“The perfect opportunity to finally get it right, as I heard it in my head”, is how IQ’s guitarist Mike Holmes describes the major motivation for IQ re-releasing their 1993 classic Ever in a special 25th Anniversary Remix edition. This sumptuously produced and packaged album impressively re-presents what was already a fine album with some interesting new twists, enhanced high quality and sparkling sonic clarity. In terms of the context of the times and circumstances in which it was originally released and the message it sent out about IQ it could be argued that Ever is probably one of the most significant albums released by these masters of modern progressive rock.
IQ’s early ’80s debut album Tales from the Lush Attic and its more Gothic follow-up The Wake amply demonstrated their potential and ability, but in all honesty were perhaps a little too derivative of early Genesis to mark them out with their own distinct identity. Their following two albums with new vocalist Paul Menel, Nomzamo and Are You Sitting Comfortably?, were a “bid to make prog rock for pop fans and clever pop music for prog fans”, according to keyboardist Martin Orford. However, as he says in the accompanying sleeve notes, this change in direction “was clearly dead in the water” by the end of the ’80s. Personal loss experienced by the band and a renewed bond of friendship brought them back together in the early ’90s with Peter Nicholls returning on vocals, and they set about writing an album which firmly established their own very distinctive and instantly recognisable ‘IQ Sound’. IQ have arguably written finer albums since, right up to the present day, in a remarkably consistent career, but Ever should rightfully be recognised as the album which really set them on their way, laying down their own inimitable blueprint to produce very high quality progressive rock imbued with melody, drama, poetic lyricism and outstanding musicianship.
Those considering getting this release will be divided into two groups – those that may not know much or anything about IQ or this album, and those that may have followed them for years and no doubt already have a version of this album, and wondering whether it is worth getting this new edition. For progressive rock fans whom may be relatively unfamiliar with IQ, or perhaps just this IQ album in particular, I have no hesitation in unequivocally VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDING this album – indeed, I genuinely envy you the experience of hearing this album for the very first time!
Ever holds a special place in my heart and takes me back to a time in the early ’90s, before we all had such easy access to the Internet, when news about progressive music was almost impossible to find. This was the era when the mainstream rock press largely ignored or even spurned progressive rock (‘the music that dare not speak its name’), and fans virtually had to ask for their prog purchases in brown paper bags from under the counter! I had loved IQ’s first two albums and stayed with them for the two Menel era albums (with a little less enthusiasm to be honest), but apart from the curious hybrid album J’ai Pollette D’Arnu in 1991 it seemed they had more or less disappeared off the scene and I assumed that compilation was the last gasp of a now sadly defunct band.
Therefore, I can still remember very clearly the great and pleasant surprise to discover their then new album Ever in the racks of my local record emporium in 1993 with absolutely no knowledge of the band’s continuing existence. I was also delighted to see that Peter Nicholls was back in the band, with no disrespect intended to Paul Menel. Menel had done a good job with IQ but to me Nicholls was absolutely essential to the IQ music that I had fallen in love with in the early ’80s, alongside the keyboard mastery of Martin Orford and Michael Holmes’ wonderful guitar. I excitedly took Ever home and when the startling synth/drum opening to The Darkest Hour hit me with a wave of sonic brilliance, and then broke my heart with its deeply felt emotional coda, I thought to myself ‘Bloody hell – They’re back… and better than ever!’. This first song of the re-formed IQ has been an almost ever present song in their live canon since, and rightly so as it is one of the finest songs IQ have written, combining powerful rock with beautiful melodies and emotionally laden lyrics, reflecting the grief felt by Nicholls and the band at the time. The mutual loss of Nicholls’ and Holmes’ fathers at that time along with the passing of short term member but long-lasting friend of the band, Les ‘Ledge’ Marshall, clearly affected the music and lyrics that IQ were creating. There is a poignant emotional core to the album and to this day the words at the end of The Darkest Hour almost bring a tear to me each time, particularly when played live:
Whatever it takes now, I’ll do, If it’s over
And he won’t hear me now, I know, When I’m losing all the power
And he won’t hurt me now, In this darkest hour.”
