'The Wake' is IQ's 1985 follow-up to 'Tales From The Lush Attic' and is a far superior album in just about every way. Despite it's doomy concept of someone having been buried alive and their soul trying to successfully navigate its way to the other side without falling into hell, 'The Wake' is a colourful, vibrant album, packed with drama, atmosphere and power.
IQ managed to mix 1970s style prog with a more contemporary vibe thanks to the use of modern keyboards, emulators and fairlights etc which were very much 'de rigueur' at the time. They also achieved a nice balance of epic showstoppers and shorter, more concise songs, which showed how far the band had come and how they were continually evolving.
Opening track 'The Outer Limits' is a snorting first track which sets the pace for the rest of the album and gives Martin Orford the chance to shine with some fantastic keyboard playing. It's a big dramatic track which kicks things off perfectly.
The title track 'The Wake' is next and still ranks as one of the strongest numbers on this album. A big Zeppelinesque riff from Mike Holmes, driven home with a thundering rhythm section and a ranty vocal performance from Peter Nicholls make this song a bit of a juggernaut. Fantastic stuff.
'The Magic Roundabout' follows and allows the band to indulge in some Genesis-style prog, with some nice instrumental passages, before giving way to the commercial sounding 'Corners', which shows IQ utilising a drum machine and a sitar sound. It sounds pretty dated and must have the longest fade out in history, but provides a nice, temporary break from the intensity of the other tracks.
'Widow's Peak' is up next and is classic IQ in my view. The track begins slowly and is reminiscent of 'Snow Goose' era Camel before the drama and atmosphere increases and the song gets into its groove with some good guitar and keyboard interplay, changing textures and a good vocal from Nicholls.
'A Thousand Days' follows and shows that IQ have a good ear for a bit of Big Country/Simple Minds/U2 style accessible rock. This leads nicely into the closing track 'Headlong', which ramps up the intensity and drama one last time in a dark, yet powerful epic that rounds things off perfectly.
This release marks the 25th anniversary of the album and has been given a bit of a spit and polish to clean up what was a pretty rough original recording. As a result, although being far from perfect, 'The Wake' sounds cleaner and meatier than it did all those years ago. This set also comes complete with a variety of extras, although not all of them are particularly satisfying.
Whereas, the recent re-release and remix of 'Tales From The Lush Attic' has bonus content worth revisiting, this package contains a lot of stuff that you won't bother listening too again. Discs 2 and 3 are filled with outtakes lasting about a minute at a time, which gets very irritating. Although some may enjoy listening to the development and evolution of what is a classic 1980s prog album, it would have been much more satisfying to have just included the Friday Rock Show recordings, a few live tracks and the single remix of 'Corners' with perhaps the odd previously unreleased song on one disc rather than a load of unnecessary guff spread out over 2 discs.
The DVD, as with the rehashed 'Tales...' is very enjoyable. The audio commentary of the album by Peter Nicholls, Mike Holmes and drummer Paul Cook is interesting and good fun and the amateur video footage of what looks like a pub gig in Watford from 1984 is a wonderful snapshot of what IQ were about back then. OK, the visual footage itself isn't the best, but the sound is good and it's worth watching for the technical proficiency of the musicians and Peter Nicholls' Gabrielesque performance which is very engaging indeed. All that being said, it would have been nice to have included the 'Live From London' TV concert film and/or some of the recent performances of the album as they did on 'Tales...'.
The box-set is completed with an excellent essay on the writing, recording and release of 'The Wake' with contributions from all band members, which gives an interesting insight into events that led to Peter Nicholls departure and of how close the band came to achieving some genuine mainstream success.
As it is, 'The Wake' ranks alongside Marillion's 'Misplaced Childhood' and Magnum's 'On a Storyteller's Night' as among the best rock albums of 1985 and this re-release simply highlights the fact.
A high standard progressive rock album from a top quality, yet sadly overlooked band.