Tales from Topographic Oceans
|Tales from Topographic Oceans|
|Studio album by Yes|
|Released||14 December 1973 (UK)
9 January 1974 (US)
|Recorded||1973 at Morgan Studios
|Genre||Progressive rock, experimental rock|
|Producer||Yes, Eddy Offord|
Tales from Topographic Oceans is the sixth studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in December 1973 on Atlantic Records. Originally presented as a double album with one track on each of the four sides of the LP, its concept is based on singer Jon Anderson's interpretation of four classes of Hindu scripture, collectively named the shastras, from a footnote in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. It is the first studio album with drummer Alan White after Bill Bruford left in 1972 to join King Crimson.
Tales from Topographic Oceans was a commercial success; it is the first album in the UK to earn a gold certification based on pre-sales alone. It topped the UK album chart for two weeks and peaked at number 6 in the US. The album is noted for the divided reception it received, and the disagreements it caused within the band, resulting in keyboardist Rick Wakeman leaving to pursue his solo career after the supporting tour.
After recording for their fifth studio album Close to the Edge was complete, drummer Bill Bruford left the band on 19 July 1972 to join King Crimson. His replacement was Alan White, who had three days to learn the band's repertoire before the album's Close to the Edge tour began, which included a single group rehearsal. The tour saw Yes perform in the US, Canada, the UK, Japan and Australia between July 1972 and April 1973, which was documented on their triple live album Yessongs. The line-up during this time also formed of singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman.
The idea for the album's concept came about in March 1973 in Anderson's hotel room in Tokyo during the Japanese leg of the Close to the Edge tour. He was looking for a theme for a "large-scale composition" for an album and found himself "caught up in a lengthy footnote on page 83" of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda that described four classes of Hindu scripture, collectively named the shastras. Anderson was introduced to Yogananda's work at Bruford's wedding reception by Jamie Muir, then the percussionist for King Crimson, on 2 March 1973. The footnote Anderson found refers to the phrase "shastric rules", as Yogananda explains:
Pertaining to the shastras, literally "sacred books", comprising four classes of scripture: the shruti, smriti, purana and tantra. These comprehensive treatises cover every aspect of religious and social life, and the fields of law, medicine, architecture, art, etc. The shrutis are the "directly heard" or "revealed" scriptures, the Vedas. The smritis or "remembered" lore were finally written down in a remote past as the world's longest epic poems, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Puranas, eighteen in number, are literally "ancient" allegories; tantras literally means "rites" or "rituals": these treatises convey profound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism.
When the tour progressed to Australia and the United States in April 1973, Anderson described the concept to Howe who took a liking to the idea of four "interlocking" pieces of music based around the concepts the scriptures spoke of. Anderson and Howe held "candlelight writing sessions" in their hotel rooms; the basis of the vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation were completed after a six-hour session that ended at 7 am in Savannah, Georgia.
According to Phil Carson, then the CEO of Atlantic Records, Anderson was originally going to name the album Tales From Tobographic Oceans. He claimed he invented the word "tobographic" that was based on one of Fred Hoyle's theories of space. He mentioned the title while having dinner with Carson, who noted that "tobographic" sounded like "topographic". Anderson liked the suggestion and changed the title accordingly.
After rehearsals at Manticore Studios in Fulham, London, the band retreated to Morgan Studios in Willesden for five months to record and arrange the album. Eddy Offord assumed his role as co-producer and recording engineer who had worked with Yes since 1970. The band were split to decide whether the album was to be recorded in the city or the countryside. They agreed to record in the city with a studio decorated like it was outside with white wooden fences and stacks of hay. At the time of recording, heavy metal group Black Sabbath were producing their album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in the studio next door. Singer Ozzy Osbourne recalled that placed in the Yes studio was a model cow with electronic udders and a small barn to give the room an "earthy" feel. Wakeman took a dislike to the album's concept and structure from the beginning. He made only minimal musical contributions to the recording, and often spent time drinking at the studio bar and playing darts. He played the piano and synthesiser on the Sabbath track "Sabbra Cadabra". According to Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, Wakeman refused payment from the band and was compensated with beer for his contribution.
