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Banks, Tony: Banks Vauts (The Albums 1979-1995) (8 disc remastered boxset)

There’s no getting away from the fact that keyboard player Tony Banks will first and foremost be remembered for being one of the driving forces behind every era of Genesis. In terms of extracurricular excursions from that band, mega success somehow eluded him, with the huge chart sensations from Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford’s Mike + The Mechanics and recent live sensations from Steve Hackett often putting the keyboard man’s efforts in the shade. The debut solo outing from Banks arrived in 1979 and with Banks Vaults, Esoteric have gathered together all of what they describe as the ‘rock’ albums that the musician has delivered since. Now, I may not necessarily agree that rock is the best description of the seven albums revisited here alongside a disc of Banks’ promo videos from across the era (which I haven’t seen at time of reviewing) but what in essence it means is that we get A Curious Feeling (1979), The Wicked Lady OST (1983), The Fugitive (1983), Soundtracks (1986), Bankstatement (1989), Still (1991) and Strictly Inc (1995), and a very different bunch they are.

By 1979 Genesis were for all intents and purposes a trio, Gabriel and now Hackett heading off on their own, meaning Tony Banks’ first solo foray arrived in between Genesis albums ...And Then There Were Three and Duke. A Curious Feeling (4*) would reflect the times, Banks furtively glancing over his musical shoulder for some Lamb-like key forays, while more firmly fixed on the future of song length material with hooks and choruses. The band was made up of Genesis auxiliary member Chester Thompson on drums, ex-String Driven Thing singer Kim Beacon, with Banks covering everything else (keys, guitar, bass and a little percussion). The results of this union would propel the album to #21 in the charts. For many it’s one of the strongest statements from the keyboard player outside of his main group and even now, some 40 years later, it sounds reasonably vibrant and engaging. Beacon, who sadly died in 2001, was an excellent choice for singer, his ability to add a bluesy charm to the prog-lite fare, offering something familiar yet different.

Next up was a complete change if tack, Banks providing the soundtrack for the remake of the 1945 film Wicked Lady, his bombastic, orchestral score arriving in ‘83 but sounding like it came straight out of the time of the first film, rather than the latter. Taking you back to a day of black and white romance and derring-do, pieces such as “Portrait Of Jerry Jackson” and “Pastorale” are nothing short of wonderful and evocative. The original vinyl however opened with Banks’ more atypical versions of these pieces on his synthesizers, with comparisons to the instrumental moments from Curious… obvious and welcome. Previous CD outings reversed the styles, presenting The National Philharmonic recordings first and this reissue follows suite and, to me, benefits for doing so. Somewhat of an anomaly style wise in this collection, The Wicked Lady (4.5*) is my own personal favourite of all the albums included in this set.

Released the same year, The Fugitive (3*) would fare less well, with Banks handling all of the vocals and being pretty much derided for doing so. Considering that he would use the singer’s skills at a later date, that Banks himself sounds like a budget-version Nik Kershaw is maybe not so much of a surprise and while he doesn’t have the dark charisma of Gabriel or pop nous of Collins, with hindsight, Banks has a perfectly passable, if slightly indistinct delivery. There’s also no denying that he works hard to add some passion and angst where required, although his vocal shortcomings do come to the fore on the slower numbers. The band itself was exemplary, Banks sharing bass duties with Mo Foster, while Genesis live guitarist Daryl Stuermer also shows up. With drums work split between Tony Beard, Steve Gadd and Andy Duncan, the talent on show is impressive. That they’re given a stark, pop sheen to work with wasn’t too surprising given that Genesis themselves were, at the time, between the Abacab and Genesis albums.

