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IQ - Seven Stories Into 98 CD (album) cover

SEVEN STORIES INTO 98

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

3.47 | 81 ratings

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ScorchedFirth
3 stars (7/10)

There's an interesting mix of songs on this album. Stuff that doesn't really fit in with the rest of the discography, but nonetheless will be of immediate interest to IQ fans. I mean, for god's sake, at one point we go from pleasant camel-like atmospheres ("About Lake Five") to a progified christmas medley ("For Christ's Sake") to a low key white reggae piece ("Barbell Is In", which is amusingly and unexpectedly IQ's highest charting song). There is a sense of fun to this mixture of songs that is quite refreshing. Some hidden IQ classics are even here, songs that may be familiar to (very) old fans, and those who have been lucky enough to see IQ perform live (some of these songs are still played today).

The album itself is a two disc deal. The second is the original recordings of the early IQ cassette "Seven Stories Into Eight", and the first is the re-recorded version (done in 1998), hence the name "Seven Stories Into 98". The first disc is better in every way, and even has an extra song ("Eloko Bella Neechi"), so I will focus my review on this disc only. The second disc is really only of historical interest for keen IQ fans (given the existence of the first).

Chronologically speaking, this music comes from before IQ's proper debut, "Tales From The Lush Attic", even though it has been given a bit of a modern touch up. Thinking of it in this way things make a lot more sense. It is quite a mixed bag, (I'm not actually much of a fan of "Barbell Is In" once the novelty wears off), but some material stands up with their early work. Specifically "Intelligence Quotient" and "It All Stops Here" (and to a lesser extent "Fascination") are really exciting, but you get moments of the good stuff in other songs too.

There is a lot of instrumental work. In fact, since the first two songs have no vocals (unless you count the bizarre Sean Connery impression in "Capital Letters (In Surgical Spirit Land)"), It isn't until the third track, "Intelligence Quotient", that we are treated to some singing. It is a weird feeling for a band that has such a pronounced arc of development to revisit their earlier material and revamp it. Old and new collide. This album would go well with the first album by The Lens, and indeed in places it has that exact same feel, especially "Intelligence Quotient", with the melodic early neo-prog style given a new modern lush setting.

Musically, the good tracks have everything that made early IQ such fun, the cheerfully bouncy retro keyboard soloing, the slicing melodic guitar of Mike Holmes over lush keyboard backing, still with IQ's slightly Gothic tones in the background, complex instrumental sections, and Peter Nicholls' unmistakable wonderful voice. John Jowitt is also making his presence felt really well on bass. Along with this though, we do have the more eclectic pieces. Of particular interest to me was the acoustic guitar led "For The Taking", with deceptively dark lyrics and gentle guitar, it's a subtly beautiful and quietly emotive song that adds another facet to IQ's catalogue.

It's not IQ's best, and I cannot recommend it as a good starting point, but there is easily enough here to call this album 'good'. There is an appealing sense of fun to the whole thing: the nostalgic feeling, the bizarre parts, the classical influences (for example, it sounds like Mike Holmes is playing a truncated version of the theme from Hall of the Mountain King in "It All Stops Here"), and a clear IQ identity. If you enjoy early IQ like I do, or if you want to hear a slightly different side of the band this would be a great investment.

ScorchedFirth | 3/5 |

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