Fading Senses continues the melancholic feel with the opening After All vocal section, with new bassist John Jowitt’s bass beautifully and tastefully underpinning the pathos of Orford’s delicate keys and Nicholls’ mournful voice. The remix version greatly enhances a haunting vocal sample at the break as the song accelerates in tempo and increases in volume with the band launching into an impressive instrumental conclusion. Fading Senses typifies the subtle balance between quiet and heavy, light and shade, melody and power that characterises so much of IQ’s music from Ever onward. Birdsong effects take us into the much more staccato opening of Out of Nowhere with its memorable chugging rhythm driven along by Paul Cook’s superb drumming. Out of Nowhere shows that whilst IQ could ‘prog out’ with the best they could also write “some insistent and catchy melodies”, as Orford proudly describes. Even at their most musically ambitious IQ have always built their songs on memorable melodies and hooks. The centrepiece of the album is the epic Further Away, which opens elegiacally with Orford’s flute over tinkling keyboards, a perfect backdrop for Nicholls’ delicate vocals. This track is a flawed beauty as in my view the finale does not match the melodic heights and impact of the main body of the song, a view shared by Orford in the notes where he writes that the end section did not “quite achieve the cataclysmic hugeness it should have been destined for…”. Nevertheless, the overall effect is beguiling and exciting in turn with its striking mixture of delicate melancholy and darker more driven passages.
The finale to the album proper is the Leap of Faith / Came Down set of segued songs, which feel like one epic song in two inextricably linked sections. There is a very real sense of a journey of the spirit in the haunting lyrics and finely judged subtle opening section of Leap of Faith with Orford particularly inspired on keyboards. The instrumental second half of the song is a brilliant example of the perfect dovetailing telepathy between Orford’s bewitching keyboards and Holmes’ magical guitars as they repeatedly switch lead roles in a spiralling game of musical tag as the song dramatically builds and builds, Jowitt and Cook matching them perfectly with precision and power. As this song reaches a climax we segue seamlessly into the glorious afterglow of the lyrical wistfulness of Came Down. The final words never fail to touch me:
How can I be on your side, If the line divides And if anyone should listen?
Though starry-eyed, I know, This is still the Garden where I Came Down.”
If you asked me to tell you what that all means I would find it difficult to explain… but deep down I feel it, and that’s the secret of the best of Nicholls’ lyrics. They are poetic and ambiguous or even obscure at times, but that allows the listener to interpret and feel them in their own way, somehow touching on feelings and thoughts in a strangely indefinable but powerful way… and that’s how one of the best and most significant progressive rock albums of the 1990s finished, and it paved the way for a remarkably consistent career that still continues and flourishes to this day. If that does not convince those unfamiliar with this band or album to obtain this release then I doubt anything will!
But how about those that already have Ever? Is it worth getting this re-release? What does it have to offer over and above the original album?
The answer to the first question is DEFINITELY YES! This is no mere ‘polishing up’ of an old album with barely discernible changes with a bit of new packaging that we see all too often. This is a finely produced remix that casts this classic in wonderful new light. The first disc adds to the sparkling new remix two additional tracks with some alternative solos for Came Down which may be even better than those used for the album. Lost in Paradise is actually a radical but very emotionally charged and subtle remix of The Darkest Hour, released as part of the charity compilation The Tsunami Projekt in 2005 to aid the survivors of the appalling tsunami disaster in Asia in late 2004. This remix casts a new light on the excellence of this song as the lyrics and melodies, shorn of their previous progressive trappings, shine in this touching tribute which also uses contemporary news sound clips to amplify the emotional impact of the song.
The second disc presents a complete live performance of the Ever album in Germany in February 2018. IQ are a brilliant live band so it is no surprise that they perform this classic flawlessly with present day keyboardist Neil Durrant and bassist Tim Esau effortlessly and skilfully playing the parts of Orford and Jowitt from the original album. This show also features the first time that the band have ever performed Further Away which was not played on the original Ever tour in 1993. It is an outstanding rendition and perhaps this time in a live setting they felt more able to fully do justice to their originally intended vision of ‘cataclysmic hugeness’ mentioned previously by Orford! Interestingly they switch the track listing about with Leap of Faith and Came Down following Fading Senses, which feels like a more natural and poetic progression. The foot stomping Out of Nowhere is suitably used as the finale, and just goes to show that a live show is NOT just the same as an album which needs to be slavishly followed as on record. Live veterans IQ know how to construct an engaging and flowing set list, even with an old favourite like Ever.
Disc three features both the original album and live show in glorious 5.1 versions. If you have the technology this disc alone is well worth getting this package for as the job Holmes has done in remixing the album is stunning. Special mention must also go to current IQ keyboardist Neil Durrant. Apparently, for technical reasons you can read about in the booklet, the keyboard parts to the original album were not saved to the original tapes. Therefore, Durrant had to track down the original keyboards used by Orford (who no longer has such vintage keyboards). Durrant then painstakingly and brilliantly re-programmed every keyboard part played by Orford. As a fan who has heard the original album countless times and was not aware of the work done by Durrant for this re-release, when I first heard the updated version I can only say that I couldn’t see (or hear) the joins, such is the perfection and feel of his rendition. The keyboards are more separated and more prominent in this remix and 5.1 version, which does more justice to Orford’s brilliant contributions to the original album. Jowitt’s fine bass is also more noticeable and makes one realise even more what a great bassist he was for IQ over many years. Holmes’ fantastic guitars sparkle with extra clarity. Overall the production feels more full and resonant, and even for a fan like myself who is so familiar with the album it feels fresh, new and exciting.
