Friday, 7 October 2016

"Tales From Topographic Oceans: Definitive Edition" by YES (October 2016 Panegyric 3CD/1BLU RAY Reissue with Steve Wilson Remixes) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Fusions Of Wonder..."

Porcupine Tree's STEVEN WILSON has transformed the back catalogues of King Crimson and Jethro Tull in the last five years with his meticulous and sensational digital transfers – not to mention Gentle Giant, XTC, Caravan, Emerson, Lake And Palmer and Hawkwind all benefitting from his even-handed yet sympathetic ear. Artists trust their work to this man precisely because he has a love for their complexity and the technical know-how to match his and their musical passions (Ian Anderson of Tull will have their music go nowhere else). But fans of England's best experimental band YES have been licking their lips in glee over this one – Progressive Rock's most ambitious and commercially successful adventure ever – the 4-sided double-album monster that was and still is "Tales From Topographic Oceans" (December 1973, Atlantic K 80001 in the UK - Atlantic SD 2-908 in the USA).

The net-blurbs tell us that the 'go to' man for Classic Rock Masters has been working on "Tales..." for three years on and off. Well - it was worth every painstaking minute because our Stevie has wrenched absolute magic out of his aural trick bag once again. YES fans are going to have a Topographic coronary when they get a load of the fabulous audio – but I've docked it a star overall (four stars) for what I feel is the staggeringly unimaginative visual presentation - especially after all that hype and such a long wait. Here is the revealing science of details and Linear Pulse Code Modulations (LPCM to You and I mate)...

UK released Friday, 7 October 2016 – "Tales From Topographic Oceans: Definitive Edition" by YES comes in two forms - a 2CD/2DVD-A version and this - the 3CD/1BLU RAY version on Panegyric GYRBD80001 (Barcode 633367901026). It plays out as follows:

2016 STEREO MIXES (for all three CDs)
Disc 1 CD (59:30 minutes):
1. The Revealing Science Of God – Dance Of The Dawn (Side 1 of the 2LP set - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
2. The Remembering – High The Memory (Side 2 of the 2LP set - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
3. The Ancient – Giants Under The Sun (Side 3 of the 2LP set - New 2016 Stereo Mix)

Disc 2 - CD (66:42 minutes):
1. Ritual – Nous Somme Do Soleil (Side 4 of the 2LP set - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
2. Dance Of The Dawn (New 2016 Stereo Mix)
3. Dance Of The Dawn (Studio Run-Through)

Disc 3 - CD (79:20 minutes):
1. High The Memory (Studio Run-Through)
2. Giants Under The Sun (Studio Run-Through)
3. Ritual (Live, Zurich, April 1974)
4. The Revealing Science Of God (Single Edit - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
5. The Remembering (Single Edit - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
6. The Ancient (Single Edit - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
7. Ritual (Single Edit I - New 2016 Stereo Mix)
8. Ritual (Single Edit II - New 2016 Stereo Mix)

Disc 4 – Definitive Edition BLU RAY DISC:
2016 STEREO MIXES - LPCM Stereo 24/96
1. The Revealing Science Of God
2. The Remembering
3. The Ancient
4. Ritual
5. Dance Of The Dawn (Extended Version of 'The Revealing Science Of God')

6. The Revealing Science Of God
7. The Remembering
8. The Ancient
9. Ritual
10. Dance Of The Dawn (Extended Version of 'The Revealing Science Of God')

ORIGINAL STEREO MIXES - Flat Transfer from Original Master - LPCM Stereo 24/192
11. The Revealing Science Of God (Stereo Mix)
12. The Remembering (Stereo Mix)
13. The Ancient (Stereo Mix)
14. Ritual (Stereo Mix)

BLU RAY Exclusives:
15. Dance Of The Dawn (Studio Run-Through)
16. High The Memory (Studio Run-Through)
17. Giants Under The Sun (Studio Run-Through)
18. Ritual (Live, Zurich, April 1974)

SINGLE EDITS - LPCM Stereo 24/96
19. The Revealing Science Of God (Single Edit)
20. The Remembering (Single Edit)
21. The Ancient (Single Edit)
22. Ritual (Single Edit I)
23. Ritual (Single Edit II)

24. The Revealing Science Of God
25. The Remembering
26. The Ancient
27. Ritual
28. Dance Of The Dawn (Extended Version of 'The Revealing Science Of God')

