YES – Tales From Topographic Oceans Definitive Deluxe Edition

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Forty three years after its original release, the controversially divisive ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ has just been released by Panegyric in two different deluxe formats. A 3 x cd/ 1 x blu-ray disc version – reviewed here, and a 2 x cd/2 x DVD-A version. Review and pictures by Tim Darbyshire…….

‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ is the fifth Panegyric release in the series of expanded YES editions including Steven Wilson 5.1 Surround mixes, new stereo mixes and high-resolution stereo mixes of the original music. There’s a wealth of extra material on blu-ray edition (see full track listing below). Steven Wilson has produced the new mixes with the approval of the band and previously unseen restored artwork (overseen and approved by Roger Dean ) adorn an expanded booklet which contains new sleeve-notes  (including a new essay from Sid Smith), and archive material.

The package is superb, and of course the sleeve must be one of the best album covers created by YES’ unofficial sixth member Roger Dean. But what about the music?

After the high of 1972’s near perfect ‘Close To The Edge’, ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’ is the sixth studio album by YES, released in 1973 on Atlantic Records. Presented as an 80 minute double vinyl album with one track on each side, its concept is based on singer Jon Anderson’s interpretation of four Shastric scriptures from a footnote in ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda – a book he was introduced to by ex-King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir at Bill Bruford’s wedding.  This footnote described four bodies of Hindu text, collectively named the shastras, that Yogananda described as “comprehensive treatises” that cover “every aspect of religious and social life, and the fields of law, medicine, architecture, art, etc” that “convey profound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism” This fitted Jon Anderson’s quest for a big theme for the next Yes album. He wanted a limitless large-scale composition.

Ambitious, stellar and triumphant? Or overblown, pretentious nonsense?  ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ is loved (mostly by fans) and loathed (by music critics) and has sometimes polarized the YES fan base, as well as the band itself.

Jon Anderson and Steve Howe thrashed out the structure and themes of the double album while on tour in early 1973, and understandably remain supportive of the music. They had the task of ‘selling the concept’ to the rest of the band. Chris Squire and debutant drummer Alan White knuckled down, but Rick Wakeman left the band after never really embracing the wide-ranging themes of the album and the direction the music was taking the band.  Despite this, Wakeman’s contribution to the album are stellar, providing colour and atmosphere throughout and of course the minimoog solo towards the end of ‘The Revealing Science Of God’ remains one of the highlights of his contributions to any YES music.  Squire in particular comes to the fore during ‘Ritual’, which rounds off the album and includes some of the most beautiful parts of any YES song in the  ‘Nous Sommes Du Soleil’ sections.

Steven Wilson remains a strong advocate: “I worked on and off for about 3 years on this new mix in my quest to do it justice. I hope it will satisfy the people who agree with me that it may just be Yes’ pre-eminent masterpiece.”

Sonically I’d say it’s one of the best new mixes Steven Wilson has done for YES. There’s a new clarity and increased depth to all the instruments making this definitive edition a joy to revisit. As with all the Wilson 5.1 surround mixes, additional instrumentation can be heard, sounds that used to be lost in the muddy original mix. For those who continue to be put off by four twenty minute pieces of music, there are five ‘single edits’ – sections chosen by Steven Wilson to highlight the strength of the song writing on the album.

To my mind,  time has been kind to ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’. Although controversial in 1973, YES was always pushing boundaries and refusing to bow to corporate record company pressure to repeat the formula of past successes. Today it seems like no big deal for a band to produce long form pieces.

The point of this reissue probably isn’t to win new fans, but rather to reward existing fans. The blu-ray disc is stuffed full with different versions of the album and interesting extras (see below).  I’ve always ranked this album just outside the Top 5 best YES albums – after ‘Close To The Edge’, ‘Relayer’, ‘Going For The One’, ‘Fragile’, and ‘The Yes Album’. My mind still tends to drift a bit in the first half of ‘The Ancient’, but ‘Tales’ is clearly part of the hot streak YES was on between 1970 and 1977.

YES played Side 1 (The Revealing Science Of God) and Side 4 (Ritual) live to enthusiastic US audiences in 2016 – see my reviews here and here.

 

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TRACK LISTING:
New Steven Wilson Stereo Mixes:
CD 1:
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41

CD 2:
1. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
2. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36
3. Dance Of The Dawn (Studio Run-Through) 22:23

CD 3 (Blu-Ray set only):
1. High the Memory (studio run-through) 20:36
2. Giants Under the Sun (studio run-through) 17:18
3. Ritual (live, Zurich, April 1974) 23:11
Bonus single edits:
4. The Revealing Science of God (single edit) 3:54
5. The Remembering (single edit) 2:50
6. The Ancient (single edit) 3:26
7. Ritual (single edit I) 4:20
8. Ritual (single edit II) 3:47

2016 full album mix, plus an extended Dance of the Dawn and 5 single edits, all mixed by Steven Wilson.

Blu-Ray and DVD-A #1 (Region 0, NTSC):

New Stereo Mix (24/96 LPCM):
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
5. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36

DVD-A #2:
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround (24/96 LPCM):
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
5. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36
Flat Transfer from original master tape source (24/192 LPCM):
6. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
7. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
8. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
9. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44

Exclusive to the Blu-ray version only:

New Stereo Mixes (24/96 LPCM):
The “alternate” album:
1. Dance of the Dawn (studio run-through) 22:23
2. High the Memory (studio run-through) 20:36
3. Giants Under the Sun (studio run-through) 17:18
4. Ritual (live, Zurich, April 1974) 23:11
Single edits:
5. The Revealing Science of God (single edit) 3:54
6. The Remembering (single edit) 2:50
7. The Ancient (single edit) 3:26
8. Ritual (single edit I) 4:20
9. Ritual (single edit II) 3:47

New Stereo Instrumental Mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio (24bit/96khz):
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
5. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36

Vinyl transfers (24bit/96khz):
UK needle-drop:
1. The Revealing Science of God 20:27
2. The Remembering 20:38
3. The Ancient 18:34
4. Ritual 21:25
US banded promo needle-drop*:
1. The Revealing Science of God 20:27
1a. 3:30
1b. 6:17
1c. 3:21
1d. 4:30
1e. 2:55
2. The Remembering 20:38
2a. 4:40
2b. 3:06
2c. 8:10
2d. 1:45
2e. 3:06
3. The Ancient 18:34
3a. 3:15
3b. 4:19
3c. 2:17
2d. 3:56
4. Ritual 21:25
4a. 5:25
4b. 6:42
4c. 5:20
4d. 4:18

*the “banded” US promo album had the songs divided into shorter and more “radio friendly” segments in the hope of airplay from DJ’s and radio programmers adverse to 20-minute songs……

Band Members:
Jon Anderson – lead vocals, harp, cymbals & percussion
Steve Howe – electric 6- & 12-strings, steel and acoustic guitars, electric sitar & backing vocals
Chris Squire – acoustic & electric basses, timpani & backing vocals
Rick Wakeman – grand piano, RMI Electra-Piano, MiniMoog, Mellotrons, Hammond C3 & pipe organs
Alan White – drums, piano (Track 4), vibes, Mini-Moog, Moog drum, tubular bells & assorted percussion

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