Like all of Yes' back catalogue, Tales From Topographic Oceans has become sonically improved via the recent Rhino/Elektra re-master. The 1973 Yes album was as big on design as it was on themes, and Rhino/Elektra's double disk digi-pack reproduces enough of the original artwork faithfully to satisfy Yesheads. Tho "size-challenged" when compared with the original record, the CD re-issue design sports a booklet with many vintage photos, plus 2 bonus tracks in the form of studio run throughs of "Dance of the Dawn" & "Giants Under The Sun" (likely the working titles for "The Reveaing Science Of God" & "The Ancient" respectively). Of the two, "Giants" is the bonus for fans, featuring some totally different instrumentation at times, & Steve Howe playing electric rather than Spanish guitar on the popular "Alone Without You" portion. "Dance" is mostly the same, the notable difference is the lack of overdubs, and Alan White's decidedly heavier tom sound (the drums were probably not
compressed yet as in the final master). The listener conclusion? The final arrangements on the album were improvements.
Subtle advances are made in the high EQ bands on this re-master, illuminating the somewhat muted engineering of the original analog master. While one may not notice in a car CD deck, listening on a decent home stereo (& comparing it to the previous 10-year old Atlantic re-master) reveals greater sonic depth.
The effectiveness of Tales has been debated many times over since it's original release, but love it or not, it stands as an important turning point in progressive rock & Yes history. Not your average casual listen that Fragile, Going For the One or even Close To The Edge may be, one has to be in a certain mood to get into it. Yes even had problems following it up, & the subsequent Relayer probably wouldn't have been the album it was if not for Tales.
Obscure in lyrics, music & arrangement, Tales has been described by Steve Howe as a "lifestyle" album. It's an extremely accurate snapshot of where the band was spiritually & musically in 1973. They sought to break new ground, & I dare say if CD format had been present then, it may have been one continuous piece of music, rather than four separate movements befitting the space constraints of vinyl.