulk of the song, then some tribal percussion passage that is VERY interesting, before going into the climax of the album. Nothing AS great as the first two movements for me, but still great.

I consider this record essential. Although not something you going love at first listen, given time this album will grow on you and you will be able to comes to terms with it's scope and enjoy most, if not all of it. Not to mention, it does have some of the most breathtaking moments ever put on record.


Report this review (#202076)
Posted Sunday, February 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very controversial album. To some people, it's a classic. To some people, it's a crap. To me, a classic. I don't see all the arrogance and exaggeration that some say it has. I only see magic, beauty, great instrumentation and lyrics (with some occasional boring parts, I admit). Just 4 songs, let's see them:

The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn): it has some riffs from 'Ritual', but more beautifully arranged. Good lyrics, great guitar/bass/keyboards. The synthesizer has a great sound here. Good time changes, good rhythm, good melodies, but not great in general. 3 stars.

The Remembering (High the Memory): beautiful and soft melodies throughout the song. This tune has something special, contagious. Its rhythms are very nice and the harmonies are touching, but it's not one of their best songs. 3,5 stars.

The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun): people say this is the worst song on the album. I disagree. If you consider only the first section of the song, of course it's nothing like Yes's best song, but it does improve throughout. The beginning part is similar to 'Sound Chaser', with crazy keyboards, fast drums and some notes on guitar. I like the way the bass and drums play at the same time, keeping that strange rhythm. Then come some keyboard chords and notes. Then, again, the crazy rhythm of bass, drums and guitar, but this time with some cool vocals. The part from 7:02 to 7:30 is PURELY GENTLE GIANT, they must have been inspired by them ! The song keeps all these rhythms and melodies 'till 12:30, when one of the most beautiful melodies Yes ever created begins. Oh, that marvellous acoustic guitar ! Those powerful lyrics and vocals by Anderson ! Indescribable ! 4 stars.

Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil): clearly the best song on the album. It is strong, powerful, aggressive, beautiful, inspiring, wonderful. Alan's drumming is very fast and rhythmic, Squire's bass lines are melodic and fit very well the rhythm, Steve's guitar riffs and solos are very well planned, just beautiful. The song was very well executed both by vocalist and musicians. I really love this song, it was one of the first Yes' songs I ever heard. 21:50 of pure pleasure. The bit from 11:06 to 14:20 is cool and exciting. From 14:21 to 16:56, it's powerful and impressive. And, finally, from 16:67 to 19:50, it's melancholic and emotional. A classic to finish this somewhat underestimated album. 100 stars.

So, although it's not a masterpiece, it surely is a must in you Prog collection. 4 stars.

Report this review (#202447)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Yes LP that, more than any others, attracts both ridiculously high praise or equally ridiculous approbium. Yep, you either love it or hate it, and there aren't many who, like me, fall somewhere in between.

After the incredible heights that were reached with Fragile, and especially Close to the Edge, Messrs Anderson & Howe embarked on writing a concept, a very lengthy concept, based upon Autobiography of a Yogi by by Paramahansa Yogananda - it's not exactly easily accessible stuff. Sprawling over four vinyl sides with an equal number of tracks, the album was, either bravely or stupidly (depending upon your viewpoint) premiered live in front of fans and critics in London in 1973 before anyone had even had the chance to listen to it.

The rock critics response was, to put it mildly, not exactly very kind, and many people point to this album as one of the main reasons why punk simply had to happen. Curiously, the quality press in Britain reacted far more kindly, with one actually stating that The Ancient would, in twenty years, come to be regarded as an all time classic of any musical genre. I'm sorry, but it simply is not, and only die hard fans would, I suspect, now make that statement, although I do think that it stands up better in 2009 than it did in 1973.

It is a shame, because there are many good points to the album. I regard sides one (The Revealing Science of God) and four (Ritual) as being amongst the band's finest. Once you get past Anderson wittering incomprehensibly at the start of Revealing..., a rich, complex tapestry of music unfolds. In addition, the opening sequence of Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) is quite lovely, before giving way to a complex jazzy sequence ending in a very brave and well played percussion solo by Alan White on his debut with the band. All that, though, pales into insignificance when you hear what follows this - quite simply one of the most beautiful, hair raising guitar solos of all time by Steve Howe preluding the end vocal and instrumental sequence.

This, though, summarises the album's problem - it is simply too long. In addition, nobody had a clue what they were on about - I still don't after all these years. The two tracks reviewed above, on their own, would easily attract five stars, of that I have no doubt. I listened to the other two for the first time in some while today, The Remembering & The Ancient, and whilst they have some very pleasant parts, in particular Howe's acoustic guitar on the latter, they are simply too long, overblown, and pretentious to make the entire album as a whole an essential listening experience.

Also, Wakeman is simply dreadful on the entire work. He clearly had no interest in it, ate chicken biriyani on stage during some of it, and even had to endure bathroom tiles in the studio on Anderson's insistence during its making. He left the band, and he still loathes the experience to this day, although I am glad to say that his Ritual performances live were latterly fantastic.

This album is, in my experience and opinion, a flawed masterpiece from a great band. I am awarding it three stars, but I must make the point that it is still an essential purchase to add to any prog collection, if only to understand the history of both the band and the genre. Don't, however, make it your first ever Yes purchase.

Report this review (#204366)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think Tales is one of the best double albums in progressive music. This album has it all from instrumental arrangements to lyrical beauty. write down to the cover art Yes delivers.

Musically it is phenomenal in the way the mood changes constantly throughout each song. The album gives you 4 tracks of 20 minute length each. though this may sound tiresome and it is upon first listen give it time and you will see this is a great piece of art.

Lyrically each song is a poetic novel. personal favorites are The Revealing science of god and Ritual This is a must have for Yes fans.

Report this review (#209206)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
5 stars Tales from Calm and Majestic Oceans

Here, me, reviewing another highly acclaimed controversial album, this time from the classic Symphonic Prog band, Yes. Yes' previous effort was the highly succesful Close to the Edge, one of the pinnacles of Prog, alongside the controversial of Brain Salad Surgery, as well as with Tull's magnum opus, Thick as a Brick, to name a few. With Close to the Edge, Yes had culminated with perfection, 3 incredibly crafted songs, completely flawless, however with Tales From Topographic Oceans, there's quite a radical change.

With Alan White as a newbie, his place in this album, doesn't deserve the mention. Not that he's a bad drummer, but unfortunately, in this album, specifically, Alan is barely heard in the mix, and comparing with Close to the Edge's fierceful and complex drumming of Bill Bruford, Alan just falls flat and boring(I repeat, in this album). However, thinking it twice, I could mention his interesting rythm he settles in the middle of Ritual.

Despite not having a challenging drumming, the rythm section is not completely lost, Chris Squire is still in perfect shape, even better than in Close to the Edge, I dare to say, delivering one of his most recognised bass work, in the song Ritual. However, Chris is not the main performer here, like he will be in Relayer and Drama, alongside Steve Howe...

Talking about Steve, luckily him, he wrote all the the songs with Jon Anderson, so you can expect his guitar to shine out, even if he has been shining since The Yes Album, his presence here, is over the top, in the acoustic and electric, even having a completely solo spot, in the song, The Ancient.

Having mentioned Jon previously, I'll have to say that his vocals here are still in great shape, however his lyrics-writing ''skill'' haven't improved, you can't expect understandable lyrics, at all. If you're a lyrics-lover, you can't expect any good from this album. Back to the vocals, there's some excellent harmonies, shared with Chris' and Steve's backing vocals, specially in the song The Revealing Science of God, where Jon can shine on his own as well, in a short section, with his angelic voice.

Now to Rick Wakeman, as very well most know, Rick himself was and still is disatisfied with this album, due to Jon's and Steve's control on the song-writing, not letting Rick express his ideas, however, as much Rick thinks he couldn't contribute in Tales as he desired, if there's one thing I love from Tales, it's Rick's keyboards, from truly stunning Moog solos, to subtle, and wonderful, Mellotron chords, specifically in the song, The Revealing Science of God.

Now to a bit more detail of the songs, like the title of my review describes, ''Calm and Majestic'', those 2 words truly say what this album is. In difference with Close to the Edge, having moments of symphonic awesomeness, Tales From Topographic Oceans shines out because of tranquil chords, and climax's, specially in the song, The Remembering, almost the entire song has a dreamy and chilly atmosphere, with all the instruments going subtle, don't get me wrong, the song is not boring, each moment is quite nice, with mellow harmonies, and melodies all through the song, while no instrument shining out, this just makes the composition and achieved atmosphere, shine.

Now, to The Revealing Science of God, so as to not make you think Tales is completely a dreamy album. As I mentioned before, The Revealing Science of God features a spectacular intro, from the vocal harmonie, varying from soft tones, to some well-delivered powerful ones(not heavy), then moving to Rick's absoloutely ear-crying moog, such delightness and power, which soon let's Steve deliver some great guitar playing. As a whole, The Revealing Science of God, features the best composition Yes has ever done, maybe not the best solos(however featuring, nonetheless, a killer moog one), but there's definitely no dull moment, quite the contrary, each moment has it's highlight, which needs many listens to totally perceive the whole amazing and grandiose composition, definitely 'Epic'.

Leaving Disc 1 aside, now to Disc 2, with maybe the most challenging compositions Yes has ever done, just below The Gates of Delirium from the next album, Relayer. Disc 2 opens with The Ancient, the song that still costs me to get into out of the 4 song here. Featuring some very dissonant notes almost all through the song, reminding me to Gentle Giant's dissonance and oddness, while having top-notch musicians, the whole composition doesn't flow normally, however like I mentioned before, here Steve Howe has a solo spot on the acoustic guitar in the last 6 minutes, really beautiful and great, making worthwhile the song, at least for me.

Now, finally, to the highly acclaimed epic, Nous Sommes Du Soleil(Ritual), with the already mentioned jaw-dropping bass perfomance all through the song, the song-writing of this one compromises of the themes from the last 3 songs, so you can expect some cliches, however this just makes Ritual Yes' magnum opus, with the ideas of the 3 previous songs into one, just makes a stunning song, taking the wonderful moog melodies and great, competent musicianship from The Revealing Science of God, while from The Remembering, Ritual takes it's soft soundscapes and passages, and finally taking The Ancient's weirdness, however all these themes are not united at the same time, if not each giving it's time to develop and truly shine.

Tales From Topographic Oceans is definitely not your typical Symphonic Prog album, however, such brilliance forged into this album, must not be ignored by any means. Not as perfect as Close to the Edge, nor as complex as Relayer, however none of those 2, share the mightiness this one has, making a easy 5 stars album, despite some flaws.

If you like to go through deep listens again and again to a album, to really get what the band has created, this one is definitely for you. NOT a easy album to get into.

Report this review (#209765)
Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Quite a controversial album. No wait... I'll take that back, it's a very controversial album. Many fans are divided on whether this is a work of art or a big pile of smelly crap. While I wouldn't call it a love or hate it album, it defiantly will not be up too everyone's taste. However taste can change overtime and I went from thinking of 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' as a gigantic overblown train reck to an album which is a brilliant, albeit with minor flaws.

People who only listen to 3-4 minute easy listening songs in which they can dance or tap their foot too, stay clear of this album. The length of these songs, combined with Anderson's weird and bizarre (hippie maybe?) lyrics and lots of key changes may make your head explode. It's a double album with two songs on each album (that's four songs, see I was always good at maths :D), all ranging from 18 to 21 minutes long. Think of it as Close to The Edge or Relayer, but with only the great big epic songs and no catchy smaller numbers like Siberian Khatru. Why they decided to have all the songs go for that long, I have no clue. It does make the album drag a little from time to time, and sometimes it fades into background music because I'm too busy concentrating on something else (this mostly happens on the second track 'The Remembering').

The first and last tracks ('The Revealing Science of God' and 'Ritual') are the best on the album, once you get over the bizarre song titles you know why thy earn that status, they are the ones that always grab my attention and I can almost hear Anderson say to me 'Oi, I can sing overcomplicated lyrics about topics most people like you are too dumb too understand, listen dammit!'. Track 1 starts out with weird chanting about some crazy sh*t that involves chance dancing and tender love in the air. It has many changes in tone and pace and resembles to Close to The Edge then any of the other songs on this album. Ritual might be the most catchiest of the album, especially at the beginning with the group chanting with 'da da da daa da da da daa' and it has a nice drum solo from the new drummer after Bruford left, Alan White.

The second track is good, but too me it seems drag way too much, especially for the first 7 minutes where it's has the same notes played over again, Anderson takes too longs sinning about a passage I have no clue what the meaning is, so frankly I don't care. It picks up and Wakeman gives us a fabulous performance. It's a shame he left after this album, I guess Anderson freaked him out with his weird visions about the world, I mean the guy sings about rainbows in some of the passages for god's sake.

Track 3 is very good, but the beginning can be frankly quite off putting with these strange noises coming from Howe's guitar. While I admire him for putting out unique sounds from his guitar, there's a line between creatively wonderful to just absurd. But it's still enjoyable, and anyway, all is forgiven when he gives us a wonderful journey of acoustic guitar from the 12 minute marks onward, simply beautiful.

If I could I would give this 4.5 stars, but to me this is not an essential album, since it's not for everyone, many still give it hostile comments about it being a spaced out pile of garbage. Even Wakeman openly admits that he does not enjoy the album, with one reason being that Anderson and Howe created the bulk of the album. So I give it 4 stars.

Report this review (#210149)
Posted Saturday, April 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is somewhat of a flawed masterpiece. Yes stretching too far. But would we have it any other way ? I loved this album when I first heard it back in 1974, and despite it's obvious weaknesses, you have to admire the guys for attempting something like this. Structurally the songs ramble too often, lacking the clear focus typical of many other Yes compositions. Yet it's this creative looseness that allows the project to possess a certain charm. During it's recording Anderson insisted on having the studio outfitted with assorted props like cardboard cut-out cows, and hay bales. Was it an effort to impart an organic essence to his vision, or just some loony extravagance ? Only he really knows. In the end Tales From Topographic Oceans was not a success , but something unique was certainly achieved. Not really a musical interpretation of the Shastic Scriptures, which was it's original inspiration. The music does have soul and spirit, because Jon does MEAN what he sings, even if a good part of it is incomprehensible. The playing on the Album is fine, with notably excellent and passionate guitar work from Steve Howe. Even Wakeman's keyboard-work shines in many parts, though he has been a very vocal critic and quit the band after the subsequent tour. Not perfect, but definitely not average. An important work of art from the Yes canon.
Report this review (#212035)
Posted Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars A Yes too far underappreciated piece of music in my opinion, Tales From Topographic Oceans is composed of three twenty minute long tracks each containing a different sound. The album is much darker than others of Yes, (Musically, lyrically it's the same), and in my opinion contains some of the best Chris Squire bass guitar Yes has ever put out. The first track is one of the best with very nice vocals to start it off eventually turnig it into a prog listeners joy, long instrumentals! It contains a lot of that bass I mentioned. The Remembering-High the Memory is probably the best track because of the beautiful Jon Anderson vocals all through it. The lyrics also give it a very nice feeling of calmness. Dance of the Dawn-Giants Under the Sun is more upbeat than the other tracks and Steve Howe's guitar playing is excellent but I find it not as good as other tracks. Ritual-Nous Sommes Du Soleil is probably the worst track on the album but it is symphonic enough it doesn't leave the album with that bad of a taste. All-in-all it did not recieve the credit it deserved but Rick Wakeman was right, he didn't get to play enough.
Report this review (#213413)
Posted Saturday, May 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, I,be been realy realy realy loving this for 36 years. I know punks hated this and later many people said this was "over the top" (in the wrong maner), but when it came out in 1973 we loved it absolutely. What else can you expect after "Close To The Edge? All four sides of the vinils are great. Howe, Wakewan and Squire's solos are beautiful. I listen to it again and again and never get tired of it. (can't even "sing" the allways changing opening vocals of "The Remembering"). The intro to "Ritual" with that beethovenian (9ª symphony) reprise of the three previous movements is great. This is one of my top twenty ever.
Report this review (#214022)
Posted Wednesday, May 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I should give this record 1 star only because it's one of the few records I fell asleep while listening to it. I got it on one cassette so my stereo could play it over and over again and it did... while I was sleeping. I never had a nerve to buy that 2 CD set. This album isn't bad. It's just way over arranged and over produced. Everything is 'over' here. Lack of ideas for compositions? That's nothing new for Yes. Bill Bruford once said that if you close 5 guys in the studio it's possible they will create something interesting. And he was talking about Yes and working on Close To The Egde. I never liked that album to be honest and listening to this one I have better feelings. I still think Yes being excellent musicians were poor composers. This album is way too long. It should last for not more than 45 minutes. I like the moments when band plays more dynamic. I especially dig Chris Squire bass guitar work. He's truly amazing. Rick Wakeman said he was bored to death when playing on this album and he just had to escape to Black Sabbath cos he'd die from boreness in Yes. I can understand that. It put me to sleep once and fortunatelly I didn't go into coma. If you stand first disc you'll possibly go through the second one just try to capture good moments of this album. There are good moments on it. You have to be patient.
Report this review (#214789)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've must have waited all my life, for this.

Aah the oh so controversial Tales From Topographic Oceans. An album that on LP consists of 4 sides, and on each side a 20-22 minute long dive into to the so called topographic ocean. This was the album that made Rick Wakeman to leave the band because he thought it was too spacey. And spacey it was.

This album is a rocket that aims for a galaxy beyond human comprehension but ends in a system failure, causing the album to drift eternally around the moon, until you just press eject. The first track is the ignition of what could have been something. Just imagine "The Revealing Science of God / Dance of Dawn" on the same album with a song like "To Be Over You" for example. It's a good track to be honest and i often listen to it. I really enjoy the chorus in the song and find the whole composition very pleasing. Then there's "Remembering" which is ok, and very similiar to the first track. But it's in the end of this track that we can start to hear the engine of our space rocket starting to fail.

And then there's the two last tracks. I must honestly say that i don't get the two last tracks. Musical passages randomly drifting in and out, not even trying to get the listener excited nor pleased. This is what i call background music. You can turn this on if you just want to relax and eventually fall to sleep, but for me this isn't the idea of prog rock. I certainly dont get my prog chills from hearing the endless drifting of "The Ancient / Giants under the sun" or the last track, i wouldn't even remember where in the song i got those chills. This is mediocre stuff at best.

It's still a shame for the first and second track to be dismissed by the slow death of the last two tracks. I would give 3,5 stars if it was possible on PA, but since it's not, i have to make it only 3.

Report this review (#220694)
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I had the great fortune to purchase and listen to the album (in 1994) before anyone told me it was supposed to be a self indulgent, overreaching load of bollocks :-) Actually, one friend did suggest that he was hesitant to listen to it because he was afraid Yes had gone too far with that one. But other than that, I didn't know it was supposed to be controversial and that even Yes fans had trouble liking it.

I wasn't sure what to make of it the first few listens, but one day while I was canvassing neighborhoods for a citizens group I did work for at the time, I couldn't get the melody from one of the tracks out of my head ("What happened, to this song, we once knew so well?"....etc.). It quickly became my favorite Yes album of them all. Relayer supplanted it for a couple of months, but it was quickly back in rotation.

For me, it's just an amazing piece of work. Great melodies in abundance, but not always repeated like they would do on earlier albums. Incredible atmospheres that seemed to always fit the theme of the piece. Howe's guitar playing is consistently great. Despite his unhappiness with the album, Wakeman plays some of his most beautiful atmospheric synth parts ever. Even the lyrics I feel are beautiful (I actually began to think that Anderson was really a Christian because of a lot of those lyrics........despite the whole album being based on a book by a Yogi). It's bascially more of an experience than an album. It's the rare album for me where the phrase "musical journey" actually applies and isn't just a cliche.

But really, it's an emotional response that defines my love of the album. Something I can't easily put into words. It was the perfect album at the perfect time for me. I hardly ever listen to it now, as I listened to it so consistently for at least 5 years (and broke it out a few times a year for the next 5). When I reflect, 15 years after hearing it for the first time, I am sympathetic to a lot of the criticisms. It could have been a great single album of 4 10 minute tracks. The rest of the band could have held Steve and Jon back a bit, injected their own ideas more. But none of that happened, thankfully. But I can understand people not liking it nowadays (back then, I couldn't imagine why I seemed to be the only one of all my friends who loved the album so passionately).

Anyway, it will always be one of my favorite albums and I will always give Yes credit for ignoring the expectations of their fans and the press and just doing whatever the hell they wanted. It does seem like a love it or hate it type album and I'm sure that is why. Personally, I like it more than Close To The Edge and Fragile, as complete albums (though there are individual tracks I prefer over any of the tracks on Tales......Heart of the Sunrise and Siberian Khatru specifically).

Despite my reservations all these years later, I'm going to give it 5 stars. It should certainly be in every prog fans collection, as no Yes collection is complete without it. It had such an effect on me back then I just can't give it less, and it's still a great album today.

Report this review (#220801)
Posted Friday, June 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Yes is an excellent band and I've had every one of their albums (other than Yes and Time and A Word, which I am very upset for not getting) up to Tormato, and I feel like I am in liberty to say that Yes fans will only like Topographic, as Rick Wakeman sort of took over Yes for this album.

Rick Wakeman came to Jon Anderson and the rest of the band and said he will quit cause the band is boring, the band tried to do everything to keep Wakeman in the band, even if it means making a bull[&*!#] album, like Topographic.

I love the fact that every side has it's piece and there wasn't a single album I didn't enjoy which used that technique, and then came this album. This album is just like having a dog run around the keyboard luckily making the right sounds, as this album has no musical interest for me, or any other friend of mine, and we are all prog fans ourselves.

People, please, if you like Yes, listen to this album before you buy it, as I guarantee you, you just may regret ordering it on Amazon, or wherever you bought it.

2/5, no replayability whatsoever for a soft Yes fan.

Report this review (#221531)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I really love and dislike (not hate) this album. I have to get this right out there; Revealing and Remembering are two of the most godly pieces of music I've ever heard.

Anyway, The concept of the album and naturally, the lyrics are on ocean depth proportions. The four songs, in track order symbolize the concepts of Truth, Knowledge, Culture, and Freedom. The thought put into this album, never mind the actual music, just blows me away. (something that is completely lost in modern music, in most cases) And then the music itself is, well, brilliant as we by now expect from Yes.

As I said the first two tracks Revealing and Remembering are great, the third however, The Ancient is not, I'm not a fan, its just plain noise a lot of the time, and then the fourth and final track, The Ritual is puzzling, I like it, but it bothers me a bit. It has flashes of brilliance and you think something amazing is coming but its just complete randomness, peaking at just plain crap. Its disappointing for sure. I like this song, but have to fast forward parts, which sucks.

This album is 3.5 stars, its an excellent addition to any collection as the greatness on the album is must have, but there's too much disappointment to go 4 stars.

I'll leave you with this, and its so true

"Any attempt to describe the intricacies and interplay in words can do it no justice"

Report this review (#231404)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some say it is a bit extreme. I say it is the ultimate progressive album both in concept and in symphonic musical structure. Yes' evolution as a band was phenomenal. Indeed, the keyboard lines are somewhat simple in complexity, and it think it annoyed Wakeman pretty much. He did left the band after this.

I still think that the music from this album is an excellent marriage start to stop between symphonic composing and the rock format of a musical ensemble.

My favourite song would be "The Ancient - Giants Under the Sun". Still, all songs are great, they have a special unity. It is perhaps more difficult to digest the album, overall, but the rewards are infinite. Trully 5/5. Along with "Close to the Edge" and "Relayer" - Yes' best.

Report this review (#235283)
Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Emotions revealed as the Ocean made..."

Revelations, dreams, celebrations, remembering... I think this period of Yes can be described as Romantic (in classical music terms!) and especially this album: mystical, wandering, sometimes experimental and extended form. They made before only one super-epic (Close to the Edge which turned out to be one of their best) and now they do four in a row! Of course you can't expect that ALL of them will have the quality and the perfectness of CTTE, but actually the first and last ones are pretty close (to the edge...) In fact, this could have been a 5 star album, but unfortunately the sound is not that compentent and the guitar playing is not emotional enough, and with a good tone. This will distract many listeners, but just listen to the notes! It's a very great musical piece, a four-part symphony.

Dance of Dawn: You must have the remastered version, it has the three-note introduction with the seashore sounds which are essential in the mood setting, in fact it gives VERY much to the album as a whole!!! It turns into a mellow recitative, with mannheim crescendo (all instruments slowly coming in, and backing vocals). Then they pick up the beginning 3-note motiv and start to explore all the boundaries! Long and rhapsodic guitar solo concluded with descending, very symphonic and powerful moog. The song is transcendental. In fact they don't move fast into the second section in a different key (They move fast...).There is a glorious ascending-descending theme which returns several times. The tempos are more and more extreme (fast and slow sections alternate) and finally the comeback of the recitative makes complete the bridge-form of the song. The theme is finding God in ourselves. Extatic and wonderful song.

High the Memory: The spacey and wandering intro is beautiful, repetitive and sometimes stops on an uncertain note, than goes further. He stops for thinking a bit! Later, he moves into more powerful sections. This is a three part song, the middle one called "relayer" which is a more upbeat, but still enigmatic piece. There are three strange, but very intense moments, tempoless tremolo chords with symphonic synth, very oceanic feeling (you can call them the drowning or diving parts.. a bit like Pink Floyd's Dogs!) Not that profound ending, in fact the guitar solo is almost like in the first movement. (They use returning themes through the whole album, by the way!) Of course the song is about the huge wells of our memories and temporary forgetting...

Giants Under The Sun: Really interesting beginning, churning Bass/glockenspiel/drums riffs but with a contrasting, soaring guitar melody (even the tempo isn't on the same measure, you have to got used to it...). Again a slow, symphonic part with a short chorus, that moves into this celebral march, with sudden frightening stops and murmuring spells, this is my favourite part of the song. (People tend to like the second half of the song, strangely I like the first better...) The march turns into a rather atonal guitar solo at the middle of the song, yeah it's noisy and disturbing. In fact you can find the pieces of the opening melody if you listen carefully. Suddenly there is an acoustic guitar part a bit reminding of "Mood for a Day" that turns into a nice pastoral with just guitar, vocals and minimal synth. The march comes back at the end, look out! the giants are back!...Wahhoo!!

Nous Sommes Du Soleil (We Are The Sun) contains my favourite parts of the album. Maybe the intro is too long. Slow guitar melody turning into a vigorous dance with vocals and synths. A wandering guitar solo that refers back to the first three songs, even Close to the Edge... (Why do I think of Beethoven's structure? 9th symphony?) The main melody comes after 5 minutes, a very harmonic, peaceful song. I'm a fan of the vocal parts from the 5 minute mark to the 10. So profound! Then comes a solo section which could have been better, they just throw the notes to each other, from bass to guitar... The guitar has a good part though, when it comes clear and slowly turns into atonal. Then suddenly everything stops, just drums. The synths are irritating. Well, they could have made a better ending to this profound album...! The last chord just hangs up and it's like a question mark...(What could I say? F sharp Minor...)

Still, four stars.

Report this review (#236056)
Posted Monday, August 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars There seems to be a bit of controversy about this album. Judging from the music alone, I can't really see why. This album is equally overblown as anything else featuring Anderson, Squire, Howe & Wakeman. So what's the deal huh?

The Revealing is classic Yes. I even like the moog solo by mr. Wakeman around minute 19, which is quite an achievement, considering how much I usually dislike that guy's playing. The Remembering has a bit of trouble to reach the 20 minute mark gracefully. I like the instrumental parts a lot (again by Wakeman!) but they don't connect well with the actual song. Both tracks are neither better nor worse then Close to the Edge. Admitted, they are not as stunning as And You And I, but that was Yes' best song anyway right?

Now on top of that, you get an extra album for nothing. On the Ancient we hear Yes having a bit of King Crimson fun, it's a bewildering track that ends beautifully with a very strong acoustic part. Ritual has never done much to me. The first 4 minutes are pretty thin and the chorus is just way too cheesy. But other people list this track as the best on the album so you never know which side you'll sling.

All in all, this album is a good addition to your Yes discography. Just ignore the negative hype about it and see what you make of it. 3.5 stars

Report this review (#239715)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Show-boating's swell until the new wave breaks

For many Yes fans, particularly those from the leafy perspective afforded by the grassy knoll, this album is often defended on the grounds that it represents the Lee Harvey Oswald of Prog. Framed by Punk for a crime it did not commit and culpable only for its association with an outlawed ideology at the wrong place, wrong time. Be that as it may, and speaking from the viewpoint of a contrite post-punk Jack Ruby, it is nowhere near as bad as its most vociferous critics would have you believe. Every successful musical phenomenon is eventually consigned to 'jumping the shark'

Does hair length correlate to song length? (Ask Peter Gabriel's starving barber)

It seems hideously ironic that the dish 'best served cold' was still warm from the griddle when punk's bloated tripleburger Sandinista by the Clash roiled onto the shelves in 1980. Perhaps as Yes suggest, some things are as eternal and cyclic as the tides with an overreaching rock band's inevitable fall from their pedestal being but just one. Forging new territory is all well and good, but just don't expect the settlers to believe the brochure when they wake up looking out on a quagmire lawn from their new homesteads. Where Yes and the Clash made a fatal error of judgement was in both band's credulous belief that the punters actually gave a discarded fig what this beautiful noise we call music was actually telling them. Honing a political conscious or exploring esoteric eastern philosophy has no substance in a realm of show-business where, as Pat Gilbert's tome puts it: Passion is a Fashion.

Listening to entertainers with a spiritual or political agenda always makes me feel as an elephant would after being invited for a vegetarian meal to be eaten with ivory cutlery. The counter argument to this demarcation of content runs along the lines of revolution starts in the head dude. Perhaps it does but so do delusional mind games, and you only need a vacant venue to stage those.

Enter stage left: The Clash, enter via the wings: Yes: To educate you in return for the sins and impunity of idolatry plus shedloads of hard currency. Me? I think further education should be free but entertainment not.

The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn - Kinda catchy title fellas. After some tootsie dipping ambient swirly water noises (if you hold a shell up to your ear they say you can hear the sea, hold Anderson up to your ear and you can hear an elfin whale speaking in tongues) there eventually appears a very innovative and robust composition that embodies all that could be endearing about this band: Strong melodic themes, beautiful multi-tracked harmony vocals, challenging harmonic detours, textural and dynamic contrasts, meter and tempo hikes that are never gratuitous and if that were not sufficient, an inspired example from Wakeman of what he does best i.e. distracting the listener from Jon's woolly kaftan babble with some knowingly over the top heroic soloing and tongue in cheek bombast wedded to the finest keyboard sounds that the 70's had to offer. So what's all the fuss about then? this is arguably a better composed and more mature piece than Close to the Edge.

The Remembering/High The Memory - Whoops, not a reference to the great barrier (reef) to a higher consciousness lads? Erm..things do get a tad 'airy' hereabouts I have to report and although the wobbly/leslied guitar is an attractive backdrop for Anderson's vocal, the structure eventually comes to resemble a medley of brand new material. A pity perhaps as the opening half is seamlessly exquisite but all things considered there is nothing here to warrant piercing yourself with a safety pin just yet. (But don't stray too far from the medicine cabinet for the time being) There are some sumptuous harmonic changes towards the end that appear to my furry ears unprecedented in the Yes discography, and represent some fresh coinage not only in their own currency but that of prog in general. The more chromatic feel of the subsequent Relayer is possibly prefaced on this piece.

The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun - So complacently and sloppily piecemeal that it reeks of having been compiled from several little individual sections that are not even on nodding terms with one another never mind related. Casual listening is all that casual musicianship warrants. To be fair to Yes, the use of percussive textures on a paean to erm...primordial oscillations is probably very apt. Less so is Howe's descent into a shrill impersonation of an (only) just intonated stylophone/pedal steel guitar. Without a firm and steady hand on his inestimable rudder (apart from his own), our Steve is prone to littering countless reels of tape with quite possibly the most irritating guitar tone since rock was something cavemen took home as a pressie for the missus.The jarring frisson of the stabbed dischord is very effective but Anderson's intended gravitas sounds more like Noel Coward fronting a Klingon Zheul Orchestra with a remarkably small repertoire. Thereafter Howe inadvisedly encroaches on avant improvisational territory best left to the masters Fripp & Co. In mitigation, Yes are damned if they do and damned if they don't here and certainly warrant some kudos for willing to suffer what is one of the pitfalls of any failed experimental music i.e. its apologists call it experimental, the rest of us are still waiting for the final proof-read draft.

Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil - Howe appears to quote throughout (perhaps unwittingly) from O For the Wings of a Dove? (It might just as well be O for the ears of a professional arranger given the double whammy bar of his playing too little of interest in isolation and too much in toto) More pot-noodle meanderings and trebly pleas for clemency from his tortured Gibson fill a few more anguished minutes but our threadbare goodwill is rewarded with a beautiful song section that together with the disguised reprise of the opening theme on Revealing Science brings the album to a convoluted but reasonably satisfying conclusion.

