Yes
Topographic Drama - Live Across America


3.5
great

Review

by Divaman USER (157 Reviews)
December 13th, 2017 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This live album showcases some Yes material that hasn't always gotten the attention it deserves.

This is a double-length live album recorded from last year's tour by the current Yes lineup that includes Jon Davison on vocals, Steve Howe on guitar, Billy Sherwood on bass, Geoff Downes on keyboards and Alan White on drums (with Jay Schellen substituting for White on some tracks when White was laid up due to back surgery). The tour was focused on performances of Yes's 1980 Drama album, plus two sides of their 1973 double LP Tales From Topographic Oceans, "The Revealing Science of God" and "Ritual". The album also features performances of "Leaves of Green", an excerpt from one of the other pieces from Topographic Oceans, "The Ancient", plus live versions of other Yes classics such as "And You and I", "Heart of the Sunrise", Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper". Long-time Yes collaborator Roger Dean contributed the artwork throughout.

Although I know that many people consider this lineup to be little more than a Yes tribute band, this is actually a really satisfying album. Clocking in at a little over two-and-a-quarter hours, it has its ups and downs, but most of it is really solid. The band does a particularly good job on the Drama part of the album. Davison's voice is a good fit for the material there, and Downes, who was the keyboardist on the original Drama LP, is at his strongest here. It's great to hear the band focus on numbers such as "Machine Messiah", "Into the Lens", "Tempus Fugit" and "Run Through the Light", and hearing a live performance of a song snippet such as "White Car" is a rare treat.

The performance of the Topographic Oceans material is a little more problematic. Full disclosure here -- I'm not a big fan of the original album. Parts of it are exquisite, but other parts are very dense, and it's always been one of my least favorite Yes albums. I think that Davison holds his own reasonably well on the live version of this material, but as much as I like Geoff Downes as a pop keyboardist, he's not Rick Wakeman (or even Patrick Moraz or Igor Khoroshev, for that matter), and while Sherwood is a competent bass player, his bass doesn't punch through the sound the way the late, great Chris Squire's did. Consequently, while "Revealing Science" and "Ritual" both have their moments, there were also times during each number where I felt my attention start to drift.

One good thing does come from the absence of Wakeman and Squire on the album, though - it's a tour de force for Yes master guitarist Steve Howe. Throughout the performance, the band seems to back off to give Howe room to shine, and he takes full advantage of the opportunity. I don't remember another album where his guitar playing is so often pushed to the forefront, and it definitely makes the album more enjoyable.

Topographic Drama - Live Across America makes me sorry I didn't catch the band live on this tour, and at the same time makes me feel a little like I was there, which is about all you could ask from a live album. I won't claim it's the best live LP that Yes has ever released -- if you're new to the band, you're probably better off starting with 1973's Yessongs or 1980's Yesshows. However, it's certainly a worthy addition to any Yes fan's collection.

Yes as a band has been in existence for nearly 50 years now, and has featured a variety of different rosters during that span. Topographic Drama - Live Across America is an impressive showcase for their most recent lineup, and does a good job of spotlighting some material from their back catalog that hasn't always gotten the attention it deserves. More importantly, it's simply a good listen.



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user ratings (4)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Azertherion
December 13th 2017


510 Comments


Great review. The last lives I've heard from the new Yes lineup were horrendous thought (I think it was Progeny edit: it was Like It Is), so I'm not too sure about trying this one out...

Divaman
December 13th 2017


4500 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, there's no Anderson, Squire or Wakeman, so you know going in you have to lower your expectations a little. For me, the "Drama" material really made it worthwhile -- I've always loved that album, and the current band does a good job with it.

Digging: Deep Cut - Different Planet

Azertherion
December 13th 2017


510 Comments


Drama is indeed quite a good album, often overlooked by Yes fans. Who knows, maybe the magic will happen somehow...

MrSirLordGentleman
December 13th 2017


12891 Comments


Drama is Yes most underrated album, yeh

Jethro42
December 13th 2017


15969 Comments


The Drama part of this live album arguably beats the studio album at some point, in all case. Songs are as powerful as the originals. The singer incredibly fits in those songs, way more than Trever Hornes did.