The album is the first studio album to feature drummer Alan White as a full-time member. He joined the group after Bruford's departure in 1972 prior to the release of Close to the Edge.
|This section requires expansion. (August 2013)|
Yes began to produce longer pieces of music on Close to the Edge that features the 18-minute title track. Tales from Topographic Oceans is formed of four tracks, ranging between 18 and 22 minutes. The lyrics were written by Anderson and Howe; all band members made writing contributions to each track.
Anderson explains that "The Revealing Science of God" is based on the shruti. Speaking in 1994, he said "It's always delicate to start talking about religious things [...] 'The Revealing Science of God' should have just been 'The Revealing'. But I got sort of hip [...] A dangerous statement!" According to Howe, the track was originally 28 minutes in length before six minutes were cut.
The album's cover was designed and illustrated by artist Roger Dean, who had also created the artwork for the band's previous records Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Yessongs. Each of those albums used a narrative thread which was not carried over for Tales from Topographic Oceans. Painted using watercolour and ink, the cover depicts fish circling a waterfall below constellations of stars. In his 1975 book Views, Dean explains the painting:
"The final collection of landmarks was more complex than [...] intended because it seemed appropriate to the nature of the project that everyone who wanted to contribute should do so. The landscape comprised amongst other things, some famous English rocks taken from Dominy Hamilton's postcard collection. These are, specifically: Brimham Rocks, the last rocks at Land's End, the Logan Rock at Treen and single stones from Avebury and Stonehenge. Jon Anderson wanted the Mayan temple at Chichen Itza with the sun behind it, and Alan White suggested using markings from the plains of Nazca. The result is a somewhat incongruous mixture, but effective nonetheless."
According to Anderson, the album was set to be played in its entirety on Radio Luxembourg with David Jensen one week prior to its release, but the station somehow received blank tapes which resulted in dead air.
Tales from Topographic Oceans was released in the UK on 14 December 1973 followed by its US release on 9 January 1974. The album was an instant commercial success; following a change in UK album regulations for artists to qualify for a gold disc, it was the first album to reach gold based on pre-orders orders alone; it received 75,000 advanced orders before going on sale. The album reached the number one spot in the UK Albums Chart for two weeks. It peaked at number 6 in the US.
|Robert Christgau||(C) link|
|Rolling Stone||(unfavourable) link|
Upon its release, a number of reviews from daily newspapers gave praise to the album. The Times selected "The Ancient" as a piece of music that "will be studied twenty-five years hence as a turning point in modern music", while The Guardian thought Anderson's "high-pitched and carefully modulated voice [...] seemed at ease and control".
The album continues to divide listeners and is notable for its negative response. Sounds magazine reviewed the album and live performance using the headlines "Wishy washy tales from the deep" and "Close to boredom". In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Gordon Fletcher described the record as "psychedelic doodling." In its fortieth anniversary issue from 9 May 1992, trade publication NME selected Tales from Topographic Oceans for their "40 Records That Captured The Moment" for 1974. Bruce Eder of AllMusic thought the album contains "some of the most sublimely beautiful musical passages ever to come from the group, and develops a major chunk of that music in depth and degrees in ways that one can only marvel at, though there's a big leap from marvel to enjoy. If one can grab onto it, Tales is a long, sometimes glorious musical ride across landscapes strange and wonderful, thick with enticing musical textures". In a review for Melody Maker, music critic and journalist Chris Welch wrote:
"It is a fragmented masterpiece, assembled with loving care and long hours in the studio. Brilliant in patches, but often taking far too long to make its various points, and curiously lacking in warmth or personal expression [...] "Ritual" is a dance of celebration and brings the first enjoyable moments, where Alan's driving drums have something to grip on to and the lyrics of la la la speak volumes. But even this cannot last long and cohesion is lost once more to the gods of drab self indulgence."
At the time of the album's release, Wakeman expressed a dislike for the record. He criticised Anderson's understanding of the Shastric scriptures after reading a single footnote. Speaking in 2006, he clarified that his total dislike of the album is "not entirely true", thinking that there are some "very nice musical moments in Topographic Oceans, but because of the [...] format of how records used to be we had too much for a single album but not enough for a double [...] so we padded it out and the padding is awful [...] but there are some beautiful solos like "Nous sommes du soleil" [...] one of the most beautiful melodies [...] and deserved to be developed even more perhaps."
