Music Review – TONY BANKS: A CHORD TOO FAR (2015)

TONY BANKS – A CHORD TOO FAR (2015, Esoteric, 4CDs) ∗∗∗∗

CD1:

  1. Rebirth – From Soundtracks
  2. At The Edge Of Night – From The Fugitive
  3. Walls Of Sound – From Strictly Inc.
  4. Lion Of Symmetry – From Soundtracks
  5. The More I Hide It – From Bankstatement
  6. Shortcut To Somewhere – From Soundtracks
  7. The Waters Of Lethe – From A Curious Feeling
  8. I Wanna Change The Score – From Still
  9. Water Out Of Wine – From Still
  10. Something To Live For – From Strictly Inc.
  11. By You – From The Fugitive
  12. Never Let Me Know – From Strictly Inc.
  13. Thirty Three’s – From The Fugitive

CD2

  1. Charity Balls – From Strictly Inc.
  2. An Island In The Darkness – From Strictly Inc.
  3. The Border – From Bankstatement
  4. Lucky Me – From A Curious Feeling
  5. Another Murder Of A Day – From Still
  6. Moving Under – From The Fugitive
  7. Still It Takes Me By Surprise – From Still
  8. Red Day On Blue Street – From Still
  9. After The Lie – From A Curious Feeling
  10. Redwing – From Soundtracks

CD3

  1. Queen Of Darkness – From Bankstatement
  2. A Piece Of You – From Strictly Inc.
  3. Big Man – From Bankstatement
  4. Angel Face – From Still
  5. This Is Love – From The Fugitive
  6. I’ll Be Waiting – From Bankstatement
  7. Back To Back – From Still
  8. For A While – From A Curious Feeling
  9. Throwback – From Bankstatement
  10. You Call This Victory – From Soundtracks
  11. And The Wheels Keep Turning – From The Fugitive
  12. You – From A Curious Feeling
  13. The Final Curtain – From Still

CD4

  1. Blade – From Six Pieces For Orchestra
  2. Black Down – From Seven
  3. Siren – From Six Pieces For Orchestra
  4. Earthlight – From Seven
  5. From The Undertow – From A Curious Feeling
  6. Spring Tide – Demo
  7. Neap Tide – Demo
  8. City Of Gold – Demo
  9. The Chase – From The Wicked Lady
  10. Kit – From The Wicked Lady
  11. Poppet – Previously Unreleased
  12. The Wicked Lady – From The Wicked Lady

Tony Banks is the most influential contributor to the Genesis sound and yet his solo career has been the least successful of all the band’s core members. Listening to this excellent collection it is evident that his solo output is of a high quality and should appeal to Genesis’ fan base. But where Banks has suffered in comparison to his band mates is in the personality department. He has never been at home in the limelight and his reluctance to front his own songs – with the exception of The Fugitive, he has relied on others to interpret his songs – has led to them having a lack of identity. Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel had the advantage of being singers in the first place, whilst Mike Rutherford employed two of the best in Paul Carrack and Paul Young for his Mike + The Mechanics project. Secondly Banks has never been one to compromise or overly simplify and whilst many of the songs here eschew his prog rock roots, they also are more complex in structure and harmony and therefore more challenging to the listener.The first thing you notice about this collection is the excellent remixes of tracks from the earlier albums – notably the period of A Curious Feeling through to Bankstatement. The initial CD releases had lacked a certain dynamic quality, which has been fixed here bringing new life to those tracks (A Curious Feeling having already been spruced up a couple of years ago). Banks has also sequenced the 4 CVDs and not simply followed a timeline. This gives a good balance to the collection and allows for some new creativity with the morph of the gentle instrumental “Redwing” into the rocking “At the Edge of Night” working particularly well at the outset.

Banks has employed some significant talent over the years and they are evident over the first 3 CDs. Singer Kim Beacon and Genesis touring drummer Chester Thompson worked on his debut A Curious Feeling, which remains the album from his solo career that Banks feels closest to with six of the tracks featured here. It was the album that was closest to his work with Genesis and it remains a very satisfying experience. Banks sang himself on 1983’s The Fugitive and did a decent job. The songs were simpler and more pop orientated, but still has the essence of Banks’ ear for harmony and chord structure. Five tracks are represented here. The Wicked Lady (1983) and Soundtracks (1985) featured instrumental and vocal work he had contributed to films in the early to mid 1980s. The synth pop of “Lion of Symmetry” is a classic example of how Banks can build a song with Toyah Wilcox supplying distinct vocals and lyrics.

The catchy “Shortcut to Somewhere” was one of three collaborations with former Marillion vocalist Fish. The other two coming from 1991’s Still – the brooding “Angel Face” and the meandering but dramatic “Another Murder of a Day” actually work much better. That album also saw him link up with 1980s pop star Nik Kershaw as well as Andy Taylor and Jayney Klimek, having worked with the latter on Bankstatement two years earlier. Alistair Gordon was the other vocalist on that album.

Banks’ tasteful compositions and arrangements are evidenced on tracks such as the breathy “I’ll Be Waiting” and the reflective “The Final Curtain”. His taste for the epic is demonstrated with the 17-minute “An Island in the Darkness” from 1995’s Strictly Inc on which Banks collaborated with vocalist Jack Hues of the Hues Corporation fame. The lack of success of that album in particular led to Banks moving into the classical world where he could be more true to his flare for melody, harmony and complex musical structures. Seven (2004) and then Six (2012) followed to warm reception and this work forms the majority of CD4, on which there are also his demos of some of the pieces that would appear on these albums.

All in all this is an excellent collection, but one primarily targeted at Genesis’ and Banks’ fan base. To those curious to find out more It serves as a splendid sampler to one of rock’s most creative writers and inspirational keyboard players. The set comes with a beautifully presented and illustrated 60-page book written by Banks himself. There is the promise of a re-release of Banks’ full catalogue in 5.1 Surround to follow. It is a catalogue worthy of re-appraisal.

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