Three years would pass before the Soundtracks (3.5*) albums would appear from Banks, music from the films Quicksilver and Lorca And The Outlaw making for a curious collection of 80s synth pop and Genesis on a shoestring. The opening Quicksilver cut features Fish of Marillion and if the big singer thought all his Christmases had come at once when he got the chance to work with a member of a band he so clearly worshipped, then the bouncy Prefab Sprouts meets early It Bites of “Shortcut To Somewhere” must have been a strange thing to be presented with and while it is a catchy strut, it isn’t that much more. Instrumentals like “Smilin’ Jasey Casey” are more even handed, if less eventful, although the “Quicksilver Suite” does fare better by adding an enigmatic edge. As we move on to the Lorca material Jim Diamond gives an excellently trademark croon over the slightly staid “You Call This Victory”, before Toyah steals the show with her vocal on the album highlight “Lion Of Symmetry”, where she adds oodles of the drama and pomp that had first brought her into the spotlight. From there we get the “Redwing Suite”, which consists of “Mama” like instrumentals and which go a long way to illustrate firstly how key Banks was in shaping the Genesis sound of this era, and secondly how vital Collins’ vocals were to lifting them into chart soaring smash hits.

Bankstatement (3*) was next, the 1989 album and band dissecting the Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance albums from Genesis and this time the keyboard player decided that, like Mike Rutherford and his Mechanics, what he needed was a band. Recruiting Steve Hillage from Gong to play guitar and produce, singers Alistair Gordon and Jayney Klimek (Banks would also sing one track) take the spots behind the mic, the line-up being rounded out by guests like drummer Geoff Dugmore and bassist Pino Palladino. Looking back it’s hard not to suggest that Banks was chasing that ever elusive solo chart hit with this outing, broad brush strokes applied onto every track and while Gordon was a decent enough singer (two singers? I wonder where that idea came from??) it was the three tracks with Klimek’s darker shimmering tones that grabbed the ear and added the missing aspects that Bankstatement seems to get so near to yet still so far from. Still, maybe the problem lay more with the fact that Banks simply never settled on a format or style for his solo releases, with potential purchasers unsure who would be singing, or even whether there would be a singer at all? On that front Bankstatement, the band, were maybe worth persevering with but instead we got…

Still (4*), this time back under the simpler banner of Tony Banks and which preceded the Genesis album We Can’t Dance by mere months. Another variety of vocalists turn up, with Nik Kershaw and Andy Taylor joining previous collaborators Fish and Jayney Klimek, while Stuermer and Palladino also returned, this time with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta adding his undoubted skills. “Red Day On Blue Street” finds Kershaw leading from the front and with a sultry sax solo the electro-eighties-pop-prog proves rather rewarding. The other two tracks featuring the singer, “I Wanna Change The Score” and to a slightly lesser extent “The Final Curtain”, faring equally well. “Angel Face” with Fish at its front finds the Scots singer doing his best Phil Collins impression and coming off pretty well, while his co-write with Banks. “Another Murder Of A Day”, sees the frontman on much more familiar ground and in top form as Banks suddenly reels out the modern prog that mid-period Genesis thrived upon. It’s not quite a classic but arguably this is one of the most satisfying moments in the Banks’ solo canon, even if its influences are laid bare for all to see. Taylor, on the other hand, reels out a smooth vocal on the forceful “The Gift” and more heart tugging “Still It Takes Me By Surprise”, although the latter is maybe more of an acquired taste. Leaving Banks to sing on the ho-hum “Hero For An Hour” and Klimek to try and inject some life into the slightly dreary “Water Out Of Wine” and much more successful pop explosion of “Back To Back”. There’s no doubting that it makes for an uneven ride, but equally, it’s hard not to suggest that as an out and out pop-rock-prog album, Still is maybe the best to come out under the Banks name.

