Science Of God Story (Highland HL416/417)
Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI – February 28th, 1974
Disc 1 (62:19): Opening (excerpt from “Firebird Suite”), Siberian Khatru, And You And I, Close To The Edge, The Revealing Science Of God
Disc 2 (74:20): The Remembering, The Ancient, “Ritual” A Prelude, Ritual, Roundabout
The Detroit tape from February 28th has received the most circulation and is the closest to being the definitive live Tales recording. It appears on the early title Tales (Skull 3050812-4), a three disc set which is missing the encore “Roundabout,” The Tour Of The Oceans on Suck My Disc! and Highland released the four Topographic Oceans songs on Topographic (HL044/45#Y11). Science Of God Story is their second attempt at this show and is complete. There are cuts between some of the songs and an unfortunate cut in “The Remembering” at 18:25 cutting out the transition from the keyboard solo to the final verse. The recording is very clear and well balanced but is also contains hiss. After this release a lower generation tape circulated sounding much better and an overhaul of this show is greatly needed.
Yes played the Cobo Hall on February 27th and February 28th. The first show is notable for the band arriving late and having to drop the first two sides of the new album and adding “Starship Trooper” as a second encore. The second night returns to the original vision of the tour with Close To The Edge being played in the first set, the entire Tales in the second and “Roundabout” as the encore. This would also be the last time since “The Remembering” would be dropped after this show for the rest of the tour.
It is interesting to hear Yes playing demanding music before this audience. In the early part of the show Anderson says how “it’s nice to be back in Detroit…it’s a crazy place.” His explanation at the start of the second part of the show describes the motivation for the work, “based loosely on the scriptures of the Sanskrit language which was the originator of all languages and was born in China” and going on to call the first side “A Jungle Of Trips.” The liner notes of the album explain that the inspiration for the work was found in a footnote in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda published in 1948. The actual footnote he is referring to is found in Chapter 10, “I Meet My Master, Sri Yukteswar” and reads:
“Pertaining to the SHASTRAS, literally, ‘sacred books,’ comprising four classes of scripture: the SHRUTI, SMRITI, PURANA, and TANTRA. These comprehensive treatises cover every aspect of religious and social life, and the fields of law, medicine, architecture, art, etc. The SHRUTIS are the ‘directly heard’ or ‘revealed’ scriptures, the VEDAS. The SMRITIS or ‘remembered’ lore was finally written down in a remote past as the world’s longest epic poems, the MAHABHARATA and the RAMAYANA. PURANAS are literally ‘ancient’ allegories; TANTRAS literally mean ‘rites’ or ‘rituals’; these treatises convey profound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism.”
The footnote reveals the titles for the four sides of the epic and on the liner notes each of the songs are subtitled according to each class. Thus “The Revealing Science Of God” based upon the Vedas which are the “revealed” scriptures, “The Remembering” refers to the “remembered” epic poems Mahabharata and Ramayana, “The Ancient” about the Puranas (the “ancient” allegories) and finally “Ritual” referring to Tantras. The lyrics penned by Anderson do not necessarily refer to the works mentioned in the footnote but are from his own interpretation about what these scriptures discuss. Wakeman criticized Anderson on this point in referring to the “shallow” understanding of these philosophies, pointing out that it would take a lifetime plumbing these writings to achieve some sort of grasp of these concepts.
This work is the product of a western dilettante dabbling into an esoteric system of thought. Listening to Tales From Topographic Oceans wouldn’t lead one to higher consciousness by any means. The lyrics are too obscure to form any cohesive narrative. But the strength of the work lies in direct succession to Yes’ greatest songs. The words and music work in concert to form connotations and images. All of the greatest music is able to summon and create a mood, and the four pieces do exactly that without any commitment to a specific philosophy. Those who say the music is pretentious, too long and “padded” miss the point. Progressive rock is rooted in the epic tradition. All epics describe some sort of a journey or quest and the importance is not in the goal but in the traveling itself. The four sides are very long by pop music standards, but it achieves its goal in describing and inviting the listener onto certain paths.