Reviewed by Others on 01 Dec 2000
- - Review/Comments by Mark T - -
Wanna see a bunch of Yes fans get into a heated argument? Two words: Topographic Oceans.
This album, it seems, more than any other that Yes has recorded, causes great division in the ranks of the fans.
Some see it as brilliant, others see it as pretentious and overblown.
Personally, I love this album. It's not my all-time favorite of Yes, but I surely wouldn't want to be without it.
If you've never tried this album before, why not give it a listen, and form your own opinion? I believe this is the kind of music that takes repeated listens to absorb, which will take some time (the album clocks in at over 80 minutes)! Headphones are very highly recommended; car listening is not.
Now, to those who've already listened to Tales, I figure you've already formed your own opinion of it, and that's great. And if it so happens that you dislike it, that's great too. You'll probably find little of interest in my comments though...
It's difficult to describe the songs here. Let's just say that the elements of Yes that I happen to enjoy are here in abundance. You have first and foremost, Jon Anderson's cosmic/spiritual/new-agey ramblings, which I've never understood, and expect I never will. Still, Jon's voice is fantastic, and to me is like another 'instrument' in the band. Never mind if you can't figure out what he's singing! (I'm still working out what 'shining flying purple wolfhounds' from The Yes Album are all about).
There is much to enjoy in these songs. Steve Howe's guitar is prominent, and provides an expressive voice. Rick Wakeman's keyboards are fun, as always. And certainly not to be overlooked is the rhythm section of Chris Squire and Alan White, who really help pull things together.
Themes are established in the songs, and much of their length comes from the exploration of those themes. This is where the criticisms come in; some say these extended instrumental passages are a waste. I respectfully disagree.
A couple of things to listen for: the acoustic guitar section of The Ancient, and the reprise of earlier themes in Ritual.
So, try to be open-minded about this album, and you might find something worthwhile. If not, you have a couple of Roger Dean 'fishy' drink coasters. Either way, you can't lose!
Reviewed by Marc on 28 Oct 2003
The first Yes album I bought was Going for the One. A couple of years later I had bought Fragile, Close to the Edge... and it was now the time for Tales From Topographic Oceans. The price was very high for my budget (7$ or 8$ cnd I guess) but hey! it was Yes, a sure shot. After listening to it I remember I felt like crying, not because of being moved by this music, but because I was highly disappointed and wanted my 8$ back.
I must admit that I finally was able to appreciate most of this album, but it took me many listens and a lot of will to acheive that. But still, I felt (and still do) that this album was overproduced and that some instrumental parts (esspecially in the last two songs) only contributed to lengthen the songs without adding much substance to them. For this the 2003 reedition is quite interesting because they have added two demos that, to my ears, are more interesting than the originals because they let us discover what this music could have been if the guys had decided to do it in this manner. Even though not the masterpiece it could have been, an essential album to have in your collection.
Reviewed by DBSilver on 29 Oct 2003
I actually saw the Tales From Topographic Oceans tour back in the early 70's and I had picked up this double album just before this concert. The concert was great - - in particular I recall the power of Wakeman's bass notes on the keyboards which vibrated the whole building and all the organs in my chest....
The ablum itself is an extension of and a departure from the prior two classic works - Close to the Edge and Fragile. Clearly this double album of four side-long songs represents a conceptual and musical complexity not seen before in previous Yes albums or for that matter most other prog-albums. I could never follow any meaning in the lyrics, but I learned them and could sing them during my many 'air'-performances of this album's music. Not that it matters since most fans of this band have never put too much stock in the lyrical content anyway. "I get up... I get down".
While this is all clearly Yes music and full of memorable moments and hightlights, it is not nearly as easy a listen as the prior (and subsequent) releases. As a result it has many detractors and I will confess that this is the most over the top of all the classic-era Yes albums. For me personally it ranks in a kind of tie for favorate - After Close to the Edge but even with Fragile and Relayer.
If you are a fan of classic-era Yes, then you have to have this album and will no doubt grow to enjoy it because the music is nearly all at the peak of Yes quality and style. There are moments that very much bore me - especially in sides (tracks) 3 & 4.
As with my CDs from Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd, I found it necessary to buy the various gold or remaster/expanded versions. The 2003 remaster/expanded is a notable enhancement sonically - it sounds fantastic, but the additional studio run through tracks are not a reason to buy it. They are interesting, of course, but if you are happy with the sonic qualities of your existing copy the addition of these two tracks do not by themselves justify a repurchase.
Reviewed by MichelF on 06 Nov 2008
Tales from Topographic Oceans
, tales of wonder! I have loved deeply that double LP from the first listen; what a magnificent progressive soundscape. It is totally mind expanding, the imagination fly high listening to it! It is also a very original and controversial work: boring for some (the very definition of pompous music!), extraordinary for others (my view). Sometimes, I suppose that those that don't dig it have problems with their attention span. It seems that many of my fellow human beings are in a zapping mood these days; the shorter the better.
I loved epic length track and Tales offer me a real feast. I was already a true fan, but with The Topographic Oceans I was a committed fan. I may concede that it is not perfect. However, the most important thing for me is that I still enjoy it. I have bought it in vinyl, in cassette and finally in CD format! I confess that I have not bought the 2003 remastered CD. Therefore my comment applies to the original version. The jacket by Roger Dean aptly captured the spirit of a long forgotten past.
This album is the debut of Allan White with Yes, a very different drummer than Bill Bruford who, in my opinion, is at that time better of with King Crimson. It is not that Alan is better than Bill, but he seems at that period more in phase with the group. The musical result of this new addition is for me evident: one of the best symphonic progressive rock albums of all time. I have liked their previous effort, but this one is a step higher, it almost defines symphonic progressive rock. Each track is interesting in itself, each has it's highlights.
What happen to this song we once new so well? "The Revealing Science of God" with its catchy chorus and all around superb musicianship open up a path to the mythic oceans, buried deep in the collective unconsciousness. On all the tracks, the bass of Chris Squire blend in perfectly. "The Remembering" is one of my all time favorite work of Yes with Awaken, South Side of the Sky and Close to the Edge. It is luminous, joyous and fun, a real gloom fighter. The keyboards create most of the ambiance; it is a Wakeman piece with superb nuances. "The Ancient" is a group song. Each member of the band had its moment. From the rhythmic beginning, the tune alternate between quiet dreamlike moments and more exciting one, with a nostalgic feeling sown in. And the accoustic guitar solo by Howe is memorable, certainly one of the highlight of this piece. "Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)" closed nicely this epic project with another upbeat mood. We are from the sun, a dwarf yellow class G star. Anderson seems fascinated and inspired by space and what it possibly could mean for us, he is certainly not alone in this endeavour. This piece offers us also the chance to appreciate Alan White talent as a drummer and percussionist in a solo with Wakeman, followed by superb guitar and piano with an almost unplug feel.
It may be a musical achievement not immediately accessible, but I still recommend it for all lovers of symphonic progressive rock. For me, it is a landmark. Finally, I find amusing that parts of the lyrics were at times so...obscure! So nonsensical! Those lyrics look like much of modern poetry to me! Even Jon Anderson has to admit that certain passages were difficult for him to comprehend and the rest of the group made fun of him for this.