The DVD extras are also interesting, with demos, outtakes, unused ideas and rehearsals. Unholy Cow as the original forerunner of Out of Nowhere is particularly interesting and shows how songs can evolve so much in the writing process. It is clear that IQ were brimming over with ideas as the abundant excellence of the final product of Ever clearly demonstrated. This whole release is packaged beautifully with Nicholls’ lovely original artwork, which just seems to perfectly visually conjure up the elegiac and melancholic feel of this beautiful album. There is also an extensive booklet with extended and fascinating thoughts from all the band members involved in the original album and the remix version.
Ever is definitely one of the most significant albums in IQ’s history, as well as one of the most outstanding progressive rock albums of the 1990s. The Ever 2018 remix special anniversary edition may probably be one of the best re-release packages of 2018 and the last few years. Just go and get it!
Disc One – CD: Ever 2108 Remix
01. The Darkest Hour (10:54)
02. Fading Senses (6:35)
03. Out of Nowhere (5:08)
04. Further Away (14:54)
05. Leap of Faith (7:21)
06. Came Down (5:59)
07. Came Down – The Solos that Got Away (4:36)
08. Lost in Paradise (5:25)
Total Time – 60:52
Disc Two – CD: Ever Live at the Colos-Saal, Aschaffenberg, Germany – 10th February, 2018
01. Intro / The Darkest Hour (12:11)
02. Fading Senses (6:38)
03. Leap of Faith (7:05)
04. Came Down (5:36)
05. Further Away (15:31)
06. Out of Nowhere (5:29)
Total Time – 52:30
Disc Three – DVD
– Ever 2018 Remix – 5.1 Surround Mix
– Ever Live at the Colos-Saal – 5.1 Surround Mix
– Album Demos: The Darkest Hour, Fading Senses, Unholy Cow (Out of Nowhere), Further Away Intro, Further Away Complete, Leap of Faith, Came Down
– Studio Outtakes: Darkest Hour, Fading Senses, Out of Nowhere, Further Away, Leap of Faith, Came Down
– Unused Ideas: Waltzy Song, Echo Song, The Blues Riff, Bassy Track, Guitar Thing, Quiety Demo, Some Chordage, Monks
– Rehearsals: The Darkest Hour (pt 2), Fading Senses – Jamming the Riff, Fading Senses #2, Unholy Cow (developed), Further Away – Jamming the Riff, Further Away – Arrangement, Came Down – Different Intro, Sad Chords
Ever Studio Album:
Paul Cook – Drums and ‘Ivy-Leafed Toadflax’
Michael Holmes – Electric & Acoustic Guitars and ‘Keebotronics & Greech Popo ½’
John Jowitt – Bass, Bass Pedals, Backing Vocals and ‘Crusty Warthog’
Peter Nicholls – Vocals, Backing Vocals and ‘Giddy Aunt’
Martin Orford – Keyboards, Mellotron, Flute, Backing Vocals and ‘Chiff Chaff’
Neil Durrant – Additional Keyboard Programming (2018 Remix)
Ever Live 2018 Disc:
Paul Cook, Michael Holmes, Peter Nicholls (as above)
Neil Durrant – Keyboards
Tim Esau – Bass Guitar
Record Label: Giant Electric Pea
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 5th October 2018 (Original Version Released 1993)
– Tales from the Lush Attic (1983)
– The Wake (1985)
– Living Proof (Live) (1986)
– Nomzamo (1987)
– Are You Sitting Comfortably? (1989)
– J’ai Pollette D’Arnu (b-sides & live compilation) (1991)
– Ever (1993)
– Forever Live (1993)
– Subterranea (1997)
– Seven Stories into Eight (1998) (Re-recorded re-release of very early ‘cassette album’)
– Subterranea: The Concert (2000)
– The Seventh House (2000)
– Dark Matter (2004)
– The Lost Attic (2007) (Rarities and BBC sessions compilation)
– Frequency (2009)
– The Wake (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (2010)
– IQ 30 (Live) (2012)
– Tales from the Lush Attic (30th Anniversary Remix Special Edition) (2013)
– The Road of Bones (2014)
– Live on the Road of Bones (2015)
– Ever (2018 Remix 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition) (2018)