The album was released on CD in 1994. It was digitally remastered by Joe Gastwirt in 2003 for Rhino Records and features a two-minute restored introduction to "The Revealing Science of God" and a studio run-through of the track along with "The Ancient".
|1.||"The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)"||20:25|
|1.||"The Remembering (High the Memory)"||20:38|
|1.||"The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)"||18:35|
|1.||"Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)"||21:37|
- 2003 reissue
|1.||"The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)" (With original introduction restored)||22:22|
|2.||"The Remembering (High the Memory)"||20:38|
|3.||"The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)"||18:35|
|1.||"Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)"||21:37|
|2.||"Dance of the Dawn (Studio run-through)"||23:35|
|3.||"Giants Under the Sun (Studio run-through)"||17:17|
Charts and certifications
- Jon Anderson – lead vocals, harp, drums, percussion and production
- Steve Howe – guitars, vocals and production
- Chris Squire – bass guitar, timpani, vocals and production
- Rick Wakeman – Minimoog synthesiser, Mellotron, Hammond organ, pipe organ, RMI Electra Piano, grand piano and production
- Alan White – drums, percussion and production
- Eddy Offord – engineering and production
- Bill Inglot – sound production
- Guy Bidmead – tapes
- Mansell Litho – plates
- Roger Dean – cover design and illustrations
Notes and references
- Watkinson, p. 107
- Welch, p. 141
- Bruford, p. 72
- The relevant footnote appears on page 104 of the 1998 paperback edition of Autobiography of a Yogi.
- Welch, p. 142
- Carson, Phil (2007). Classic Artists: Yes. Disc One. (DVD). Image Entertainment. 1:18:14–1:19:13 minutes in.
- Morse, p. 44
- Wakeman, Rick (2007). Classic Artists: Yes. Disc One. (DVD). Image Entertainment. 1:20:04–1:20:45 minutes in.
- Osbourne, p. 160
- Iommi, p.
- Chambers, p. 31
- Morse, p. 47
- Powell and Thorgerson, pp. 142–143
- Jon Anderson on Classic Artists: Yes DVD. Bonus Interviews.
- Wooding, p. 114
- "Tales from Topographic Oceans – Charts & Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
- Tales from Topographic Oceans at AllMusic
- Scaruffi, Piero (1999). "Yes". pieroscaruffi.com. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans (album review 2) | Sputnikmusic
- Hedges, pp. 91–92
- "NME List: 40 Records That Captured The Moment". www.rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- Wakeman, Rick (2007). Classic Artists: Yes. Disc One. (DVD). Image Entertainment. 1:23:48–1:24:49 minutes in.
- "Number 1 Albums – 1970s". The Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
- "Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans". Dutchcahrts.nl. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
- "Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans". Swedishcahrts.nl. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- "Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans". Norwegiancahrts.nl. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- 『オリコンチャート・ブックLP編（昭和45年‐平成1年）』（オリジナルコンフィデンス／1990年／ISBN 4-87131-025-6）p.73
- Ayres, Chris; Osbourne, Ozzy (2010). I Am Ozzy. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0-446-56989-7.
- Bruford, Bill (2009). Bill Bruford: The Autobiography: Yes, King Crimson, Earthworks, and More. Jawbone Publishing. ISBN 9781906002237.
- Chambers, Stuart (2002). Yes: An Endless Dream of '70s, '80s and '90s Rock Music. ISBN 1-894263-47-2.
- Hedges, Dan (1982). Yes: An Authorized Biography. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0-283-98751-9.
- Iommi, Tony (2011). Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-30681-9551.
- Morse, Tim (1996). Yesstories: "Yes" in Their Own Words. St Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-14453-1.
- Thorgerson, Storm; Powell, Aubrey (1999). 100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind the Sleeves. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7513-0706-8.
- Watkinson, David (2000). Yes: Perpetual Change: Thirty Years of Yes. Plexus. ISBN 0-85-965-297-1.
- Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-847-72132-7.
- Wooding, Dan (1978). Rick Wakeman: The Caped Crusader. Granada Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0-709-16487-6.
- Yogananda, Paramahansa (1998). Autobiography of a Yogi (13 ed.). Self-Realization Fellowship. p. 104. ISBN 0-87612-079-6.
- Official Yes website at YesWorld
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30 December 1973 – 12 January 1974
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