So after the dry ice has cleared this prog battlefield what are we to make of a resilient controversy that continues to surround those fallen from the peace and love corps? It's very patchy and borderline rambling in many places, but said damp spells are soon bathed in the torrential sunlight of some breathtaking music (albeit heavy intermittent showers). Depending on which version of events you choose to believe, it seems that Rick was horrified by the direction Yes were taking at this juncture and, so firmly held were his principles, he exited as hastily as decency would allow after the lucrative world tour that followed in its wake. Squire's input seems less pronounced than usual and I have to admit the album suffers by his diminished role. According to departed drummer Bill Bruford's autobiography, former Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir introduced Anderson to Paramahansa Yogananda's tome about the life of a Yogi at a wedding both attended in 1973, and therefore must have had some impact on the album's concept. Without wishing to denigrate a work I have not read, it has to be said that Anderson's lyrical take on the 'Six items or less' express lane at the Oriental takeaway is the final straw and must represent prog's very soggy death warrant:

And I do think very well, As the truth unfolds you Silently They move time Rainbows Sunlight Alternate tune Alternate tune

Rainbows Soft light Alternate view Sunlight Tell Me Someone Alternate view Alternate view, surely, surely

The foregoing is but the tip of a the soft brown turdberg and if Anderson has a sliver of self depreciating candour in his whole body, he should have confined this shampoo for long haired boars (Hogwash) to his own book entitled:

Boo Boo's Wash Cycle 6 - Tsunami Rinse for Yogi's Delicates

Report this review (#241346)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is as good as it gets for Yes. (Besides "Relayer" and "Close to the Edge" or course). The album is near perfection. The vocals are simply wonderous, the bass guitar lines are distorted and crunchy, the guitar is so fast that its just simply hard to resist, the keyboards are so amazing, the pianos are amazing, and the drumming is suberb. This album has great musicianship from all members of the group. First things first, lets talk about the lineup that is going on here. The lineup right on this album is Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (Guitars), Chris Squire (Bass Guitar), Rick Wakeman (keyboards), and Alan White (Drums). So, Bill Bruford left the band a year earlier because of Jon Anderson's lyrics, and he didn't want to go in that direction. Alan White joined the band for this album, and he has much more chemistry with them as a whole, especially Chris, with some good bass and drum parts on this album. Rick Wakeman would leave after this album because of musical differences, and he was replaced by Patrick Moraz a year later. And that was it for the lineup, now, for the main review.

So, the first song "The Revealing Science of God" is stunning. It's the best thing on this album, perfection of course. It starts with this "choral" kind of sound, and its so good. There is some awesome and some wierd keyboard noises and guitar noises and bass noises that are slightly sloppy, but match because of its cresendo into the song. The keyboard after the chant is really amazing, and the guitar riff's are amazing. The song is just right for my ears, and I don't know why its underrated. "The Remembering" is my second farvorite of all the songs. It has some really cool keyboards and stuff, it's nice. Then it goes to a mellow guitar kind of thing, where Jon sings softly with Chris and Steve for a while, and then it goes into an acoustic kind of thing. It's a really interesting song. "The Ancient" is probably my least favorite song, but its okay. The beginning is very boring to me, but it does seem to get progressively better, but I just have to skip the first minutes because the drums and bass are really annoying, though show good musicianship. "Ritual" is the middle-man on the album. It's pretty good, not bad at all. It's alot of the same, but it works really well because I'm pretty sure this is a concept album because of the lyrics and stuff. Its a very good soloing song for Steve, of course.

This album is a "must-have" album, you need to get it or your not a real prog-rock fan.

Report this review (#242189)
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have to confess that I just bought this double album recently and before that only knew it slightly. And the most I knew about was what others told about it on PA. I'm not the biggest Yes fan thinkable even though I like their music a lot and then mainly their two famous epics. And since there are no less than four epics on this one, the least you can do is give it a try.

It's not exaggerated to say this is one of the most controversial of the more famous albums in prog history. If I look at the reviews and ratings on our site this is obviously proven and this album divides the prog reviewers in either love or hate it. But of course there are also proggers that feel it's right in between both options and give it three or four stars. To be honest I think I fit in third category.

I gave the four epics every chance to grow on me and I have to say they all did, though not all in equal sense. Thanks to Symphonic Live I already knew Ritual and I think it's a very good epic except for the strange switch towards the end to the "tubes percussion" which is at least original and works really surprising compared to the rest of the epic. Of the other three epics I can say they all have their charm but are none of them truly impressive all along. The most impressive (small) part I can think of about all four lengthy songs is the great outburst by Wakeman near the end of Dance of the Dawn.

The rest mainly consists of careful and subtle compositional performances and can be called essential progressive works as far as I'm concerned. I don't understand though why this is controversial. To me this is quite common music and I had expected much more profound and intricate stuff to be honest. As I said Tales seems to be an essential progressive effort to me but not quite a masterpiece in the sense of beauty and greatness/brilliance of the music itself. I think their two most famous epics (CttE and Gates) and maybe even Awaken are better examples of that. Still I like and respect Tales a lot and believe the 3,85 average it has right now is the least it deserves.

Report this review (#244848)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you want to talk about progressive rock, look at Yes. For their first five albums, each was leaps and bounds higher than the previous in terms of artistic intent and direction. From a simple rock album with covers; to a similar album, but with an orchestra; to an album featuring extended pieces and virtuoso guitar playing; to an album similar in structure with even more virtuoso keyboard playing; to their most famous progressive album featuring their first epic. Where could they go next?

It is arguable whether this album, or Relayer, is as far as Yes dared progress. They would continue to release excellent music and grow after those two, but as far as the experimentation, nothing was further along than these two albums.

By this point in time, seeing the direction things were going, Bill Bruford had left. Replacing him was a very able replacement, Alan White, who brought a bit more of a standard rock 'n roll feel with him than the jazzier influences of Bruford. Despite that, he would prove himself just as willing to experiment as the rest of Yes with this album.

This was, mostly, Jon and Steve's album. The two of them came up with the concept and the basic song structure, and the rest of the band agreed (Despite some trepidations) to give it a shot. As a result, they would record one of the most unique and controversial progressive rock albums out there.

Nowadays, there are many artists releasing albums with more than a single epic. (Flower Kings, Transatlantic, I am looking at you!) But at this time, in the age of vinyls, it was difficult to pull off. Perhaps if this album had come into existence after the CD was created, it might have been a bit less controversial. For if you look at it, Yes was in a bit of a tight space. They had ideas for music that took up more than half of a vinyl side, and in order to maintain the theme, they couldn't just toss little songs to fill in the space. So to avoid having a lot of empty vinyl, they had to basically fill it in. (Furthermore, apparently one of the songs - I forget which one - was actually closer to 30 minutes, and had to be refined to fit on a single vinyl side). With a CD, they might have been able to create something a little truer to what they really wanted to accomplish musically.

But how did they do, overall? As a Yes fan, the idea of this record cannot help but excite; a band that is famous for Close to the Edge releasing 4 more epics?

Revealing Science of God starts off the album with some eery chanting, but this song proves that Yes still had their great sense of composition and structure about them, moving easily between various different movements. There are more parts to this song then their were in Close to the Edge, but they are shorter and several of them are reprised at least once. It also includes moments that would be played upon in the various other parts of the album, to give it a more holistic approach. This is probably the tightest and best composed song of the bunch, if not the most experimental. An excellent successor to their previous epic.

The Remembering has a really slow start, and it is easy to feel a little lost as it continues, especially with Jon's spacey lyrics guiding you through. The opening instrumentation is quite nice and gives me the feel of seasons passing, which I believe was the intent. The song eventually leads into the 'Relayer' section, which includes some of my favorite playing on the album. After the second pass through the 'Relayer' lyrics, the fast, moving bass and drums of that section are combined with the slower keyboards from the opening part, creating a really intense moment, before the song winds down pleasantly. Overall an excellent song, if it takes some time to really get going.

The Ancients is probably the song that suffered worst from having to fill a vinyl side. It contains a lot of pleasant instrumentation, but it doesn't quite go anywhere as well as the rest of the album did. It feels more like jamming than the rest of the album, and to me this makes it the weakest part. To be fair, there are some interesting ideas in this part, they just are not as cohesive as other sections. It does move on to the 'Leaves of Green' section (which Yes would play on its own in future tours), which has some of Steve's most peaceful acoustic work on the album with some excellent singing by Jon.

Ritual, the final song, is my second favorite of the album. Like RSOG, I could see this being a fair successor to Close to the Edge. It is more playful than the rest of the album, and also more experimental. For any who were unsure whether or not Alan White would be able to keep up with the rest of the band, listen to this song around the 15 minute mark and you will be completely convinced that he was the perfect successor to Bill Bruford.

So where does that leave us in terms of rating? This album is one of a kind - there would be no other album structured the same, Yes would never try this format again, the concept was interesting (if very difficult to grasp), and the feeling of this album is wholly unique. It has two of Yes' great epics, some of their most experimental playing, and amazing atmosphere. But it did suffer from the limitations of the vinyl format, and I think that overall, that may be this albums greatest weakness.

This is also an album that cannot be grasped completely in just 1, 5, or even 10 listens. Themes recur between the different songs, lyrics are repeated or altered, and there is just so much going on in this album that it must be listened to many times to truly grasp. I've listened to it more than 40 times by now and know that there are still mysteries to this album that I have yet to understand.

For those with the patience to listen to 20 minute songs over and over, this album will be a masterpiece, but overall I think that it sits at a 4 star rating, due to the 'noodling' that occurred to fill in the vinyl.

Report this review (#245227)
Posted Monday, October 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans is easily one of Yes's most controversial albums, evoking love and hate from just about everyone. I personally think that it is very well-made and enjoyable, though I really can't take all of it at once, though it works just as well one song at a time. The reason so many have poured hate on this album is the fact that it's long, spiritually-driven, full of instrumentals, and tackling huge themes, which many see as pretentious. The reason so many love it is that there is definitely inspiration and soul here, and for the most part, it is a revealing and emotional album. Ultimately, it is the listener who shall find which side they are on, though for now, I think the best I can do is to say that it's good, but not quite essential or excellent. Three stars.
Report this review (#247722)
Posted Sunday, November 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars On its days, Tales from Topographic Oceans certainly helped to shape the accusations that soon would surface from every corner against prog rock. In that particular case, I guess they were not entirely wrong. I'm not the kind of person that dismisses musicianship and ambition as "self-indulgent" and "pretentious". But as far as Tales is concerned, the Yesmen clearly crossed the line that divide them. There are plenty of intentions, but lack of creativity. What abounds in lenght, it lacks in substance.

The songs are all 20-minute long pieces that feel like an eternity. They lack variations in sound, and the main themes are repeted to the point of exhaustion. What a difference from the richness and originality of Close to the Edge, that never gets boring throughout its 18 minutes - actually, it's so compelling that I feel like pressing "repeat" and listening to it as many times as possible - without ever getting tired.

That is not to say that this album is absolute junk. You can spot good solos and melodies there and then. It has some beauty in it, but only it is ruined by its over-extended lenght. If I had to pick up a song as a highlight, I would go for The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun, instead of the more acclaimed Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil, because The Ancient manages to explore some different sounds, and it has some beautiful acoustic parts and shows - to some extent - the true qualities of Yes. But then, again, the song would benefit from some substantial editing. I always wonder how it would be if this were a single album and the songs limited to half their extention (that is, about 10 minutes). Then it would be an album worthy of Yes - still not a masterpiece, but not such a pale parody of the band's immense talent. But, at that time, the guys wouldn't settle for so little. It seems like they devoted so much to the concept that the beauty of the music was relegated to second place. Now, THAT is pretentious. Either this, or they were just genuinely empty of musical ideas - what would be understandable, after two groundbreaking, instant classics in sequence, in less then a year.

The best measure of the failure of Tales resides in observing its consequences. It's probably no coincidence that Yes fell slightly off the radar after it. They would soon be overshadowed by Genesis and Pink Floyd, who were reaching their peak at precisely the same point. Some say Rick Wakeman left the band on account for the failure of this project. I guess he had a good point. The remaining Yesmen themselves, luckly, fell to their senses and produced more down-to-earth, unpretentious albums (that is, by Yes standards). Relayer and Going for the One were neither double, nor conceptual albums. Yet, they summarize everything that is great about Yes - musicianship with creativity and the search for new sounds - while Tales summarizes everything that prog detractors love to hate about the genre.

I honestly tried to think of this as a "good, but non-essential" album, but it seems to me that only Yes fans will truly appreciate it. Even though Yes fans make for a great number of prog rock fans, the observation wouldn't be less accurate: this is for "collectors/fans only".

Report this review (#262239)
Posted Sunday, January 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the Twin Peaks of Prog Ambition

Yes' TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHICAL OCEANS has been both derided and championed for the same quality ? aspiring to touch the sun. Fueled by the band's greatest success (CLOSE TO THE EDGE), it is the band's most ambitious work, reaching for the highest heights the band will ever attempt. The flip side of that tricky coin is the evil "P" word (pretentiousness), but prog fans have always known that uber-talented musicians pushing their boundaries to the limit will sometimes step beyond the line. Like Icarus, the band ignores the warnings of the wise and we share with the band both in the intensity of the fire and the singe of their burnt feathers.

TFTO was released in 1973, and Genesis' two-disc, similarly ambitious / excessive concept album LAMB LAYS DOWN ON BROADWAY came out not long after in 1974. While the two discs sent the two bands in opposite directions in terms of commercial success, I find them to be remarkably parallel albums in many ways. Both are fueled by extremely cerebral and spiritual concepts coming from their lead singer. In the case of TFTO, it was Jon Anderson's adoption of a group of teachings from Paramahansa Yogananda's AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI. In parallel with the hippies' search through Eastern Religious thought as they aged, Anderson stayed true to his roots. But just as Peter Gabriel's separation from his bandmates during the writing of the LAMB weakened the album and the band, Anderson and Steve Howe's domination of the writing of TFTO cost the album some power and the band Rick Wakeman.

There is one huge difference between the albums, however. THE LAMB abandons the lengthy song structure of the band's previous work and instead has many focused songs. Some are weak, some strong, and a few are among the best work the band ever did. Yes, however, took a different path. They created what essentially is an 80 minute suite comprised of four 20 minute parts. TFTO is one of the most symphonic and epic pieces of the classic prog era. For good or for bad, its defining characteristic is its length.

Luckily for me, my first listen to this album was on an extended airplane ride where I just sat back uninterrupted with my headphones for the entire work. Like a classical piece, the album is meant to be a continuous experience with movements and when you listen in this way, I believe it works quite well. Sure, the band takes their time letting some parts evolve, but I've gotten bored much more easily during some classical pieces which also extend over a longer period of time.

There are so many great moments on this album, and they vary so much. The slide guitar over the frenetic rhythms to open "The Ancient" to the sunny moods of the opener to the grand vocals in the finale of "Nous Sommes de Soleil," join so many phenomenal moments of music. There are little allusions to previous pieces, the most obvious being Howe's quotation of the signature melody of "Close to the Edge." Howe gets in his classical moments, grumpy Wakeman adds some powerful synth solos and mellotron pads, and newcomer Alan White holds down the rhythm transparently.

A few very important things are lacking on this album, though. The first one is intensity. Listening to RELAYER's "The Gates of Delirium" midway during my day of continuous sampling for this review, I realized how, well, mellow TFTO is compared Yes' other work. There aren't any sections that really rock. Similarly, there is a lack of tightness in the composition that Yes displays elsewhere. While some openness and space to explore can be fuel for great music, Yes gets away with trying such difficult music on other albums precisely because of the tightness of the composition. The title song from CTTE is a perfect example of that tightness at its most perfected. "Gates of Delirium" strikes a nice balance between composition and exploration. On TFTO, the explorations simply overrun the compositions. Some really enjoy these moments, and other bands also have albums made up entirely of this experimentation. I like it when I'm in certain moods, and frankly, when I have the time to let it sink in. But that time and place are inherently limited. Most importantly, TFTO just doesn't transport me to that higher plane that CTTE does. When it comes close, it just can't hold me there. It is for that specific reason that it misses masterpiece level.

I agree with others that this is part of the core of prog music, and should be part of the library of all prog fans. But it is a late addition. It takes work, and the rewards are going to be subtle. It is an excellent album, just not one of the masterpieces of prog.

Report this review (#263415)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This work is complex, difficult and this probably explains why it was and is still often so misunderstood. With its intertwined themes, elaborate structures, this music is a maze where one is sometimes groping before opening new doors to splendid perspectives : a ignited solo of Wakeman (Revealing Science of God), waves of ethereal keyboards (The remembering), a deep bass evoking the forces of the earth (Ritual), a tumultuous guitar announcing "the gates of delirium" (The ancient), etc.

And, of course, there are so many sublime vocal harmonies : the introduction of "Revealing science of God" has remained for me for 32 years (I was 13 in 1973), the most exciting introduction of a progressive rock track, although Yes created a lot of other great introductions ("Heart of the Sunrise", "Roundabout," "Awaken", "Machine Messiah" ...).

To my mind, "Tales from topographic oceans" is the absolute masterpiece of Yes, his monument, even before "Close to the edge", because of the inventiveness that the group expresses in it and the exceptional musical richness that this work offers us.

The group had the ambition to make a quadruple album where each song would have seen its duration doubled. This would have certainly valued "the remembering" which suffers from some repetitions. Some more expanded instrumental passages would have provided useful variations. But the other three epic tracks have a perfect consistency. That's the reason why we don't have to regret too much the fact that we will never know the extraordinary work that would have been.

I can easily understand why a lot of people, even prog lovers, consider "Tales" pretentious, perhaps boring. But real Yes lovers can not dislike this work. 6/5? really !

Report this review (#274566)
Posted Saturday, March 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars An intelligent listeners masterpiece, or a great band being far too pretentious?

I take the former view. Although I don't believe it is quite as good as Fragile or Close to the Edge, it is very different from these former albums. It is a concept album for one. It is twice as long as the former two. The song writing is somewhat different. The sections aren't so readily definable. It begins with a kind a perpetual flowing melody with Jon Anderson and Steve Howe. Contrary to first listen, the songs are extremely well structured, and main sections recur multiple times throughout the movements.

I quite admire Yes for releasing an album such as this at their peak. Right after what is arguably the greatest prog album of all time. It cannot be argued that some of the vocal melodies and harmonies are some of the greatest of any Yes album.

I think the final movement, Ritual, is the best on the album. It progresses from one great musical section to the next. One has to listen to this album with patience to find what is beautiful inside it.

5 stars.

Report this review (#275407)
Posted Monday, March 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Possibly the most controversial record ever made. Nothing has come close before or since (but is that a good thing or a bad thing??). Tales is, in my eyes, a dented masterpiece. Seemingly perfect, as a vision; but slightly diminished in reality. And there are two main setbacks:

1) A bored keyboard player

2) The limitations of the vinyl LP

Had CD's been around in 1973, Tales could have been a perfectly rounded hour-long album. With vinyl, you have to make the choice: 40 minutes or 80 minutes? Yes went for 80, 20 of which, in my opinion, was second-rate material (That's not me attacking one particular song by the way, but rather, an overall 20 minutes throughout the album). Had the band gone for the 40 minute option then the whole concept of Tales wouldn't have really worked, and it might have flopped with far less publicity (negative or otherwise).

Had Rick Wakeman been remotely interested in 1973, or had Rick Wakeman been [insert another keyboard player's name here], then the vision could have been realised with 5/5ths of commitment, as opposed to 4/5ths commitment and one 1/5th chicken Tikka Masala...

The concept, I LOVE. Four expansive multi-themed suites inspired by shastric scriptures revealing truth, knowledge, culture and freedom? Sounds good to me. And it IS good. Each song has redeeming moments, and at least one or two interesting themes that would be universally praised if they had appeared on 'CTTE'. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the whole of 'Revealing...' and the whole of 'Ritual' are worthy of better albums and I love them just as much as 'Close to the Edge' or 'The Gates of Delirium'. And I think a lot of other people would be able to appreciate these perfectly respectable prog epics, if they could just let go of the restrictions of this very unpopular album. I won't go into detail about these two, but they have very little wrong with them and both provoke those 'spine-tingling' moments that were common on 'CTTE'. The point where the drums enter in 'Revealing' for example, replacing the modal chant with the synth-driven main theme of the song. Or the climactic pause after Squire's bass solo mid-way through 'Ritual'. These are the moments why Yes fans are Yes fans.

As for the middle of the sandwich, 'The Remembering' is emotive in places and interesting in the middle, but could be cut down significantly. Especially when it comes to Wakeman's "swirly synth passages during which he's holding a stopwatch with his left hand and waiting for the 20 minute mark" (of course the band knew that, but who wants to release an album with three 20-minuters and one 12- minuter??). Steve's electric guitar on 'The Ancient', is according to some, too dissonant. I'm happy with the experimental nature of this song (they make up for it in melody) but again, it struggles to fill its 18 minutes effectively.

Thus, Tales would have made a far better 60 minute CD than an 80 minute LP. But I'm still rating it highly because 60 minutes of brilliance and some filler is just as respectable as the globally praised 'Relayer' or 'CTTE' albums, which were 40 minutes with no filler. And my criticisms, unlike most people's, don't lie with the concept, simply the length.

Report this review (#278046)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' - Yes (95/100)

Before the notion was rightly dismissed by the others, Jon Anderson was said to have expressed a wish to record Tales from Topographic Oceans in the middle of a forest at nighttime. Although Jon didn't get his wish to record their sixth LP out in the woods with the owls and squirrels, Yes instead decorated their studio to make it look more like a farmyard. Among these ornaments were stacks of hay, archetypal white picket fences, a miniature barn, and a model of a cow with mechanical udders. Even being the lifelong fan of this album as I am, I am not beyond calling that one of the most absurd things I've ever heard a band do in order to 'get in the mood' for recording. Then again, their last two albums - 1971's Fragile, and Close to the Edge from the following year - had both turned out as masterpieces, so Yes could certainly afford themselves some degree of pretentiousness.

Compared to the more institutionally recognized of Yes' masterpieces, Tales from Topographic Oceans still stands as a matter of contention for listeners, even today, four-plus decades after its recording and release. After having touched the sky and cracked upon the egg of ambition with Close to the Edge, Yes would have been in a tight spot; would they try to keep pushing their ambition somehow and risk alienating everyone, or pull back the reins and enjoy more familiar grounds? The band reached a near-melting point with this album, with Wakeman in particular famously feeling pretty discouraged about the way it turned out. Pushing the boundaries further past Close to the Edge and creating a double album four epics long resulted in the most critically polarizing progressive rock album ever made. A few rag-tag advocates defend the album for its scope and ambition, whereas the rest cite it as a poster child for prog rock indulgence, self-importance, and idle longwindedness...

...whatever their grievances may be, they're wrong.

...well, maybe they are right, but Tales from Topographic Oceans' opaque self-awareness and bombast don't stop it from being one of the most incredible albums ever made in progressive rock, and quite possibly even Yes' finest hour. It's the true definition of a grower album, and though Yes demands more here from the listener than they ever had or would again, the ultimate rewards for sticking with it are incredible.

With Close to the Edge, Yes' writing had been condensed, with a clear regard for the economy of time. Almost every minute sounded like it was used to perfection, and it's that 'no-filler' attitude that has made it such a crown jewel in their discography. By contrast, Yes opens up the scope once again on "Tales", no by continuing to up the density in their sound as they had been doing for their career up 'til now, but by relaxing the measurements of time and giving compositions air to breathe. Without that stress on the composition's back, new territories are more capably explored. Somewhat like the feeling of coming off a highway and feeling like you're driving more slowly on the normal roads than you really are, Yes' change of pace, and their more drawn out instrumental passages have a tendency to feel aimless or wandering compared to the band's typical fare. It's easy to dismiss the listener's responsibility to stay attentive and brush the leads as longwinded, sure, but as the album grows more familiar, patterns and motifs become more obvious. If there's anything I can say or do in this review to convince someone of the album's wonder, I would simply ask to approach the album with the assumption that each note has been given the same thoughtful, meticulous care that Yes would put into their other masterpieces. It's certainly not as obvious, but it's there.

Though I wouldn't say it has the narrative pacing or overt thematicism to be called a full-blown concept album, Tales from Topographic Oceans was inspired with a clear concept in mind. Jon Anderson had been reading up on Hindu scripture and came upon a footnote which outlined four categories for its religious scripture called shastras. Each category thus became the seed for one of the compositions here; the 'smiritis', for example, are 'remembered lore', which found themselves manifested musically as "The Remembering", the 'tantras' are rituals which likewise inspired "Ritual". The source material is warmly acknowledged in the generally reserved pace of the music, which at times comes close to sounding truly meditative and transcendental in its atmosphere. Compared to the chaotic three-song epics that came before and after Tales from Topographic Oceans, the music feels remarkably relaxed and at peace with itself, and though an acolyte of Hindu religion and teaching would be far more qualified to judge whether each of these four compositions aptly reflects the personality and distinction of each shastra, Yes have woven this meditative aura into their music phenomenally. Each song takes a life and style of its own, but a foundation of peace and positive feelings for oneself runs throughout the entire album. Jon Anderson also clearly took this spiritualism to heart in writing the lyrics; his lyrical metaphors are often provocative and engaging (Getting over overhanging trees, let them rape the forest) and navigates a keen balance between vivid imagery and exploration of the inner self, although there are often times when I'm left wondering if it's not missing the point to try and glean a clearcut meaning out of him (see: mechanical udders). I cannot, and will not make judgement of its worth as a modern adaptation of the Hindu shastras, but for what it's worth, I think Anderson and company did a remarkable job of fusing elements of religious transcendence and meditation in with their atmosphere.

Each of the four compositions take on a life of their own. Writing a full set of thoughts about each of them may serve to bore myself and anyone reading to the point of tears and vomit, but I will say that the pieces proceed from the least to most impressive. "The Revealing Science of God" is still a remarkable opener in any case, and the restored two minute introduction only helps to foster the meditative atmosphere. "The Remembering" is arguably better structured than its predecessor, still taking on a similarly leisurely and dreamlike atmosphere. "The Ancient" is a stark switch in mood and tone however; tranquility is exchanged for harsher percussive textures and a more driving pace that recalls the intro from Close to the Edge, although this piece too finds peace with itself, by the time a soft acoustic tie-in from Howe rolls around. "Ritual" is arguably the most perfect piece on the album, harkening back to the dreamlike quality of the first two epics, but imbuing it with a more lively sense of hope and wonder. "Ritual" is also home to some of Jon Anderson's most beautiful vocals ever; I swear, when the build-up swells around the four minute mark and Jon lets out "Nous sommes de soleils", it feels like the heavens crumble and all is right with the world. Upon first hearing the album, "The Ancient" was the most difficult to get into, in spite of being the shortest composition here, at a relatively brief eighteen minutes. Perhaps it's because its dissonance approach feels out of place compared to the rest of the album; whatever the case, the way Yes change things up halfway through gives the album a greater sense of scope, and makes the return to peace and wartmh on "Ritual" feel all the more powerful and profound.

Although Bill Bruford's replacement Alan White as the new drummer for Yes would mark the end of Yes' so-called 'classic' lineup, he's an excellent drummer of his own and fills the void comfortably, although it wouldn't be until Relayer where his talents came into full view. Rick Wakeman is famously absent from the album, although his smattering of synth leads throughout the album are among the album's most memorable moments. Squire's basswork isn't quite as groovy as it was on Close to the Edge, if only because there isn't the same aggression in the music anymore for his basslines to ride upon. Steve Howe is given the most liberty to explore himself instrumentally here, with plenty of relaxed leads throughout the album, and even a "Mood for a Day"-style acoustic detour towards the end of "The Ancient". There's no question at any point of the album however that Jon Anderson is in control of things this time around. While other albums may have had a strong basis on the instrumentation, Anderson's deep-rooted interest in New Age spiritualism and distinctive, ethereal vocals take center stage more than ever before. This isn't a bad thing at all however- with the slightly disappointing exception of Squire's less assertive bass grooves, the instrumentation adapts to this change of pace wonderfully. If Yes played the role of a Western classical symphony on Close to the Edge, they're doing something here more along the lines of an Eastern musical ritual collective, the sort of thing the Beatles may have dreamt of doing at some point, but never went the distance for.

Is it a masterpiece for all ears? Certainly not, and at least far less so than Fragile or Close to the Edge. Tales from Topographic Oceans is longwinded and mellow, but it's only as boring as the listener makes it out to be. I'm sure Jon Anderson would be pleased to hear me describe the album in terms of a fallen log in the forest. Even if a fallen log might look underwhelming and anaemic from a glance, all you need to is lift up a cleft of bark to see the life and wonder teeming just beneath the surface. If Tales from Topographic Oceans didn't change my life with this epiphany while listening to it, it at least still stands as an album with some of the most potential to envelope and engage I have ever heard. Just close your eyes, give it a listen, and find yourself transported away to vistas once only seen in Roger Dean's cover art.

Report this review (#278206)
Posted Friday, April 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I wonder if the band enjoyed this album at all. I feel like they just said to themselves "right, we are a progressive rock band, lets make four twenty minute songs". So they went and made a double album, with each song taking up an album side in a very obligatory manner. It's as though they have some obligation to make songs go 20 minutes, the song times were probably devised before the songs were even written!

A little comparison, that very same year Genesis released a double album also, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", and guess what, "Lamb" is a full thirteen minutes longer than "Topographic Oceans". Hard to believe isn't it? This just feels a laborious 80 minutes and "Lamb" feels at least half it's running time.

Now that is all a bit unfair, I mean this is very beautiful music, very well done. The first song is just excellent, the second song is excellent from about 9 minutes onwards, very folky. I've read a lot of bad things about "The ancient giants under the sun" but this song is almost as good as the album opener, with some really inspiring lead guitar. The album closer, "Ritual", also has a lot of good instrumental sections. The only real weak point is that sometimes Anderson's vocals get buried in the mix, or get a bit rushed but compared with a lot of other bands at the time, this is not too bad. That said the production isn't very lively, though passable.

This album is still fairly accomplished, with some absolutely gorgeous moments of music. They throw in a lot of space-y sounds, some Sitar and some well realised guitar and synth tones. But the album kind of lacks an enthusiastic flair. A solid three out of five. By the way highly accessible for someone with patience, even if they aren't familiar with prog.

Report this review (#282371)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the most controversial albums from any sub-genre of prog. Over the years the most loyal Yes fans have been split over this album. Some Believe it to be a true masterwork and the peak of their creativity and others dismiss it as pretentious, self-indulgent and a monotonous listen. Well the idea of four 20 minute movements on 2 vinyls was bound too raise questions!

Well if you look at the songs individually you will find each track has the beauty of many genres starting off with The Revealing Science of God an instantly recognisable Yes prog classic with Jon andersons vocals slowly building too a climactic beginning of the song. The Revealing features all that people hold dear from this era of Yes unusual and beautifully performed chord based guitar lines, heavy use of Rick Wakeman's beloved Minimoog synthesisor and lyrics that bring out emotions that nobody quite understands.

The second song or movement, The Remembering, is a much slower building piece of music which starts off with a 12 string guitar folk based section with Jon andersons vocals once again a centre piece. This track features one of the most atmospheric uses of the Mellotron in Yes's catalogue with haunting chords which at about 9 minutes into this track build too an upbeat section which carries on into a climactic end too the second 20 minute track of this album. 40 minutes of music so far, is that enough? We're just getting started!

Side 3, The Ancient is considered the most accessible on the album, It adopts a much heavier guitar based Jazz-fusion style for the first half of the song with a heavy bass and organ battling underneath a very sinister chromatically played Lap Steel solo from Mr Steve Howe. Jon Anderson plays a much less key roll in this track sticking too playing extra percussion while Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe play a complex and always interesting instrumental section. For the final 6 minutes of this track Steve Howe switches too spanish guitar for the most famous section of this album "Leaves of Green" starts of with a classic steve howe solo reminiscent of Mood For a Day. This segues into one of Jon Andersons classic vocal performances with Steve Howe playing simple but beautiful chords underneath.

The finale of Tales from Topographic Oceans and one of only 2 tracks too still be performed even on recent tours, Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) features classic guitar solos, Chris Squire's famous bass guitar solo, a frantic Percussion section and a beautiful chord based song section. This track really encompasses all Yes and Tales From Topographic Oceans is about. After nearly 90 minutes of music a finale cannot disappoint, and Ritual gives the perfect conclusion with a soft Jon Anderson vocal section leading into the most atmospheric of guitar solos too end the Journey through Topographic Oceans.

Report this review (#285807)
Posted Wednesday, June 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars A 2* ranking says "collectors/fans only". So possibly I should give it a 1*, but that woudln't seem right. Yes is one of my all time favorite bands. The album before Tales is a masterpiece, the album after Tales is masterpiece. They made many great albums, and some really good ones too (i.e. Drama). I own most of their studio albums, and replaced most of those onto CD.

