Tales From Topographical Oceans (1974)

1. The Revealing Science of God: Dance of the Dawn 2. The Remembering: High the Memory 3. The Ancient: Giants Under the Sun 4. Ritual: Nous Sommes du Soleil


Oy. Talk about a botched idea.

How could this have happened? Well, let’s first look at the background. First, Yes really started to gel and find its groove on their third album, The Yes Album. The most popular tracks on that album, as well as the two that followed, were the longest songs. The audience seemed to appreciate these the most. By the time they got to last year’s Close to the Edge, the entire LP only had three songs total, with side 1 taking up the entire allotted space. Again, it was a hit. So with this record, it probably shouldn’t have initially surprised anyone that they try to keep extending the formula. Not only are they limiting their song selection to only one song per album side, but they’re going all out and putting out a double album. So four sides of music with only four songs – each lasting about twenty minutes in length. Got all that?

Well, unfortunately, the band simply lost its way. They forgot that in order to make good music, they need to….well…make good music. The music here is not good. The songs, arrangements, mood changes, everything is just awful. Apparently, they got so wrapped up on the lyrics, that the music took a back seat. Sadly lyrics were never really Yes’ strong point. Oh, the lyrics were good enough and strong enough, it’s just they always sung about weird stuff that most of their fans never really cared about nor got into appropriately. Supposedly, this album is based on some sort of Eastern Religion focusing on some sort of scriptures by some Yogi or something. I’m not really sure. Unfortunately, I really don’t care that much. Apparently neither did most of their fans.

Now, I never really payed much attention to any of Yes’ lyrics, so perhaps such concepts had been explored before. Maybe the band thought if those songs were well received, they would replicate the formula? The formula, though, definitely is not in the music. Oh the music is definitely Yes all right. We here all the trademark sounds, instruments, time changes, etc. but nothing here resonates well. If you were to explore the entire 80 minutes of music here, you might find 5-6 minutes of passages in various songs that sound o.k., but such a ratio simply can’t work when one has to mentally weed out that much filler.

I can’t honestly listen to this thing from front to back. I can only listen to it one song at a time. When I do, it’s because I’m hoping that maybe there’s something in these songs that’s relevant that I just have never been able to discover before. After multiple listens, this sadly just isn’t the case. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman hated it as well and quit the band after its release. This was kind of ironic because the last Yes album, Close to the Edge also caused a member to quit (drummer Bill Bruford), yet that album turned out to be a masterpiece. You can’t help but wonder after this thing came out if Bill called up Rick and said “I told you so!”

They were to do a little better next time.

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