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What does the prog world really think of Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans?

It was the Yes album that split critics, fans and the line-up that recorded it. So we asked the great and the good of the prog world is Tales From Topographic Oceans fantastic or folly?


“I know this was an album that divided opinion when it was first released, but I liked it at the time, and still do. I recall Chris Squire once telling me that when the band were working on this album they did no more than a few bars of music a day. This meant they could perfect what they had, and explains why Tales… sounds so highly detailed.

“I know it was Jon Anderson’s concept, but you can tell from the way everyone got involved instrumentally that all of Yes were at a peak. And here we are, 40 years later, still talking about it. That proves that whether you love or hate it, this album has made a lasting impact.”

JOHN MITCHELL (Lonely Robot/It Bites)

“Yes have been one of my enduring favourite bands since I accidentally bought an album aged 14 on the basis that I mistakenly took the guitarist to be shredder extreme Greg Howe (big fan as a kid) and not, in fact, Steve Howe. An odd way to get into a band you might think, but my love for the band hasn’t diminished since that first accidental encounter. That said, as with most bands they’ve made good albums and not so good albums.

Tales… was perhaps the moment that the cracks on the wall of Yes started to show, and the decline into the preposterousness of progressive rock began. A tenuous concept to begin with, based on a book of Hindu teachings, stretched into four songs over four sides of a double album does not make for particularly enjoyable listening experience.

“It’s not a bad album per se, but it very much sinks under the weight of its own bloated self-importance, and that’s coming from a Yes devotee! Apart from The Revealing Science Of God which has some moments of genuine beauty, the rest of the opus clatters on held together with more filler than a Triumph Spitfire. I suppose I should feel more affection for an album written on the year of my birth but I’m afraid I don’t. Stick with Close To The Edge!”

From the archive

From the archive


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