But I sold my copy of Tales. I just never could get into it. One of the great things I like about Yes is they're like jellyfish with teeth. Soft, but with a bite. Yes can prog rock out with the best of them, and even when they're not, they can bring almost a transcendence to their songwriting. Not on Tales. Also, I can dig the longest song going as long as its going someplace. Many of Yes' sidelong epics are truly enthralling to me. Not on Tales. Its OK to not like Tales. I love the band, I think like many great bands, they tried something, it didn't work, and they moved on.

Report this review (#286441)
Posted Monday, June 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well this is certainly a controversial album- criticized by some, praised by others, but ultimately one of those albums which everyone has an opinion in form or another. I'll get it out of the way and say that I adore this album. I'll also admit that it is a tedious chore to get through. However, I just love the lush and orchestral sound the band achieves on this album. I also cannot get enough of the arrangements, the linear progression within the individual songs is tremendous as nearly a dozen different themes are explored in an single track. Personally, I feel Wakeman's mellotrons and keyboards provide a beautiful backdrop for the music and allow the pieces to develop as they merge the different pieces.

When I first listened to this album I considered Revealing the Science of God as the best track (particularly the ending which features Howe and Wakeman tradings wonderful leads before Rick just busts out a searing moog solo). However, the more I listened, the more I found in other tracks. The Remembering-High the Memory for me is the highlight; where this piece starts and the intensity it reaches as the song progresses is just excellent. Wakeman again provides some incredible keyboard work as paints a beautiful tapestry using his wide range of keyboards. He's able to present themes and variations of the melody in a very skilled manner, filling the music and pushing it further.

The Ancient-Giants Under the Sun features Alan White's percussion alongside a very free form guitar solo by Steve Howe. The first few listens can be difficult as this piece is probably the most 'out there' of the four on this album, and that's saying a lot. Throughout the piece, White and Squire add an intense edge to the music, counterpointing the mellotron and airy guitar work of Howe. There's an incredible riff or two played by Wakeman on the mellotron in the core of the piece. The final side of the album features Ritual (Nous Somme du Soleil) and really brings themes from the previous three pieces together while bringing in new ideas as well. Howe's ending solo to this piece just blows the roof off for me- melodic, blistering, and just a great way to end this beast of an album.

I guess the best advice for someone looking to get this album is to be patient with the music. This album isn't for everyone and certainly has its weak moments but when it peaks, boy are they high. Its a unique album in Yes' catalog because it really sounds nothing like Close to the Edge, sure it's the same band but the approach is for something more orchestral and grandiose. The songwriting to me is crafted very well, with multiple themes developing and building around each other. Overall, a very good album and an excellent part of anyone's prog collection. I'm thinking 4.5 stars but I'll round up

Report this review (#292058)
Posted Monday, July 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars The album that was meant to cap Yes' illustrious career so far, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' was a mammoth double-sided concept piece based on the lengthy Hindu scripture's 'Autobiography Of A Yogi' by Paramahansa Yogananda and written mainly by the band's creative nucleus of Jon Anderson(vocals) and Steve Howe(guitar). The success of previous album 'Close To The Edge' had temporarily placed Yes at the top of the 1970's rock pyramid, garnering them huge commercial, critical and live arena success throughout Europe and America and unlocking the door to virtually unlimited resources when it came to writing and recording their next album, therefore giving the duo the excuse to go for the grand move. Whilst on tour in the US, Anderson and Howe had held secretive candlelit writing sessions in their hotel rooms, slowly piecing together the themes and musical structures that would form the basis of what was supposed to be their magnus opus. The problem, however, was that, seemingly unbeknown to the ambitious twosome, they had already produced their magnus opus in the shape of 'Close To The Edge', a fact that hadn't gone unnoticed by original drummer Bill Bruford. Bruford, a smart, witty and canny operator with a public school background had realised pretty quickly after the 'Close To The Edge' recording sessions had been completed that there was zero chance of Yes, or for that matter any other band, creating an album as good ever again. In a move that seemed strange at the time but now seems utterly brilliant, Bruford quit Yes and joined up with Robert Fripp's King Crimson just in time to drum on their seminal 1974 album 'Red'. His replacement in Yes was former John Lennon Band drummer Alan White, a talented sticksman who had been playing professionally since he was sixteen, and White's first, hugely-daunting task with his new progressive rock employers was to play on the hugely over-extended Anderson-Howe brainchild that Bruford had seemed so keen to get away from. Indeed, 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' would split the band, leaving bassist Chris Squire feeling alienated and under-used and and angering keyboard-wizard Rick Wakeman so much that in aftermath of the subsequent tour he quit to concentrate on his solo work. For the fans and critics, however, feelings were mixed. The album reached the no.1 pot in the UK album charts and pre-sold over two million copies before it had even been released, and the tour was also a complete sell-out, both in Europe and in the USA. The critics, however, weren't so kind. For the first time since their 1969 debut, Yes were receiving seriously negative reviews. Accusations of over-indulgence and ego-centric behaviour were thrown at the group, especially Anderson & Howe, and over the years 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' has, for some, come to represent everything that is bad about progressive rock. The album is far too long, made up as it is of four pieces, each of which hover around the twenty minute mark, and the group could have easily condensed much of the material into a much more streamlined single-disc album that would have dispensed with many of the slow and labourer sections that hinder the music. Only the album-opener 'The Revealing Science Of God' finds Yes in anything resembling top form, and the rest of 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' remains mind-numbingly dull. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#293486)
Posted Thursday, August 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is, almost without question, the most widely-criticized musical work (rock or otherwise) of the second half of the 20th century; even Yes fans are divided as to whether it's a good album or not. Although it hit the top 10 on both the U.S. and U.K. album charts, it also made the top 10 in a published list of the 50 worst albums in history. It was generally regarded by the punk movement as one of the main reasons that the creation of punk rock was necessary. The Christian Right loathed it, and used the album as a frontpiece in their statements that it was the duty of every good Christian to burn "rock" records. The album even threatened to blow the group itself limb from limb. And yet, despite all this, there are still a select few (there might be 1000 in the world; nah, there might be more than that) who not only are fond of this album, but consider this one of their best works, and in some cases one of the best rock albums ever.

This album, as you've probably heard, is a double album. No, wait, that doesn't properly explain things: it's a double album with 4 tracks on it (coming out to one track per side). No, wait, that's still not the worst of it, if you listen to the naysayers. Nah, the worst of it comes from the subject matter of the album. You see, (and yes, this story has been told a zillion times on the site, as well in the liner notes, but writing a thorough review without including it is impossible) Anderson had been looking for a theme for a grand scale rock symphony, if you will, for quite some time, and one night during the CTTE tour, when the band was in Tokyo, he was flipping through Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi," when he came across a lengthy footnote on page 83. This footnote described the four part Shastric scriptures, texts which not only take care of religion and social life, but also of medicine, music, art, architecture. Well, a normal man would have put down the book, forgotten about it, and just done his show, but this is Jon Anderson we're talking about here. No, he decided that the proper thing to do here was to base an 80 minute album around a set of writings with which virtually nobody in the Western world had familiarity. Putting it mildly, this is kinda risky.

How do I feel about it? I'm giving it a ***** rating. Call me a pretentious jerk, but I love this album. No matter how many times I listen to it, I never fail to be struck by how beautiful and how powerful this piece is (by the way, although TFTO is listed as having 4 tracks, the reality is that these are merely movements in an epic "symphony." And yes, I'm aware that it doesn't follow the symphonic form - I'm pretty familiar with classical music, thank you - but the fact that I'm forced to explicitly state something so obvious yet so inconsequential to the overall effect of the album makes me fear that my eyes will never get unstuck from the back of my head). Even if it is nonsense, and don't get me wrong, it seems it a lot of the time, it has made more and more sense to me with every listen over the years. Plus, I can't help but love it when a band shows ambition (which this album has in spades) as well as a desire to do something that nobody has ever done before, and then actually lives up to that ambition (I know a lot of people would disagree with me on that notion for this album). Within in the context of pop and rock, this completely blew away a lot of traditional "boundaries," certainly exceeding most albums that had been recorded to that point. It's not every day, after all, that you come across a rock album with four extended pieces containing interlocking musical and conceptual themes (apparently the double- album/four-song routine had actually been done in a couple of previous instances, but in those cases each piece was a completely separate piece and not a fundamental part of a whole). Yes thumbed their noses at the notion that song ideas have to be placed into concise, immediately recognizable structures (and that was an interesting step for Yes, given that they *were* at heart a trumped-up pop group), and showed (at least in my mind) that fading in and out of song ideas over a lengthy period of time, as if in a strange hallucination, is not something that should necessarily be a failure. But I ramble, and a return to the topic at hand, Tales From Topographic Oceans, is necessary. To assist in my elementary exposition of what you are exposed to in each of the "movements," I will be using the final four paragraphs of Anderson's liner notes. They can better explain what is going on than I possibly could on my own.

1st Movement: Shrutis. The Revealing Science of God can be seen as an ever-opening flower in which simple truths emerge examining the complexities and magic of the past and how we should not forget the song that has been left to us to hear. The knowledge of God is a search, constant and clear. This track, my favorite on the album and my second favorite in their catalogue, begins with a chanted invocation by Anderson and eventually with the others, summoning the listener to the dawn of light, thought, our power, and of love. In other words, to the creation and beginning all of the good things which bring happiness to our lives. He seems to lament that these wonderful forces seem to have been lost by the human race through their own negligence, resulting in all sorts of unwanted calamaties, and that only through love can the others (light etc.) be returned to their proper station. Or something like that. Fortunately, even if the lyrics lose you, the music is simply gorgeous, filled to the brim with ecstatically beautiful melodies. Although Alan White is seemingly able to provide little more than a steady background beat and a plodding drum sound (the jazzy lines left with Bruford), the others more than cover for him. Squire keeps things going with soothing bass lines, and Howe's guitar work, when he's mixed high, is terrific, but the real star of the show is Wakeman. You see, although there are a ton of great ideas being contributed by the others, there are admittedly a lot of places where not a lot is happening with the guitars. And so, Rick has no choice but to take over, and he does so admirably. Whether holding down the fort with heavenly mellotron parts or going nuts with synthesizer solos, he continually keeps the listener's interest, and he's arguably more crucial to the sound than ever. But back to the concept.

2nd Movement: Suritis. The Remembering. All our thoughts, impressions, knowledge, fears have been developing for millions of years. What we can relate to is our own past, our own life, our own history. Here, it is especially Rick's keyboards which bring alive the ebb and flow and depth of our mind's eye: The Topographic Ocean. Hopefully we should appreciate that given points in time are not so significant as the nature of what is impressed on the mind, and how it is retained and used. Ok, your guess is as good as mine here, I must admit. Best as I can tell, the piece alternates between Anderson touching on various memories that we have all had in some form, and Wakeman carrying us away from these images and thoughts of our past to others on a trip through the peaceful recesses of our mind via his keyboards. Sure, whatever. And although the tune itself can seem a little dull at times (I think the faster parts are really crisp and quite interesting), if you listen to it in the right frame of mind, calm and at peace, it is absolutely, positively gorgeous. Rick's keys set the majestic, beautiful mood of the piece perfectly, and while most would disagree, I wish it were longer. There are no words to express my fullness of joy after having absorbed such a wonderfully stunning, meditiative and beautiful song.

3rd Movement: Puranas. The Ancient probes still further into the past beyond the point of remembering. Here Steve's guitar is pivotal in sharpening reflection on the beauties and treasures of lost civilizations. Indian, Chinese, Central American, Atlantean. These and other peoples left an immense treasure of knowledge. I used to dislike this section, but after further listens, I've come to realize that this is actually a pretty cool track. The subtitle is Giants Under the Sun (in reference to other civilizations long past), and so near the beginning, Anderson, quite cleverly I must add, chants the word for sun in several different languages. After this, there's a long, dissonant, somewhat avant-garde solo by Howe (though, I have to be honest with you, it really begins to bore me after a while, but that just means the album is in my top 100 instead of my top 50), before the piece settles back into a simple ballad with Anderson spouting some more jibberish. I think he's trying to say that all of these past peoples have all of the answers to the important (and sometimes not so important, but hey...) questions that trouble society today, but I could be wrong. Maybe it is just jibberish, but I'm sorta doubting that at this point in time. Whatever may be, the melody in this acoustic section is very lovely.

4th Movement: Tantras. The Ritual. Seven notes of freedom to learn and to know the ritual of life. Life is a fight between sources of evil and pure love. Alan and Chris present and relay the struggle out of which comes a positive source. Nous sommes du soleil. We are of the sun. We can see. Basically, when we love, we can return to the state of goodness which we were in at the dawn of creation. This is conveyed excellently near the beginning and end of the track with the reprisal of some of the musical themes which had come up in the first movement. Steve's guitar solo near the end, in particular, is breathtakingly beautiful. Oh, and did I mention that the main vocal melody is one of the catchiest and lovliest little ditties Anderson ever came up with? Or that the passage at 14:10-14:20 or so makes it sound like the world's about to come to an end (one of my favorite Yes moments, by the way)? And there's a giant drum solo near the end, and it's interesting and even entertaining - especially live, since the group becomes a percussion ensemble for about five minutes and you get to see Squire on tympanis and Anderson on some weird chime things and ... oh, stop me before I gush some more.

This album is definitely not for people who get bored easily. Admittedly, it's very slow in some places (like in the beginning and middle of "The Remembering"), and it's a bit looser with structure than other Yes albums tend to be. And yet, I don't think the album's poor reputation is even remotely deserved; for one thing, I find the whole "padding" argument against it (pushed by Wakeman among others) to be overblown; out of the whole album, the only parts I'd really consider slicing out would be a minute or so from "The Remembering," and half of the mid-section of "The Ancient" (where the long discordant instrumental passage gets played virtually note-for-note twice). I also think that the album's poor reputation among so many, even fans of other prog fans, ends up poisoning potential listeners fairly frequently; I had no idea going into the album that I was supposed to hate it, and I was quite surprised to learn this after the fact. And most importantly, to me, it works incredibly as a catalyst for imagination, ten times as well as even Close to the Edge did. I don't consider this their best album (it does meander a little too much, and besides, Fragile and a couple of others are better), but it's one of the most treasured albums in my collection regardless.

Of course, Wakeman hated it, and the stories surrounding this are legendary. Even worse, after his masterful performance, he sealed his disgust with Anderson and his wacky lyrics by tendering his resignation from the band. Fans-of-simple-pop-music everywhere cheered; it seemed the band was about to collapse under the enormous weight of its own ambitions.

PS: Hey, do you want to hear something else I figured out with regard to this album and its imagery? Each track, in addition to addressing whatever topic in the Shastric scriptures, contains strong musical allusions to one of the four basic elements according to Aristotle. For me, and apparently some others, it can be viewed as

"The Revealing Science of God" - Air (don't you feel like you're flying from place to place during the instrumental breaks?)

"The Remembering" - Water (don't you picture yourself sailing on a calm, blue majestic sea, with sea ditties coming in from time to time?)

"The Ancient" - Earth (Hey, the track's theme is 'Giants Under the Sun', which in turn talks about ancient cultures walking the face of the Earth).

"Ritual" - Fire (Doesn't the synth-heavy drum solo remind you of ritual purification, a burning of all that is bad in order to restore true love to the world?)

PPS: The 2003 remastered version is absolutely outstanding. "The Revealing Science of God" is restored to its originally intended form with a beautiful atmospheric introduction, the drums have WAY more kick and power to them than before, and all the little intricacies of the album stand out that much better.

Report this review (#299736)
Posted Sunday, September 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is incredibly hard to appreciate. It took me a while to get into it, but each track features so many ethereal passages that paint such nice pictures. Featuring four songs, each of which hovers around the twenty minute mark, this album marks a pretty big stylistic change to earlier ones by Yes. Gone are most of the catchy melodies, and they instead are replaced by longer compositions which feature many solos and interludes/instrumentals.

The Revealing Science of God is more like Yes's previous works than the other songs. It's the catchiest on the album, though that isn't really saying much. The melodies are great, and it's as good as any other extended Yes song really. The same holds true for the following song The Remembering, which isn't quite as catchy. At first listen I thought that it was pretty overdrawn, but it's grown greatly on me.. The Ancient has some wonderful acoustic passages and one of Howe's better solos. Ritual is probably my favorite on the album. This song isn't exactly catchy, but it's pretty beautiful. The melodies are pretty incredible and beautiful.

It was hard for me to get through the entire 80 minutes of the album when I first got it, and it's still not really a casual listening record for me, but this album ultimately defines the word "progressive."

Report this review (#300599)
Posted Sunday, September 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very good album that showed promise of being a great one, "Tales of Topographic Oceans" suffers from one consistent flaw throughout every song, and it's none of the things people would presume, such as the length or the psychedelic excursions. Rather, the trouble is the endings.

The things that many people found troublesome about this album-the song length and the pretensions of grandeur, mainly-are aspects that I honestly have no trouble accepting. The only song that lacks a convincing hook and a reason for being as long as it is is the first song(sadly also the longest); the rest are simply expanded to be able to carry their themes and operatic scope across, and while interest wanes at some points for the most part they carry out their duties well. The album has an odd tonal mix of whimsy melancholy-when Anderson sings "Don the cap and close your eyes, imagine all the glorious challenge", he's clearly wishing for something that could be, not for something that is currently attainable. Much of the album is like this-hoping and pleading for the human race to get their act together before it's too late. It is in many ways a logical extension of the themes and sound of "Close to the Edge", and for the most part it succeeds.

The trouble is that none of these grand, epic songs know how to close themselves out-the last minute or so each one doesn't feature anything conclusive about the near-half-hour of music you've just consumed, choosing instead to either fade out or simply wander away. This lack of finality to each grand theme leaves the listener feeling slightly cheated, as though one has just sat through an essay without a thesis, and it calls attention to the weaker parts of the songs that, while they are few, feel far more significant than if any of the songs were able to close themselves out in ways that matched their epic scope. The fadeout of birds and nature on "Close to the Edge" gives the listener a moment of meditation and perspective on the song that had just come before it. The uncertain closings of "The Remembering", "The Ancient" and "Ritual" simply leave one feeling confused and wanting. And believe me, "wanting" is the last thing one should feel after having heard 20 minutes of Shastic interpretations!

The potential for a magnificent album was here-can you imagine if each song had managed to fulfill its promise up to the very last minute? They don't, however, and while that doesn't take away from the pleasing, thoughtful experience of listening to each song through, it does leave one with an overall feeling of dissatisfaction. Still, I'll give it 4 stars, simply because the music itself is quite wonderful and profound, even if it can't quite hold up its end of the bargain in the final analysis.

Report this review (#301584)
Posted Saturday, October 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
5 stars It's wonderfully pretentious, but that's a good thing!

Tales from Topographic Oceans is Yes's first double album, and it's an impressive show. Inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi, the 4-movement epic starts off with the impressive Revealing Science of God (Dance of Dawn), then The Remembering (High the Memory), then The Ancient (Giants under the Sun), and ultimately Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) (or "we are the sun," for the non-French speakers).

The Revealing Science of God is an absolutely fantastic song, and it's hard to refute that. Opening with a quiet vocal piece, breaking into a sweeping instrumental section, featuring Wakeman and Howe's great prowess, the song is off to a good start. The piece serves as a sudo-overture, using riffs and tones which are used in the other movements of the track. Despite its near 21-minute length, it is a very "popularly-acceptable" track, featuring a nice chorus, not too bombastic instrumental sections, smooth part changes, and beautiful melodies. To listen to the track all the way through is a refreshing and relaxing experience, especially with Steve Howe's magnificent guitar sections. Vocal melodies are near-perfect all throughout, as are the great lyrics. One quarter down, and we're off to a great start, and really puts the Mood for a Day (good insinuation? I think so).

The Remembering opens with a folk-y section very reminiscent to Mike Oldfield's work. The entire track is lighter than its predecessor and has a much more folk-inspired sound. The intro in this song drags a little bit, as the guitar and vocal part repeat on and on for 3 minutes before breaking into something new past the 4 minute mark. Despite this, the reed organ and rotary guitar sound is a nice instrumental duo. The track doesn't vary as much, and isn't as interesting as TRSoG. Around 11 minutes, half way through the song, it finally picks up, but then slows down. The work "Relayer" is repeated frequently, which is probably foreshadowing for the band's next album. Overall, this side is a little bit less exciting and more folk-y, similar to Mike Oldfield in the sound. It drags at times and picks up at times, making this track about average.

The Ancient opens with an eerie percussive section, introduced by a gong and continued with some hi-hat smacking before breaking into a faster paced and exciting instrumental section with all 4 instrumentalists, most notably Wakeman's keyboard sound and White's rim hits, and then Howe and Squire coming in. The song is the most exciting of the 4, and is drastically different from TRSoG and The Remembering. It is more bombastic, and is much more experimental. The instrumental sections are odd and exciting, and really keep you on the edge of your seat until the next part change takes you on a sweeping melodic journey. Overall, the piece may alienate a few classic symphonic fans as a weird bombastic attempt at hard rock, but will attract more fans that are looking for something eclectic and different.

Ritual is the song that ties the 4 mammoth movements together. Opening with a Peter Gabriel era Genesis like guitar solo, the instrumental section is spectacular, combining all the sounds from the rest of the album into a great intro. The "catch-phrase" Nous Sommes du Soleil is heard all throughout the album is a great addition, especially with the instrumental section behind it. Riffs and melodies heard throughout the rest of the album are revisited here and in great new ways. Overall, this is one of the better tracks on the album. It is the longest, exceeding 21 minutes, but is so massive in its depth and magnitude that I wish it was longer.

ALBUM OVERALL: If I could give this album 100 stars, I would. I may be a bit partial to long pieces, such as The Flower King's Garden of Dreams, Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, any Mike Oldfield piece, or Transatlantic's Whirlwind, but even those are nothing compared to the gracious magnificence of Tales. If you can, buy this album. I found it in vinyl in my father's basement, and was nearly jumping up in down in joy. It is an essential prog album.

Report this review (#303788)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I may just be the only one living on this rock in space we call Earth that neither loves nor hates this album. Within this mess of a double-album there is about 40 minutes of really great music....40 minutes of really great music that would have made an awesome *single* album. What were these guys thinking? Soft Machine and Tangerine Dream already did the 2 LP/4- songs routine. Unfortunately for them, Yes were much more popular. TD would only become more well-known years later, while Softs always remained a cult band. This is the first album with Alan White on drums and here he is rather rusty. His playing on Relayer was an improvement. Either way, he's no Bruford. A trend that starts on this album, which I don't like at all, is that Squire's bass is starting to get pushed back in the mix. On all the previous albums Squire's bass was IN YO FACE!

I was never the biggest fan of Wakeman, with or without Yes. I think The Yes Album and Relayer were the groups best albums...coincidence? He sounds bored here. This sonic mess is the bastard child of Anderson/Howe and it shows. This album single-handedly ruined the reputation of this once great band. To most people, Yes is either: a) that pop band from the '80s who did "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", or b) that dinosaur band from the '70s who made that self-indulgent mess called Tales From Tomato Onions. The most annoying thing about TFTO is that it actually contains some of the bands best recorded moments...mixed with a whole lotta crap. Really, 90% of "Revealing" is awesome; 75% of "Ritual" is great; 50% of "Remembering" is memorable; and about 10% of "Ancient" is tolerable.

The thing about "The Ancient" is that it's nice to see Yes try and be all out-there and avant; the problem is...they're not good at it! (Save that kinda thing for bands like Crimson, boys). I really wish this whole album was edited to hell and made into a single album. Keepers: the synth solo in "Revealing"; and the "at all" part in "Ritual". So, this will not get anything more or less than 3 stars from me.

Report this review (#303822)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's been said a million times before. This is definitely one of the most controversial progressive albums ever. You either love it, hate it or can't form an opinion. I fall into the category of loving it. I mean, what's wrong with some of you people?! You'd think that after the brilliant Close to the Edge, people would want more epics. How can you be a fan a progressive music and not think this album is really cool?! I mean, even the idea is cool. A double album with four songs that are all 20 or so minute epics. That's just insane. Not to mention the artwork and the music itself. I guess I could understand if you have a short attention span, but then why are listening to prog?! It's definitely common for progressive music to have long epics. For those people, actually to everyone, it's best to listen to this album maybe one song at a time and then take a break between each song because it is a lot to digest. However, it's worthy of several listens and it's pretty memorable believe it or not, so it should sink it. Or, you could listen to the first three songs and then take a break and come back. I don't know. Before I go song by song, I'd just like to mention the great packaging and sound quality. It comes with some great artwork, lyrics, photos, biography of the band, etc. It also sounds great. Now, for the actual songs.

1. The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)- Damn, isn't that such a cool title. Just read a few times and then you think to yourself, this is such a cool album without even listening to it yet. But anyway, this is such a great song and it probably the most famous. It's got a truly intense opening, but just make sure to turn up your volume because it's pretty quiet. Once it gets going you're hooked until the end. I mean, you kind of just have to hear it for yourself (and all of these songs for that matter) as it is quite hard to describe. I will say that this song has a great chorus and it just might be my favorite song off of this album. 10/10

2. The Remembering (High The Memory)- The first few seconds are slow, but then it picks up and slows down again. For the most part, this song is probably the slowest and can also be the hardest song to sit through, though it is great. I'm not positive, but I think that this is the song where it goes like, "And the flowering creativity of life.." but I'm not sure. Either way that part is intense. This is probably my second favorite song off of the album. 9/10

3. The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)- After the loud cymbal introduction and stuff this song gets really catchy with some really cool sounds (I don't even know but i think it's some kind of percussion with keyboards) but after that there is nothing too special. This is probably my least favorite song on the album but it's still great. 8.5/10

4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)- I'm not so sure what language that it's in but whatever. This is one that I only took note of pretty recently. It tends to be overlooked because it's the only song on Disc 2, however, Yes played this one on Symphonic Yes (I think) and I heard it was pretty good so yeah. One of the reasons this is great is because it has the part that goes like, "Life seems like, life seems like, a fight!" but with it sounds awesome when Jon Anderson sings "Fight". It's truly great. It's my second or third favorite song on the album. I don't know, it's sort of caught in the middle. But since it tends to be neglected I guess this is a fair score. 9.5/10

I know I didn't go into much musical detail, but you really have to experience this album for yourself. Honestly, you should just buy it anyway even if you've heard conflicting opinions about this album. I'm sure there's something in these 80+ minutes of music that you'll like.

Report this review (#312656)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the masterpiece "Close To The Edge", Yes proved their ambitions with the double album "Tales From The Topographic Oceans".Clearly this is a controversial album, as some fans (and detractors) say that the songs are just filling (see, there are only four songs), while other fans (like me) consider it a masterpiece.In my opinion, "Tales ..." is very underrated.

"The Revealing Science of God / Dance of Dawn" begins the album with only guitar and sweet voice of Howe Anderson, but the music starts to grow up to spend a wonderful instrumental.Essa music is very good, but I think the weakest of the album (hey, there's no weak songs on this album!).

"The Remembering / High The Memory" takes to get the battery only comes in 5 minutes, but it is much better than antecessor.Rick Wakeman uses mellotron ostensibly here (and this is your most hated album of Yes) and some melancholics.The final passages are quite wonderful!

"The Ancient / Giants of Sun"is very strange and experimental chamber music from a hard taste, I know (and have to agree that the instrumental opening is horrendous), but when the vocals enter the things get a better . the music starts there for 12 minutes, when the chaotic section gives rise to a beautiful acoustic section (something like that happens in "Gates of Delirium" when "Soon" begins).

Ritual / Nous sommes du Soleil "is the best song begins here.It somewhat chaotic, but a guitar solo by Howe 4 minutes there calms the things.The vocals are good.Are a many confusing and violent solo percussion but even this is cool!

This album is worthy of five stars, for sure, but it does not reach the brilliance of CTTE and "Relayer".

Report this review (#319926)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Take about 1 part A-grade Yes material, 3 parts relatively boring filler, and another 2-3 parts nonsensical pretentiousness, and we get something approximating Tales.

I still fondly remember the day when this CD arrived in the mail...I was a Yes-obsessed graduate student, and I thought that Tales might be something like Close the the Edge (the track) and Gates of Delirium, except times two! Sometimes boundless irrationality gets the better of all of us I suppose.

I listened to Tales an awful lot, thoroughly enjoying roughly half it it each time. As I branched out into new and exciting areas of prog, I find myself returning to Tales with less and less frequency.

My opinion has basically settled on viewing Tales as yet another double album that should have been one. Take most of the opener, probably the last 5 minutes of Remembering (and what a glorious 5 minutes those are!), the last half of Ancient (I even enjoy the heavier parts toward the end of the jam...though it just takes forever to get there), and the first 11 minutes of Ritual (or maybe extend another 5 minutes if you want a killer, but completely unnecessary and unrelated, Yes jam), and you might have something of Fragile or Yes Album quality.

However, 'tis not to be, as the haphazard structuring, the shockingly poor production in places, and abundance of C-grade Yes material just kills any chances of Tales obtaining masterpiece status.

Anderson and Howe let their faith in a singular vision get the best of them. I don't begrudge them this for a second, because with the material that came before Tales, they certainly earned the right to see if pushing the boundary further would result in ever greater music.

With Tales, they got their answer, and it wasn't the answer they were looking for. Oh well--mistakes happen and are often for the better, as Yes learned their lesson and righted the ship with the subsequent Relayer.

Report this review (#322726)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This is one of those few releases that has split the prog community down the middle. Those who love Tales From Topographic Oceans proclaim it to be a complete masterpiece, while others say the opposite. As for me, I find the content of this album to be questionable but I'm not talking about quality of the compositions, since that's up to each listener to decide upon. My real complaint comes with the fact that this album is not a team effort like the ones that came before and after it.

I think that the first part of The Revealing Science of God/Dance of the Dawn gives a clear indication that everything was not right in the Yes camp. Jon Anderson and Steve Howe dominate the sound of this entire release, leaving Rick Wakeman and the newly recruited Alan White far in the background. Chris Squire does try to compete with the duo in command, but never really manages to get more than a few notable moments in the sun. This is a huge problem for me that makes this release almost unworthy of the classic Yes title.

How could a band with such a clear direction in the past forget all about what made them great and concentrate on only a small portion of its sound? I've never considered Steve Howe's contribution to the Yes sound nearly as important as that of Chris Squire and especially Rick Wakeman. His guitar was a complementary addition to the overall style but never made much sense as the stem of the Yes sound. This gets even harder to gasp while listening to these stretched out performances.

I was never able to get through this release in one sitting but that doesn't mean that I haven't learned to enjoy this album in smaller portions. Even to this day, I find many of the arrangements here to be highly questionable. Still, it's difficult to imagine that Yes would remain at their golden era status quo after Bill Bruford's departure and I certainly respect them for taking a risk. Ultimately Tales From Topographic Oceans is a gamble for any Yes fan and I recommend to approach this release with a careful consideration.

**** star songs: The Revealing Science Of God/Dance Of The Dawn (22:22) The Remembering/High The Memory (20:38) Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil (21:33)

*** star songs: The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun (18:35)

Report this review (#325790)
Posted Thursday, November 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An odd album of beauty and mystery, power and subtlety, ideas foreign and familiar, musicianship on par with the Hindu gods that inspired it. I spent hours listening to each of the four sides--mostly marvelling at the virtuosity of one Steve Howe. And yet the work seems flawed. It never held my interest or awe in the way that Relayer, Fragile, Close to the Edge, "Awaken," or parts of The Yes Album did. As I listen to the album today I am surprised at how often I find myself thinking "This sounds just like Nektar!"

