It’s been too long since I reviewed anything so I think I’m going to give it another shot. A while back one of my friends got me into Yes because he thought I listened to too much emo (I later admitted that he was right all along.) I downloaded some songs and bought “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” in rapid succession. Within a couple of months I was won over to their side, where I remain to this day. I think it ought to be good practice seeing how Yes is so complex and rewarding.
I’ve been enjoying to Close to the Edge for a while now and I just recently picked up “Tales of Topographic Oceans”. The first time I listened to it I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it. The massive volume of music swarmed my brain and I was forced to retreat, a broken and defeated man. Since then I’ve repeated the process a good many time and grown very fond of it. I’m shocked by how different this is from “Close to the Edge”. Gone is the psychotic musical pandemonium that guaranteed a severe brain-ache within the first three minutes, “Tales” is far more cohesive. Not that I can possibly find fault with “Close to the Edge”. “Tales” simply holds its mood a lot better then “Close to the Edge” even through the changes.
The Revealing is a very strong opener. It has a powerful sense of feeling, climax and majesty. The intro is ominous and the chant style vocals give a taste of the glory to come. The body of the song has a very strong ambient mood to it. Even without listening to the lyrics you can get a real feel for the imagery. It feels like you’re actually going through the topographic ocean, whatever that means. There are a lot of strong re-occurring themes on all the songs that tie the music together nicely. The climax on this track is a beautiful example of the coherency of this piece of artwork and its more united feel.
Yes is known for writing songs full of senseless meandering, almost to a fault. However on this album the wandering feels like a mystical journey through the many different moods and images that Yes has crafted with such care. “Close to the Edge” could get away with more tangents because it was only one song. “Tales” had to be more unified. Four twenty-minute songs would have been far too chaotic to stomach. In that way “Close to the Edge” is better. It had more variation between and within the songs. Personally I think “Tales” comes out stronger in the end. All the songs, although more monotonous, sound much better together.
The Remembering brings the mood back down for a nice ambient break. Although the intro is relatively simple (by Yes standards,) it is very beautiful and moody. It has less migraine inducing musical insanity and more masterfully structured chord progressions. I really enjoyed the Remembering. It brought the musical journey to a happier and more laid back place. The calm before the storm, so to speak. The ambient break before the climax echoes that sentiment. It has lots of moody keyboards with hissing cymbals that forbode what’s to come.
The Remembering’s climax leads beautifully into The Ancients. It starts out with a franticly fast and unconventional drumbeat, played on what the booklet says is a hollowed out log. A whining Indian style keyboard line accompanies the kick ass drums making for a darker sort of mood. This leads into the main body of the song. It has a chaotic/majestic kind of feel to it and shows a new kind of experimentation from Yes. I think this is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s by no means bad, but the experimentation just takes a bit of getting used to. This demonstrates another quality of this album. Close to the Edge had three, separate, and incredible opuses. “Tales” feels a lot more unified. Even the individual solos feel like part of the song (Steve Howe does an amazing classical guitar one on The Ancients).
The Ritual closes the album, and it’s easily the most epic and majestic song yet. There’s nothing I love more then epic majesty, except maybe twenty minute long epic majesty done in classic Yes style. This song averages a higher tempo that keeps with the overall climactic mood. Personally I think this song is the strongest on the album (it’s a toss-up between this and the first). How Yes unwound all the energy that built up over the past hour is really masterful. All this happens during the mighty climax of the album in the second half of the song. Chris Squier in particular shines and demonstrates his killer chops with pride. The drums backing him are equally faultless. I find that they conveyed a darker, more frantic energy. This is all rounded off by the Steve and Rick who fill in the mood with ambiance. All in all, the whole journey rounds itself off with a glorious punch.
So there you have it. A mystical journey through an intense double album of masterfully written material. It’s amazing how the intro/body/climax of each song also flows along parallel to the intro/body/climax of the album. This is top notch stuff right here. I recommend it very highly, even if I liked “Close to the Edge” better.
-Highly epic and majestic
-Flows like a cohesive work
-Stays interesting through the whole eighty minutes
-Musical meandering is more stable
-Prog at it’s strongest
-Not as much variety as before
-A little editing wouldn’t hurt anything