IQ - Seven Stories Into 98,
Surely one of the most fabled debut releases is the ‘Seven Stories Into Eight’ cassette that was released in 1982 by the newly formed IQ. For many years, fans that came to the band later have been asking about this, and it has become something of a Holy Grail for some, as the band did not make it available after 1984. After the success of ‘Subterranea’, the decision was made to at long last make the early recordings again available to the fans, but after listening to the original masters IQ discovered that they had deteriorated so much as to be virtually unusable. It was obvious that the best that could be done was to digitally enhance a cassette copy, but they were loath to inflict this on the fan that may have only recently discovered them. The words “Rip Off” was to be avoided at all cost. So, the decision was taken to do the best that they could with a copy of the original recordings and make these available on CD. At the same time, they would go into a studio and within five days would re-record and mix all the songs (as well as a bonus) so the fan could have both the original and what they would sound like today. As Martin said, he expected the fan to play the original versions once just to hear exactly what they sounded like, and then concentrate on playing the newer versions. By having them as a double CD with copious sleeve notes and photos (including Martin with a beard!) then this seemed to be the best of both worlds, and it certainly seems to be the case. Even to fans that have never heard the original tape before (myself included) then some of the songs themselves (“Barbell Is In”, “Intelligence Quotient”, “Fascination”, “It All Stops Here”) are fairly well known. But, it still must have come as quite a shock to John Jowitt (the only IQ member not to play on the original) that he had just nine days to learn all the songs, but he did a good job. The result is an album that is worth listening to in its’ own right, regardless of its’ scarcity value. As this has been thought of with the fan in mind it is not generally available, and the pressing run is likely to be limited, although it is already selling better than the band thought possible. This may be basically a re-recording of an album that is now sixteen years old, but the songs and material is still more than viable (particularly the stunning version of “It All Stops Here”, one of my favourite IQ numbers), which shows just how dynamic and musically important the band have been throughout their career, even back to their earliest days. While I would hesitate to recommend this as the perfect starting point for a non-IQ fan, there is a lot going for it, and with the two CDs, sixteen-page booklet, and history and photos this is worth laying your hands on.