1. "The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)" (20:25) with it's gorgeous, almost church-like opening five minutes, stumbles horribly with the cheezy "what's happened to this song" section with its horrible rhythm section and so many cliches and riffs stolen from previous work. The "starlight" section beginning at 8:54 is better but suffers from some horrible background vocal harmonies. There is so much simplicity in the song and instrumental structure of this piece as to wonder if the piece was, in fact, finished. It has none of the polish, flare or sophistication of either CttE or Relayer. Even the highpoint of the upbeat "sunlight, teacher" section with Wakeman's piano play and Squire's thumping bass can't lift this one from its redundancy. No wonder I stopped listening to this Side soon after I got to know the album. A pretty guitar piece beginning at 15:15 lays the foundation for a more spacious, mellow section--but Anderson's bluesy singing (is this from Time and a Word) and words about rivers and christians spoils it. Wakeman's mellotron drench tries to save us--but then he switches to organ and seems to descend to Jon's level of maudlin cliche--though his synth solo in the twentieth minute is spectacular. A pretty Anderson vocal section turns sour when it becomes accompanied by the b vox--and then flows into a reprise of the "what happened to this song" themes. Sadly simple and redundant. Plus, why are the vocals so muddy? If it's any consolation, on this song it sounds as if Rick Wakeman is at least half trying. (7/10)

2. "The Remembering (High the Memory)" (20:38) opens with a soft, drumless section, in which pitchless vocals are murdered. "Alternate tunes" indeed! By the fifth minute it is almost painful! When finally they stop and move into a GENESIS section of woven washes I have hope, but, no! They return to the plodding vocal pilgrimage through old territory! When Squire and White finally are allowed to join in, it sounds almost like a joke! This is music! It's so discordant and cacophonous! I can barely bear to hear any more . . . A slow, dreamy middle section seems to beg for introspection and meditation, but then we are unceremoniously guided into the middle ages (as we were on The Yes Album with the chess game in "Yours Is No Disgrace")--and then we're even treated to a few previews of the next album, "relayer"--but then back to the Renaissance. Can vocal harmonies get more awful? A nice Steve Howe solo section is spoiled by the 'relayer' chant. But, then, suddenly, things get interesting! Alan White turns into Bill Bruford and the rhythm and soloists get weavy wonky. Cool! I never realized how similar this whole piece is to "Gates of Delirium"! How is it that Chris Squire's so-revered bass sound sounds like it has a sinus infection--the sound is horribly muddy! Throughout this song !hen everybody seems to quite, going off each in their own directions, into their own caves and canyons. (Maybe they want the song to end as much as me and Rick do!) Simply an awful, irredeemable song. (6/10)

3. "The Ancient (Giants under the Sun)" (18:35) if I remember correctly, this is the Side to which I most listened back in the day. I worked so hard to try to understand it. It was jazzy, avant-gard, experimental, and rhythmically fascinating. The first 4:20 are prog heaven! And then . . . they start to sing. Fortunately, they go back into the odd rhythm structures. Soon, the "nous sommes du soleil" theme--probably my favorite section of the album--is first introduced by Howe and Wakeman--and things are still very interesting rhythmically and instrumentally--probably Squire's best section of the album (and some more very Nektar- and Camel-sounding moments.) I am so glad the singing is so minimal. Let these extraordinary musicians shine! Especially Howe and White! At the 11:00 mark the rhythms almost become Latin--or tribal African. They are mesmerizing, trance inducing. Meanwhile, Steve Howe is going absolutely crazy over the top of it all. Mega-kudos to Alan White! (and for Mssrs. Anderson and Squire for letting it happen.) The next section, infused with a Spanish feel from the acoustic guitar work of Maestro Howe, is awesome--and even, somehow, mysteriously fits. Its as if the tribal dance has taken a break to watch the arrival of a sage from a future time. Anderson joins in in the way that he excels, solo, but then is joined by harmony voices and weird flute-like (poor, at that) synth line. "... a million voices singing" section is okay--though it would do better on a Jon Anderson solo album. Andre Segovia wannabe Steve Howe plays on a bit before a seriously weird section juxtaposes some horribly incompatible sounds and styles into fade out and end. The best song on the album. (9/10)

4. "Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)" (21:37) the band finally sounds pretty tight as the opening section with its heavy use of hand percussion and cheesy synthesizer sound (did Rick do this to purposely sabotage the song?) unleash. An electric guitar interlude in the fourth and fifth minutes allows Steve to introduce a whole bunch of melody themes. And then the classic "nous sommes du soleil" vocal section ensues as the music gradually builds and gels beneath. At the seven minute mark we slide into a sitar-accompanied four-voice vocal section (which seems kind of required in the Yes repertoire). All as practice for the perfected form in Relayer's "Gates of Delirium." Some nice work from Chris and then, of course, the Alan White drum solo in the sixteenth minute. Why does Rick's mellotron feel/sound so out-dated here? Coming out of the chaos of the drum-dominated section, we emerge "into the light" of the sun and the reprise of the nous sommes du soleil theme. Nice end. Overall a pleasant and not overly bombastic, simplistic, or hideous display of self-parody. I can deal with this one. (9/10)

A 3.5 stars album that I'll rate up with the intention that everyone else will be prodded to give it their own try (and opinion).

Report this review (#330914)
Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Owl
1 stars OK, I guess someone has to offer a contrary opinion to the prevailing viewpoint of this album,

It's interesting to me that the epic length pieces on the preceding "Close To The Edge" and the subsequent "Relayer" were very well formed and realized pieces that flowed together like a coherent sentence or an entire conversation if you will, somehow arriving at a point, knowing how to get there and how long to take.

Sadly though, the same cannot be said for "Tales of Topographic Oceans". For my ears, it comes off like a bunch of nearly unrelated and overextended ideas trying to force themselves to fit together (lots of awkward transitions) in the quest to make some kind of a huge, profound grandiose statement. Problem is, it goes nowhere in the process and takes forever to get there while saying absolutely nothing. "Ritual" for example, has much potential but again, it gets so needlessly drawn out that whatever impact it could've made is completely watered down.

It's certainly not without its interesting moments I will admit, but unfortunately, a few interesting moments do not a coherent album make.

Honestly, if this album was edited down to a single album with the songs cut to 10 minutes or less each, it might actually be listenable. Otherwise, it's just a sprawling mess of esoteric nonsense that would test the patience of God.

Report this review (#349575)
Posted Friday, December 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It may be an extremely ambitious album, but it contains some of the best Yes music IMO. These long pieces certainly need a bit of dedication to begin with, though the first two ones "The Revealing Science Of God" and "The Remembering" are brilliant. It's only "The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun" that Howe''s guitar gets a little too whiney and overblown in places. That said, I still often wonder why this album occasionally gets so overlooked. I like it slightly better than the following album"Relayer", which was also one of the Yes greats. Four solid stars for this one.
Report this review (#349674)
Posted Saturday, December 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Love it or hate it ! Before my review the "stars distribution of the over 600 ratings is as follows:

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%) Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(28%) Good, but non-essential (17%) Collectors/fans only (7%) Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

There aren't many albums with so controversial ratings from 1 to 5 stars, let's try to explain why: First of all, the original release was a double album with a 20 minutes track (more or less) on each side. Soembody has found it pretentious, but we know that YES are often pretentious. Soembody says that the tracks have been extended to 20 minutes in order to fill exactly the four sides, and this is possible.

My personal opinion is that this is not the best YES album, but one of their best for sure. The four suites are excellent in the composition and in the execution even if none of the four is comparable to things like Close To The Edge. Said so, I have probably payed more listens to this one than to the CTTE masterpiece, and the reason is that Tales works well on me. It's never boring and even if I have heard that Wakeman was not much happy of this album, his work is excellent. Only "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" is a bit weaker. I find the intro a bit too long.

So I add myself to the 28%, but I can understand who says that it's a masterpiece and who finds it poor. This is how the real art works.

Report this review (#373102)
Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This is not a bad album.

This album should have been much better than it actually turned out. Coming off of the creation of a masterpiece of progressive rock ("Close To The Edge"), Some of the members of Yes wanted to try to outdo that gem (particularly Jon Anderson and Steve Howe). Unfortunately, the rest of the band didn't seem too keen on the idea. Bill Bruford, one of the best drummers of the seventies, left to play in King Crimson, and poor Alan White, a fine drummer, but no Bruford by any means, had to fill his shoes, or stool, at least. Rick Wakeman and Chris Squire gamely tried to make their mark, but, for the most part, fall flat.

Each of the four album-side long songs has some good sections, but each is also marred by connecting sections of meandering guitar licks. The better parts are where the tempo picks up, and some energy is pushed into the music. In fact, it seems like much of the rest of the music is somewhat lifeless. If you listen to the more recent live versions of songs from this album, you can hear what the pieces could be with the full band playing wholeheartedly.

Report this review (#396384)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
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 mind[%*!#]. 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 cluster[%*!#] 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!

Report this review (#399878)
Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars The only way is down when Yes reached the summit.

I have been putting off reviewing this controversial and yet indispensable much mailigned anti-masterpiece album for years, but the time has come. It will not be a lengthy review as I think 690 ratings, 230 reviews, tells the story, the album divides loyalties among critics right down the middle, love it or loathe it. Suffice it to state that the album is not designed to appeal to everybody and raised the hackles of the music industry due to it's over indulgence in prog excess. Perhaps it is the peak of over progging an album. The thing has 4 monsters that devour entire sides of vinyl, and music companies were less than impressed. But Yes soldiered on relentlessly and proudly with their behemoth, performing it in its entirety on the stage to baffled audiences, and effectively transformed the way people perceived music. Does it have to be 3 minute pieces for the radio? Obviously not. Can we have 2 albums with only 4 songs? Obviously yes. Someone had to do it and Jethro Tull enjoyed parodying it on his opus Thick as a Brick. When is too much of something simply too much? Yes created the concept of the 'Topographic' category of albums.

The album has taken on a life of it's own creating it's own folklore, the term used by music artists is to create their own 'Topographic' album. What are they talking about? The peak of success, the album that all others are measured against. A work of art that becomes the pinnacle of success, yet it is widely hated. Yes were taking huge chances with the album content, would people want an album of 4 massive epics? Furthermore, nobody understood the lyrics, though you will hear critics rattle on about some ancient religious new age Shastric Scriptures mumbo jumbo that Anderson seemed to be obsessed with, reading the "Autobiography of a Yogi" as a launching pad for the themes. The lyrics effectively become as surreal as the music, as inseperable as Howe's guitars and Squire's bass, and there are some wonderful lyrical moments with mantras, chants and estranged singing, "Nous Sommes Du Soleil", Anderson creating his own mythology, here at his bombastic best, translating it as, "We love when we play."

The music is essential in every sense of the word, it even divided the band itself, Wakeman took off on extended leave such was his angst over the musical direction. And it signified the end of a Yes era with Wakeman out of the picture. The caped wonder actually was so bored during one concert performance that he had his roadie order a chicken curry vindaloo and devoured it, much to the astonishment of Anderson, "I don't believe it, he's eating a curry!" Wakeman scarpered for greener pastures and eventually discovered it was found in The Centre of the Earth. Much to the chagrin of Yes members, Wakeman loves to trash the album and for good reason as he is virtually invisible musically.

The songs on TFTO range from brilliant, the opening and closing track, to mediocre, the middle section. I have heard the middle section only a few times as it is rather dull to be honest. But this is how the album plays out like a 4 act play, the stunning intro that hooks in the listener, followed by a lull in the action, a calm before the storm, almost a dreamy sleepy section, and then finally culminating in a majestic stirring epic finale. I rediscovered Ritual on the Tsongas DVD and what a version it is! The middle is sandwiched between inspired musical genius, and therein lies the problem. Were yes being too clever for their own good? The album is a testament of overdoing everything to the point of parody. Indeed, Spinal Tap parodied the lavish sets on their film. Dean's artwork was translated to the stage and practically dwarfed the band members who were lost in their own fantasised 'Stonehenge' creation.

Everything on the album is upsized and overblown, even the infamous cover artwork is the best of Dean with fish swimming in dreamscape oceans, captured in enigmatic glorious vinyl gatefold. 'Relayer' brought the band back down to earth in some ways but 'TFTO' will always remain a symbol of prog excess, and it is just about the most discussed album in history. I award it 4 stars for it's sheer status in music history and for the amazing musicianship.

Report this review (#400064)
Posted Sunday, February 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans is probably the most controversial album by Yes, and many of the fans are indefinitely divided about how great or bad the material on this album is. This album is my personal favorite. This album is highly ambitious, consisting of 4 tracks running for just over 80 minutes, and contains some of the most appropriately elaborate compositions done by Yes.

Every part of all of these tracks flow seamlessly into each other so perfectly, and the variations never seem random or disjointed. The whole album is a true progressive rock symphony. I honestly don't know why Yes fans are so divided on this album, because it sounds just as accessible as Close to the Edge or Fragile. It's only over twice as long as those two albums. The themes on each track are very memorable. Another big difference in this album is the overall spaciness that definitely fits with the album title. Given the length of the album, you'd probably expect lots of pointless meandering; you'd also be wrong. There is no meandering on this album and everything builds from soft to loud appropriately. I refuse to detail each track because of the length, but this is definitely a masterpiece in the Yes catalog and my personal favorite.

This is definitely an album to check out, and a listening experience that you won't forget. Absolutely breathtaking.

Report this review (#429348)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans ? 1973


9 ? Best Song: Go to hell.

And where Close to the Edge was fresh, engaging, and, dare I say, exciting, the band decided that epics were the way to go, and that music was only useful if it was set to be the most superfluously extreme. I could wage a massive slew of insults toward this album, about the guitars that seem so disjointed and aimless that they rarely constitute a full riff or melody, and how Jon Anderson's singing is slowly starting to grate on my nerves, or how the keyboard strikes have become a pedestrian series of running through the motions for the sake of internal congruity and that star wars lightsaber sheen, or how the album is a double album with only four songs.

I have all these insults, yet to be perfectly honest, I don't see why the album is hated so much. Okay, excepting what I just spent the last paragraph spurting I don't see why the album is hated so much. It isn't as if all talent mystically burst from their corporeal forms and transcended the material universe to allow venus jesus the ability to do a rapid fire hammer on in his venusian garage rock band. They had to leave in layers. Sure, 'The Revealing' is a sprawling (unavoidable epithet) mess, but when it rocks, doesn't it, though?

Okay bub, you spend the first paragraph bashing the album and the second one defending it. Where exacty do you stand? I stand on the fence. For one, I'm still entranced by the interplay between te rhythm section and Steve Howe's always shimmering performances. On the other hand I'm sick to death of these long [%*!#]ing songs that go absolutely nowhere, and act as mere astral jazz fusion jams for the hard of hearing. All I can say is that prog rock fans might adore it, and everyone else probably won't. Personally, I will probably never listen to it again. It's just not melodically appealing to me. It's not original, and it's not necessary. It's just there, man.

Report this review (#442948)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is now my favourite Yes album. I started listening to Yes in 1972 and once viewed Close to the Edge as a masterpiece. I saw Yes play Reading in 1975 and they were easily the best band at the festival, they were magnificent. Those were prog's halcyon days, when 30,000 kids got collectively excited about this weird music.

I have probably played Close to the Edge too often over the years there are no surprises when I hear it. The Yes Album and Fragile are both records I used to love but don't listen to very much these days. Topographic Oceans still sounds great, in my view it has more depth than their other records. I think it's the best thing they ever did. I agree it's not as accessible as their more famous albums, but it slowly grows on you.

I have always been in the minority, most critics hated this record. Most of my friends gave it a wide berth. For me it is still a magical record.

Report this review (#444958)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars When I first saw the proposed title of this release, I feared the worst long before I heard it. This album confirms the fears that were raised by the previous recording; an excellent band has lost its way, foundering on excess and lack of critical faculty. Somehow the centre of gravity has been lost, and the multitude of notes are merely there for their own sake, they no longer seem to have a common purpose. And it got a lot worse before it got better. But I for one have no regrets. This was a band that sparkled brighter than most, even if the wings flew too close to the edge of the sun.
Report this review (#445721)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Too much of a good thing? Maybe. After the success of the wonderful preceding albums, Yes goes wild with a 4 song double album. Side 1: "The Revealing Science of God" and Side 4 : "Ritual" are the only ones I ever got into. The other 2 sides seemed very basic and unformed to me. If the best parts of all 4 sides could have been combined into 1 album, this would have been a winner! (I'm sure I am not the first person to state this idea on this website). ABout the best thing on TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS is that I like the title and the cover art. Best Roger Dean ever along with Relayer. I will skip commenting on whether this album is "self indulgent" or not. I'll just give it an average 3 rating and move on...
Report this review (#451782)
Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | Review Permalink

I started to listen to Yes several months ago, and I really didn't know what to expect from them (I had known only some of the best known tracks that sometimes appear even on the radio), so I started from their eponymous debut and then went on through their whole discography.

I was really pleased by their music, and suddenly I came to this point. After I listened for the first time to Tales, I thought:

"What a piece of synthesizer-filled poppy mayhem!"

But then something unknown led me to listen to it again and again. And after a few listens I started to think about things like: "What did they have in mind while composing and recording the music?"

I think I wouldn't be the only one if I compared this album to Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Both Lamb and Tales are sixth albums by their respective bands and both are double albums with an overall concept and with each side revealing different sides of the bands. There is also a great show of ambition, verve and get-there present on both examples and an attempt on a wider range of styles mixed together as well.

The difference lies in the lengths of the tracks and in the reception, of course. While Lamb has received almost exclusively good reviews since its release, opinions vary in case of Tales.

But why did it cast so much controversy when the previous album went out so well?

The sleeve notes indicate that Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were the leading composers of this album, but I wouldn't think that was the problem.

Some say that this is the point where Anderson started to take over the band - that's not true - the title track on Close to the Edge, for instance, has the above mentioned musicians credited as its sole writers as well.

Furthermore - statements that progressive rock is always a group effort are also a bit out of place - look at Jethro Tull's whole discography for example, or once again the Lamb, even if not stated there, the album is almost wholly a Gabriel's and Banks's work.

But there can be found other possible reasons for the album's considerably poorer output, or at least as it might have seemed. Yes had undergone a dramatic change in personnel with the departure of Bruford before they started workong on Tales. Allan White was a great input, but still not Bruford.

Another thing is that it appears to me that Yes started to throw away their distinctive style and involve other bands' ideas. This is most obvious on the third side - The Ancient. When you think about the musically historical context of the time the album came out, you cannot overlook the release of Larks' Tongues in Aspic earlier that year. And that's probably where Yes took inspiration for this track - they probably sat down to listen to it after purchasing the album immediately upon its release and said:

"Oh, listen what Bill's doing with his new band now! Let's do something similar! Surely we can do it, if they can. What? Distorted bass with wah-wah? Chriss, plug your bass into a wah-wah pedal!"

Steve Howe's distinctive playing technique and clean or slightly overdriven sound found on Yes's earlier recordings became sometimes burried under a Hackett-like distorted sound on Tales.

Rick Wakeman began to neglect the formerly-thought-to-be-inherent Yes instrument - the Hammond organ on behalf of involving more synths and mellotron pads.

The conclusion is: Yes, Yes started rotting away by that time, but it wasn't that bad yet. It became far more obvious beginning with albums like Going for the One.

I agree with the general opinion that Tales don't reach the worth of CttE, Fragile, The Yes Album, and possibly not even Time and a Word (which is a masterpiece in my point of view contrary to the general opinion). But there is a possibility to find some awesome music there, it's just a bit too time-and-attention-demanding for someone who wants to get into it.

The Revealing Science of God (The Dance of Dawn) is a highly irresistible track with its lovely melodies (even if played on a synthesizer) and some of Howe's gentlest guitar licks with a huge possibility of becoming addicted to the song, with the help of some beautiful (though almost incomprohensible, at least for me) lyrics. Delicate. Someone compared it to the Wagner's Tannhäuser overture, and I agree with that.

The Remembering (High the Memory) is the least accesible out of the four. It can appear a bit heavy-going and boring for someone new to the album. Nevermind, the track has its great moments, just the beginning should have been a bit shorter. There is a rocking section near the middle of the song with a riff that reminds me of the central riff from a later song by Jethro Tull - Cup of Wonder.

The Ancient (Giants under the Sun) - I have already written that this song appears to be stealing other's ideas, however, I don't appreciate this as the worst track off the album as many do, it is still a great track, although a bit too odd at times. There are some really strong moments in the song (like the guitar playing together with mellotron in sixths between the sections where Anderson cites some famous places or whatever he says...).

The Ancient (Giants under the Sun) is the weakest in my point of view. It is a kind of an incoherent patchwork. There are some sections (like that with sitar, some 7th through 10th minute), that are really beautiful ones, then there are some neutral nothing-saying sections, such as the beginning or the filling moments with the french phrase sung over and over, and then there are really bad sections like the mayhem or drum solo one that should have been cut off. The best of the track, and probably the best of the album, is the last minute and half of Steve Howe's amazing guitar solo.

So, this appears to be all what I wanted to say about this album.

Report this review (#462532)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars It pains me to say it, but this is where Yes started to decay. However -- there are still a lot of great ideas here, just a bit buried under the sheer girth. When I first listened to the album, I was a little disappointed (actually, I kind of still am) - I was expecting more of the compositional tautness of "Close to the Edge." But that's not what Yes was going for.

"The Revealing Science of God" opens with an excellent chant in ever-shifting meters. Then we are dropped into the Topographic Ocean: ideas roil by, the textures shift in ever-changing patterns, but my is it an OCEAN of sound. The first riff is killer (and bluesy!) -- but where are the other riffs? They take time to reveal themselves, surely, surely...

"Science" is definitely the best track. It is NOT "Close to the Edge" - but it does have some intriguing themes, and a nice arch-form structure hidden within. In all, it is very successful - and Anderson's lyrics have never been better. "I must have waited all life for this..." -- I admit I have cried before to this...

"The Remembering" catches a lot of flack, but I find it nice. It drifts like a piece of ambient music, themes emerging in strange orderings... Jon Anderson's mystical liner notes really help make this piece more accessible. The whole thing is heard indistinctly - hippie-ish, yes, but I find myself in that that sort of sentimental mood sometimes...

Late in the track, Steve Howe kicks out some angular jams, but they end up sounding a little lame. Not VERY lame, but yeah, a bit lame. This track IS the Topographic Ocean - you can hear it in Rick Wakeman's beautiful solos. By the way, I like Rick's playing on this album. Mostly pads and little licks here and there - like the ghost of Tony Kaye, filtered through synthesizer. Ah -- the 12-string section is incredible! Now THAT is movement.

I really like "The Remembering" -- but it is in some ways not as successful as "Science." The production is too squeaky-clean in places where GRIT was needed. It's times like this you miss early the early Yes lineup...

Oh boy, "The Ancient." This REALLY drags in spots. The lyrics are kind of lame, to boot. What is supposed to sound majestic ends up sounding kind of goofy. There are cool things, though - the skittery keyboards, for one. There is some cool Mellotron as well. But when Jon Anderson starts chanting names of the Sun, it's hard to keep your attention focused.

After some pretty unbearable guitar jamming, we arrive at an okay little folk tune featuring Anderson and Howe. This could have been great, but the Yes boys sing it as if there were guns pointed at them, forcing them to proceed. Ugh.

The introduction to "Ritual" is pretty lame. There is a TON of potential, but it's buried. Some day Yes archaeologists should dig up the masters and remix this album. It would be VERY worth it, in my opinion.

The intro to "Ritual" culminates in an airy Howe guitar solo -- we are pulled from the Topographic Ocean and made to hear many themes reprised - sad that very few really stuck in the first place. An incredible shame, actually -- this could have been glorious. The song that follows is pretty nice, once the "nous somme du soleil!" chanting stops. Some cool electric sitar here! The succession of "at all"'s build into a wonderful bass solo. An abysmal drum solo brings everything to a screeching, unpleasant halt, and the track never recovers. I guess that was supposed to be the climax, but it's hard to tell - the pacing feels rather off.

The worst thing about this album is that it does not achieve what it set out to do - and what it set out to do was pretty cool. Even Yes were human.

Report this review (#478998)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I don't understand the received wisdom about Tales, which is that it is a pretentious, sprawling monster from start to finish with no sense of direction beyond homing in on its own rear end. Take a dispassionate and closer listen. Yes, side 3 is self-indulgent and disjointed and altogether too difficult for my simple taste, and I propose never to listen to it again - (a threat which will doubtless scare Yes witless) - but the other three sides (excepting the irritating drum solo towards the end of side 4) deliver some of the most magical music Yes ever put together, CTTE and Relayer included. This is simply majestic.

Given the abhorrence that is the third side, no more than 3 stars are on offer, but were you to shove that in the bin, and kick out the drum solo, we would have been reaching much higher.

Report this review (#493844)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although Tales from Topographic Oceans received an absolutely horrendous reception from critics, and is often defended by prog fans as a result, I can on the one hand see where the bad reviews came from - and it's got nothing to do with the actual music. The fact is that that Tales is one of the most incredibly uncommercial albums that Yes had produced at the time - not just in the format, although any double album comprising four side-long tracks is a daunting prospect, but in terms of the music presented therein.

This is an album which absolutely demands to be heard in its entirety - from the first and last tracks, which fit in nicely with the sound of Close to the Edge, to The Remembering/High The Memory which shows Yes turning their hand to Genesis-influenced pastoral prog and absolutely conquering that territory, to the complex and avant-garde The Ancient/Giants Under the Sun, the four sides form one cohesive whole which is almost impossible to grasp on a single listen, and still yields new secrets on patient relistens to this day.

This is all wonderful, but it's also extremely hard for any rock critic to sit down and give such an album a full listen before writing down their impressions - and thus the critics wrote their reviews without giving the album a chance to win them over, and thus the album got a bad reputation on release, and it all snowballed from there. This is a terrible shame, because it really is a grand achievement, and deserves to rank alongside The Yes Album or Close to the Edge as one of the band's greatest accomplishments.

Report this review (#509111)
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tales is an album which has very split opinions, with either lovers or haters. I find that this is common with how I feel about the album; half of it I love, half of it I don't.

The first half is brilliant and I would give both songs 5 stars without hesitation. It begins with The Revealing, which is the most commercial track and arguably the best. It is the most orthodox Yes song on the album and also the most dynamic. The Remembering, however, is my personal favourite and I especially love its reoccurring soft instrumental breaks. It's among my favourite Yes songs. I must say that these songs take time to appreciate and one or two listens won't drag you in immediately. But it's worth it.

Now the second half. I've given The Ancient/Giants Under The Sun many chances but I cannot bring myself to enjoy it. The first half is very weird stuff, and I can't really explain what it sounds like. It is at this point where I usually give up and go to the next track. The second half of the song turns into an acoustic ballad thing with Steve and Jon and it doesn't redeem the track at all. Maybe I haven't given this track enough time to grow on me, but considering my current impressions I don't see that happening. A disappointing effort. But there's still hope! Ritual is a good song with many good moments, even though it doesn't reach the heights of the first two songs.

This album is very ambitious and dares to explore foreign musical territory, more than most Yes albums. I think this enhanced the music and I'm glad that Jon took the risk of creating this concept. And I don't care if Rick hated this. I think he played his parts very well and he helped to make it better. Anyway, in conclusion Tales is half amazing, one quarter bad, and one quarter average. 4 stars.

This is my theory: You're not a true Yes fan if you disliked this whole album.

Report this review (#511819)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion Tales From Topographic Oceans is the YES masterpiece, I don't care if those who hate it say it's over blown, too avant gard, to weird and lacks focus, So many things are happening on this album, so many new things are tried and I give it high marks for that, My door into Progressive Rock Came Via Miles Davis and his Classic's like Bitches Brew and all of his 70's jazz funk and rock workouts, I also appreciate music from the free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and late Period Coltrane, This music is certainly not easy listening, and Tales From Topographic Oceans is that way, It requires many listens to understand it's meaning. Is it a flawed album? of course it is, Just Like Bitches Brew, The genus is in the effort, Not every thing works, especially on disc 2, I bet if YES would have released this as a single LP, It would be ranked right up there with Close To the edge, In my opinion, "Revealing Science of God" is as good as anything on Fragile or Close to the Edge, This album kind of reminds of Gun's n Roses and their Illusion albums, Those were bloated and to overstuffed with filler, One all time classic could have been made, instead of 2 very good albums, Tales From Topographic Ocean is the same, Because of the experimenting and self indulgence, The album is flawed, but I enjoy the flaws, when the Musicianship is this good.
Report this review (#511892)
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans was a crazy attempt by Yes. I feel that they just decided, lets make 4 really long songs! And then put random stuff together...

Really, it was probably too much to handle. In all four songs, there are hints of good musical ideas but to me, none of them have been used to their full values. They just thought of something, put it down, and moved on. They could have worked on it and worked on it until they made it beautiful, but with the overwhelming amount of work they had to do to achieve 80+ minutes of music, this just wasn't possible. Their creativity lacks as well. And I do not think Alan White did too well either.

I believe that this album was kind of their scrappy preparation for their masterpiece yet to come, Because I feel that the gates of delerium was a masterpiece, with everything fully worked on, full musical creativity, and an insane amount of emotion. I believe that the four tracks on TfTO were like a practice/preparation. Alan White improved immensely, Jon Anderson made his vocals much more melodic, beautiful, and fitting with the song (as opposed to singing random stuff because they have no idea what else to do). Also, I think Steve Howe kind of took a break in this album, I really did not see too much from him.

In the end, on the big picture I feel that this album is Good, but definitely not essential, I'd consider the whole album like a bonus track.

Report this review (#513305)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The mother of all prog epics, in good as well as in bad. So, it's the first album since the departure of Bill Bruford, and after making one of the best albums of all time, Close to the Edge. They sure went over the edge while making this one, to the dislike of many, and not in the least Rick Wakeman.

Tales from Topographic Oceans was mainly devised by Anderson & Howe, and the absence of tricky keyboard parts is really noticeable. The album has some very good individual parts, but lacks focus and just drags on too much. It's overblown, but not as overindulgent as the most vitriolic critics say. In fact it is restrained instrumentally a lot of the time, too restrained, because there's not much going on when taken the running time to consideration.

It's not the disaster some think, and not the masterpiece very few think. It's just too long. Still, 3 stars.

Report this review (#514105)
Posted Sunday, September 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tales by Anderson and Howe.

When we speak of "Tales" the dilemma is always the same. This is one of the highest expressions of progressive or one of the most significant examples of self-indulgence in the history of rock music? The fate of this album is that, you love it or hate it, similarly to what happens with other records familiar to fans of progressive rock such as "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" by Genesis.

No doubt the magic of "Close To The Edge" is long over. The magic balance achieved by the musicians is gone, as there is no longer the great Bill Bruford, replaced by Alan White, good drummer, but nothing more. Regard the music the contribution of Wakeman is very poor. His first solo is after 17 minutes from the beginning of the record, and almost always "Merlin The Magician" merely support Howe and Anderson, who instead are ubiquitous and so that their performances are, for better or worse, to characterize the album. The production is overall quite disappointing, and at times the sounds are really inexpressive.

Nevertheless I consider it the best album of the band after the classical period of the amazing triptych "The Yes Album" / "Fragile" / "Close To The Edge'. The best moments are in the first record with the classic The Revealing Science Of God (rating 7 / 10), often played in concerts during band's career, and the underrated The Remembering (rating 9 / 10 and the best of the four epics) marked by intimate and relaxing tones with beautiful acoustic moments.

The second record is not at the same level of the first. The experimental The Ancient (rating 4 / 10) despite the brilliant work of Howe on guitar in the second part of the song, is too cerebral and tricky, making it heavier an album which is already very challenging. The final epic Ritual (rating 6 / 10) in some parts is pure self- indungence: the experimental drumming section, which anticipates in some ways "Sound Chaser" (a song of 'Relayer' album) is in my opinion particularly hard to digest, but some parts are considerable, for example the amazing final.

So, three stars and an overall rating of 6 / 10.

Best song: The Remembering

Report this review (#516209)
Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars reviewing "Tales..." is like writing a book review on the Bible or the Koran. how does one go about defining the definition. let me give it a try.

consisting of 4 epics, all around the 20-min mark, Tales from Topographic Oceans is a real piece of art. one does not listen to "Tales..." as music, one must revel and be immersed in it.

The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn (20:27): immediately transports you into another dimension. the completely eccentric arrangements, complex rhythms, and crazy finger-picking guitar work and all of that even before Jon sings the first line..

The Remembering - High The Memory (20:38): more in the same vein...

3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun (18:34): the shortest of them all at a mere 18:34, The Ancient is where it starts to sink in that you are experiencing that is truly once-in-a-lifetime

4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil (21:35): all said and done, this one is my personal favourite. it has been years since i heard "Tales..." in which time i've listened to uncountable melodies, but the "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" part comes clearly to my mind (which even sings it to me in Jon's voice!)

Tales From Topographic Oceans is an immense body of music, poetry, spirituality and awareness. Yes made this with little regard of how well it would sell or how it would be received as is apparent even from the fair mixture of reviews on this site. it was released back in a time where bands played music because they loved to play and if it paid the bills, great! if not, lets get back in to work and do another one...

which is why this one is not just an essential masterpiece but one of the select few which can be called THE essential masterpieces

PS: interestingly enough, another of THE essential masterpieces was released in the same year by a bunch of fellows called Pink Floyd and another one (Deep Purple's Machine Head) just the year before...wonder what we'll be talking about in the same vein 30 years from now.

Report this review (#544794)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars Sometimes less is more

Reading a thread about "Tales from Topographic Oceans", discovered I had not reviewed this controversial album, and I say controversial because for some people it's a masterpiece, while for others is a pile of manure. As usual the truth can't be found in extreme positions, art is not just black and white, there are different tones of gray, so let's try to see what's the issue with his album.

"Tales" had a great problem from the start, being that it's predecessor "Close to the Edge" , the standard by which YES is judged. Any posterior release (Except Relayer) would had paled in comparison, specially it's successor that tried to be an ambitious double release, with an extremely weak concept that fails to provide the coherence required for this project

But that's not all, one of the most representative band members (Rick Wakeman), felt uncomfortable with the process of recording this album, this is a real problem, because "Close to the Edge" success was highly based in Rick's solos, and he was obviously not giving his best for this record

But the question remains...Is "Tales from Topographic Oceans" a masterpiece or a piece of crap? I believe the answer is in the middle of both positions, the good parts are simply brilliant, but the problem is that too many sections of the album are simply boring and seem to have recorded only to fill enough space for two albums.

