I remember having old copies of 'Tales...' and 'The Wake' back when I first started getting into prog rock bands whilst at secondary school in the mid to late 1980s. Despite enjoying some of IQ's tunes, I always thought that the sound quality on those albums was pretty awful and that Peter Nicholls' vocal performances were too much of a Peter Gabriel facsimile, so I drifted away from them and stuck with my beloved Marillion, Yes and Genesis. In around 1999, I found out that IQ were performing at the Bury Met, which is only about 25 minutes drive from where I lived and it was only £10 a ticket, so I went along, hoping that they might play some old tunes and win me over again with one or two new tracks. Unbeknownst to me, they were touring in support of their then epic, magnum opus, double album, 'Subterranea', which I'd never heard. I stood there for a good two and a half hours, trying to digest totally brand new music and despite the overall quality of the performance, I decided that I'd made a bad decision and discounted IQ altogether. Recently, completely by accident I got to hear 'Fading Senses' from their 'Ever' album and was blown away, so I decided to get on 'YouTube' and rediscover the band again. The old songs seemed so much better than I remembered them, so when I discovered that the band had released a remixed version of 'Tales...', I decided to give it a go. What guitarist, Mike Holmes has done with those original recordings is a revelation. There's a clarity and sharpness that was never there before, with certain nuances coming out in the mix that are an absolute delight. Opening track, the 20 minute behemoth, 'The Last Human Gateway' has more depth and is a smoother, more absorbing listening experience with a lovely juxtaposition of atmosphere and power. The short 'Through the Corridors' is cleaner and more vibrant with 'Awake and Nervous' ballsier and beefier than it was originally. Martin Orford's classical piano piece, 'My Baby Treats Me Right 'Cos I'm a Hard Lovin' Man All Night Long' although benefiting from the overall remaster, doesn't really differ too much from the 1983 version. It still provides a nice link to the closing track 'The Enemy Smacks', which is even more of an assault on the senses as it was thirty years ago. Like 'The Last Human Gateway' there's an effective blend of atmosphere and power, but with genuine drama thrown into the equation as Peter Nicholls' drug addled character falls deeper into despair. The new mix cranks everything up and adds extra colour and dimension to what was always quite a disturbing song. In terms of extras, this release is a treasure trove. 'Wintertell' is a gorgeous acoustic guitar-based ballad, and a couple of unfinished demos show how the band were evolving musically. However, the alternative end section of 'The Last Human Gateway' is unnecessary for me. The bonus DVD is a treat. We get recent live performances of four of the album tracks, taken from a show in Holland; the original mix of the album (which is still awful) and a great audio commentary from Peter Nicholls and Mike Holmes which is both amusing and insightful. If that weren't enough, the original 'Seven Stories Into Eight' cassette album from 1982 is included. All in all, this is an excellent package with a collection of great music finally given the remastering/remixing treatment that it deserves. Every home should have one.
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