CD Reviews

YES - 'Topographic Drama: Live Across America' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 25, 2018    
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A great live set.

This was always going to be a tricky album for me to review. I've been a diehard Yes fan since 1981 and my favourite album is 1980's 'Drama' which was the first album that Jon Anderson did not sing on, moreover, keyboardist Rick Wakeman had also left at the same time to be replaced by Geoff Downes of The Buggles. Consequently, Yes purists were not too fond of the album, however, said purists generally love the 1973 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' double album, which I tended to find over pretentious even for a Progressive album – hence my dilemma!

This live album was recorded from various shows during the group's 2016 US tour and long-time collaborator Roger Dean has designed another awesome cover. The line-up features Yes stalwarts Steve Howe on guitar and Alan White on drums (although ex-Unruly Child and Hurricane sticks-man Jay Schellen substitutes on certain tracks as White was absent due to back surgery). Downes had been back in the fold for a few years, while Glass Hammer's Jon Davison also joined several years previous. Bassist Billy Sherwood was asked to (re)join by Chris Squire just before he sadly passed away in 2015. Again, a lot of Yes diehards disapprove of this line-up and social media forums are awash with discussions around why are they still performing under the Yes banner? Personally, I'm not interested in the politics, I just want to hear the classic music of Yes and this release provides it in droves.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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The album begins with 'Drama' being played in full and wow... it sounds superb. 'Machine Messiah' has wonderful harmonies from Davison and Sherwood, and Howe's guitar work is impeccable. Sherwood's bass playing on 'Does It Really Happen?' is stupendous! Downes shows his dexterity whilst tinkling the ivories during 'Into The Lens'. The first disc ends with Yes classics 'And You And I' (all four parts from 1972's 'Close To The Edge) and 'Heart Of The Sunrise' (from 1971's 'Fragile'). Both tracks sound fantastic and the level of musicianship is astounding especially the harmonies.

The second disc opens with 'The Revealing Science Of God' or side 1 of the original '...Oceans' release and I must admit after several listens this has really grown on me. Davison's vocals are similar to Anderson's whilst retaining some individuality and Downes replicates the keyboard parts very well. We then move to side three of '...Oceans' and the 'Leaves Of Green' (a section from 'The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun)' track). Howe shows us what a fine acoustic guitar player he is and once again there are some fine vocals from Davison and Sherwood. 'Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)', from side four of '...Oceans', is up next and this is a fine rendition with Davison, Howe and White (or Schellen?) shining. I freely admit, it's taken thirty-six years for '...Oceans' to earn my respect; now I shall have to go and revisit the original album in full!

The staples of 'Roundabout' and 'Starship Trooper' (all three parts) are the show's encores and they both sound superb. Overall, in my humble opinion, this is a great live set, it surpasses my expectations and I can't wait for the fiftieth anniversary shows next spring; sadly, this will likely be the cue for the naysayers to moan about no original members!

Az Chaudhry

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