Back in 1983 one of my brothers bought an album recorded by an unknown neo-progressive rock band named IQ. I immediately loved Tales From The Lush Attic. IQ's debut album reminded me of Genesis with Peter Gabriel still in the band. Hints of songs like The Knife were clearly present. Their follow-up album The Wake (1985) I always regarded as a true masterpiece. I can even remember how I bought the album! I went to the record store to buy my weekly prog rock album. Just before entering the store one of the shop assistants stopped me and told me with a big smile on his face: “I got the brand-new IQ-album and you'll love it.” He was quite familiar with my musical taste, so I believed him at once. Back home I turned on my record player and I gazed for several minutes at the beautiful artwork on the front cover created by lead singer Peter Nicholls (see interview). At the back the musicians looked at me dressed in modern eighties look. The list of instruments played by the musicians was very impressive and indicated that the inner sleeve hid something stunning. Especially the number of keyboards played by Martin Orford made my mouth water: A Memory Moog, Mellotron, ARP Odyssey, Yamaha DX7 and CS-80; it's only a short list of all the equipment.
After listening to the album for the first time, I had to conclude that the shop assistant was right. I loved every minute of this excellent album and it made the summer of 1985 complete. The Wake contained progressive rock music just the way I loved it. Mr. Nicholls' fine voice reminded me of Peter Gabriel, Mike Holmes' guitar playing was not only very melodic, but brilliant as well (see interview). The many impressive Mellotron-parts and the beautiful synthesizer solos by Martin Orford were just superb. Who could ask for more! Some people found Corners and The Thousand Days a bit too radio-friendly, but I didn't. These tracks fitted perfectly on an album that would make IQ one of the leading bands in the neo-progressive rock genre.
As far as I know the first CD-version of The Wake had been released by Samurai Records in1986. MSI released it once again in France in 1988 as a picture-CD, a limited edition of six hundred copies. The band's own label Giant Electric Pea, released a far better version in 1994 including three bonus tracks. At the time, this was the ultimate version for me. However, 2010 marked The Wake's 25th anniversary and the album was again reissued with the original seven tracks. This time fully remastered, but without the bonus tracks. Instead they included a sixty-page booklet with all the information you always wanted to know about this album. A lot of pictures of the early days have been included as well. The fold out poster is a nice extra on this definite release of The Wake containing three audio CDs and a DVD to enjoy, instead of one!
The first disc includes The Wake as it was originally released, but with a far better sound quality. I guess you can enjoy it such as the musicians did in the studio while recording the album in March/April 1985. The second and third disc contain many previously unreleased demos, outtakes, rough and alternate mixes, works-in-progress and BBC-session cuts. Besides it also includes the live debut of Widow's Peak. It's really great to hear how some tracks have been recorded with a drum machine, how songs sound without vocals and how they interrupt a recording after something went wrong. However, I have to admit that some of these tracks you'll probably never play again.
The DVD features eight live cuts from a concert they gave in Watford, October 1984. These are the very first video recordings ever from an IQ-gig. Don't expect a high resolution film; those technical facilities weren't available then. It's easy to see that you look at a copy of a home made video with occasional drop-outs. However, the man behind the camera made some good close-ups of the musicians. A fine example is Peter Nicholls' great performance during The Enemy Smacks. The commentary by Nicholls, drummer Paul Cook and Mike Holmes is very entertaining. These three musicians, who together with Martin Orford recorded the original album, still form part of the band. They were locked up in a small room with the headphones on making funny remarks about the songs from The Wake. You can read a lot of this information in the booklet. Many other goodies on this DVD are above all for the real die-hards. The MP3-files include more than two hours and a half of writing sessions, unused ideas, demos and contemporary interviews.
Each disc is packed in a card board sleeve within a hard card board cased box. This makes it a unique document for all IQ-fans, but also other devotees of neo-progressive rock will find something worthwhile listening. For me it certainly is the best way to celebrate an anniversary edition of a true masterpiece. It's the ultimate version of one of the best classic progressive rock albums ever. Well done indeed!
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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