"Tales" begins with "The Revealing Science of God (Dance on the Dawn)", which I believe is the most solid of the four suites, mainly because they seem to rely in team work rather than in the usual solos, despite the internal problems, YES seems as a band more than as five virtuoso musicians adding their talents without restraining their egos. The extremely acute voice of Jon Anderson is moderated by the good backings done by Chris. The lack of many solos is replaced by an intelligent team work, maybe some Wakeman magic is missing.

"The Remembering (High the Memory)" starts with a nerve breaking introduction where Jon is more annoying than usual, specially when Chris is not there to hide the high pitches that hurt my eardrums, but the main problem is that this intro takes nowhere, it just keeps going around endlessly without any coherence, and when you think it has ended and at last the song is going somewhere, they start again with his tedious prologue.

Only around the fifth minute, the track seems to reach something, but it's a mirage, and it's absolutely unrelated with the intro, as if they had broken the song in two. But the real problem is that the rest of the song is extremely weak and seems as a boring Sunday afternoon without soccer, baseball or football.

"The Ancient" (Giants Under the Sun)" is really the peak of the cheese, despite a strong start it turns into a big mess and absolutely boring, without feet or head, except for a nice acoustic guitar passage ruined by the terribly annoying voice and lyrics by Jon Anderson, nothing can redeem this track.

The album ends with "Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)" is by far the best song of the album, absolutely vibrant and at last a bit of coherence with Wakeman in one of his finest moments on this album.

But it is too late, "Tales From Topographic Ocean" is one of the most uneven albums I ever heard, it's obvious they didn't had enough material for a double release and the concept is so vague, that practically doesn't exist......"Ritual" alone can't save this less than average YES album.

Two stars for the good moments that could reach 2.5.

Report this review (#572616)
Posted Monday, November 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the most ambitious albums of the 70's, Tales From Topographic Oceans is 4 sidelong epics of truly creative music, and like all of Yes' output from this period, is a work of art that must be sunk into to fully appreicate. In fact, I may not have fully sunk into it myself, as at this point I only see one of the songs to be up there with their best sidelongs, "The Revealing Science of God," a masterpiece that is every bit as good as "Close To the Edge" and "The Gates of Delirium." It's just one of those immaculately written epics that grabs you and says, "hey, this is one of the really good ones." It contains a wonderful main melody, very creative construstion and developements, some of Rick Wakeman's best keyboard work (I really, really love the main synth theme close to the beginning, along with those rising scales he uses to get back into the theme later), and the singing division of the band sounds uncharacteristically relaxed this time around. When they arrive at the final chorus of "what happened to this song we all knew so well... we must have waited all our lives for this moment", before the ending chanting from the beginning, there is a real sense of completion, and you know you've just listened to one of the greatest symphonic accomplishments, waiting to see what could be next. What's next is some very deep, moving music, the melody and synth accompaniment to "The Remembering" being like none else Yes has ever done, with it's own unique developements, on to "The Ancient", with it's more percussive tones, and the unpredictable "Ritual." I don't think those three side long songs are quite as consistant as the first one, each having about a minute's worth of uninteresting music or seeming directionlessness, but it could be that I need to sink into them more, and besides those 3 minutes, all is very pleasant and transportative, the whole album having a very deep, relaxed, "cool colors of the spectrum" sound (very much like the cover) that is very good for a night of getting stoned to low lighting. Each of the 4 pieces sort of belong to a respective instrumentalist, and they all take the oppotunity to shine, with Jon Anderson adding some of his best and most philiosophical lyrics to all 4. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#587171)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#589644)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The band's previous effort "Close to the Edge" presented itself as an artistic triumph in the history of Yes and the whole prog-rock movement of the 70's. The Mellotron passages, weird-sounding slide guitar parts, sonic experiments, and few other things more than just did the trick. But don't think that it seems like everything has been done and musical limits have been reached on this album. This band could do more on "Tales from Topographic Oceans". "Tales" is like "Close to the Edge", only like an extended version of that sibling album. I honestly don't know what that is that made all the difference to some people between these two albums.

What do I like about "Tales"? Well, almost everything! Almost everything works! This is yet another monster that pushes prog-rock closer to the edge, only this time it made me want to swear. Without any intent to retell the whole story, I'll just say: the Mellotron, the guitar, the themes and their variations (yes, again, and there is nothing wrong with that), the experiments, oh, the experiments! And, as I have mentioned in my "Close to the Edge" review, insanity is probably the whole point of prog-rock. At least that's what this record convinced me of. But how can one call Yes an inadequate group after all that? Because their music is too brainy and fun?

Any shortcomings on this album? Yes, sir, but only one! Check out "The Remembering - High the Memory" and find those verses that Jon sings: "Out in the city, pum-pum-pum." I dislike the music of those verses. It's tedious enough for me to push the rating of the track down to four stars.

1. "The Revealing Science of God - Dance of the Dawn" - ***** ; 2. "The Remembering - High the Memory" - **** ; 3. "The Ancient - Giants Under the Sun" - ***** ; 4. "Ritual - Nous Sommes du Soleil" - *****

Recommended for people who are looking for a peak of prog madness, who want to know how far Yes can go with crazy composition and production ideas. (Hint: do you know what a cluster is in music theory? Oh, yeah! It's on this album. It may not sound like a big deal to you, but to me as a musician it's actually quite a big deal.) If you like "Close to the Edge", you might like this one too.

Report this review (#613198)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tales from Topographic Oceans is often regarded as minor work between its precedent and following studio albums. The critics are usually right when they say the album is too long but they are not when they come to terms with its music. It is true, though, that there are moments that are a bit too experimental or even boring and that the album lacks editing here and there.

Actually, I've always thought that, instead of a four sided album with Tales... it could have been a three sided one with a fourth live side or something like that. Or even better, a double album with a selection of Tales... and Relayer materials altogether.

It is clear for many followers or proggers that side two and three are the weekest part of this title. Reducing them both to half their length so that to fill just one album side would have been the solution. If you can do that with the appropiate software... you have an excellent record. The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn) is one of the best all-time Yes long pieces, and so is Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil). These two deserve five stars. However, The Remembering (High the Memory) and The Ancient (Giants under the Sun) are just three-star pieces or so.

So four star on the whole and waiting for Awaken to come...

Report this review (#618878)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars 5/10

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" has interestingly bold moments, but most of the time it feels tired and pretentious.

After the majestic triumph of "Close To The Edge", Yes figured that it would have been hard to top it. So they made "Tales From Topographic Oceans" more ambitious, more massive length-wise, and more experimental, in order to make it completely different from CTTE and thus make sure that raging comparisons with it's predecessor wouldn't be many. They succeeded in differentiating the two albums, but "Tales..." is not at all as enjoyable, brave or interesting as it should have been.

Musically, Yes still maintain a decent sense of melody at times, as well as keeping a pretty impressive level of experimentation: in some parts the sounds coming from the band are quite bizarre and brave, the instruments intertwine each other creating a very unique form of Symphonic Prog that Yes will never repeat again. There are also calmer, Folk passages which are easily some of the key moments here. But it is with the massive lengths and the really generic songwriting that makes most of the album sound tired, bored, and incredibly forced. The wild and overall pretty good instrumentation and musicianship are not at all enough to save the album from mediocrity, but just harms it more, to the point where it simply sounds pretentious and over the top.

In the end, one of the best things this album has going for are the conceptual lyrics, revolving around Eastern Religion (one of lyricist Jon Anderson's favorite topics) and big ideas such as Culture, Wisdom, and Knowledge. Anderson doesn't fail one bit in this department, and gives a touch of passion in the music, and makes it a little more entertaining. "The Revealing Science Of God" is possibly the best of the four tracks: very well structured, it manages to stay for the most part interesting, thanks to memorable melodies and great musicianship, and the fascinating lyrics. "The Remembering" however is completely excessive: if it ended after five minutes, it would have been a really good song, but unfortunately it seems to never end, showing barely any changes. "The Ancient" also seems to be quite forgettable and tiresome, but the final track has one of the strangest endings Yes has ever come up with: "Ritual" is the other interesting song of the album along with the title track. It's memorable, it has plenty of hard hitting oddities and is ambitious without being too pretentious, unlike a good chunk of the album sadly is.

An album I hoped was going to blow me away, that would redefine my concept of Progressive Rock music, however everything was way to the excess and overly ambitious. I can see people liking the album much more than I do, but after eighty minutes of music, I can't help feeling exhausted and at the same time dissatisfied.

Report this review (#633882)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans aroused in me a spirituality. In the first auditions i was really intrigued with the trascedental beauty of this album. Jon Anderson is an enlightened man, that even in the distance we may feel the guy has a different light from other people. And all members of the band members became an instrument to bring such a message to everyone. Contained in these four giant songs are all the knowledge, experience and beauty of life. The Hymn of knowledge and our eternal search for the truth of the 1st Movement, the mind's eye through the history in the 2nd, the past in 'The Ancient' and the relationship between life and soul in 'Ritual'... all the magnificent of the songs make sense if we realise what life really is.

It's not just music. It is much more than that.

Report this review (#643724)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars "What happened to this song we once knew so well..."

Tales from topographic oceans is yes most ambitious work. pretentious, but not bad. After three masterpieces in a row which is a phenomenal accomplishment, yes members gathered to create this piece of work. this is the band's most slandered work from their classic era, and pretty much represents where progressive rock got its bad reputation, and took some heavy bad criticism. Yes took a turn and decided to go somewhere else, although we already faced some long pieces before from the band, yes fans were not ready for this grand work. Instead of writing some effective 8 minutes songs like before, yes tried to experiment on very long pieces. There are 4 tracks every one clocking at about 20 minutes, which makes the album an 80 minutes work. The album was originally issued as a double vinyl, I think what caused the album to be so lenthy is the fact that if the band would trim it a little bit, that would leave a whole vinyl side empty, which wasn't acceptable!. That is why every piece is smeared on a whole side, and came out looking like it is.

Yes have made a long way since 'the yes album' and that's why this album is so different from anything we might have heard before from them. There is a lot to digest, and making it through the whole piece without sweating or wandering off is extremely exhausting even for the most dedicated yes fans. The album has a different structure than before, he flows from one part to the other with no logic sense, although some parts carried out ok, it is still inconsistant and unfocused. In a lot of places this lookes like a jon anderson solo project, but being an 80 minute work you have some instrumental parts. Of course the playing and execution is amazing and maybe only yes could have pulled it off like that.

So what we have here are ideas from here to infinity, if i could shuffle between them, the logic of the pieces would not be affected, since there is no one!!. Out goes the busy fast rocking style of previous albums like 'roundabout' ,which leaves us with a more contemplative, laid back and experimental atmosphere. Like i said this is by no means a bad album, there are some great moments included, good melodies and vocals, and good instrumentals. The band really tried hard to sew all the diiferent puzzle parts to fit the big picture, but didn't have the best success doing so.

The first part is maybe the best, with a good idea streched as possible and somehow manages to come to an end sounding ok. The second part is very tiring and inconsistant, it even tires me to describe it. The third part is good, experimental, and interesting, contain some intricate rhythm and very good musicianship even though it is slow. The forth part goes back to the first part sometimes, but add something of his own, nice overall.

I would suggest to split the album in two and listen to it separately, this way you can appreciate it more and understand it better, believe me it helps. Although the material is not as good as previous records you should still own it if you are a yes fan. 3 stars

Report this review (#644494)
Posted Friday, March 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's the true test of one allegiance to prog; see if you can sit through the entirety of TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS.

How does it compare with the rest of Yes's discography from the 1970's? Not great. It's the album where many fans thought the band went overboard in the epic writing department. Others claim it represents the peak of prog's ambitions. I simply call this a ''what could have been'', especially being bookended by CTE and RELAYER. You also have to consider the three album attack of CTE, FRAGILE, and THE YES ALBUM all coming consecutively before this. TALES is an instant letdown by comparison.

The first hour is not spectacular to sit through. Every big, long track from the previous two albums was crafted with care as if Yes knew where they were taking the song during the writing process, but they also knew how to create an edgy, punchy sound to keep the listener on their toes. ''The Revealing Science of God'', for example, is completely blase, bland, uneventful. Nothing really goes on other than some spectacular vocal moments, and there's twenty minutes of this. Had this track been about half the length, had Squire's bass been more effective and had newbie Alan White been more integrated into the track, we'd have another inarguable great Yes track (and possibly album). It's just filled to the brim with pointless recapitulating and fluff jamming.

The next two tracks get increasingly more difficult. ''Remembering'' is in the exact same boat as ''Revealing'', only there's a spot in the middle where Yes copied their own work. Seek about ten minutes into the track and tell me you haven't heard that sequence on ''Siberian Khatru''. ''The Ancient'' is almost a pure void; the doodling at the beginning is simply hard to swallow. That third epic has absolutely nothing as far as substance or meaningful depth. It sounds like a pure exercise in extended instrumental noodling. Quite forgettable.

Out of nowhere, the inspiration takes a tremendous upswing on ''Ritual''. That beginning instrumental may not be of CTE calibre, but it's enjoyable as all things. THIS is the Yes of the 70's that can make a twenty minute epic valuable and valid. The intro alone is ''sweep off my feet'' excellent, but what follows is as equally inspired harkening back to the days of THE YES ALBUM. If we excuse the percussion diversion in the third act, ''Ritual'' is near perfect; shame it's on an album far from it.

TALES would have done a better service to the public had it been a single album with only two epics. Taken for what it's worth, the true diehards of prog rock will hoist this as a pinnacle of the genre's potential, and that's fine considering that most of the music is very relaxing and meditative. But the sharpness of the band is really missing; Squire's role is reduced, Bruford is gone and the band sounds like they don't completely know where the tracks should go.

In essence, yes TALES is an album that every prog rock fan should hear (all eighty minutes of it), but it is more in the pantheon of prog excess rather than prog excellence.

Report this review (#645618)
Posted Sunday, March 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.0 stars

I absolutely love the first and fourth sides of this album. Let's have that be understood right now. If Yes would have only had those sides, this album would definitely get 5 stars.

"The Revealing Science of God" is a great, classic Yes song. I personally think that it showcases some of Steve Howe's best work, especially for gentle, jazzier stuff. Steve even throws in a bit of CTTE near the beginning of the first clam solo! The ending is fantastic, as it generally gets more hectic as it goes along.

"The Remembering". Hmm. This song really just doesn't connect with me. I prefer to skip over it. It has some nice parts, but I don't thoroughly enjoy the song from front to back. It's ok, really. Just not great. The weird keyboard part at the beginning doesn't really attract the listener, in my opinion.

"The Ancient" is a little better, but still doesn't amount up to the predecent that "The Revealing Science of God" has established. Lots of weird percussion here. Overall, better, still getting there, but not quite a great Yes song.

"Ritual" is a fantastic song. Amazing. The entire album is worth it just for this song. The vocals are whimsical and calming, and the whole band seems to return to what they were doing during the opening track. It closes the album perfectly.

This album has been highly fought over by progressive rock fans. I consider it a great album, even though the second and third sides are weak. The first and fourth sides get my highest recommendation, while the second and third ones get a "three star" rating. Hence, the averaged- out "four stars".

Report this review (#645635)
Posted Sunday, March 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is written with magic and this magic will be experienced by listening!

The Tales of Topographic Oceans is the record of Yes which fits best with the mystical landscapes on some of the Yes album covers. This music is spoiled by magic and mystical itself. It's written from a spiritual point of view and I think it really succeeded in bringing some spirit in this record. It's Yes' most restful record with lot's of harmonic melodies. It's also an interesting record because of it's uniqueness in bringing forth four side filling tracks in symphonic prog.

"Revealing Science of God" is the only song on the record that seems essential. The opening is really impressive with the vocals and keys bringing some tension which ends with some beautiful key parts. Yes' description of the song is like a flower opening; well, this opening of this track gives the right emotions for justifying such a description. This track may be the best side-filling track Yes ever made. The other tracks all have their great moments, but become a bit directionless sometimes.

The atmospheres are mystical except the folky parts on "The ancient giants under the sun". There is a good balance between avant-garde or chaotic passages and restful and harmonic passages. In this aspect this The Tales is quiet the opposite of the following Relayer, which is chaotic throughout. It's the magic in this record what makes it special; the mystical soundscapes and the restful nature.

It's hard to advise this record. I think all Yes fans should try this one. The ones with a affinity for atmospheres will like it and the ones with an affinity for the up-tempo Yes tracks will dislike it.

Report this review (#730100)
Posted Monday, April 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is structurally very much like a symphony. One must admire how the band crafts such a work, with recurring melodies intricately and subtly woven into other sections of the album. From the perspective of a prog fan, the dull or excessive moments are few and far between. The album should be listened to in its entirety for the listener to fully understand it, and they will pick up on some wonderful examples of musicianship. Aside from a few sections, the album is certainly more listenable and digestible than many other prog rock albums. Too many listeners get hung up on its reputation I believe.
Report this review (#753846)
Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars 13.5/15P.: an incredibly underrated album which is one of the few, or perhaps even the only example of large-scale progressive rock which is almost entirely successful. The little weaknesses do not lie in the concept, but rather in some minor overlengths in track three which in the end are too minor to be counted as a severe fault.

Why review an album which everyone reading these webpages already owns? I'm pretty sure that some listeners have given up on this album too quickly. I did too, but something in this album kept me listening to it over and over again, and while waiting for the few parts which I always loved a lot (most of them in the opener) I started discovering the essence of many parts which I didn't notice before.

To make it short: I am one of those prog listeners who usually hate everything which is overblown, pathetic and megalomaniac. I don't like ELP's Brain Salad Surgery, I cannot stand Rick Wakeman's solo albums at all and after all I think that the cathartic New Wave a la Byrne, Bowie and Abacab-era Genesis was the best which could ever have happened to the music scene of the late 1970s, especially comparing the unbelievably creative Talking Heads with the conservative Marillion and IQ.

From this point of view I should actually classify this album deeply into the 'dreadful'-category. But it's so different to all the narcissistic noodling of later wannabe prog bands, and that's mainly due to the combination of three factors:

1.) Absolutely stellar and catchy melodies written by Jon Anderson, set to exciting chord progressions by Steve Howe. And catchy doesn't mean that they stay in your head for many days, but you rather think 'oh, that verse is really powerful' while you're giving the album a spin; and this particular moment occurs time and time again. This album is so densely packed with great melodies and counterpoints that it doesn't ever wear out. One brief example in the full-length version of The Revealing Science of God is the romantic part at 11:42 (including tender Mellotron cello and guitar harmonics) leading into the overhanging trees chorus at 12:10 with full Mellotron strings and the jazzy rhythm guitar which reminds me a lot of Phil Miller on Matching Mole's Part of the Dance due to the charismatic vibrato effect. And Anderson's vocal melody in this passage in my opinion is by far the best one of his whole career. It's amazing how well it fits with the heavier side of his voice and how it's representative of his whole style. Regardless of all the complexity Jon Anderson, as we know from interviews, absorbed lots of Simon & Garfunkel and Beatles songs and learned a lot how to find and arrange great melodies. The nous sommes du soleil part in Ritual is actually quite close to the Moody Blues of the 1990s (think Is this Heaven?), had it not been for the weird soloing all around this chorus. And this is why I always say that this album is basically pop music; you won't understand the lyrics and you won't be able to understand how much effort the band put into the arrangement, but you can and will surely sing along, and you will know the lyrics by heart quite soon simply because of the sound of the words.

2.) Rick Wakeman plays some unusually concise keyboards. He seemingly was quite underchallenged when he recorded that album because such an album needs absolute restraint from every contributing musician; the structures and chord progressions are already too complicated to stuff them with the busy (and, admittedly, impressive) keyboard onanism of Six Wives of Henry VIII. Wakeman, always wrongly associated with an excessive use of the Hammond organ, mainly sticks to Mellotron and Moog synthesizers on this album with the occasional grand piano tinkling, betimes throwing in some pretty cool parts on his beloved RMI Electra Piano. And there's not only his standard warm Moog solo voice, but especially on the second LP and in the extended intro of The Revealing Science of God you can listen to Wakeman creating pretty atmospheric ambient sounds of filtered white noise and other interesting timbres which you'd rather expect from Kitaro or Vangelis than from the fast-fingered keyboard wizard in the glittering cape. The gurgling atonal synthesizer flickering in the drums-synth-duo of Ritual is unique in Wakeman's career, and 'unique' may gladly be interpreted positively in this context. Admittedly Patrick Moraz was the better avantgarde keyboarder, but it was Wakeman who first conceived these keyboard arrangements for this album. This time Wakeman is just part of a really tight band in which no-one particularly stands out all the way through, but only in short passages, and this is how I like him most. Just think about his glorious work with the Strawbs and his high-quality contributions to Cat Stevens, Black Sabbath or David Bowie as a studio musician. Space Oddity is better than most of his solo albums altogether.

3.) The arrangements are 100% untrepid. No-one but Yes would accompany a most monotonous and arrhythmic vocal part, as in The Remembering, with instrumental parts which stay in the same strange rhythm. At times this strange pedestrian rhythm even gets stuck on a fermata (2:14), and you think that this finally the starter of a new stanza, but nothing changes afterwards. Instead the piece walks further and further. Indeed the whole album feels like walking through a rainforest which always looks the same although, of course, it's always a new tree which you pass by. If you walk this path he first five times you think that it's all the same green, muggy, warm tangle which you wade through. But after the tenth walk you start spotting little hills, subtleties in the vegetation, borders between broad-leaved and coniferous forests, perhaps even places offering a view on the surrounding miles. If you intend to put such a walk into music, no matter from whichever Asian religion's point of view you might come, the resulting album is most probably ending up in total boredom. But this band does everything to create a really *beautiful* landscape to walk through. Every 30-60 seconds there's a little sophisticated miniature inserted in the constant flow of The Remembering, be it Rick Wakeman playing a wishful synthesizer solo on top of a silky carpet of Mellotron strings, or Anderson introducing a completely new melody which might or might not be reprised later on. The most striking one is the short relayer part foreboding the next Yes album which rocks quite hard for the means of this song. The constant element however is Steve Howe's Leslie electric guitar and Wakeman's strange pipe organ sound which is either a great synthesizer sound or a real portative just like the one David Palmer played for Jethro Tull. If you have stood through this uniformity you are rewarded with a finale not entirely unlike the one in Awaken. Ancient, on the other side, is complete mayhem. Felicitous mayhem, to be precise. Mad rhythms underneath undiscernible bass lines and free jazz guitar playing in the beginning lead into pastoral Mellotron layers, followed by Olias of Sunhillow-like tribal chanting, only to end in a baroque six minute ballad featuring Steve Howe on classical guitar plus backing vocals and Jon Anderson on lead vocals. Just like Genesis' More Fool Me mixed up with Mood for A Day. If you were a musician, and if you had a pretty delicate ballad written on acoustic guitar - would you make the listener sit through 12 minutes of tribal chantings in strange languages before? Or how would you - in the case of Ritual - combine a ballad which is completely cheesy (when regarded isolatedly) with a thunderstorm of percussion instruments without sounding like a total dabbler? I don't know how, but it does work in this case. And it worked even better live. Get the Live at QPR DVD and watch Ritual. I've never been overpowered more by such an energetic performance. Chris Squire runs around on the stage, shreds his bass guitar, vocalizes along until Patrick Moraz introduces a part in which the whole band flails around all sorts of percussion instruments, apart from Moraz who drives all of his keyboards through odd filters until Steve Howe ends this rousing mess with a gorgeous guitar solo. Squire also takes a solo in the studio version, and the tribal part is present as well, but that's just a more precise sketch of what Yes were able to develop in concert. If you've ever experienced a thunderstorm in the Austrian Alps you can at least guess where the inspiration comes from. And this, of course, wouldn't work if Alan White hadn't been an extraordinary drummer. He has deteriorated a lot over the years, at least he seems not to want to play like he did before, but this is his first studio album with Yes and he is burning here - not with the amazingly somber British jazz styling of Bill Bruford, but rather with the self-assurance and oomph of an American rock drummer.

The bonus tracks are a real enrichment. Listening to Revealing Science of God in its complete version, including the deleted ambient introduction, is worth the money alone, but the studio run-throughs are extremely interesting documents, too. They show two of the tracks in an unexpectedly naked and rough manner - incomplete lyrics, no overdubs, just a band playing on a highest niveau live in the studio. The surplus value? The ending ballad in The Ancient is performed by the whole band on electric instruments, and the staccato drums and the crunchy electric guitar give this sweet ballad an interesting industrial sound. The Revealing Science of God features combinations of different occuring motives which aren't present on the album version. The fact that you can look over the musicians' shoulders doesn't need to be mentioned in further detail.

Overall, I have to admit that this album drops down a bit halfway. Not in The Remembering, as many people think, but rather in The Ancient. It doesn't drop a lot, but it drops ostensibly around the 7 minute mark. But given that the opener is in big parts even somewhere above the 15/15-point realms and that the whole concept was incredibly courageous to conceive and perform, I'd be reluctant to give this album a 4 star rating. LP1 is, for sure, deeply situated in the 14/15-point range, but LP2 is somewhere around the 12.5-13/15. You can decide if this should be a weak five star rating or a strong four star rating, but the former is the rating which I prefer giving at the very moment - it might change in the next few months or years. Disregarding all these numerics I recommend this album to everyone interested in progressive rock music of its finest and most emotional sort - in any meaning of the word -, and those who already own this album, but always dismissed it, could maybe - if they are willing to get into this record - try it again. Imaging this album as a walk through a green rainforest helped me a lot, but since everyone has his own picture before his mind's eye it might also be different.

Report this review (#769017)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars For anyone who doesn't want to read a long review, I can say that if you are new to Yes then you should NOT listen to this album. Yes it's true that I gave this album 5 stars, but that doesn't make it easy to get into. This is the ultimate Yes album for people who cannot get enough of Yes. When I had listened quite a lot to "Fragile", taking some time to get used to the Yes sound, I moved on to "Close to the Edge" and found it to be a complete masterpiece (Fragile has masterpieces in it, but is in itself not one as a whole). I thought "the only way Close to the Edge could be better is if it was longer, I just can't get enough of it". For those familiar with Tales from Topographic Oceans (from now on known as "Tales", can't keep writing the full name ^^), you might already know how this review will continue...

So anyway, I had heard some about Tales and it was 100% bad stuff. It's too long, it's too complicated for no reason, it's got too strange/bad lyrics, it's just over the top and uninteresting. I thought, oh well why not, I'll give it a try. Now, with the other two albums it took me a couple of listens to get used to the sound. The first time I heard Tales I sunk deeper and deeper into the soundscape and in the middle of "Ritual" I was digging the song as if it was my all-time favorite. So ironically, the arguably most tiring album to get into was the easiest for me, simply because at the time of exploring it I couldn't have been more fascinated by the Yes sound. If you are not, I can't imagine you can have much interest in this album.

My greatest surprise with this album has always been Rick Wakeman's extraordinary work on it, not because he shines much more than the others but because he obviously was far less interested in the album than the others and still managed to perform with such flawless precision and dedication (at least leaving an impression he did so). I am extremely grateful that he stayed for the whole recording sessions, no other keyboardist could have done that album justice.

As for the album concept, I honestly haven't spent that much time at all researching on it or even reflecting over what Jon is trying to say with his lyrics. This is not because that is of no interest to me, lyrics and themes in music are extremely important imo. The reason is rather that I get such a strong personal reaction to the album that I don't feel that I want to research further on Jon's and the band's intentions. I love reading the little story included in the vinyl gatefold package and of course reading the wonderful lyrics, but I only think about them from my own interpretation.

The concept or lyrics are not this albums main strengths however, those are first and foremost the melodies. They are... just wow... I want to list all my favorite melodies from the album and all the incredible parts of songs where the changes in dynamics/pace are a complete blessing for the ear, but I'll let those interested find them on their own. This is NOT an album where you should "listen for that incredible keyboard solo at 17:32" or whatever. This is an album which you should just fall into. Just listen, don't think about anything and just listen. There is, for me anyway, no idea to try and follow the music with your mind when listening to this, not even after hearing it over and over again. One just has to disconnect the logical, analytic mindset during this album.

This might (and should) sound like a load of BS from a fanatic fan to you, but I am convinced that this album is not one you're supposed to try and map out in your mind, it is best left rather unexplored. Since it is so long and with so long pieces, it is hard to remember all details even after countless listens, which is one of the things that makes this album so great. Even as I listen to it now, I am still exploring the sound landscape and the concept.

As for this album being over-ambitious, I'd like to think about it in a different way. I saw an interview with Jon Anderson where he said that "the critics said that well what is the next thing Yes are going to do, put the Bible to music? And I just felt that yeah, why not? I'll show you it can be done. Stop saying it can't be done". The album is very ambitious and I personally think that it manages to hold up to itself simply because it reaches so far. If you try to do something impossible with such raging passion and dedication, in a way you reach your goal. This feeling sums up the whole album for me.

Report this review (#832511)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars What to say about this odd recording at times I absolutely love it and other times it baffles me????, So Bill Bruford decided to leave Yes to join the great Crimson King(see my reviews on that great band, haha), he was replaced by Alan White formerly of the Plastic Ono Band and John Lennon's solo stuff. So the line-up was now Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Alan. Rick was not 100% behind this project but believe me there are moments to blow your socks off on this album. Jon and Steve really loved that autobiography of that Yogi guy and they decided to make a concept album about it and the result was Tales From Topographic Oceans, they decided to take this even further than Close To The Edge it's all epics on this record nothing short of 18 minutes here, but do the epics translate over to great, well most are on this album in my opinion I'll have to dissect it for you as I go along, I think this album has elements of what I define as the best and worst moments of Prog Rock. I will talk about these epics in a dissected manner, I love the album cover it goes with the album and the visuals it created(more of that great and legendary Roger Dean art work!!!!!)

Here is the track listing for this wanker of an album:

1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn- I really love when this song gets going though it takes a while with them babbling on about the dawn of light, it's clearly well thought out and well rehearsed, Alan brings a different approach to the drums than Bill Bruford but it's still good, this song goes through many mood changes it's sounds rather happy at times then it strikes and its sounds evil(and I love evil, haha), I love this song it's Yes taking you to the heavens with it, you must be very attentive when listening to this album or else you won't get it at all, it's a very complex first part of Tales From Topographic Oceans, it is yet another spiritual experience from this great and poignant band 10/10

2. The Remembering - High The Memory- I also love this song quite a bit even though for some it takes a while to get going I prefer the slow parts to it because they are rather poignant and emotional it makes me think of life and how fragile we really are as human beings, it's really good and when it gets going, it's a piece for the ages "we relive in seagull's pages" (chills!!!!), song is sort of like a merry -go round or roundabout(haha get it) it goes through the slow parts then picks up then goes to the sort of poppy "school gates remind of us of our class" to the folky "we relive in seagull's pages" to the "relayer" and back again, it's quite brainy actually and well thought-out. I love this song, listen for Chris Squire and his melodic bass playing matching with the vocals and the melody of the song early on in the piece, it's pure genius( wink wink!!).10/10

3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun - This piece is the one on the album is the one that displays everything wrong with Prog Rock it's just got some gibberish with a few good moments in between with a little guitar reprisal of Siberian Khatru( I thought that was kind of neat!!), the Leaves of Green passage saves this from being a disaster, I love that legendary acoustic sound from Steve Howe( I love it!!!!!), with all that in mind this piece is still worth a listen and it deserves some love for trying to be something different. 8/10

4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil- This song has become tradition for me when I come back home from School I love the "going home" part but I will go into detail a little later here. Would you take a listen to that Close To The Edge melody reprisal it's perhaps a tinny bit too clever. I will need to talk about this piece now, It starts off rather legendary and it creates that atmosphere immediately, during those first few verses I feel like I'm listening to the Beatles only better(shocker!!!), I love how happy it sounds, "dadada"(you know what I mean), then there's a great solo from Steve before a fantastic drum solo by Alan White which leads back to Steve and his poignant little reprisal of earlier in the song "We love when we play". I want to sing this part because it ends the concept album with a bang. Here are the lyrics:

"Hold me my love, hold me today, call me round Travel we say, wander we choose love tune Lay upon me, hold me around lasting hours We love when we play We hear a sound and alter our returning We drift the shadows and course our way back home Flying home, going home Look me my love, sentences move dancing away We join, we receive As our song memories long hope in away Nous sommes du soleil Hold me around lasting hours We love when we play Nous sommes du soleil Nous sommes du soleil Nous sommes du soleil Nous sommes du soleil"

Then we hear that bone chilling guitar solo by Steve Howe to end the album(I think he's a musical madman, hahahaha). This might be my very favorite Yes song(but I have many of them, haha). I have a story about this song that you guys might like, Here it is: I was going back home for my Thanksgiving holiday break after a painstaking few weeks at my University, I took the train back home listening to this record then I heard the "going home" part right on the train ride home and the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand then of course that solo, you have to remember that I've been away from home for a while and then to go back home it created that mood of 'Wow, this is really happening, it felt surreal" I have to give the song a perfect 10/10

Overall, I find this album to be yet another spiritual experience for the four pieces it's an overall 38/40 which out of 10 equates to 9.5 out of 10. the last song is making me wanna vote it 5 stars, it's just so memorable, that I'll rate it a 5 stars. Peace out!!!

