The Bodhisattva Beat
Music and Life

Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans

Tales from Topographic Oceans: 1973

Tales from Topographic Oceans: 1973

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. It consists of 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.

More recently I purchased the re-master, 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 terrific 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.

Jon Anderson – vocals

Steve Howe – guitars and vocals

Chris Squire – bass and vocals

Rick Wakeman – keyboards

Alan White – drums

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3 Responses to “Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans”

  1. I am sure Micky will soon chime in, since he is a huge fan of the album. I, on the other hand, have never really managed to get into it, though I must also say I’ve never tried hard enough. When I first heard it, I was probably too young and inexperienced.. Now, I believe, it is the time to try again.

    • It’s worth it. Even if you still fail to connect, I often find it useful to revisit things with a different perspective.

      • I agree 100% on that. As a matter of fact, I have found out that listening carefully to an album can change my opinion of it rather thoroughly. I do that all the time when reviewing for ProgressoR, and have seen firsthand how much adopting a different listening style can influence your view of an album.


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