VINYL TRANSFERS - UK Needle-Drop Transfer - LPCM Stereo 24/96
29. The Revealing Science Of God
30. The Remembering
31. The Ancient
32. Ritual

US BANDED PROMO Needle-Drop Transfer - LPCM Stereo 24/96
33. The Revealing Science Of God
34. The Remembering
35. The Ancient
36. Ritual

For such a prestigious release - I was expecting visual fireworks - but the outer box slipcase has the Roger Dean painting front cover artwork only and nothing on the rear - no details of any kind. Both the gatefold 2-disc cardholders are identical - even the booklet has the same artwork. Inside each card sleeve are the four discs - but they're housed in blank black card inners without any track details (they’re only in booklet). Where's the alternate Roger Dean artwork for the second card gatefold - or how about making the card inners interesting with tour posters - magazine advert campaigns - tape boxes - even the original Atlantic LP labels.

The first gatefold card sleeve with Disc 1 and 2 in it has the beautiful inner gatefold of the original 1973 double but the lyrics and explanations of the songwriting are barely readable and not featured in larger form in the booklet. The second card sleeve with Discs 3 and 4 has at least a live shot on the band on the inner gatefold and different RD artwork on the CD label - but that's it. The oversized 20-page booklet is a pleasant enough affair but large parts of it are taken up with just tracks-lists. Pages 2 and 3 show Steve Howe standing beside the massive American billboard advert for 'Tales From Topographic Oceans on Atlantic Records & Tapes' - but I've seen it before.

On the upside there's a nice collage of concert tickets - rare label variants from around the world peppering the text – shots of their stage show from the American tour and of course Steve Wilson's copious notes on the Audio Sources and how to get the best out of the BLU RAY's massive storage capacity. The SID SMITH liner notes (penned July 2016) are suitably informational and smartly written - but with all that visual repetition there's simply no oomph to the entire package - and not using alternate Roger Dean artwork somewhere seems like a very badly missed opportunity. I do like the BLU RAY menu that opens with the album cover in black and white that then slowly morphs into glorious colour on my 55" tele with the Roger Dean 'YES' logo finally appearing as if by magic beneath the 'Topographic' LP title. And the choices within the three principal selections (2016 Mixes, Original Mixes and Audio Extras) are bewildering if not massively repetitive.

But at least all that underwhelming distaste pales when you actually play the albums – the new 2016 Stereo Mixes by Steve Wilson churning up details and clarity everywhere. I remember playing this dense 2LP beastie side to side back in the day – my poor worried parents concerned for their boy's sanity amidst all those synths and layered vocals and Sanskrit lyrics and his endless gawking at the encapsulated colour photos on the inner gatefold (more clouds - yum yum). Slagged off and beloved in equal measure – I've always thought of "Tales..." as breathtaking in its reach and this reissue only rams that home even more. That huge Wakeman synth solo during "The Revealing Science Of God" – the sheer prettiness of Side 2's opening passage as they sing of '...velvet sailors...' and '...moments that start to linger...' - the adventurous percussive Side 3 with rattling cymbals and those manic rhythms where Howe's guitar does a Japanese hula-hula dance on your speakers - ending in my favourite part - the brilliant and varied "Ritual" - Squire making his Bass heard above all that Mellotron and that genius break into percussive chanting and then dancing - 'Nous Somme Du Soleil' indeed.

I hadn't expected much from the 'Studio Run-Through' Alternatives or a live version of "Ritual" - but how wrong can you be. When Howe goes into that solo at the end of "Ritual" he's ripping up and down the frets like a demented Robert Fripp and then it changes into that bizarre percussive section that sounds vaguely Chinese - in the live environment - it's explosive stuff and the band’s playing virtuosity a thing of genuine wonder.

When I worked in Reckless Records in Soho – even the album’s name would engender giggles and sighs of disbelief. The young ones would look at me corkscrewed when I told them of its lofty chart position – is he mad? Yes's "Tales From Topographic Oceans" went No. 1 in the UK on release in December 1973 and achieved No. 6 in the USA - incredible for such a challenging double and a music-form referred to as naff only two years later.

Time has proven the public right – and Steven Wilson has done this YES music a powerful justice. I just wish I wasn’t so nonplussed by the visuals for something I loved so much (docked a star for that). Over to you...

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