Report this review (#890868)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars After the ambitious and successful "Close to the Edge", 1972, and its "live" spin-off (and also quiet a display) "Yessongs", 1973, it was a mystery to me what could follow next. After all, that work CTTE was the 5th studio project at the time. In prog those days that was like an almost complete discography.

So what came next was this over-ambitious 4 sided album with my favorite Roger Dean YES art-cover, which went by the name of "Tales from Topographic Oceans", 1973. Following the well known route of downfall after a precedent masterpiece, they actually threw everything into the salad bowl and sweated every drop of inspiration that still was left, packaged it beautifully and geniusly, and threw it to us Yes followers.

Well my expectations far exceeded the real thing. I never without forcing myself have being able to listen to the whole project in one sitting. (To be impartial, this happens to me often with double albums.) So self-declared guilty of this crime, this album is over-worked for peanuts.

By then nobody doubted their virtuous skilled talents as performers. Yes! ..That was crystal clear! (if doubts existed you could refer to the "Yessongs" 3 album set.) So, I myself knew they were top performers. Second excess I consider quiet a downer is the abuse of "exotic" mixtures without more excuse than using this as a posture of being instantly multi-cultural related...

If you are looking for one of the best "Classic to Baroque" downfalls this is one hell of an example. The real miracle of Yes was "Relayer" which raised from these ashes.

***3, " I thought this release was the end of Yes " , PA stars... (which by the way was not that far.)

Report this review (#890887)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've had a copy of Tales from Topographic Oceans essentially since I began listening to progressive rock about eight or so years ago. It was only recently however that I've finally been able to nail down my opinion of this album. It is one that I enjoy greatly and listen to on a fairly regular basis. I've always felt though, that it is in some way imperfect and have always vacillated in the face of giving it a five.

It was only in contemplating why I only gave the album I listen to the most (Cerulean Blue by Rain, odd choice I know) a four out of five that I came to the proper conclusion. Both albums are beautiful, soulful and incredibly well imagined, but both are so rich that they are diminished by their respective creators' largess. At times, when the mood is right, this album is certainly a five. From outside the distorting influence of audiophilic euphoria however, I believe a four is ultimately more appropriate. On that note, I'll leave you with a far more eloquent expression on additive subtraction.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

-Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Report this review (#899101)
Posted Thursday, January 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tales From Topographic Oceans is the most polarizing work ever done by the classic Yes lineup. Even though Bruford had left during the previous tour, having decided that he had gone as far as he could go within the Yes scope, his replacement, Alan White does a fine job at the drum set. Since taking over, White has continued through all the incarnations of Yes, even being joined by Bruford on the Union album.

But Tales, in my opinion, is the poster child for bloated, bombastic, and pompous prog music. It's not as bad as ELP's Love Beach (fortunately most things aren't THAT bad), but it definately not the class of the Yes pantheon.

The only piece that I don't consider overblown and/or boring is Ritual, which, if judiciously edited, could have been a stellar track. The rest of the album I'll listen to, then forget immediately what I've heard.

Get pretty much any other Yes album (except Open You Eyes) before you get this one - they are all better. And in some cases, MUCH better.

Report this review (#913317)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the album that divides the "sorta prog fans" form the "true believers". I will say that I think CTTE is ever so slightly better, but CTTE is not a double album or nearly so daring. This is a prog album for the faithful, by the best prog band at their height of power.

What some critics call excess, or pretentious, I call daring, groundbreaking, complex, and emotionally heart-wrenching. This album is 120 minutes of demanding listening experience that rewards the faithful in ways no other prog album ever has.

I have been listening to this album for 33 years and I still find new musical expressions to marvel at. To say this album rewards multiple listenings is a gross understatement, and I'm not sure anyone can truly "get" this album unless they have listened to it for years. It's an experience that grows with you. This may truly be the most PROG album ever. I have always been suspect of those who claimed to be prog fans, but dismissed this album. This is the litmus test, as far as I'm concerned. GET IT.

Report this review (#922912)
Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Triumphant.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is perhaps one of the more controversial prog albums, and for good reason. Some loathe it, some love it. I fall into the second category. I find the album to be a triumphant work of art from tip to toe. This album is divided into four movements, each taking up their own side on one of the two discs. Each of the four movements has it's own unique characters, and each movement explores different motifs while developing those that have come before. Not only does "Tales" have an incredible contrast in musical styles, but it also has a very large range of emotions that are displayed throughout the whole two discs. Each movement is perfectly placed, and the album is brilliantly formatted.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is a concept album based upon Jon Anderson's interpretation of four Shastric scriptures from Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi". Many deem this concept to be an overblown and self indulgent move from Jon Anderson, but Yes really had nothing to lose after releasing the universally acclaimed "Close to the Edge", and new ideas were needed in order to create an album that was to be in any way as good as its predecessor. The concept alone is enough to make some people roll their eyes, but Jon proved it to be successful by creating Yes' strongest and most spiritual lyrics. The concept alone has gained notoriety among critics and fans, and tales of the infamous "curry incident" have long since been shared, in both fondness and in mocking.

I think that an ocean is the greatest non-musical comparison that I can make with this album. The music moves in waves of sound, that create immersive and dreamy atmospheres. Each movement creates an atmosphere that follows the next, like a musical journey. What makes "Close to the Edge" so special is that the emphasis of the music is on the atmosphere that it creates rather than the technical capability of each of its talented contributing musicians. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" takes this to an almost dramatic new level. At times I feel that the atmosphere is so exaggerated that it almost completely strips parts of the album of musical structure, and this is the point when you know that you have moved your art to a point that is further than the its literal nature.

"Disjointed but with purpose..." this line is a great description of this album, as people seem to misunderstand it's raw and oceanic nature, particularly when compared to the immaculate "Close to the Edge". But even with its flaws, "Tales" is an incredibly immersive musical experience. The main gripe that people have about this album is it's length. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" certainly has an incredibly long play time, and being a concept album also means that it demands patience. While I understand that this album is incredibly long, which may make it hard for certain people to follow, I fail to see how this makes it a bad album. The whole point of "Tales From Topographic Oceans" was to explore new territory; musically, lyrically, spiritually and conceptually. And from the mystical and haunting "High the Memory" to the crunchy and adventurous "The Ancients", I fail to see any lack of surprises.

The album begins with "Revealing the Science of God". In my opinion, this track is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. What a climatic composition. A wide variety of emotions are communicated musically through this composition, and each of them is positive. The piece is beautifully formatted, with a beautiful build in the beginning, ethereal passages in the middle, and a climatic ending that bring the piece to an incredible finish. I cannot express my love for this track in words.

"The Remembering" is an absolutely incredible composition. This is one of Yes' most ambient pieces of music. Many people are bored by the lengthiness of this movement, as there is very little to please impatient ears. The movement relies heavily on textures and ambient atmospheres to communicate its ideas, and this is something that loses many impatient listeners. The melody that comes in at around 8 minutes is one of the most subtly powerful musical moments that I have ever experienced. Another incredible movement.

"The Ancients" follows the previous two movements in the perfect direction. This piece is somewhat similar to "The Gates of Delirium", with a slightly King Crimson edge. While this piece continues the etheric and oceanic dreaminess of "The Remembering", it adds a raw and powerful edginess that really pulls the album together. I absolutely love this movement. There is a bewildering sense of dreaminess that is created through the intertwining section, from the menacing stabs in the band to the mystical chants of Jon Anderson. Some people say that they don't understand the experimentation of this movement, but I know that I understand all that I need to fully enjoy and immerse myself within the complex atmospheres that are created here. This movement does not disappoint me in the slightest.

"Ritual" is an excellent end to the album. The upbeat introduction has a folky melody that creates a joyous atmosphere, which is pleasing to the ear after the avante-garde "The Ancients". Soon after, we begin to see some of the previous motifs from the album (and one from "Close to the Edge") revisited in Steve Howe's dreamy guitar solo. The last really obvious motif is then introduced; the sentimental "Nous Sommes Du Soleil". This movement bring the album to a fitting climax, both sentimental and mysterious.

It is practically impossible to follow up a masterpiece like "Close to the Edge" without disappointing a great amount of fans. It has rarely been done. But in my opinion, this was the perfect way to do it. Yes could not keep releasing consecutive album that sound identical to "Close to the Edge". And if they did, "Close to the Edge" would not be such a treat.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is one of my favourite Yes albums, and one of my all time favourite prog albums. There is something deeply immersive and very emotional about this album, but it takes a patient listener to unlock all the secrets that are hidden within this masterwork. I do not expect that everybody will understand this album, but I think that this is an essential listen, and one of the most colourful and diverse musical experiences that this wonderful earth has to offer.

Report this review (#939622)
Posted Friday, April 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars The most controversial album of the band, this double album has been remixed by Steven Wilson in 5.1 and stereo. So, it's the best sounding source we can have of the album. This album has never been acclaim by all the critics and Rick Wakeman didn't like the direction the band was going. Why? It was inspired by Jon Anderson reading of an esoteric book of a Yogi and he wanted to make 4 epics of this. The music is intriguing, sometimes disconcerting with parts of songs that seems to not flowing naturally together. But at the same times, we can hear some brilliant passages. The band especially Steve Howe and Jon Anderson were proud of this album and felt that it was a necessary step into the band's career. While I am not the best judge to hear a big change in quality sound for the stereo mixes of Wilson, the 5.1 mixes are where we can hear a wide difference because of the nice separation of the instruments in each speaker. This is the main reason to buy this. Also, another different live version of Ritual can also be heard because it seems that this was taken from Steve Howe's sound mix, the guitar is more upfront than the original studio version.
Report this review (#951554)
Posted Monday, April 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars After the mega succesful Close tot he edge, Yes embarked on their most ambitious work they ever done, but in same time one of their most unintresting ones, to say the least. Tales from the topographic ocean from 1973 caught Yes in a love/hate zone, to some fans this was absolutly their most ambitious album they ever done so far then and of course they really gone with the band vision, some said this is almost a disater after marvelous Close to the edge and for that resone almost hate it, to me is something in between, definetly I don't hate it but for sure I don't love it either. A double album consisting only of 4 pieces, one piece on each face of the vinyl or 2 on one CD now, this album is definatly their most excentric , elaborated, pretentious, cerebral and religious work Yes ever done in their entire career. To my ears the first piece The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn is by far the best of this album. 20 min of pure magic, some of the best Yes moments are to be found here in this tune, top notch musicianship, the bass of Mr. Squire is absolutly not on this earth here, impressive bass lines, some chops are simply complex as can be, the druming of the new member Alan White is great, the Steve Howe guitar is complictaed and Wakeman is one the bariccades and Andersone done some of the his most beautiful vocal lines he ever written and sing so far. To me is a a fairly good towards solid album, the rest of the 3 pieces , while are ok most of the time, not have that special magic going on of previous albums, and in places they reach so far with the progressive arrangements, that sometimes they gone to far even for the usual prog listner. To me this album is one of the most progressive, to progressive in many parts albums ever written, in a the true sens of the word, meaning literaly speaking this is to progressive for my taste, if is possible something like that Tales from the topografic ocean really done it. 3 - 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#991652)
Posted Thursday, July 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I am totally baffled by this album.

Not a born YES fan, "Relayer" and "Yessongs" broke the ice with me back then. To the point of deep appreciation and further interest in the band's works.

Well, this album though served as a stumbling block. I just could not get into it for anything. I tried and tried, over and over again without success. I even went into extremes by running a hot bath and listening to the whole album from the first to the last note on my reel-to-reel. At least on five separate occasions. Nope, it didn't do a thing for me, but left me bored senseless - bar the odd passage.

Fast forward by at least 40 years. The remastered and extended version has recently come my way. Just out of curiosity and fairness, I gave that a spin, expecting to retire it for good - just out of my way. To my great surprise, I found it quite engaging and enjoyable, pretty much on par with their works of that era. I can't explain, perhaps my old LP was of low audio quality?

Dunno, but I like it now.

Report this review (#1036730)
Posted Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars This is one of if not THE most divisive album in prog history. This double album that followed CLOSE TO THE EDGE had the unfortunate problem of being compared to the last album (another masterpiece) and being panned by critics (but not universally so) and Rick Wakeman himself who left the band afterwards because of it.

The concept is of a magnanimous nature. It is based on Jon Anderson's interpretation of four classes (called shastras) of Hindi scripture. A concept that allowed the band to build huge sprawling tracks around. After several albums of increasing timespans for the tracks, YES decided to go for broke on this one, recording only 4 tracks and none under 18-minutes long. The consequences of building this symphonic prog behemoth resulted in many fans, who were used to instant gratification with YES' music, bewildered and unsure what to make of the whole thing.

It is a shame, because I consider this one of the best prog albums in all of history. This is my favorite YES album, not by a long shot but it sits right up there with all the other masterpieces that bookend it. The secret to unlocking the inaccessibility of this album is not one, not two, not three listens but a committed return to it. I have been listening to this since the 90s and I still hear new things. The nature of the music is like that of the religious dogma it is based on, it is a practice, a ritual and it's certainly not easy listening. For those who continue to listen to this album, they will find great pleasure and it only gets more cohesive and meaningful over time. For those who do not have it in them to commit the time to really understand this release, it might be better just to avoid it altogether.

Pretentious? Maybe. Enjoyable? Definately!

Report this review (#1071234)
Posted Sunday, November 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars A colossal failure or progressive rock masterpiece? Well kind of both. Not an album that will produce immediate praise and i think that is what causes this album to get panned.

When Yes came out with Close To The Edge, they were on a major roll. Three incredibly successful and thoroughly enjoyable albums from '71 through 72. Ending triumphantly with the lavishly packaged triple album live set Yessongs. The music was tight, funky at times, it rocked, was accessible, tuneful and their creativity seemed endless.

Then came Tales... If any of you remember the 70's the live album usually signaled the beginning of the end or a radical change in style. This album marked a significant shift in Yes for better or for worse.

TFTO was a huge ambitious project that Fragile and especially Close To The Edge hinted towards. The music slowed down, the rock had practically vanished, BRUFORD WAS GONE and the production quality took a step back. Also there was Jon Anderson on some kind of crazy spiritual quest. Where Close To the Edge described a spiritual quest, Tales gave a very big detailed novel of one. Anderson who was bent on creating something massive recently went through a spiritual awakening from reading some Eastern spiritual guide. Paramahansa's Autobiography of a Yogi. Yes had officially "weirded out." (Remember that term?!)

But what we did get was four epics that admittedly was a big let down for me at first. But after many listens it really started to reveal an amazing piece of work of nearly limitless depth.

I will admit that the whole concept comes across extremely pretentious (ya think!) but is actually an earnest work of creativity. What Yes accomplishes is some amazing atmospheres, great melodies, great solos from everyone and a certain mystique. Steve Howe's composition skills and guitar work take a huge leap. Alan White's drums have the listener missing the sharp snap and chops of Bruford BUT his skills keeping a massive undertaking like Tales grounded and running smoothly must not be undermined. You can throw anything at Mr. White and he can make it work effortlessly. Rick Wakeman does a good job with his solos and textures even though he hated it. Chris Squire still finds a way to incorporate his rhythmic and simultaneous melodic bass playing and even treats us to a nice solo on Ritual and Anderson leads this behemoth with his angelic voice and barely comprehensible lyrics..

Do not start with this album and don't get it if you have a short attention span or no patience. If you like long epic songs that stir the soul and like to have a nice long solitary listening experiences, I guarantee you'll appreciate this work.

Report this review (#1073993)
Posted Friday, November 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I entirely agree with the PA menber SILLY PUPPY in their review #1071234 about "Tales from Topographic Oceans" when he says "This double album that followed CLOSE TO THE EDGE had the unfortunate problem of being compared to the last album " and I want to add some other considerations: starting by "THE YES ALBUM" and "FRAGILE" also are in my opinion truly masterpieces, another point to consideration is "Tales ..." as the first studio album from YES without Bill Brufford replaced by Alan White (ex Plastic-Ono Band) a fact which make some purists make some reservations due the difference between Brufford's more "jazzy" style and White's most "rocker" approach ( in my point of view, perfectly fitting in YES musical context, including the "feat" of replace Brufford during Yessongs Tour). About the album, the mystic theme of lyrics and of musical landscapes make TFTO a magical album and in the track 1 "The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn" is a "whole band theme" with a slightly detach by the initial chorus counterpoint in a ascendent flow and the final eclosion in one of more recognized overture theme from YES a very beautiful track. The track 2 "The Remembering - High The Memory" is Wakeman's keyboard prominence track, although is "precious" some acoustic/electric guitar and bass (this last in the middle theme "Relayer..."). The track 3 is Howe's moment and the highlights goes to magistral "Leaves of Green" ... simply incomparable - one of masterpieces from acoustic guitar solo in all progressive rock story. The track 4 "Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil" as Squire/White particular show ... between the best moments of the track I can cite the "fuzzed" Squire's bass solo, the percussion movement and the conclusion revisiting the first track theme. My rate is... without a trace of doubt is 5 stars !!!
Report this review (#1075019)
Posted Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars An ambitious album to say the least. Four songs that last about 20 minutes each. You will find great YES material in between lots of filler. If this were a single album, it would work better. The 2 songs I would choose to make it a single album would be "The Revealing Science Of God: Dance Of The Dawn" and "Ritual: Nous Sommes Du Soleil".

This album is often the main subject of abuse in the prog world. It is unfairly criticized for being representative of everything that is overblown and self indulgent about progressive rock. As it is a double album, it requires patience to sit through, but good music can be found here.

Parts of it could have been left out. I actually quite like "The Remembering: High The Memory", although it would have benefitted from less repetition. "The Ancient: Giants Under The Sun" is the only one that seems to meander to me. Check out Relayer for a shorter and more cohesive record.

Report this review (#1091634)
Posted Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars I am not going to give a history of the album etc because it's been covered amongst all the other reviews, but I want to give my opinion on an album which I feel is poor to say the least!

I recently bought the yes albums box-set which is inclusive of all studio albums until Big Generator, and after being blessed with a reasonable journey time to work I have been listening to them back to back for the past week. After enjoying the masterpiece that is 'Close to the Edge' I was desperate to get the next disc in because I have not heard it before. To say it disappointed is an understatement. A mish-mash of nothingness, totally forgettable, and what's more two whole cd's of it! It is nothing but a car crash of sounds that result in rare moments of tune and a load of nothing inbetween.

If the star rating represented how 'Prog' an album is then I guess this would be 5 stars - but if it represents how good I think it is then I would have to give it a 1 star, just for the nice cover art. This album is unmemorable and unlistenable beyond 20 minutes. I am a prog fan who listens to the likes of Crimson and Zappa almost daily, so I am perfectly capable of getting my head around complicated stuff. This left me shellshocked though :0)


I have amended my original review of this album after receiving some emails from fellow collaborators telling me their thoughts on the album etc. I have to say it is most refreshing to hear such pleasant and constructive responses compared to other forums I have experienced in the past. It is great to know all opinions are treated as just that.

My original post ended by saying that every band occasionally lets out a turd. Well I guess I was forgetting the other saying that "one man's turd is another man's treasure".

Report this review (#1134516)
Posted Thursday, February 20, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I hate to straddle the fence of this incredibly divisive, love-it-or-hate-it album, but 3 stars is the only thing that fits.

The legend of TFTO is that, while on the CTTE tour, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had a slumber party where they stayed up all night writing the outline for what would become this album. As magical as that sounds, here's the problem: it sounds like Steve wrote all his guitar parts in one night. That's because more than half of his contributions here are noodled.

Besides track 2, the last part of track 3, and a few melodies on track 4, Steve's guitar lines sound completely improvisational. Maybe that's just my untrained ear talking, but all in all, the guitar does nothing overall for the sound. I almost feel bad for the other musicians, turned down in the mix, waiting patiently for Steve to wank through these songs with no concern for what the other instruments are doing. The guitar indulgences are made accentuated by the fact that Rick Wakeman provides little more than uninspired mellotron background sound, Chris Squire's bass is turned way down and robbed of its elemental power, and Bill Bruford has been replaced by the inferior (but no slouch) Alan White. Furthermore, the album has a terrible production and shrill guitar tone throughout, which almost completely ruins this version the 4th track, Ritual.

Not to diminish my reputation as a life-long progger, but the songs here are just too dang long. Don't read me wrong, folks, there ain't nothing wrong with a twenty minute tune here and there, but the quality of the material here does not justify the length. The first track starts amazingly, goes strong for about ten minutes, and then dissolves into boring interlude tedium which really fails to excite. A big let down over CTTE's title track. Track 2 its much better, but still suffers from too many interludes as the band tries to pad out the space and fill up a double LP. Track 3 suffers from Steve's atrocious experiments in avant-garde, which go on about 8 minutes longer than necessary.

So why am I giving this album a generous 3 stars? Here's why. 2 of the songs work real well. Track 2 is an awesome and completely original hippy-ish tune that you can easily get lost in for 20 whole minutes. Track 4 is also incredible, or at least it would have been if it had been played much faster and had better production (the live version on Yesshows is far superior!!!). Parts of 1 and 3 are very good, but they are scattered between boring interludes and you unfortunately cannot digest those numbers as a whole.

Bottom Line - if Yes had exercised a little self-control and refined these songs to the 10-15 minute pieces they deserve to be, we would have had a excellent single LP. After that, if the production and the guitar tone had been worked on a little better, this could almost be a 5- star album like CTTE. Unfortunately, that is not what we get. Take this album for what it is - an interesting, somewhat failed experiment in the Yes catalog. Do not expect a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1167828)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is going to be my first review here in progarchives, so I have chosen to talk a bit about this album, which seems to be one of the most debated works in all progressive rock history.

When I started in the vast world of prog, at first I guided myself only with the best rated works on this site, so you can bet I didn't care a lot about this 3,87 album, but I eventually decided to give it a try.

Well, this was one of my best music experiences ever. I won't review all four songs, because I think this album should be listened as one lenghty, complex, and, mainly, emotional song rather than a group of pieces with a small relationship between them.

This song, for me, doesn't "speak" to me in a prog sense (weird chords, constant changes in structure and tempo) but in a music one. IMHO, this is a gorgeous piece of art, Steve's punching guitar, Rick's surrounding keyboards and Jon's voice best than ever make it an inspired album, that cannot be bad.

I really like to listen to it in a silent ambient, preferably at night, so that I can enjoy its inner beauty more deeply.

Report this review (#1173302)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Even Jon Anderson has claimed that in digital times "Tales?" would be only about 60 minutes in one CD if they had recorded it now, this masterpiece is incredibly creative in every of his four suites and 80 minutes long. The first two have some of the most pastoral passages in Yes music. The third may be (delightfully) odd at times, but perhaps it was the reaction to the runaway of Bill Bruford with King Crimson, just like saying, "Yes is not enough adventurous for you, even if we've just recorded 'Close to the Edge'? You want challenges with King Crimson? Ok, dig this one?" But one cannot imagine what Yes was yet to achieve with "Relayer" without the unique "The Ancient". And the fourth one, "Ritual", has every special ingredient that has made Yes one of the best prog bands in the known Universe? In a way, every Yes record (at least their classic period from "The Yes Album" until "Going for the One") planted the seeds for the next one. You have dreamy melodies, challenging instrumental passages, superb musicianship. But also plenty of surprises and MAGIC that grows with every listen. "Tales?" is not only a phenomenal record, it's a very pleasant voyage into the depths of spiritual music.
Report this review (#1284879)
Posted Saturday, September 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars By far the most ambitious of the albums in Yes's discography is Tales From Topographic Oceans, so it'd be no surprise to many that it's also one of the most controversial albums among Yes fans. After all, TfTO was the the peak of the band's trend that went towards and away from a focus on longer songwriting, and boy were the songs on TfTO long. The album itself harbors four lengthy "songs", (It would be more accurate to refer to them as suites), three of which surpass 20 minutes; a duration rivaled only by "The Gates Of Delirium", off of the 1974 release, "Relayer", and "The Solution", off of the 1997 release, "Open Your Eyes". The length of these tracks alone is intimidating enough to dissuade many a person from giving the album a listen, but for those brave enough to venture into this album you are likely to walk away thinking one of two things: 1) TfTO was a spectacular journey through the world that is the music of yes, or 2) TfTO was a load of bullcrap, why did I waste my time listening to an hour and 20 minutes of filler? Personally, I believe both to have valid points on the album, yet neither do justice when describing the album as a whole. So, in order to fully illustrate my point of view we must take a look at each individual track.

The Revealing Science of God / Dance of the Dawn is one of the three 20 minute tracks I mentioned earlier, clocking in at 22 minutes and 23 seconds. However, on most releases the track is only 20 minutes and 25 seconds long, as the version I own restores the original opening for the track. The "restored" opening is nothing spectacular, it consists simply of soft keyboard part providing a mystical feel to the beginning of the track. Now we get to the part where things get interesting. After the two minute "restored intro", we get to the original intro which features an interesting vocal arrangement by Anderson accompanied by Howe and Squire. Without a doubt, this is my favorite part of the track. Once we've passed by the intro we enter into the body of the song, which isn't terribly interesting instrumentally early on. It is, however, a very pretty sounding track which for me makes up for some of the duller moments, but not enough to increase my over-all favor of this track. Which is rather odd, considering that I normally have high favor for pretty, melodic tracks but when the same melodic idea is essentially being repeated with the occasional minor variant from the four minute mark to the 12 minute mark, it begins to feel very tired. Which is a shame really, the early melody is rather beautiful, but because of the sheer length I usually just end up skipping over the majority of it. Luckily around the 13 minute mark we actually move on to something new. In contrast to the softer, more melodic section discussed earlier, this section features a more intricate instrumental section that really feel more like a series of solos split by another soft vocal oriented section. This is followed by yet another softer vocal section with a clear focus on the vocals, though this section quickly turns more interesting as it is the finale of the track. For the most part the finale is more akin to the vocal intro, as it features Anderson alone at the start of the end and progressively increacing focus on more of a vocal ensemble by bringing Howe and Squire's vocals into the foreground along with Anderson's, over-all making for a pretty satisfying finale.

When I complained about the repetition in "The Revealing Science of God", it's nothing compared to the repetition in The Remembering / High the Memory. Which, Clocking in at 20 minutes and 39 seconds, is the 3rd longest track on the album, (2nd longest on the original version of the release). The track starts simple enough, with a happy sounding keyboard part introducing to into "The Remembering". Sadly, the keyboard is short lived, as the track soon goes back to the putting the vocals in the foreground and forcing the instruments to play second fiddle to the vocals. Don't get me wrong, the vocal part is very pretty, (however, not as pretty as those featured in "The Revealing Science of God"), but personally I'd like it if they actually did something a bit different, something that doesn't make it sound like it's attempting to copy the same formula as the track before it. Thankfully, you don't have to wait to long for that, because at about six minutes in we finally reach some variation. The next part is a beautiful little section that does an excellent job of balancing vocals and instruments with neither really overpowering the other, and instead working together to create a beautiful tune. It always reminds me of the fun children have when they're running around playing without a single care in their minds. The section is rather short, (thank god, It would be awful if I would come to hate that section), and quickly moves on to a quiet keyboard feature. Then before you know it we're back to vocals, similar to before, yet different. This time the melody is still rather up-beat, however this time the tempo has been upped and features a guitar instead of keyboards. Once again, this section is rather short lived and we're back to another keyboard solo, and as you may have noticed, this will become a thing for the rest of the track. While I prefer the repeating the same basic melody in different ways over the repetition I talked about in the last track, it does get tiring to have to keyboards being featured all the time, at least in the last track they gave the guitars some moments to shine, but throughout this track they mostly just provide support for the vocals and keyboards as opposed to bringing in musical ideas of their own, and while that is not always a bad thing, when you're writing a song as long as the ones featured in this album that sort of songwriting just leaves so much to be desired. But enough of my whining, and back to the track. Upon reaching the 15 minute mark, we're pretty much back to what it sounded like back when we were six minutes into the song. And then after being "treated" to yet another keyboard solo after that, we get another vocal part. Though this time you're in for a surprise, because the vocal part from the start of the track has come back to pay us a visit, and this time with passion! After that we get to the outro, a keyboard part similar to the one around four to five minutes into the track. Which really didn't strike me as an ending, as I said, It was pretty much an exact copy of the keyboard part from earlier in the track, which just made me think that we were going to start back up from the 6 minute mark.

Finally, we get to the 2nd half of the album, we've endured 2 repetitive, overly saturated tracks and now we're here, The Ancient / Giants Under the Sun. Now, the end half of the album has always been the most enjoyable on my part, as it seemed clear to me that they saved the best for last. Clocking in at 18 minutes and 36 seconds, The Ancient is the shortest track found on the TfTO album, and as you might expect, more to the point than any of the others. This track is also the most mystical sounding of all the tracks, especially with Alan White leading the way into the track. To me that percussion intro really puts the ancient into "The Ancient". But the percussion doesn't stop there, Mr. White is predominantly featured throughout the track, possibly making "The Ancient" one of the most percussion heavy tracks in Yes's repertoire. In fact the track is a very instrumental oriented one, featuring minimal vocals throughout the first half. Also featured alongside the percussion is are dominant guitar parts throughout, and Mellotron, an instrument rarely found in any Yes albums, But nowhere would it be more fitting than this track, as it only helps to further build up the mystic sound of this song. When I first went into this song, I had been expecting more filler, but this track was a welcome surprise. The instrumental work featured throughout the track is seldom repetitive and instead makes for quite an interesting listen. The percussion has a very primitive or tribal feel to it, and the guitars are wild and free, never repeating the same ideas more than once. Then once we're done with our tribal fantasies, we move on to something completely different 12 minutes in. While it may seem odd at first, the transition from the eccentric instrumentation of the past 12 minutes to a calm acoustic guitar feature actually feels rather natural. Once we get comfortable with the acoustic arrangement, Anderson decides to join in with some deep, philosophical thoughts. With the entry of the vocals a contrast between the primal first 12 minutes and the calm and intellectual final six minutes is clearly established. "The Ancient" made for a refreshing listen after drying up in the desert of the first half, and just in time for our last track too.

As we near the end of our journey through TfTO, we reach Ritual / Nous Sommes Du Soleil, a track that blends many of the ideas featured in the first three tracks into one final musical effort. Clocking in at 21 minutes and 33 seconds, it is the longest track on the original release, (the second longest on the version I own). As for a finale to our long journey, Ritual rises up to the challenge and excels past expectations. If you do not know why out of all the songs from TfTO that were to be a part of Yes's live repertoire, they'd pick Ritual, it becomes clear when you listen to the album. We start things off with an intro reminiscent to that of the beginning of "Roundabout" except with accompaniment from Howe. The following instrumental section is a stunning blend of guitar and keyboards mixing together to create true beauty in the form of sound. Unlike earlier tracks, Ritual wastes no time lingering on the same melody for minutes on end, and before you know it you're onto Anderson's traditional practice of doing a more choral style vocal technique, (as far as performing a vocal part without saying any actual words), to create an upbeat instrumental-ish section. Then before you know it, we're into the vocals, the emotion in the vocals is evident and rivals the emotion felt in the guitar solo at the start of the track. The vocals do a great job of blending in with the instrumentals, neither overpowering the other but rather providing a nice compliment to each-other. Another positive I have about this section is how varying the vocal performance is in this section, never stretching out a particular idea to long, and instead Anderson, Howe and Squire's vocals blending together, shifting around to several different ideas each being more emotional and of greater magnitude than the last is what makes the vocal performance a step above the other tracks. Then as the Vocals reach their peak, it all gets quiet, as if to let something through, and come through it will. Soon after the vocals cease the second instrumental section begins, and it comes in hard with White, Howe and Squire playing with such great power, yet still managing to create a sense of beauty in the music, making it, In my opinion, one of the greatest Yes solos throughout any of their albums. Then as Howe's guitar reaches it's wild conclusion, White takes charge. Moving into a percussion solo akin to his performance in "The Ancient", and before long Wakeman joins in as well, backing up White with his Minimoog and Mellotron to further the similarities to the previous track. Then as the chaos subsides, the emotional "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" emerges. This section, consists of soft and emotional vocals by Anderson, as well as beautifu guitar and piano accompaniment, (with some subtle use of acoustic guitar). You couldn't ask for a much better conclusion to an emotional of a song as Ritual, the elegance of the music and the soothing qualities fill me with a sensation of love. Though after that section ends there is still another minute of instrumental work, (mostly featuring guitar), to close out the track which I felt to be rather unnecessary, as "Nous Sommes Du Soleil" would make a satisfying enough ending, but hey, it's fine like that I guess...

