YES — Tales From Topographic Oceans (review)

YES — Tales From Topographic Oceans album cover Album · 1973 · Jazz Related Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Prog Zone
Review - #7 (Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans)

Tales from Topographic Oceans is the sixth studio album by Yes, released in December of 1973. This seems to be a somewhat controversial album by the band. Described by some as a failure and described by others as a masterpiece. The band's lineup consisted of Jon Anderson on vocals, Steve Howe on guitar, Chris Squire on bass, Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and Alan White on drums. Despite Alan White being an exceptional drummer, the absence of Bill Bruford is felt on this album. Still, I would not go as so far to say that it effects the overall quality of the music. This album was an enormous undertaking by the band, consisting of four side long suites of music that isn't easy listening by any definition. Jon Anderson developed the concept of the album during the band's 1973 tour in Japan where he read a footnote in the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda that describes four bodies of Hindu texts about a specific field of knowledge, collectively named shastras: the Ε›ruti, smriti, puranas, and tantras. After informing guitarist Steve Howe about the idea, the two developed the album's themes and lyrics with lesser contributions from the rest of the band. This album seems to be, by definition, an album that prog fans should be very fond of! I've never heard of an album that was "too progressive" for prog fans! However, it continues to be panned by critics as self-indulgent and pompous. But other albums that continue to be praised aren't? Let's go on a tale through topographic oceans and see what this album has to offer.

The first song on the album, The Revealing Science of God - Dance of the Dawn, seems to be the fan favorite. Containing the most rock sensibilities found throughout the entire album, this song contains a variety of mood swings and a great amount of Steve Howe guitar riffs. In addition, Chris Squire's bass work here is some of his best found on the album. The next song, The Remembering - High the Memory, happens to be my favorite on the album. It has a fantastic almost dreamlike introduction that is continuously built up as the song introduces new sections. Throughout the piece, Rick Wakeman adds atmospheric keyboard sections that are breathtakingly beautiful. Jon Anderson even once mentioned that it was one of his favorite melodies Rick Wakeman ever recorded. An utterly underrated track in the album that truly displays a unique side of Yes. Speaking of unique, nothing is quite as unique as The Ancient - Giants Under the Sun. I do have to agree with critics when they say this is the weakest song on the album, however, it is still a fantastic addition nonetheless. Furthermore, it is probably the strangest piece of music the band ever wrote with the only song coming remotely close is Sound Chaser found on the album Relayer. The song contains a mix and match of odd guitar riffs that truly takes the listener to another world, another dimension in fact! Moreover, at around the twelve-and-a-half-minute mark, the song switches up into a lovely acoustic section that showcases excellent guitar work from Steve Howe and incredible vocals from Jon Anderson. Overall, a great song! Lastly, we have Ritual - Nous sommes du Soleil which is the final suite on the album. This song is the perfect send-off the album needed, combining various riffs found through the album in addition to one riff that was present on Close to the Edge. Chris Squire's bass work shines all over the entire album but is undeniably highlighted the most in this piece. There are numerous superbly written sections, in addition to a percussion section that is truly out of this world, helps this song come together as one cohesive piece.

This is not an album that you will love on a first, second, or maybe even third listen. This is a goliath of an album to conquer, but when you conquer it, nothing is quite as rewording! From the excellent song writing throughout, to the courage it takes to even attempt an album like this, this is a definitive masterpiece of progressive rock that is essential in every progressive rock collection. Highly recommended!

- π˜›π˜©π˜ͺ𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘷π˜ͺ𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘒𝘴 𝘰𝘳π˜ͺ𝘨π˜ͺ𝘯𝘒𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘳π˜ͺ𝘡𝘡𝘦𝘯 𝘧𝘰𝘳 π˜—π˜³π˜°π˜¨ 𝘈𝘳𝘀𝘩π˜ͺ𝘷𝘦𝘴 (
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