Tales from Topographic Oceans
|Tales from Topographic Oceans|
|Studio album by Yes|
|Released||14 December 1973|
|Recorded||August–October 1973 at Morgan Studios, London, England|
|Producer||Yes, Eddie Offord|
Tales from Topographic Oceans is the sixth studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in 1973 on Atlantic Records. Presented as a double 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. It is the first studio album to feature drummer Alan White, who replaced Bill Bruford in 1972.
Tales from Topographic Oceans became the first album in the UK to earn a gold certification prior to its release. It reached number-one on the UK Albums Chart for two weeks and peaked at number 6 on the Billboard 200.
Yes began to produce longer pieces of music on Close to the Edge (1972), their fifth studio release, which features the 18-minute eponymous title track. Following its release, singer Jon Anderson was searching for a theme for a large-scale composition. One evening in March 1973, while on a concert tour of Japan to promote Close to the Edge, Anderson found himself "caught up in a lengthy footnote on page 83" of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda which describes four Shastric scriptures (Shruti, Smriti, Puranas and Tantras) that cover religion, art, social life, medicine, music and architecture. Anderson was introduced to Yogananda's work that month at the wedding reception of former Yes drummer Bill Bruford by Jamie Muir, then the percussionist for King Crimson.
As the group continued to tour in Australia and the United States, Anderson described the idea to guitarist Steve Howe, who took a liking to the concept of four "interlocking" pieces of music based around the scriptures. The two held candlelight sessions in their hotel rooms, with the basis of the vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation being put down after a six-hour session that ended at 7 a.m. while in Savannah, Georgia that April. Anderson was originally going to name the album Tales From Tobographic Oceans, claiming he had invented the word "tobographic" that was based on one of Fred Hoyle's theories of space. He mentioned the title while having dinner with Phil Carson, the CEO of Atlantic Records, but Carson noted that "tobographic" sounded like "topographic". Anderson liked the suggestion and changed the title accordingly.
The album was recorded and arranged across five months at Morgan Studios in London. Eddy Offord assumed his role as co-producer and 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. His musical contributions to the music were little, and often spent time drinking at the studio bar and playing darts. He played the keyboards on the Sabbath track "Sabbra Cadabra".
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.
Tales from Topographic Oceans was released in Europe on 14 December 1973; a North American release followed in January 1974. The album was an instant commercial success. Following a change in UK regulations in April 1973 for artists to qualify for a gold disc, it was the first album to reach the certification based on pre-orders orders alone, with an advance of 75,000 copies. It reached the number one spot in the UK Albums Chart, the first of two Yes albums to do so, for two weeks. In the United States, the record peaked at number 6 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In 2003, the album was digitally remastered by Joe Gastwirt and features a two-minute restored introduction to "The Revealing Science of God" and a studio run-through of the song and "The Ancient".
|Robert Christgau||(C) link|
|Rolling Stone||(unfavourable) |
The album remains controversial and continues to divide listeners. Gordon Fletcher in his review in Rolling Stone magazine 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. In a review of the album 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."—Chris Welch
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."
Track listing 
Original Release 
|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 intro 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|
Chart performance and certifications 
|1974||UK Albums Chart||1|
|1974||Billboard 200 Chart||6|
|1974||Dutch Albums Chart||8|
|RIAA – U.S.||Gold||February 8, 1974|
|BPI – UK||Gold||March 1, 1974|
- Jon Anderson - lead vocals, timpani, harp, tambourine
- Steve Howe - guitars, timpani, vocals
- Chris Squire - bass guitar, timpani, vocals
- Rick Wakeman - Minimoog synthesiser, Mellotron, Hammond organ, pipe organ, RMI Electra Piano, grand piano
- Alan White - drums, percussion
- Welch, p. 141
- Bruford, p. 72
- Welch, p. 142
- Carson, Phil (2007). Classic Artists: Yes. Disc One. (DVD). Image Entertainment. 1:18:14–1:19:13 minutes in.
- Powell and Thorgerson, pp. 142–143
- Chambers, p. 31
- Wakeman, Rick (2007). Classic Artists: Yes. Disc One. (DVD). Image Entertainment. 1:20:04–1:20:45 minutes in.
- Osbourne, p. 160
- Wooding, p. 114
- "Tales from Topographic Oceans - Charts & Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
- Tales from Topographic Oceans at Allmusic
- "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.
- 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.
- Osbourne, Ozzy; Chris Ayres (2010). I Am Ozzy. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0-446-56989-7.
- Thorgerson, Storm; Powell (1999). 100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind the Sleeves. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7513-0706-8. Unknown parameter
- Welch, Chris (2008). Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-8477-2132-7 Check
- Wooding, Dan (1978). Rick Wakeman: The Caped Crusader. Granada Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-0-709-16487-6.
- Official Yes website at YesWorld
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30 December 1973 – 12 January 1974
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