While Tales From Topographic Oceans has it's ups and downs, over-all it is definitely worth checking out for any Yes fan. Though, due to all the issues that I had with the first two tracks you might think that I would have rated it lower than four stars. Well, normally you'd be correct, but while there is a lot of filler there are still many excellent melodic concepts worth checking out on the first two tracks that honestly makes them that makes the whole album worth rating at least four stars. However, The first three tracks personally would have worked much better shortened and/or chopped up into shorter tracks, but that idea is nothing new really. But don't just take the word of a biased fanboy like me, all I can do is give suggestions. Your opinion could be completely different from mine, but if I influenced you to give it a listen, then I know my review was a success.

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Posted Wednesday, December 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
2 stars In prog's classic era it was actually pretty hard to truly jump the shark, and actual pretention was few and far between. As such, there we have the first of the two great accomplishments of "Tales From Topographic Oceans".

The main factor in this is the half-baked concept Jon Anderson cooked up. The story goes that at Bill Bruford's wedding reception, the Yes and King Crimson line-ups of the time both attended in good terms - by this point Bruford had already joined Crimson. Jon started talking with Jamie Muir, who was already planning on running off to that monastery, and Muir introduced Jon to Paramahansa Yogananda's classic "Autobiography of a Yogi". While touring Japan, he immersed himself in the tome, focusing on a footnote about the classes of Hindu scriptures. Suddenly, he wanted to make an album inspired by this. It apparently didn't matter to him that he'd never read a word of the holy writings. His ignorance should be obvious due to the fact that this concept of his is only reflected in the track titles; as usual, he based his lyricism on making his voice an instrument, not a storyteller. Already a strike when you're making a blasted concept album, but furthermore, whereas it worked so well before, often coming up with unique lines (remember the closing portion of "Close To The Edge"?) , it is just gibberish here, not even good enough to be glossolalia like the Cocteau Twins vocals. All in all, it's inadvertently about as offensive as any slanderous Chick Tract.

I think it's also important to note a few other things about the composing and recording process. Originally, Jon wanted to name the album "Tales From Tobographic Oceans" - yup, you read that right, Tobographic - inspired by Frank Hoyle's by then already widely discredited theories. He met over dinner with Phil Carson, then CEO of Atlantic, who noted that that word sounds similar to Topographic, and so Jon suddenly decided to change it. The band fought over where to record, with Jon wanting to record in the countryside, and Chris Squire and Steve Howe wanting to record in London. When they slunk into London's Morgan Studios, in search of their Ampex, Jon demanded pastoral trappings. White picket fences, keys resting on stacks of hay... and a model cow with electronic udders by a barn replica. Ozzy Osbourne could hardly believe his eyes when he peeked in during a break in the "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" sessions! Rick Wakeman, who originally went along with Jon's ideas and wish to record in a rural setting, became disenchanted, and, having exiled himself from most of the proceedings, helped Sabbath cut "Sabbra Cadabra", demanding payment only in beer. You can put two and two together there.

But, in spite of all this, in spite of the album being made up of sub-par playing that is mostly by turns boring, tedious, out of place, stuck in a rut, any number of bad words, there are highlights on a whole three of the tracks. "The Revealing" had a wonderful run up, and Wakeman's synth theme is pretty. They drop the ball at the halfway point, but it's all in all a decent track. "Ritual" is a love it or leave it affair with its own fine opening, and crazed drum solo from newcomer Alan White. And "The Ancient", the crazy part of the record, you just have to respect. That's the truly forward thinking part of this double LP, and in an album where most of the themes are, again, out of place in relation to each other, the progressions here are insane enough to work. I have a love-hate - mostly love - relationship with it. Heck, rather than cut any part of any track, Yes could've gotten away with a single LP of just "The Revealing" and "The Ancient", and it would've been pretty good, excepting the atrocious, abortive concept.

Having said all that, instrumentally this is probably a three star record, with good, bad, ugly, and nutty, that some can enjoy a lot. But really, that concept just drags this down further. 2.5 stars, rounded down. The last thing I want to say is that, even with "The Ancient", there really is nothing here to "get". Really. The emperor has neither clothes, nor even a corporeal form.

Report this review (#1436598)
Posted Tuesday, July 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars So Close to the Edge brought Yes untold success and made them certified darlings of the prog-rock world at large. Since the side-long title suite arguably had more maturity in compositional development than did other epics such as "Tarkus," "Supper's Ready," etc., people were starting to take Yes seriously as major players in this field, and listeners fell in love with their flights of fancy as the songs grew in length. (The resulting tour for that album?also a smashing success?was released as the majority of the following triple-LP live recording Yessongs.) Even the name "Yes" had become something of a trademark due to the iconic "bubble" logo that would continue to adorn most of their album covers (Roger Dean or no Roger Dean) starting with CTTE. So, what could Yes do to top themselves this time around? The answer: do a double-album of four songs, each taking up an entire side of vinyl. Sound crazy? Not according to Jon Anderson, who drew inspiration from a footnote (you heard right) from page 83 of Autobiography of a Yogi that described the four Shastric scriptures. In fact, the bulk of the material was co-written by Anderson and Steve Howe, who essentially dragged the rest of the band kicking and screaming into the sessions for this album.

I have to say that I came to this album with some trepidation, based on most criticisms that I read about it as a budding Yes fan many years ago. Of course, since that time, critical opinion has come to mean absolutely nothing to me; I trust my own ears and preferences when judging any piece of music. However, I know that a lot of people really don't like this album?least of all Rick Wakeman?and for the most part I tend to agree with them. Not that it's all bad; it seemed as if Anderson and Howe could do no wrong in the songwriting department at this time, and to be fair, they do come up with some great musical ideas. I do have an issue with how a lot of these ideas are presented and expounded upon endlessly, but I suppose that's to be expected when you try to stretch it out to conform to the limits of vinyl LPs.

We start off with "The Revealing Science of God," and it's worth noting that the 2003 Rhino remaster actually restores the original, almost 2-minute intro that was missing from every previous release, extending the running time to just over 22 minutes. The mood is set perfectly, CTTE-style, with a crescendo of wind noise (possibly coming from Rick's Moog) followed by Howe's volume-controlled guitar on top, outlining the original theme. The chanting section that immediately follows makes more sense this way, instead of having it start as soon as you put the needle down or press "play". In my opinion, this is how the track should have begun in the first place. (Apparently, though, even this was cut down considerably, as Howe claims to have a 28-minute version of this track in his private collection.)

The opening vocal section builds layer by layer through every repetition, quite effectively at that, before the main instrumental melody is introduced at about 4 minutes. Right off the bat, this section sets a mellower mood than, say, "Close to the Edge"; the band knows where they want to go but takes their sweet time getting there. The vocal harmonies on the "chorus" ("What happened to this song," etc.) are pleasant although a bit thin in places, but things pick up a bit with the transition into the faster G#-minor section ("starlight movement"). Other prime Yes moments include Howe's major (9th? 13th?) chords during the first reprise of the instrumental melody at 10:48, as well as the "Glory to Sons" portion that includes Wakeman's somewhat jazzy Mini-Moog solo (even he likes this track!). The piece ends with some nice symmetry, reprising "What happened" and the opening "chanting" section with different lyrics. Even if there is a bit of padding here (although not as much as other tracks), it doesn't feel overly long, it's a nice tune and I personally enjoy listening to it. (By the way, one of the bonus tracks on the Rhino reissue is a studio run-through of this track, one minute longer due to an extra "Glory to Sons" verse before Rick's solo.)

Unfortunately the next track, "The Remembering" is a bit of a slog despite being very well-composed. The spacey guitar atmospherics at the outset, as well as the first "folk-song" section that it accompanies, are pleasantly mellow but could have been cut down to about half their length (as it is, this part of the song lasts about 8 minutes). Wakeman has one of his best moments in the transition out of this section, with Mellotron pads and the by-now familiar "And You And I" synth lead patch, but as an example of Rick's dislike of this album, he could apparently never be persuaded to play this solo effectively in live performance (as is borne out by an interview with Jon Anderson and a fair amount of bootlegs from the tour for this album). In fact this may be the movement of TFTO where the famous "curry incident" took place (look it up).

The following section is another folk-song, actually very quirky and well done, which picks up steam considerably for the "Relayer" chorus in 7/4 (now I'm trying to find a connection with this and the next Yes album). Unfortunately this entire section repeats itself almost verbatim, including the keyboard solo, pretty much for the sole purpose of stretching the track out to 20 minutes, although the guitar solo afterwards is great. Speaking of, this album features guitar more prominently than any other Yes effort, by which I mean to the exclusion of almost everything else; other instruments like bass and keyboards seem to stay in the background for the most part (which could partially explain Rick's feelings towards?as he calls it?Tales from Toby's Graphic Go-Kart). Anyway, the piece reverts back to themes and verses from the first 8 minutes, complete with Rick's ultra-cheesy Mario Brothers reed organ under "Out in the city running free," building to a not entirely satisfying conclusion. Oh, and did I mention that the band routinely quotes from "Revealing" on this track? This will be sort of a recurring theme throughout this album?quoting from its' previous songs. Somehow it doesn't feel entirely organic, not in the way that Beethoven quoted the first movement of his 5th Symphony throughout that same work.

"The Ancient," which opened disc 2 of the original release, is Yes at maybe their most avant-garde. We're off to a groovy start with the funky, metrically-displaced bass of Chris Squire (remember him? where was he the last 40 minutes?) pairing up with newcomer Alan White's percussion arsenal, including trap kit, log drums and even marimba. (I have to say that I generally don't care for marimba as an instrument, but sometimes it can be used to great effect, including White's work here.) This rhythm bed, accompanying Howe's slide guitar, is meant to sound very "tribal" in nature to outline Anderson's concept about past civilizations. The avant-garde aspect comes to play as the track progressively (ha-ha) becomes more angular, with Anderson's sparse lyrics referencing solar deities of old (Sol, Sun, Tonatiuh).

As Anderson implies in the original liners, this is Howe's big solo track. The electric segments are rather long-winded (no surprise), but the acoustic solo at about 13 minutes is one of his best ever. Unfortunately Howe takes it upon himself to quote both "Siberian Khatru" and "Close to the Edge" during this track (not exactly the conceptual continuity of Frank Zappa), in addition to various references to the previous two tracks here, revealing a band in search of itself. The last 5 minutes or so of the track, otherwise known as "Leaves of Green," is quite lovely and maybe should have been its own separate song. (The Rhino reissue also has an early studio take on this song, including sharper-sounding keyboards in the intro and an electric version of "Leaves.")

We close out with "Ritual," the other fan favorite here (along with "Revealing"). After a couple minutes, it seems as if the praise for this track is deserved, and for the most part it is. The opening melodies are typical Yes goodness (especially the one starting at about 2 minutes), but again, they just repeat themselves way too much, to the point where most of the musical meaning is lost. After a guitar section containing Howe's SECOND quote of CTTE as well as most of his first "Revealing" solo (do you think this band is running out of ideas?), we go into one of the best parts of the album at about 6:45, "Life Seems Like a Fight." In spite of its similarity to the other "song" sections of this album, this piece is one of the best constructed things Yes ever put together. The melody is catchy, the lyrics are actually somewhat singable, the vocal harmonies are innovative within the Yes ethic?heck, even the by-now-obligatory "Revealing" reference doesn't bother me this time around.

The instrumental section that follows is also extremely cool. Rick's "Roundabout Part Two" organ arpeggios lead to a rocking bass solo in 5/4 that almost sounds like proto-Rush. Alan White contributes more percussion layers here, adding congas to the rhythm track. Another guitar solo, building in intensity, finally leads to White's now-famous effects-laden drum solo?with all band members except Wakeman playing additional percussion behind White. I will say that when I saw Yes live at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim (now the Honda Center) on their 35th anniversary tour in 2004, this section came off really well on stage (and was in fact one of the highlights of the concert), but in the studio, it doesn't quite have the same effect?in particular, the electronic toms sound really dated and cheesy. Eventually, though, it winds down to the closing "Nous Sommes du Soleil," which is a nice comedown from what came before it; unfortunately, the last 2 minutes peter out and leave the listener hanging, and not in a good way. And so, after over 80 minutes, ends Tales from Topographic Oceans.

Even though this is supposed to be one of those albums that you either love or hate, I'm right down the middle on this one. As previously mentioned, the actual songs and melodies are fine, but there's a lot of artificial repetition throughout the album; sometimes it gets to a point where you wish they'd just move on, already. This album takes a lot of patience to sit through, and not just because the majority of it is at a slow tempo (and also due to Alan White's presence, rocks more overtly than any previous Yes album). I agree with Wakeman when he says that if the CD had been invented at that time, Yes would have been more able to "trim the fat" and reduce everything down from 80 minutes to, say, 45 or 50. It also would have easily fit with the bounds of a single LP (hell, Genesis made 50-minute single albums on a regular basis) and been more musically effective in the long run. Even if they wanted to "stretch out" a bit more, they could have made it 55-60 minutes and put 15 minutes on each side, or even released a triple-sided album?that is to say, a double-LP with side four being left blank (which, yes, was being done in the days of vinyl; look at Keith Jarrett's Eyes of the Heart or Joe Jackson's Big World). I don't suppose any of those ideas occurred to Anderson/Howe at the time, though. Maybe they should have listened to more Mahler to learn how to develop long-form ideas?

Anyway, for better or for worse, Tales stands to this day as the most polarizing and controversial Yes album possibly of all time. I understand why people love it, I understand why people hate it, and I understand that the band's desire and fondness for epic forms was growing exponentially around this time. However, when you consider that bands like Gentle Giant only made 35-minute albums yet contained enough music for double that length, you start to wonder if maybe Yes wasn't?how do you say?just a bit misguided here. Still, if you're a fan of classic 70s Yes, pick this album up anyway. Who knows, you may just fall in love with it. 3 stars out of 5.

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Posted Friday, August 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 9

This is my first review of a Yes album. I bought my vinyl copy in 1976 and it became my first album from them. The main reason to be it my first choice to review a Yes' work on this site, besides being my first album from the band, is especially due to other two factors. In the first place, I always loved and considered it one of the best albums ever made. In the second place, it's one of the most controversial progressive albums, probably the biggest of all, and it's also one of the albums that most divided critics, fans and even the band members.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is the sixth studio album by Yes and was released in 1973. It topped the British charts and reached number 6 on the American charts. Originally, it was a double vinyl LP, consisting of a theme divided into four parts with about 20 minutes length each one, with some religious concepts, and which has broken all the previous artistic boundaries. It was a project of Jon Anderson and Steve Howe, completed by musical ideas and arrangements by Chris Squire, Alan White and Rick Wakeman. As I wrote above, when the album was released the reactions were divided between fans and critics, and it even provoked divisions within the band members. For instance, Wakeman who publicly derided the album, was forced to leave Yes at the end of the recording sessions. He was been replaced by Patrick Moraz on their next seventh studio album 'Relayer', released in 1974. He only returned to Yes, in 1977, when they released their eighth studio album 'Going For The One'.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is a concept album based upon Anderson's interpretation of four classes of an Hindu Scripture, collectively named Shastras, based from Paramahansa Yogananda's book, the 'Autobiography Of A Yogi'. In 1973, Anderson was introduced to Yogananda's book, at Bruford's wedding reception by Jamie Muir, then the King Crimson's percussionist. So, from there, Anderson managed to create the Yes' strongest and most spiritual lyrics, and as we can imagine, the concept itself is enough to bring goose bumps to many people.

'Tales From Topographic Oceans' has four tracks. The first track 'The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn)' is a brilliant piece of music. Lyrically, it examines the depth of the past and displays the ongoing search of God. Musically, it's beautifully built in the beginning, with ethereal passages in the middle and with a climax ending, which bring to the track an incredible finish. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the best pieces of music ever written. The second track 'The Remembering (High The Memory)' is a very complex piece of music. Lyrically, it affirms that the past informs our current thoughts. Musically, it's one of the Yes most ambient pieces of music. It relies heavily textures and ambient atmospheres to communicate the musical ideas. Their melodies are some of the most subtly powerful musical moments that I have ever experienced. The third track 'The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun)' continues in the correct musical direction of the all album. Lyrically, it explores history previous to human memory and reflects on past civilizations. Musically, it continues the ethereal and oceanic dreaminess of the previous track. It adds a raw and powerful edginess that really pulls the album together. It doesn't disappoint me, even in a slightest moment. The fourth track 'Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)' represents an excellent end to the album. Lyrically, it portrays the positive results of the battle with the evil. Musically, it's a very complex composition, where the pieces are the music built around regular beats that ease us to emulate the melody. This is the best known part of the album and it brings to it a real fitting climax, both sentimental as mysterious.

The art work of the album (design and illustration) was made by Roger Dean. He designed many of the group's albums, forming a continuing story in pictures. Dean has also created the Yes' logo. The cover of the album has often been included in lists of the best album covers of all time. Dean is one of the most famous artists on albums covers.

Conclusion: 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' is a very innovator and courageous album that deserves to be more considered and better rated on Progarchives. In my humble opinion, this isn't an album too pretentious, ambitious, megalomaniac and lengthy, as some say. It's as good as it gets for Yes, besides 'Close To The Edge' and 'Relayer'. It's practically impossible to follow up a masterpiece like 'Close To The Edge', without disappointing a great amount of fans. However, I am convinced that it suffers for being a concept album released in the 70's. If it had been able to be recorded on one only CD, I sincerely think that it would be even a better album, and probably better appreciated. I sincerely think that 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' belongs to the rare albums that achieved the status of being one of the best masterpieces of all time. Unfortunately, it soon became a Yes too underappreciated piece of music.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1453229)
Posted Friday, August 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars .I was born on 1954 and grew up listening to rock&roll. Like all my coeval, most of my music development was due to The Beatles, with them I went from "Love me do" to "The walrus". Early 70's I was living so far away, down south. That allowed me to just listen to the music, not knowing about critic's opinions. I simply listen each new L.P. and feel it good (or no) My favorite bands on 1973 where Pink Floyd, ELP, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa & Yes. I (still today) absolutely love "Close to the edge", "Thick as a brick", "Trilogy", "Meddle" and "Chunga's revenge". Long songs and conceptual albums are my all time favorites. When "TFTO" came along I was absolutely happy, I really love this one from the very beggining. "Four long songs, each one 20 minutes long!!!!" I bought the album, enjoyed the cover artwork and absolutely loved all the songs. I thought (and still think) the whole idea is great: Four sides of conceptual album!!! I never get tired of listenig to it.

A long vocal introduction (without much noise) and then came both Wakeman's keyboards and Steve Howe's guitar. Great melodies, time signature changes, good solos, and alternation between hard and pleasant moments, all that I love and could want on a YES L.P. I nearly didn't notice that twenty minutes had passed. Side Two begins with an ever-changing melody that even 40 years later I´m not able to sing properly. Then ethereal long keyboard notes that lead to a fast new melody and again time-signature changes, etc. Side tree is kind of strange 2/3 wild distorted guitar (except a short brake) and then 1/3 of nice acoustic guitar plus the beauty Anderson's voice Finally side four, beginning with a long instrumental introduction directly inspired on the 4th movement of Beethoven´s Ninth Symphony (a basic melody repeatedly interrupted by excerpts of the previous "movements") leading to Anderson singing "Nous sommes du soleil", then Squire's solo and my only complaint: Alan White's drum solo (I'm a hardcore Bruford fan), but it´s just two minutes long in between 80 marvelous minutes of joy. Finally Anderson singing the ending melody leading to the great finalle.

I think I didn't need any review to tell me if I must love or hate this work of art. In that time I discovered Gentle Giant's "In a glass house", Genesis's "Foxtrot" and Magmas's "MDK". Nothing (no one) in my life said there was need of other kind of music. In fact I went well into the 80's before listening about a "change" in music. Late 70's was UK (Bruford's and Bozzio's) to me, and then came King Crimson again (Discipline ? Beat ? Three . .).

When I (finally) heard about "Tales . ." being pretentious, I didn't understood what were they talking about. In fact, "pretentious" may be different kind of music To me, pretentious is being a limited guitar (bass, drums) player and just because you enjoy doing it, suppose that other people must listen to it and buy you music. (Anyone can play what he wants, but I don't have to listen to it or think it is worth , this is what I feel is "pretentious") Today when I find a video of any part of "TFTO" on Youtube I can look at it again and again enjoying it absolutely, the same way I enjoy a Gentle Giant, VDGG or ELP show video.

I never understood why so many people doesn''t like it, to me is almost perfect., it's maybe my second best Yes Album.

Report this review (#1459066)
Posted Thursday, September 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars This will be hard. Yes really wanted to create something big now, but it didn't go as good as Yes could go. Some of the parts of the album sound like badly improvised. Like they wanted to do just long pieces and ran out of ideas. They clearly tried to handle more than they could, and having said this, yes, I agree that this is excesive. But not everything is wrong, well, half way. While I think two of the songs of this album are two of the best Yes' songs, I feel that the other two are two of their worst songs (and you know exactly the songs I'm refering to). The Revealing Science Of God is one of the better tracks. It simply has all the spirit of Yes, you know, nice vocals, nice guitars, nice keys, and hey we got Alan White now! Ritual is the other better track. This one resembles a lot of things from the past songs, and once again we got a powerful composition of pure symph prog, and that middle part with the experimental drums just bangs my head. But there is a reason of why this album is not as highly regarded as the others. Well, there are two reasons actually. The Remembering is absolutley dreadful! I'm sorry, but this song just doesn't fit on Yes' excellence. There are a LOT of repeated sections, the atmosphere they intended to create ("a much lighter, folky sound of Yes", as told by Steve Howe) sounds more like a dull and boring side of Yes. The only remarkable thing from this song is that from the lyrics they took the name for their next album (Relayer!). But The Ancient is still worse in my opinion. It is the less creative song in here, and it doesn't flow nice for me. They intended to make this one as a kind of fusion of electronic with symphonic, but my, this one is awful really! If this record only consisted of side A and B, it would have easily been another 5 star album (but not better than CTTE). But man I really can't stand side B and C as I wish I could. But hey, life is hard, everybody makes mistakes. I'm giving this one 2.5 stars rounded to 3 because the band really mended this one with Relayer, that would be a gargantuan improvement, and also my all-time favorite Yes album.
Report this review (#1485570)
Posted Thursday, November 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
5 stars My ALL-TIME Greatest #22
How can I do justice to the favorite album of my favorite band?
How can one describe music with words?
How come art and beauty are so elusive?

Global Appraisal

The dinossauric dimension of this record is undeniable and I think that was/can be frightful for those less corageous in their musical adventures. Fortunately that wasn't my case and since the day I ventured at this trip I have for years and years re-listened to the album always with unfailing pleasure.

Progressive rock at its utmost creative and inventive form coming from a gathering of exceptional musicians which attain individually and collectively their respective Opus Magnum - really, what else do you want?


R. Wakeman expansive but at the same time contained keyboard playing, an apparent contradiction to translate my sense that he for once manages to reach (with flying colors) that difficult equilibrium between vigorous expression and good taste (so often lost on his solo works).

The singing, the singing...
J. Anderson in top form, period.

Report this review (#1497293)
Posted Monday, December 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog Team
4 stars "Tales From Topographic Oceans"... This album caused a lot of controversy when it first came out. Even now it is a common topic of heated debate among Yes fans. After recording "Close To The Edge", Yes were looking for a big idea. Jon Anderson recalls that someone said that the next thing Yes are going to record will be a musical interpretation of the Bible. He replied that he'll see that they actually will do that. The band settled on inspiration in form of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. They released a two-disc album containing four suites. Could such work not be controversial? With departure of Bill Bruford, Yes recruited a new drummer, Alan White. The rest of the line-up remained the same.

It took me quite a few listens to really understand what this album is all about. I found that the point with this album really is not having to wait for a climax, but enjoying the changes. I don't feel like the music really leads to anything, however is not sterile by any means and to me is very pleasant to listen to. The band draws beautiful musical textures with numerous instrumental passages, many different movements and segments. All of this still not giving a sense of musical overabundance. All the classic Yes ingredients are there: Jon Anderson's melodic voice, jazzy guitar passages with Steve Howe's unmistakeable guitar tone, Rick Wakeman's symphonic keyboard touches and thumpy, one-of-a-kind bass by Chris Squire. Yes we all know and love. On top of this, Alan White brings a wonderful variety of percussion, which gives the album an exotic taste. The overall feeling I got from the music is that it is very fresh and smooth. It would be hard to really pick a favorite here. The tracks together create a unique, beautifully twisted whole. I believe though, that the first two are a true essence of the album.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is different to all the other works Yes created. And so should be the listener's approach. This collection of four extrordinary and fascinating epics listens to like a good book. Moody musical textures are really the attribute of this work. All that supported by great album art! Very highly recommended! 4.5 stars!

Report this review (#1548050)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars My 100th review! What better way to celebrate than one of the most controversial pieces in the prog canon? "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

"Tales" really is an infamous release, whether due to the absolute berating it got from the press or because of the internal tensions in the band which reached mythological proportions. But let's be real here, the press never liked prog to begin with; "Tales" wasn't unique in its scorn. History aside, let's get to the music. How does "Tales" actually stack up from a musical standpoint?

Many describe this album as being "less focused" or "looser" than earlier Yes releases, and I agree to a certain degree, but I think that that description is a little misconstrued. It's not like the whole album is spacey, psychedelic jams or a jazz free improvisation. This is still structured, well-constructed symphonic music like the material Yes had recorded in the Bruford era. Really, aside from a less flamboyant performance from Rick Wakeman, this album is a lot more similar to other Yes music than most make it out to be. It's still technical, ever-so-spiritual and driven by Jon Anderson's divine vocals. On top of maintaining the elements that made past Yes music so successful, though, I feel that it actually brings the whole Yes aesthetic up a notch. Where "Fragile" and "Close To The Edge" filled our heads with images of far-off worlds, "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is cinematic, a whole feature-length motion picture weaved seamlessly over four sides of vinyl.

"The Revealing Science of God" begins with a single voice, which gradually builds into an entire chorus of nonabrasive chaos before a brilliantly minimalistic three note keyboard motif brings a sudden release. This tension and release is the first of many that will grace the album, and really sets the tone for what to expect over the next 80 minutes. After a generally heavy, spiritual, first movement with "Revealing", a second release happens with the beginning of "The Remembering". This second movement carries a lighter, airier mood. Like a sunny afternoon out on the water, the lively sections driven by Steve Howe's acoustic guitar are some of the absolute most joyous sections of music ever put to record. The happiness that Jon Anderson expresses in his voice alone makes the album worth owning.

On the album's second disc, "The Ancient" provides a stark contrast, however. The first half of the song is Yes at its most avant-garde, the second half Yes at its most sentimental. While the dissonant and rhythmically-bustling first half is not the most pleasant section of music, it does serve its purpose. After a generally soft first disc, it definitely helps to keep the album from getting too stagnant. It also provides yet another great release when Steve Howe comes back with his acoustic for the gentler "Leaves of Green" section. Another moment of unspeakable beauty, this part of the album contains some of Jon Anderson's most emotive vocals of his entire career. It also gives the perfect lead-up for the album's jubilant finale, "Ritual". As with the acoustic sections of "The Remembering", this final movement also contains some of the most joyous sections of music recorded and brings the album to a close with a furious guitar solo. Wow, what a movie!

Between the album's many climaxes, of course, there are sections that many are quick to judge as "padding". I don't think that this is accurate at all, because what many see as "lazy filler" really serves a vital purpose. When listening to an album so long, it's actually very nice to have little minute-long sections where you can feel free to zone out without missing a major transition, solo or climax. By the time some more interesting music begins to develop, it will seem all the more powerful after having rested up. So while some see "padding" as a weakness, it is in fact an essential part of the album, making the beautiful moments more beautiful, the joyous moments more joyous, the vibrant moments more vibrant. Like in life, the only way to really appreciate positive feelings is to experience the entire spectrum of emotions, even if it means brief moments of anger, disappointment, sadness, or even apathy. Otherwise, things begin to get too homogenous and nothing feels happy anymore.

In all, "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is an album that lives and breathes, and, like life itself, contains such breathtaking beauty that it really is naive to dismiss its entirety for any imperfections that lie within. As it stands, I wouldn't change this album even if I could. It's a masterpiece just the way it is.

Report this review (#1599600)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I can't believe the hate some have for this masterpiece. Along with Close to the Edge and Relayer, this is Yes at their Yessiest, Yes at their proggiest, Yes at their most inspired. Whether it's Yes at their best, I'll leave to you to decide. Many prefer the more accessible but still prog The Yes Album or Fragile, and that's fine -- those are both great albums, as is Going for the One. Some say they like sides A and D, but not B and C. Did you take the time to really listen to B and C? The Remembering does take a while to get going, I'll admit, but once it does, it takes off. The "Relayer" section with its 14/8 rhythm and Wakeman's wizardry, is especially memorable. Even better to me is The Ancient, with it's chilling opening section and some of Steve's most evocative playing coming later. Actually, the only negative for me is the way Ritual ends on a reverse Picardy Third (major to minor) -- seems like a downer for such a driving and joyous song. And what needs to be said about The Revealing Science of God -- a magical, magical work. Repetitive, yes, but the repetition is meant to drive certain themes home so they stick with you, just like in a symphony.
Report this review (#1618956)
Posted Wednesday, October 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Archetype!

While even members of Yes have said they went too pretentious on this album, one can't help but marvel at the model they set up here. A double-album of four side-long compositions that fit together as one statement. I don't think the problem here (to the extent there IS a problem) was the model, nor even the pretentiousness or bombast of the music, but instead merely that they did not give themselves quite enough time to finesse their writing before recording and releasing this. Many bands at the time were under huge pressure from their record companies to get product out the door, and with 'Close to the Edge' scoring big, Yes was under pressure to do even bigger. So, they wrote quickly, padded the long pieces with some filler (especially side 3, which they all admit), while Jon Anderson turned to footnotes for lyrical inspiration, all with an eye to one-upping Close to the Edge. Anderson's lyrics here become further detached from any clear meanings, while for many the music here seemed endless. But unlike the critics, I was amazed at the possibilities presented by this record, and still today see it as a real (flawed) gem. Not the very best Yes music, and certainly not their best lyrics, but still a very important milestone in music, and for Yes. There is a lot of great music on this album, and even though a number of filler sections are less musical, the whole thing fits together very well and each piece/side retains its integrity. The album begins on side 1 by building up over chanting of Anderson's poetry, and blossoms across many themes and good songs in their own right, climaxing with "Ritaul/Nous Sommes Du Soleil" on side 4, which they played (and continued to play) well into the 2000s (as evidenced on the Songs from Tsongas live album). There are too many great musical moments here to describe them all. Saying this, the music is fragmented enough, with enough filler, that it doesn't quite make it to five stars, even though I would say it is "essential" for any serious musical collection. It certainly deserves much recognition for the ambitious model it contributes, and for which it is mostly (almost) successful. Overall, I rate this 8.5 out of 10 on my 10-point scale.

Report this review (#1696007)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars A proto-Relayer not at all amazing: 6/10

Jamie Muir - ephemerous percussionist of KING CRIMSON's LARKS' IN TONGUES ASPIC, on Bill Bruford's wedding reception, showed Jon Andeson the works of Paramahansa Yogananda, which can be summed as "Kriya Yoga". This heavily influenced Anderson to develop the mystical record we're seeing. Aside from this funny fact, many others before me explained thoroughly the virtues and flaws YES' most pompous record has, so I'll be short on my verdict.

TALES FROM A TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS had a bad timing: released right after what is hailed by many, I included, as the best progressive rock album of all time, the hype was overwhelmingly enormous. The issue is that YES departed from what made Close to the Edge magnificent - electricity, excitement, complexity - sailing into much calmer rivers. In fact, you can think of this as a transitory phase between the restless rockers to more matured, melodic musicians. Well, to make it short, it is disappointing - you can't really expect the energy from CTTE but neither the masterful emotion from Relayer.

The Revealing Science of God carries some early YES joviality syncretised with melodic virtuosity on a magnificent fashion, it presents itself as a unique creation - the blends of ethereal Moog sweeps along the tropical guitar riffs and solos fits the sublime concept Jon Anderson trips about. The cheerful parts are anthemic and beautiful, the mellow parts are smooth and soothing, but they're well balanced not to have either overrunning the overall atmosphere. Personally, I think it deserves acknowledgment as one of YES' best, as they achieved their pretensions of creating deliciously maddening prog. It is a solid opener, and what a solid one. The issue is that what follows on after this appetizing entrance just goes slower, and slower, and staler and staler as the album progresses.

In general, this is not a bad album by any means, it just isn't nearly as exciting as one would expect from YES - especially as it is the bridge between the Homeric releases CLOSE TO THE EDGE and RELAYER. Is it worth checking out? If you've got the spare time.

