Yes
Tales from Topographic Oceans


3.5
great

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
November 21st, 2010 | 175 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Almost blown up to a fault, Tales From Topographic Oceans is a flawed, but important piece in Yes' classic years.

How do you, as an artist, follow up a classic album, or just your best work up to that point? It is an issue that has plagued many musical performers, and when Yes released the progressive milestone Close to the Edge in 1972, they faced this very problem. Being ambitious, and familiar with writing large-scale epics, the band took the common decision: to make that next album bigger than anything before it. A 81-minute concept based on Shastric scriptures (Jon Anderson’s fancy), Tales From Topographic Oceans is, for the lack of a better word, huge.

Albums like these are prone to implode because of their own length, and Topographic Oceans is certainly getting in the danger zone. It’s a large pill to swallow, and it won’t be the first Yes album you'll pick up for a listen. Describing all its intricacies would be a long-winded affair, so to keep it short: while this double album contains some of Yes’ most gorgeously-composed passages, it does (surprise surprise) seem a little too stretched out. The band, ambitious composers as they are, would not likely resort to meaningless noodling, so as a whole, the album actually still pretty great. Its lengthiness however doesn’t put it anywhere on the same level as the group’s three greatest achievements, being Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Relayer.

What made Close to the Edge a classic was perhaps that it was a band effort in the end, giving everyone a chance to show their abilities, both alone and in interplay. This is where Topographic Oceans strays off the right path again. The majority of this double concept was composed by Anderson and Howe, and these two are almost constantly in the musical spotlight. On the bright side, Howe’s guitar playing here is among his brightest performances. He was, after all, often enough overshadowed by Squire and Wakeman, and this might have been payback. Wakeman however didn’t take the clear division so well, and left the band to pursue his solo career. Another classic Yes member took his leave, although he was to return later.

Even the biggest Yes followers will have to conclude that the band blew up Tales From Topographic Oceans a bit, but at the end of the day, we still have an essential Yes record with constantly great musicianship here. Being stretched out over 80 minutes, this also is a lot more relaxed to listen to than their classics, so if you’re in the right mood and take your time, it really does pay off. Not the best to start with, but most definitely an important piece in Yes’ career.

Tales From Topographic Oceans’ Yes was:

- John Roy Anderson ~ Lead Vocals, Timpani, Harp, Tambourine
- Stephen James Howe ~ Lead Guitar, Timpani, Backing Vocals
- Christopher Russell Squire ~ Bass Guitar, Timpani, Backing Vocals
- Richard Christopher Wakeman ~ Mellotron, Mini-Moog, Organ, Piano
- Alan White ~ Drums, Percussion

TO BE CONTINUED...




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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
November 21st 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Obviously the weakest link in their classic years.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
November 21st 2010


28586 Comments


I INVENTED THIS SHIT

Digging: Chris Brown - X

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
November 21st 2010


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There is something about the pretentiousness of this album that I quite enjoy.

aresx
November 21st 2010


307 Comments


i will never understand why i tried listening to this album first
it ruined Yes for me a little bit :/

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

Jethro42
November 21st 2010


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album with fabulous moments throughout. Their hardest work ever to get into, and you only can fully appreciate after several listenings, just like any of their classic lineup after all, but this time, it's clearly more experimental, less polished and less structured, but not in a pejorative way. Compositions may seem to drag here and there, but it's not the case at all; It has to grow on you. Musicianship and arrangements are inevitably top notch. Highlights: First and last songs.
Awesome work once again, Nag. Your 1st paragraph speaks the truth. What a pleasant discog!

ubermensch518
November 22nd 2010


52 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

mmm this album is great, hilarious, and peaceful at the same time. It takes forever to fully absorb if only because you always zone out somewhere in it. "The Revealing Science of God / Dance of the Dawn" is really great, especially the opening (this album might have my favorite Yes opening).

Not your best review, you don't say much other than - its long but well made. I like your focus on Howe's guitar, and it might be stronger if you went in to a few more specifics (songs, moments), even though I know the album's a bear to approach in a review. Maybe that's why you're ending all your Yes reviews in that foreboding "to be continued" lol.. Nice Job

Nagrarok
November 22nd 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks all. I didn't really got into specifics because this is a monster best approached as a whole.

Jethro42
November 23rd 2010


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Knowing that Wakeman did a light heart attack when he was 25, I did a research to see when it happened and I found that it was shortly after his departure from Yes. At the same time, and like you said in your review, I found that he left primarily because of musical differences. He felt that TFTO was thin on substance, and did not connect with its themes. Further, he did not enjoy the experience of reproducing the entire work on stage each night. He felt the lenght of the songs prohibited the band from playing many of their classic gems. It must be said that he was also pretty busy with his solo works at that time.


AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, this album gets hosed way too much. It rules hard.

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2011


16137 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, not exactly their most accessible album.

jefflebowski
September 25th 2011


8247 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

prog at it's very worst.

Gets a shout-out in The Rotters' Club though. Great book

Digging: Shellac - Dude Incredible

Jethro42
September 25th 2011


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^Bummer. According to your profile, you have nothing to do in Progland, so yes. Also, you just given a fresh rate on this. Album takes much more than one listen. Especially for an indie-pop lover.

Nagrarok
September 25th 2011


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's impossible to grasp this after just one listen.

jefflebowski
September 25th 2011


8247 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I don't actually like Indie-Pop, my pie chart is somewhat misleading. I do listen to
quite a lot of prog - Rare Bird, Tim Greenwood and Soft Machine spring to mind, as well as the more
bluesy stuff like Colosseum

Don't get me wrong, I'm not hatin' on yes 'cause I think it's cool, I just never saw the artistic
merit in this album. The earlier stuff i find much more bearable.

As for the recent rating, I just happened to see this on the main page and thought, 'hey, I know this
album, I dislike it'. I haven't listened to it for at least a year - maybe I should

Jethro42
September 25th 2011


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

prog at it's very worst.

Pretty weird coming from a guy who knows nothing about prog.
edit; w/e

jefflebowski
September 25th 2011


8247 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

edit: no longer relevant

Jethro42
September 25th 2011


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rare Bird sucks

Nagrarok
September 25th 2011


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes ranked

1. close to the edge
2. fragile
3. relayer
4. the yes album
5. tales from topographic oceans
6. the rest



jefflebowski
September 25th 2011


8247 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Epic Forest is a classic album, though it is less proggy than the first couple

Jethro42
September 25th 2011


12456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nag knows where it's at although The Yes Album is really tied with Relayer to me.



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