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4 stars "Did anyone say MELLOTRON?"

Disc 1 : The original The Wake album (1985).

Shortly after IQ was founded in the early Eighties, keyboard player Martin Orford bought a second hand Mellotron M400, far simpler and reliable than the previous M300 model. And it features many new sounds, from church-organ and brass to vintage keyboards and violins. But for Martin the new section with the '8 voice choir' (4 male and 4 female) was the most interesting new Mellotron sound. Later he said in an interview when he was asked about the Mellotron: "If you think the music is becoming too bombastic, just use the Mellotron choirs!".

Well, Martin must have had many of those thoughts, the album the Wake is flooded by the unsurpassed Mellotron, especially the hailed choir section. This is an important part of early IQ their trademark blend of typical neo- prog elements (melody and harmony) and a sound like 67-77 Genesis (but less elaborate): the band easily switches from accessible melodic rock with catchy mid-tempo beats to sumptuous outbursts with floods of majestic Mellotron choirs and sensitive electric guitar runs. Just listen to compositions like The Wake, The Magic Roundabout and The Thousand Days, these songs are so wonderfully coloured by Holmes his Hackett-like sound and Orford his wide range of vintage keyboards (also the mighty Yamaha CS80 synthesizer and the legendary Memorymoog). And topped by Pete Nicholls his passionate vocals, he is not a Peter Gabriel, Greg Lake or John Wetton but he does a very inspired job.

A bit of a 'crappy maverick' is the track Corners, perhaps written as a 'tongue-in-cheek' composition, as a hint to Genesis their musical direction since ATTWT? Somewhere here on PA I read that it would have been a better idea to put the beautiful Dans Le Chateau Du Parc Noir on the original album. Unfortunately it is not on this box set, "because it was not on the original album", according to John Hewitt on questions of IQ fans about this.

You can find a lot of variety in Outer Limits (splendid keyboard sound, strong vocals and flowing electric guitar), The Magic Roundabout (sensitive Hackett guitar and lots of Trons, goose bumps!) and Headlong (shifting between dreamy and compelling, with the Mellotron loaded final part).

But my absolute highlight is Widow's Peak, what an exciting and compelling composition:

first a dreamy part with melancholical vocals

then an accellaration featuring powerful guitar riffs, fat synthesizer flights and a tight rhythm

halfway a slow rhythm with sensitive electric guitar and passionate vocals

and finally a splendid bombastic atmosphere, topped with moving electric guitar and mighty Mellotron choirs, again goose bumps!

Disc 2 and 3.

These two discs contain in total 24 versions of the 7 original tracks from The Wake, named 'work in progress demo', 'vocal outtake', writing session' and 'rough mix'. Nice and interesting, especially the four versions of my highlight Widow's Peak.

Disc 4.

This is a DVD featuring a concert from October 24th, 1984 (47 minutes). The quality is at the level of a mediocre bootleg, taken with only 1 camera position. In order to upgrade the visual experience this video also contains band pictures. But after The Enemy Smacks the video is cut off. But despite that mediocre quality the IQ diehards will be delighted about the historical value. I enjoyed watching an early IQ with the focus on the charismatic frontman Peter Nicholls, obviously influenced by Peter Gabriel (gestures, make-up, costumes). Especially during the highlight The Enemy Smacks. Funny is the reggae-like Barbell Is In and Peter as 'Mr. Nosy'.

Other items on disc 4 are commentaries by Paul Cook, Peter Nicholls and Mike Holmes (from 2010) and 2,5 hour with PM3 files, including 'writing sessions', 'unused ideas', 'demos' and 'contemporary interviews'. Also interesting is the 60-page booklet with many facts, including the increasing tension between Peter and the band, everything about the fascinating cover art, reactions from the press and stories about the Live From London gig. A wonderful bonus feature is a poster from the cover art, a painting from Peter Nicholls himself.

You can't beg for more!

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Posted Saturday, May 5, 2018 | Review Permalink

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