Report this review (#1733618)
Posted Wednesday, June 14, 2017 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I was a Yes fan at an early age, cherishing my Fragile, The Yes Album and Close to the Edge LPs. I was even down with 90215. It was time to add Tales from Topographic Oceans to my collection, but as it turned out, it was a tougher nut to crack concerning my youthful self. In fact, the only reason I'm writing this review is because now that I'm much older, I'm getting it. I'm busting that nut.

I had little trouble getting into the first epic. "The Revealing Science of God" had a cool atmospheric opening, adding layers of tension, and it wasn't long until Jon started dropping that prose. Hell, it inspired my 13-year-old self to emulate his style.

"Dawn of the propane buttercup rising from the sea on the wings of the truth; it contorts with PERSISTEEENCE!"

Granted, I was no Jon Anderson, and I never will be, but I tried man. I even showed friends the garbage I wrote, and they would look at me like I had seven heads. I was trying to be deep and mysterious without really saying squat about anything. But Jon cared about the message. On paper it could look like a whole lot of wishy-washy bunk, but the words themselves, the flow, and the music, as a whole package, removed my clothes and sent me frolicking naked through sun-showers by the river. These weren't just songs, but sonic journeys!

This was a bit of a different journey than "Close to the Edge", in which I was roaming around the inner gatefold sleeve for the most part. The pace is fairly languid for a fair spell, but it does get funky and spices up the tempo at times. The vocal melodies are rich, and of course, the instrumentation is no joke. Yeah, there's a few spots, heavy on the mellotron, that felt like slow-going (I was able to find my pants by then), but in the end, that just made that crazed synth solo over that fast groovin' tempo all that more of a major rush. I was discovering "freedom" and "reasons" and stuff while gettin' down to that madness.

"The Remembering" followed, initiating with a gorgeous, relaxed psychedelic guitar melody. This was quaint jive, and I was peacefully walking through the pasture, my hands brushing against the 'flowers of hope' and the 'tall grass of understanding'. Thing is, it turned out there's a lot of walking before things start really moving. There are some clunky sections too, particularly when the band is "walking around the story". It's a silly lilt of a melody about being in the city and whatever, and by then I wanted this whole languid trip to shift badly. The jauntier, folksy second half that segues into an actual rock riff saves the day, but it took some listens before I realized that, especially since the first half used to put me to sleep. And that's how I became such a fan of this song back in my youth; I loved dozing off to this epic. Eventually, I found myself staying awake for longer periods each night I played this thing with the lights out, getting quite familiar with the early parts of the piece in the process. Before I knew it, I was enjoying the entire song, even the clunky bits, to the last fade.

Once mastering "The Remembering", I really just wanted to sit on my bed with the lyrics, featuring those cool little pictures in the inner gatefold, and play the whole shebang. But my youthful self was just not ready for "The Awakening". I tried so hard to get into it, to let it carry me away to ancient civilizations where Egyptians built Mayan pyramid temples to Goddess Athena, but it wasn't working. The first two-thirds of that song sounded like a bunch of noxious slag at the time, too much jazzy fusion. It didn't help that Steve Howe's guitar tone sounded like a perpetually meowing cat, complemented by Chris Squire's bass in which effects rendered it somewhere between a bullfrog and a duck quacking in slow motion. Jon wasn't around much to bring on the consonance, so my young melody-loving tendencies would shut me down and I'd give up before the beautiful folk music swirled in. It was months until I realized that the song did eventually get all sweet and filled with the hearts of the truth of love and guidance through seasons of wonder. I barely even played "The Ritual" back then since I really wanted to focus on the album as one whole experience, and couldn't pull it off. When I did skip to that final beast on rare occasions, again I was treated with stretches of leisurely pacing after a pretty cool but long intro, with Jon's repetition of "nous sommes du soufflé" echoing in my head.

But now I've changed. Years of listening experience, delving into stuff ranging from The Soft Machine's Third to some of the most abrasive tech-death insanity out there, I decided to give this album, and particularly "The Ancient", another go-round, and it clicked instantly. That barrage of cat meows and stoned quacks aren't all that pretty, but there's plenty of melodies there, and it's not too complex. There's an adventure buried in that song that just needs a little extra archeological digging to uncover. And I can dig it, ya dig?

"The Ritual". How could I not have remembered much of this? Playing this album for the first time in decades, this was the one that sounded like I was hearing it for the first time. I'm not even sure I made it to that first climactic moment halfway through this 'movement' back in the day. I'm talking about the repetition of "That's all!" Utterly glorious, majestic, and carrying me beyond the barricades of deception and across the spiral pancake to the mystical Shrine of Eternal Contemplation. The instrumental workout that follows is such a gas, and drummer Alan White really puts on a showcase. Then it gets all mellow yet again, but with a slow- build tenseness creeping up to the final release. The denouement fades off in such a way that actually works as a forbearer to "The Revealing Science of God". It's like the circle of life (and love, hope and understanding). It's kind of an epiphany; I'm a fan of all four songs now! Granted, there are still some moments that could've used shaving, and as a whole, it lacks some of that total rock attitude gracing their prior three albums, especially concerning opening tracks. I can appreciate what the intentions were for this album, but some throat-grabbing from the get-go would've made this more inviting. I suppose getting cannon-balled head-first into the "pastures of wonder" doesn't bring about the desired message like a slowly opening golden gate would, but that's just how I roll.

This is good stuff, potentially silly, but I don't want to hear any of these critics vomiting forth the same tired rants about soulless proficiency and whatever. Jon certainly sounds like he means every word he says; I can feel the pure conviction. Whether his range can go toe-to-toe with a seagull doesn't matter. He sees the love in the hearts of the people in the city by the river even now; his lyrics for that Roine Stolt collaboration prove he's not done searching for the Truth. So is all of this just the philosophical ramblings of Yogi Bear, ancient bards and spiritual advisers put to prog rock excess? Maybe, but I can enjoy the full ride now, so call me "enlightened".

Report this review (#1888156)
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars A couple of months ago MOJO magazine published an article on "critically-loathed albums which people love" and invited the readers to write in with their choices. I chose this album.

One of the most annoying "truisms" in rock journalism is that Prog was bloated and self-indulgent and needed to be blown away by the "refreshing" simplicity of Punk. This album is often cited as a major reason why Punk needed to exist. However many of the better Punk/New Wave musicians disagreed with this type of thinking and were big Yes fans. One such was Keith Levene of PIL, who were as adventurous in their sphere as Yes were in theirs. Prog and Punk share a spirit of experimentation and ambition.

This is Yes at their most extreme, pushing all the boundaries. In particular it is an excellent showpiece for Steve Howe's guitar playing, especially on Side Three. Wakeman does not have so many solo slots as on previous Yes albums, taking more of a background textural role (maybe that's why he's never been fond of the album). Chris Squire sounds great throughout and provides a lot of the muscle. The musical themes are strong and memorable, and each side maintains its momentum throughout.

Flaws ? Some of the passages are extended that minute or so too long. The lyrics are hardly Elvis Costello (but are appropriate in context). And there isn't any music here which quite reaches the peaks of "Starship Trooper", "Roundabout", or side one of "Close To The Edge".

In summary this is a highly-adventurous album full of marvellous themes and playing. If it does occasionally over- reach itself then that's far better than the sort of mediocre two-chord thrashes which the majority of Punk acts churned out.

Report this review (#1921089)
Posted Saturday, May 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars REVIEW #5 - "Tales from Topographic Oceans" by Yes (1973), 5/30/2018

I had to eventually review this album. Ever since I was introduced to Yes at my local record store, where I was gifted a beat-up copy of "Close to the Edge", I always felt wary to give this album a try. It is perhaps the biggest target for critics of the genre, men such as Robert Christgau or Lester Bangs who lambasted every single album that they could get their hands on. It was the biggest justification for the punk rockers to revolt and depose of progressive rock in favor of more accessible and commercially-friendly music. This album of course, is Yes's 1973 epic "Tales from Topographic Oceans", which I consider the most interesting album to review given how the entire prog community has split feelings on whether it was a masterpiece, or a dud.

"Close to the Edge" is the greatest progressive rock album of all time. Yes had already cemented their legacy with their previous three studio albums, and it would have taken a godly masterpiece to top it. The band was experiencing internal tensions, as drummer Bill Bruford was recruited by Robert Fripp to join the new King Crimson, and promptly left the band, being replaced by Alan White of the Plastic Ono Band. Bruford and Yes remained close, and at the drummer's wedding, Yes vocalist Jon Anderson had a conversation with King Crimson percussionist and Buddhist Jamie Muir. Anderson, who already experienced with spiritual themes in Yes's music, was introduced to the works of the guru Paramahansa Yogananda by Muir; giving Anderson an idea for what would be the theme for "Tales." After briefly reading Yogananda's 1946 book "Autobiography of a Yogi" the vocalist was dead set on what would become the next Yes album. Although he was able to get guitarist Steve Howe on board, the rest of the band was indifferent or flat out skeptical of the concept. It would be a very rough and tedious ride; Anderson's ideas were grandiose as he centered the album's theme around the Hindu scriptures known as the "shastras". Throughout the recording process, the band was further strained; namely keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who resorted to getting drunk in the studio - most notably he would play keyboards for heavy metal icons Black Sabbath on the song "Sabbra Cadabra" since the two bands were recording albums at the same time.

All signs point to this album being controlled by Jon Anderson in its entirety; the singer had great aspirations for his album, and even in retrospect he still holds it in high regard. Initially wanting to record in the country, he had the studio outfitted with robotic cows and fake barns to simulate a farm, and even tried unsuccessfully to record on linoleum tiles to get a "bathroom sound." Anderson's antics only exacerbated trouble, especially as the album was laid out. "Tales from Topographic Oceans" at first glance looks like one of the most ambitious albums in prog; a double LP consisting of four twenty-minute epics, all of which are intertwined into a deeply philosophical concept. By the time the album was finished, the studio decorations were ruined, and the band was mentally and physically exhausted. While the product was complete, it became evident that the album was in reality incomplete. Nevertheless, the band's popularity at the time ensured the album reached the top of the charts in the UK. It is rather hilarious to realize that in 1973 an album with four twenty-minute songs (the antithesis of commercially- friendly) was able to top an album chart. It nearly cracked the top five in America as well.

Anderson refers to the four epics of this album as "movements." The first is "The Revealing Science of God/Dance of the Dawn" at just over twenty-two minutes. Originally intended to be twenty-eight, it was cut down to meet the physical constraints of vinyl. Rife with massive guitar solos, Howe claimed that he embarked on these massive passages thanks to the popularity of American guitarist Frank Zappa, who at the time explored very progressive music across the pond. However, unlike "Hot Rats", the work on this album gets extremely tiring quick, and therein lies the biggest problem with "Tales". At just over eighty minutes, your casual listener will get bored quickly. I had a musically-curious friend of mine who is a fan of the much more popular hip-hop genre listen to this album, and I challenged him to see how far he could get before turning it off. He made it just over ten minutes into this song before giving up. Now while it may be a bit inaccurate to throw something as difficult and inaccessible as "Tales" to your average pop music listener, I feel that it is indicative of the underlying problem with this album. That being said, "The Revealing" is perhaps the best song on the album, featuring traditional Yes melodies and arrangements which can allure a fan of the band's more successful work. A lot of the themes presented early on are reprised to death, something which I personally was unimpressed with, and ultimately the listener will wish that these songs were cut in half in size. Fortunately, we get a strong closing movement with this one similar to "Close to the Edge" which wraps things up well enough.

The band goes off the beaten path with "The Remembering/High the Memory". Rather than pursuing another traditional symphonic Yes epic, the band moves into the sub-genre of progressive folk. Anderson modeled this movement to mimic the ebbing tide of the ocean, something which a listener can pick up on if they focus closely on the music. Since I am a rather blunt listener, I did not notice it at first, and it was a rather cool revelation when I read that the song had this kind of dynamic element to it. Unfortunately, there is even more filler here than on the previous song; save for a Wakeman keyboard solo presented in the latter half of the epic. Keep in mind it will take in excess of fifteen minutes for the listener to reach this moment. One difference between the epics on this album and that of "Close to the Edge's" title track is that these ones are not broken up into individual movements which paint a clearer picture of the tendencies of the epic. Rather Yes throws at us a huge brick of music which we have to break into little pieces to truly absorb. "The Remembering" moves at a very brisk pace, yet represents a very progressive piece of music as the spiritual themes of the album are present. Interestingly Anderson took the Indian epic poem "Mahabharata" as inspiration for this piece, or the "smriti" Hindu scriptures in general. The Mahabharata is one of the longest written works of literature in human history, ten times longer than Homer's Iliad and Odyssey COMBINED. Therefore it is quite fitting that a song about it is in excess of twenty-minutes; it's a shame that it wasn't thirty so that even devout prog listeners would get put to sleep trying to traverse through its experimental and cooling tide.

On the second LP, we move on to "The Ancient/Giants under the Sun", which is by far the most experimental of the four movements. It is also a more clear cut piece with two separate parts - the first is a very progressive guitar showcase by Howe, backed up by White's drums. To me this was the hardest part of the album to truly take in and appreciate, the inaccessibility here will turn off most listeners as Howe explores guitar scales and moves into an infinitesimal space of various sounds and motifs. However the second part is much more clear cut, and very musically appealing - Anderson and Howe combine as the latter puts on an acoustic showcase. In reality, this is the most beautiful moment of the album; this second part is referred to as "Leaves of Grass" and features some deeply philosophical lyrics about the human condition. It is often played on its own in Yes live concerts, fortunately without its much more abstract counterpart. Both Anderson and Howe look upon this song favorably for its technicality and musical diversity, and while I can appreciate the progressive nature of the first part, I feel that the real takeaway from this movement lies in "Leaves of Grass." It also seems that the bulk of the positive reviews of this album from critics praise this passage, while they tend to slam its predecessor.

The band closes out this leviathan of an album with yet another movement, "Ritual/Nous Sommes du Soleil" which is a return to the traditional Yes sound which many are fans of. While the inner two movements feature a lot of experimental passages which lack uniformity, "The Revealing" and "Ritual" seem to contain much more alluring melodies and grandiose passages which will garner the attention of the listener, granted he wants to endure the massive piles of noises which will bombard you in the process towards reaching those mountainous peaks. That being said, this is another solid offering by the band. While I am much less optimistic on the previous two movements, "Ritual" reinvigorates my spirit and will to complete this album. I always am fooled into thinking that the album completely ends halfway through, as the band carries through what I believe to be the ultimate climax. Even though Yes carries on for another twelve minutes, I feel like if things had been cut off here, I would have been satisfied - maybe the band didn't know where to stop, or more likely, had to come up with material to fill up a second LP, granted they had too much material for just a single vinyl. Ultimately I feel the band did a proper job finalizing the album with this suite, but even by the time "Ritual" begins, your average listener will be truly and unequivocally exhausted.

Steve Howe referred to the four movements of this album in a very concise manner. "The Revealing" is ironically considered to be "the commercial or easy-listening" side of the album, where the band unveiled the sounds and textures which had achieved much success in "Close to the Edge." There is one major problem however, as there seems to be something missing in the music which the previous album hand, and midway through my review I realized it; the absence of Bill Bruford and the addition of a mediocre Alan White takes away the heavy edge which the previous three albums had to hammer down the rhythm. Meanwhile, Howe acknowledges the folk influences on "The Remembering", claiming it to be a lighter and folky side of the band - in my opinion this movement is too light, taking away a lot of what made the band so pleasurable to listen to on previous albums. In the midst of trying to be progressive in their approach, the band abandoned the best traits of their music, leaving behind a rather empty and uninspiring piece. "The Ancient" is quite literally described by Howe as transcending from "electronic mayhem turning into acoustic simplicity." At face value this is a true statement, but I feel that mayhem is just too dissonant to actually translate into good music. It isn't like King Crimson where the dissonance is channeled into the music to create extremely diverse and brilliant instrumentals, but rather it is mayhem for the sake of being progressive. I have absolutely no complaints about the "Leaves of Grass" portion of this movement, for I consider it to be one of the positive takeaways of the album. Finally, "Ritual" is the grandiose closing piece which the band wraps up "Tales" with, and really it is just as good as "The Revealing" but should have ended a bit earlier to truly hammer down the point with the listener.

"Tales from Topographic Oceans" is a very hard album to judge given that it is rich in music and talent yet lacking in design. Many people absolutely adore it, while some detest its mere existence. I fall somewhere leaning towards masterpiece, but more of an "above average work" which deserves a little bit more respect from the rest of the community. It is by no means essential in the sense that it is listenable, but rather essential in the sense that it was a milestone for the genre; you could argue that "Tales" killed prog and gave rise to punk. That is enough to make it essential but it still is not a masterpiece. Had the songs been appropriately shortened, I feel like there were enough good moments here to flirt with a five-star review, but the abjectly long songs hamper it enough to nearly give it three stars. Looking back upon the album, Anderson admitted that it was too long, and hinted towards a potential updated version which is much more succinct without the vinyl constraints which were the folly of the band back in 1973. Every prog fan should at least attempt to listen to this album in its entirely, but it is not required that he actually explore the entire thing, or even explore parts of it more than once. The layout of "Tales" will always attract critics, but there will always be prospective fans who will consider it a gem. I am neither of those people.

I give "Tales" a respectable (80%, B-) with four stars. Very interesting, yet exhausting listen.

Report this review (#1935729)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2018 | Review Permalink
The Crow
3 stars After the incredible Close to the Edge, Yes failed to bring the magic back!

Because Tales From Topographic Oceans, despite having great moments, is a convoluted, overlong and irregular album with too much protagonist from Steve Howe and Jon Anderson (who wrote unintelligible lyrics for this album by the way) , leaving not too many moments to the other members of the band.

Nevertheless, Alan White is a fine successor of Bruford, the production of Eddy Offord was great as usual, and the record had its influence through posterior decades, like we can hear in posterior releases like Mike Oldfiled's Incantations.

Best Tracks: I especially like the second and fourth sections!

Conclusion: with a shorter length, less forgettable moments and not so much protagonist of the monotone voice that Anderson used for this songs, Tales From Topographic Oceans could have been much better.

Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable album with a pair of truly beautiful moments.

My rating: ***

Report this review (#2112880)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2018 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have never tried as hard to understand and enjoy an album as I have Tales from Topographic Oceans. I first bought the cassette in 1988, during which time I was "bingeing" on Yes. I'd listen to it back-to-back with Going for the One, Relayer, Close to the Edge, and the other 1969-1980 cassettes. The Yes Album was the first album to stand out from the others. Little by little, I began to understand Close to the Edge as a distinct work. Eventually, Tales and Relayer were the only "main sequence" albums that still didn't make sense to me.

By the time I bought a CD player a few years later, I was a committed Yes fan. I dutifully upgraded my collection, Tales included, to CD. The same was true the mid-90s when the Gastwirt remasters were released, and around 2002 when Rhino released "expanded" remasters of all of the albums through 90125. Each time I found something more to appreciate in Tales from Topographic Oceans. In particular, the Rhino remaster contained an earlier take of "The Ancient," which marked the first time I could actually say I liked a song from the album. The 17:18 track ("Giants Under the Sun (Studio Run-Through)") is a little shorter than the final (18:35) version, but contains the elements which would wind up on the official album. But it's much rougher and more experimental; especially due to the guitar parts, it could've fit on Relayer without much tweaking. Unfortunately, none of the other three "run-through" demos were any better than the final versions. Two appeared on the Rhino CD (takes of "The Revealing Science of God" and "The Remembering"), and the last ("Ritual") on a Highland bootleg.

About ten years later, Steven Wilson remixed Tales from Topographic Oceans from the original multitracks. It now sounded miles better than the cassette had. It contained not only the studio run-throughs, but a number of other tracks, including instrumental versions of the new Wilson remixes. But ultimately the source material still pales in comparison to the rest of Yes' output fro this era.

I continue to listen to Tales straight through about twice a year, but I must say, after thirty years, I still don't get it. It's easy to say of any double album that a one-disc version would've been better. I think that can be true in some cases, such as Prince's 1999. But the reverse can also make sense: based on archival re-releases and bootlegs, it's clear that Prince had enough material for Purple Rain (the follow-up to 1999) to have been a masterpiece double album. Yet he edited it down to a single album, possibly in response to criticism that 1999 had been padded. But ultimately, I believe the charge of "padding" against Tales from Topographic Oceans is justified. Certainly the 1:18 added to "The Ancient" adds little but length. And the fact that each of the four songs occupied one side of a 12-inch vinyl record makes it clear that the composition of the final songs was influenced by their length. (Of course, this doesn't mean they were "padded;" they could just as easily been edited down from 25 minutes each, for example. Furthermore, to some degree, running time has to be a factor in nearly every song released on vinyl.)

Tales contains wonderful sections here and there, and the performances, especially Rick Wakeman's, are up to Yes standards - - as many, many other reviewers have described in detail. For example, had it been a standalone track on Tormato, "Leaves of Green" woud've been one of that album's highlights. But most of the material seems to have been programmed, interpolated from a too-restrictive blueprint, rather than having emerged organically. The concepts on which the album was built were also probably insufficienly understood by the project's architects, Steve Howe and Jon Anderson, and, I suspect, without the counterbalance of recently departed drummer Bill Bruford, were given free reign by the rest of the band and by the producer. Indeed, Close to the Edge (1972), the group's last album with Bruford (unless you count Union), is recognized on this site as the pinnacle of prog rock. And to their great credit, Anderson, Howe, and company seem to have learned their lesson from Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973); their next album (Relayer, 1974) is, in my opinion, their masterpiece.

So how to rate this album? I certainly don't consider it "excellent" (four stars), and given its redeeming characteristics - - despite what you may think from my criticisms - - I also don't consider it "poor" or "only for completionists" (one star). Of the remaining choices, "Collectors/fans only" - - two stars - - seems to fit best. Perhaps after a few more years of study, I'll change my mind.

Report this review (#2118109)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is perhaps one of the more controversial progressive rock albums, and for good reason. Some loathe it, some love it. I fall into the second category. I find the album to be a triumphant work of art from tip to toe. This album is divided into four movements, each taking up their own side on one of the two discs. Each of the four movements has it's own unique characters, and each movement explores different motifs while developing those that have come before. Not only does "Tales" have an incredible contrast in musical styles, but it also has a very large range of emotions that are displayed throughout the whole two discs. Each movement is perfectly placed, and the album is brilliantly formatted. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is a concept album based upon Jon Anderson's interpretation of four Shastric scriptures from Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi". Many deem this concept to be an overblown and self indulgent move from Jon Anderson, but Yes really had nothing to lose after releasing the universally acclaimed "Close to the Edge", and new ideas were needed in order to create an album that was to be in any way as good as its predecessor. The concept alone is enough to make some people roll their eyes, but Jon proved it to be successful by creating Yes' strongest and most spiritual lyrics. The concept alone has gained notoriety among critics and fans, and tales of the infamous "curry incident" have long since been shared, in both fondness and in mocking.

I think that an ocean is the greatest non-musical comparison that I can make with this album. The music moves in waves of sound, that create immersive and dreamy atmospheres. Each movement creates an atmosphere that follows the next, like a musical journey. What makes "Close to the Edge" so special is that the emphasis of the music is on the atmosphere that it creates rather than the technical capability of each of its talented contributing musicians. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" takes this to an almost dramatic new level. At times I feel that the atmosphere is so exaggerated that it almost completely strips parts of the album of musical structure, and this is the point when you know that you have moved your art to a point that is further than the its literal nature.

"Disjointed but with purpose..." this line is a great description of this album, as people seem to misunderstand it's raw and oceanic nature, particularly when compared to the immaculate "Close to the Edge". But even with its flaws, "Tales" is an incredibly immersive musical experience. The main gripe that people have about this album is it's length. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" certainly has an incredibly long play time, and being a concept album also means that it demands patience. While I understand that this album is incredibly long, which may make it hard for certain people to follow, I fail to see how this makes it a bad album. The whole point of "Tales From Topographic Oceans" was to explore new territory; musically, lyrically, spiritually and conceptually. And from the mystical and haunting "High the Memory" to the crunchy and adventurous "The Ancients", I fail to see any lack of surprises. The album begins with "Revealing the Science of God". In my opinion, this track is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. What a climatic composition. A wide variety of emotions are communicated musically through this composition, and each of them is positive. The piece is beautifully formatted, with a beautiful build in the beginning, ethereal passages in the middle, and a climatic ending that bring the piece to an incredible finish. I cannot express my love for this track in words.

"The Remembering" is an absolutely incredible composition. This is one of Yes' most ambient pieces of music. Many people are bored by the lengthiness of this movement, as there is very little to please impatient ears. The movement relies heavily on textures and ambient atmospheres to communicate its ideas, and this is something that loses many impatient listeners. The melody that comes in at around 8 minutes is one of the most subtly powerful musical moments that I have ever experienced. Another incredible movement. "The Ancients" follows the previous two movements in the perfect direction. This piece is somewhat similar to "The Gates of Delirium", with a slightly King Crimson edge. While this piece continues the etheric and oceanic dreaminess of "The Remembering", it adds a raw and powerful edginess that really pulls the album together. I absolutely love this movement. There is a bewildering sense of dreaminess that is created through the intertwining section, from the menacing stabs in the band to the mystical chants of Jon Anderson. Some people say that they don't understand the experimentation of this movement, but I know that I understand all that I need to fully enjoy and immerse myself within the complex atmospheres that are created here. This movement does not disappoint me in the slightest.

"Ritual" is an excellent end to the album. The upbeat introduction has a folky melody that creates a joyous atmosphere, which is pleasing to the ear after the Avant-garde "The Ancients". Soon after, we begin to see some of the previous motifs from the album (and one from "Close to the Edge") revisited in Steve Howe's dreamy guitar solo. The last really obvious motif is then introduced; the sentimental "Nous Sommes Du Soleil". This movement bring the album to a fitting climax, both sentimental and mysterious. It is practically impossible to follow up a masterpiece like "Close to the Edge" without disappointing a great amount of fans. It has rarely been done. But in my opinion, this was the perfect way to do it. Yes could not keep releasing consecutive album that sound identical to "Close to the Edge". And if they did, "Close to the Edge" would not be such a treat.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is one of my favorite Yes albums, and one of my all time favorite prog albums. There is something deeply immersive and very emotional about this album, but it takes a patient listener to unlock all the secrets that are hidden within this masterwork. I do not expect that everybody will understand this album, but I think that this is an essential listen, and one of the most colorful and diverse musical experiences that this wonderful earth has to offer. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is perhaps one of the more controversial progressive rock albums, and for good reason. Some loathe it, some love it. I fall into the second category. I find the album to be a triumphant work of art from tip to toe. This album is divided into four movements, each taking up their own side on one of the two discs. Each of the four movements has it's own unique characters, and each movement explores different motifs while developing those that have come before. Not only does "Tales" have an incredible contrast in musical styles, but it also has a very large range of emotions that are displayed throughout the whole two discs. Each movement is perfectly placed, and the album is brilliantly formatted.

"Tales From Topographic Oceans" is a concept album based upon Jon Anderson's interpretation of four Shastric scriptures from Paramhansa Yoganada's "Autobiography of a Yogi". Many deem this concept to be an overblown and self indulgent move from Jon Anderson, but Yes really had nothing to lose after releasing the universally acclaimed "Close to the Edge", and new ideas were needed in order to create an album that was to be in any way as good as its predecessor. The concept alone is enough to make some people roll their eyes, but Jon proved it to be successful by creating Yes' strongest and most spiritual lyrics. The concept alone has gained notoriety among critics and fans, and tales of the infamous "curry incident" have long since been shared, in both fondness and in mocking.

I think that an ocean is the greatest non-musical comparison that I can make with this album. The music moves in waves of sound, that create immersive and dreamy atmospheres. Each movement creates an atmosphere that follows the next, like a musical journey. What makes "Close to the Edge" so special is that the emphasis of the music is on the atmosphere that it creates rather than the technical capability of each of its talented contributing musicians. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" takes this to an almost dramatic new level. At times I feel that the atmosphere is so exaggerated that it almost completely strips parts of the album of musical structure, and this is the point when you know that you have moved your art to a point that is further than the its literal nature. "Disjointed but with purpose..." this line is a great description of this album, as people seem to misunderstand it's raw and oceanic nature, particularly when compared to the immaculate "Close to the Edge". But even with its flaws, "Tales" is an incredibly immersive musical experience. The main gripe that people have about this album is it's length. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" certainly has an incredibly long play time, and being a concept album also means that it demands patience. While I understand that this album is incredibly long, which may make it hard for certain people to follow, I fail to see how this makes it a bad album. The whole point of "Tales From Topographic Oceans" was to explore new territory; musically, lyrically, spiritually and conceptually. And from the mystical and haunting "High the Memory" to the crunchy and adventurous "The Ancients", I fail to see any lack of surprises.

The album begins with "Revealing the Science of God". In my opinion, this track is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. What a climatic composition. A wide variety of emotions are communicated musically through this composition, and each of them is positive. The piece is beautifully formatted, with a beautiful build in the beginning, ethereal passages in the middle, and a climatic ending that bring the piece to an incredible finish. I cannot express my love for this track in words. "The Remembering" is an absolutely incredible composition. This is one of Yes' most ambient pieces of music. Many people are bored by the lengthiness of this movement, as there is very little to please impatient ears. The movement relies heavily on textures and ambient atmospheres to communicate its ideas, and this is something that loses many impatient listeners. The melody that comes in at around 8 minutes is one of the most subtly powerful musical moments that I have ever experienced. Another incredible movement.

"The Ancients" follows the previous two movements in the perfect direction. This piece is somewhat similar to "The Gates of Delirium", with a slightly King Crimson edge. While this piece continues the etheric and oceanic dreaminess of "The Remembering", it adds a raw and powerful edginess that really pulls the album together. I absolutely love this movement. There is a bewildering sense of dreaminess that is created through the intertwining section, from the menacing stabs in the band to the mystical chants of Jon Anderson. Some people say that they don't understand the experimentation of this movement, but I know that I understand all that I need to fully enjoy and immerse myself within the complex atmospheres that are created here. This movement does not disappoint me in the slightest. "Ritual" is an excellent end to the album. The upbeat introduction has a folky melody that creates a joyous atmosphere, which is pleasing to the ear after the Avant-garde "The Ancients". Soon after, we begin to see some of the previous motifs from the album (and one from "Close to the Edge") revisited in Steve Howe's dreamy guitar solo. The last really obvious motif is then introduced; the sentimental "Nous Sommes Du Soleil". This movement bring the album to a fitting climax, both sentimental and mysterious.

It is practically impossible to follow up a masterpiece like "Close to the Edge" without disappointing a great amount of fans. It has rarely been done. But in my opinion, this was the perfect way to do it. Yes could not keep releasing consecutive album that sound identical to "Close to the Edge". And if they did, "Close to the Edge" would not be such a treat. "Tales From Topographic Oceans" is one of my favorite Yes albums, and one of my all time favorite prog albums. There is something deeply immersive and very emotional about this album, but it takes a patient listener to unlock all the secrets that are hidden within this masterwork. I do not expect that everybody will understand this album, but I think that this is an essential listen, and one of the most colourful and diverse musical experiences that this wonderful earth has to offer.

Report this review (#2165458)
Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2019 | Review Permalink
2 stars 'And now for something completely different '. '

This album is the story of 'the hippie with the iron fist', the cardboard cows in the studio, Rick Wakeman eating chicken currie during a gig, and fans leaving the concert halfway, disappointed and confused, because this 2-LP studio-album (the sixth) is something completely different from the powerful, varied and captivating Yes sound between The Yes Album and Close To The Edge.

1. The Revealing Science Of God - Dance Of The Dawn (20:27) : This track is OK, it sounds like 1971-1973 Yes, very pleasant (good work from Howe and Wakeman) but never on the level of one of those previous studio-albums.

2. The Remembering - High The Memory (20:38) : During this song it starts to become clear that this Yes fails to generate the usual excitement, despite some awesome work from Wakeman on the Minimoog and Mellotron. Howe got lots of room, but he doesn't succeed to impress, too much from the same.

3. The Ancient - Giants Under The Sun (18:34) : Now Yes has lost control, to me it sounds as an experimental studio jam, looking for a musical direction. I am only pleased with Howe his classical guitar work, really wonderful.

4. Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil (21:35) : Too ambitious, too much over the top, too experimental, and Anderson his vocals starts to annoy. The only part that delights me a little bit is the beautiful ending, with warm vocals and piano, and finally howling guitar work, fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section, and in the end soft Mellotron waves.

This double LP has some strong moments on side 1 and 4, but the rest fails to generate any excitement, it fails to keep my attention, because Yes was too much unbalanced as an unit. And the hippie with the iron fist got too much control. But he learned from this, as you can experience on the successor Relayer (1974), and especially on Going For The One (1977), the album where he reunited with Wakeman, also in musical harmony, fresh and inspired.

Report this review (#2219894)
Posted Monday, June 10, 2019 | Review Permalink

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