Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans was the one major '70s-era work by the group that failed to get captured on any official concert release. That fact is doubly astonishing when one considers that they did an entire tour, during the winter of 1974, on which their repertory was drawn from that release, and that the same tour marked the end of Rick Wakeman's original tenure with the band -- and that the group had already proven with Yessongs, in the summer of 1973, that fans by the millions would buy their live recordings. The bootleg double-CD Topographic fills in the missing hole in their repertory, between Yessongs and Yesshows, presenting live performances of the entire Tales from Topographic Oceans, recorded in Detroit on February 28,1974, coupled with a live BBC performance of "The Revealing Science of God" from November 1, 1973. If the Detroit sides are typical of Yes' work on this tour, then it's a crying shame that no live album ever was issued -- they do an astonishingly good job of expanding on the compositions, presenting them in versions that manage to be faithful to the final studio edits while adding energy and flash that transcend anything that they were capable of in the studio; additionally, as they are limited here to what they could actually play live, without any overdubs, there's a leanness to the sound that gives these performances a bracing quality greater than that found on the studio versions of the same songs. There are also flaws, to be sure -- Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, and Chris Squire miss more than a fair number of notes in their singing, and the highs are barely there on "The Remembering," though the playing is spot-on; and Rick Wakeman, for all of his reported unhappiness with this repertory, does a superb job of expanding the scope and intensity of his playing from the studio originals, adding major flourishes that were only hinted at on the record. The tape, aside from some signs of a "wow" at certain spots, is of above average quality, and on a par with the best bootlegs of the era. Given the inevitable flaws in the singing on pieces as complex as these, one can understand why Atlantic Records (and perhaps even the group) might not have wanted an official release made from this tour, but at this late date, the group should seriously consider a limited edition, subscription-type release along the lines that King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer have been doing with their vintage live tapes. In the meantime, this bootleg will suffice.
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