The Greatest Album Ever Made

What is not least remarkable about Yes’s Tales album is that it is the greatest album ever made despite some obvious and serious flaws.

First of all, the name of the album, Tales from Topographic Oceans, is formally erroneous. Oceans cannot be “topographic”. Tales of Oceanic Topography would have been correct, but of course useless for this purpose. (By the “oceans” is meant human minds, or parts of the one greater mind.) This error, however, has an interesting meaning, even a kind of value, in the context of the general understanding, in historical, cultural and sociological terms, of what progressive rock is.

Second, the title of the first song, or side, is, as Anderson later admitted, a mistake. The title should have been (and was, as I understand it, originally intended to be) simply The Revealing, corresponding to the title of the second side/song, The Remembering (note my comments on this song, on the album, and on Yes and progressive rock in general). This is not to say that the song is not about the “science” of God. In the conceptual structure of the album as explained by Anderson on the cover, where the four sides/songs seek to express the meaning of different categories of shastra, this one represents shruti.

The album is basically a hymnic expression of Vedic and universal spirituality.

Third, much legitimate criticism has been made of the first two thirds of the third song/side, The Ancient, and it should be added that there is what could be called a similar section in the fourth. They contrast sharply with the third third, which has, understandably, been performed separately, and then been given its own title, Leaves of Green, as was the final part of The Gates of Delirium, on Relayer, called Soon. Leaves of Green saves side three, which represents the puranas, and apart from the mentioned section, Ritual, representing the tantras, is a worthy conclusion of the unsurpassed masterpiece.

But the unsurpassedness rests primarily on side one, The Revealing, representing shruti, and side two, The Remembering, representing smriti. They are what makes this album the greatest of all time.

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