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IQ - Seven Stories Into 98 CD (album) cover





3.47 | 140 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Like fellow neo-prog pioneers Twelfth Night - and, come to mention it, Mike Holmes and Martin Orford's previous band The Lens - IQ's earliest recordings consisted of demo tapes sold at gigs. In this case, the demo was the famed Seven Stories Into Eight, a collection of eight tracks which would remain staples of the live IQ set over the years but for a long time never got the proper studio treatment.

All this changed in 1998, when following the previous year's successful Subterranea release the band turned their thoughts to reissuing the tape. Alas, home recording technology being as primitive as it was in 1982 (particularly on the shoestring budget the band had) and cassettes being what they are, the sound quality was pretty damn poor. Not keen on the idea of asking their fans to hand over their money solely for such recordings, the band decided to sweeten the deal by going into the studio and rerecording the songs. Producing the rerecordings in three days of studio time in order to replicate as closely as possible the hectic live-in-the-studio atmosphere of the original, the resultant rerecording also features Eloko Bella Neechi, an early IQ song from the Seven Stories period which didn't make it onto the original tape.

So, Seven Stories Into 98 offers us two albums which are really one - the 1998 revision of Seven Stories and the 1982 original. Of the pair, I find myself listening to the rerecording far, far more often than the original - the sound quality is, as the band feared, really quite poor and whilst in some musical genres that can be aesthetically interesting (lots of extreme black metal bands go for a deliberately lo-fi recording aesthetic for precisely this reason), IQ's brand of melodic neo-prog ain't one of them.

But then again, who'd want to listen to the scratchy old cassette when the rerecording sounds this good? (Indeed, when Holmes, Orford and Cook put out A Word In Your Eye as The Lens some years later - a rerecording of the No TV Tonite demo - they didn't include such a bonus disc, presumably for this very reason.) By and large the band do a great job of authentically reproducing the compositions involved, as you'd expect - after all, they'd been playing these tunes live for decades at this point - and whilst there have been some refinements to the performances from years of gigging with them, on balance they're still very much the same tracks they were back in the early 1980s.

The album itself isn't quite in the top rank of IQ works, but it's still a really strong collection of tracks which between them give fascinating insights into the band's early sound and formative influences. Many of these songs are reminiscent of a blend of classic Camel and Steve Hackett's Spectral Mornings and Defector albums, though even at this early point IQ were putting their own individual spin on the material and putting together their own sound. Anyone keen on IQ's music - or early neo-prog in general - will find disc 1 here an absolute treat, particularly since it's the only studio recordings available of some songs fans will likely have heard at concerts from time to time. Disc 2 is perhaps more interesting from a historical perspective rather than actually being entertaining to listen to, though disc 1 is good enough to make the second disc superfluous anyway.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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