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Music Review: Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans

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Yes released Tales From Topographic Oceans December 14, 1973. It was one of the most ambitious albums of their career and of the decade for that matter. It was both critically praised and panned at the time of its release. It would be a commercial success reaching number six on the American album charts and number one in England.

The original vinyl album was a two-disc release that contained one extended track on each side. It was similar to the classical symphonic style, except for the fact it was rock music. The concept was based upon Shastric scriptures and the songs explored the subjects of truth, knowledge, culture, and freedom.

Jon Anderson and Steve Howe took the writing credits for all the music and were responsible for the album’s concepts. Rick Wakeman was not pleased at being excluded, so not all was well with the band.

This is progressive rock at its most excessive and is not for the faint of heart. You can almost ignore the lyrics and just listen to the music. Then listen to it again and again and again. It is intricate, dense, ambitious, and exhausting. It is one of those albums that you will either love or hate.

The album begins with the 20-minute “The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn).” Again the lyrics are inane so it is all in the music. It is a very complicated piece and Alan White’s drumming is some of the best of his career. The philosophical statement is trying to understand the truth. The music reflects the bits and pieces of knowledge.

Track two is another 20-minute opus. “The Remembering (High The Memory)” is repetitive in places but Steve Howe’s guitar playing makes the journey worthwhile. The theme is the knowledge that is available around us.

“The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun)” comprises the third side of the original release. It focus’ on forgotten knowledge of forgotten civilizations. It is another launching ground for Howe’s guitar playing and Anderson’s philosophy. Wakeman does contribute some of his classic keyboards.

The album draws to a close with “Freedom Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)” It is a 21 minute examination of the human condition through music. The music meanders and soars and allows the listener to collapse across the finish line.

The music is grandiose and the philosophy behind the music is difficult to grasp, or to even attempt at understanding. It is Yes at its most bombastic and takes some time getting used too. It all comes down to a matter of taste.

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