I also praise ''Starship Trooper'' a lot in there. Faithful to the original, but a great live interpretation. The other classic songs are also good, but didn't really impress me as much as the originals. Songs from Topographic lack of substance. They are too lite and I feel something is missing there. Squire's shoes are big ones to fill, and I feel that Sherwood tries too hard to imitate him, and fails. He's good nonetheless, but way less punchy.

I only gave one spin until now...Will change it.
Great review, Diva.

Divaman
December 13th 2017


4500 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, guys.

SCREAM!
December 14th 2017


15756 Comments


Got to see them live before Squire passed and they sounded pretty great in person (although I can imagine listening to a recording wouldn't be the same). They were performing Close to the Edge, The Yes Album and Going for the One (plus Roundabout as an encore).

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 14th 2017


17257 Comments


So this is the live album you told me about, Diva. Yeah I am not a big fan of this line up, specially the absence of Anderson, but I will give it a try. Have a pos!

Digging: Common Holly - When I say to you Black Lightning

TwigTW
December 14th 2017


3825 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm with you Diva. Tales isn't my favorite Yes album. Having said that, hearing the songs live was one of my best Yes experiences. If I had to choose only one original member of Yes for this album, Steve Howe is the right man for the job. (Didn't Wakeman and Anderson leave the band over this album?) I'll give this a listen later today.

Divaman
December 14th 2017


4500 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hi Twig. No, Anderson and Wakeman left the band a few years ago. This album was taped during last year's tour, and it was only released three weeks ago. But as you might know, Anderson and Wakeman are currently working with Trevor Rabin on their own version of Yes, and they might just put out their own album in 2018. I'm not a big Rabin guy, but I'd definitely check it out if they do.



Thanks for the pos, Dewinged.

e210013
December 14th 2017


2616 Comments


As you know, in contrary to you, I' always was a great fan of "Tales From Topographic Oceans", one of my favourite albums from them, and I always loved "Drama". And I always loved "And You And I", "Heart Of The Sunrise", Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper" too. Still, I don't know what I can expect from this line up. I agree with you, Geoff Downes is a good pop keyboardist but he is very far way of be Rick Wakeman, Patrick Moraz or even Igor Khoroshev. No problem with "Drama", but as a great fan of "Tales", I'm a bit suspicious about this live performance. Even more with the absence of Chris Squire, perhaps my favourite bassist ever. But you gave me hope when you say that Steve Howe, shines on this album. He always was for me one of the finest guitarists.

So, I'm very curious about this new live album. Definetely, I must buy it, for sure. Maybe a Cristmas present for myself, why not? Besides, Yes always was one of my favourite prog bands.

Great informative review, bro. Pos.

Divaman
December 14th 2017


4500 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, e. I suspect that you'll enjoy it, especially the parts from "Drama", although even as a fan of "Tales", you might find that part a bit lacking (see Jethro's comments above). But Howe is terrific throughout, and overall, it's a very enjoyable album.

Sabrutin
December 14th 2017


6545 Comments


Just checked White Car (no joke, it's my favorite song off Drama; I could loop it forever) and Davison does a good job though the original song is a bit more magical (they changed the last 20 seconds!). I also listened to Run Through the Light and it's really great, perhaps better than the original. I may have to check this album out. Thanks Diva for bringing it to my attention!

Also Roger Dean artwork

Divaman
December 14th 2017


4500 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, it probably ought to get an extra half star for Roger Dean artwork alone. His art has always been a nice addition to Yes' legacy.

Sabrutin
December 31st 2017


6545 Comments


Heard the Drama side and honestly I think we could still get a worthwile new album if they try hard enough

TwigTW
January 5th 2018


3825 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was a pleasant surprise. Thanks for shining a spotlight on it. I even enjoyed the 'Tales' selections... maybe it's time to give 'Tales' another listen.

e210013
January 6th 2018


2616 Comments


Do that Twig. As you know, I always considered "Tales" a misunderstood album.

Titan
January 6th 2018


20017 Comments


Tales is incredible......top 4 Yes for me



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