And it is also the last album in this set to ‘strictly’ arrive under the Banks name, 1995’s Strictly Inc. (3.5*) the monicker of both band and album as it landed in that Genesis hinterland that formed between Phil Collins leaving and the band re-emerging with Ray Wilson at the mic for the wrongly derided Calling All Stations. This time Banks was flanked by old hand Stuermer, Nathan East on bass, John Robinson on drums and Wang Chung man Jack Hues, who both played guitar and sung. The results make for a cohesive collection that unlike many of Banks’ albums seemed to know exactly what it was: a solid collection of slow to mid-paced pop ballads with a good singer and solid backbone. It isn’t an album for every day and approached in the wrong mind-set can be a little samey in places. It also clearly marks the path of where Calling All Stations would head with its sound, although the latter would add a welcome hit of bombast and bluster side-stepped here. Intriguingly, however, it’s the seventeen minute closer “An Island In The Darkness” which goes a long way to both shining a light on the strongest aspects of the Tony Banks solo catalogue and its weakest area. That being that when the keyboard man truly stretched out and played to his strengths - those being lengthy, involved, intricate workouts - he came out a big winner. However, it’s something that happens very seldom within a catalogue that still has a lot to celebrate and which deserves a better reputation than it seems to have gained.

Since 1995 Banks has gone on to release three acclaimed orchestral albums that show a different if still intrinsically linked side to the composer. Oddly, what Banks Vaults maybe shows is that the more the keyboard man yearned mainstream success with his solo albums, the less likely he became to achieve it. That said, there’s a lot to like here and most of these albums are stronger than general consensus will have us believe. The standouts are, for me, A Curious Feeling, The Wicked Lady and Still, while the others all have something to recommend. The sound on these remasters is excellent throughout, while the packaging seems to mirror that standard, although, reviewing from pre-release downloads and files, I haven’t actually held the box in my hand yet. Either way, for those looking to catch up on the solo years of Tony Banks and to discover the varied output it encompasses, this is certainly the way to do it.


Track Listing

DISC ONE: CD A CURIOUS FEELING
1. FROM THE UNDERTOW
2. LUCKY ME
3. THE LIE
4. AFTER THE LIE
5. A CURIOUS FEELING
6. FOREVER MORNING
7. YOU
8. SOMEBODY ELSE’S DREAM
9. THE WATERS OF LETHE
10. FOR A WHILE
11. IN THE DARK


DISC TWO: CD THE WICKED LADY O/S/T
1. THE WICKED LADY
2. PORTRAIT OF JERRY JACKSON
3. CAROLINE’S THEME
4. SCHERZO
5. PASTORALE
6. PRELUDE TO THE WICKED LADY
7. KIT’S THEME
8. FINALE
9. BARBARA
10. THE CHASE
11. SPRING
12. KIT
13. REPENTANCE
14. CAROLINE
15. JERRY JACKSON
16. THE WICKED LADY (CUSTOM VERSION)


DISC THREE: CD THE FUGITIVE
1. THIS IS LOVE
2. MAN OF SPELLS
3. AND THE WHEELS KEEP TURNING
4. SAY YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE ME
5. THIRTY THREE’S
6. BY YOU
7. AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT
8. CHARM
9. MOVING UNDER
BONUS TRACKS
10. K2
11. SOMETIME NEVER


DISC FOUR: CD TONY BANKS: SOUNDTRACKS
MUSIC FROM THE FILM “QUICKSILVER”
1. SHORTCUT TO SOMEWHERE
2. SMILIN’ JACK CASEY
QUICKSILVER SUITE
3. REBIRTH
4. GYPSY
5. FINAL CHASE
MUSIC FROM THE FILM “LORCA AND THE OUTLAWS”
6. YOU CALL THIS VICTORY
7. LION OF SYMMETRY
REDWING SUITE
8. REDWING
9. LORCA
10. KID AND DETECTIVE DROID
11. LIFT OFF
12. DEATH OF ABBY


DISC FIVE: CD BANKSTATEMENT
1. THROWBACK
2. I’LL BE WAITING
3. QUEEN OF DARKNESS
4. THAT NIGHT
5. RAINCLOUD
6. THE BORDER
7. BIG MAN
8. A HOUSE NEEDS A ROOF
9. THE MORE I HIDE IT
10. DIAMONDS AREN’T SO HARD
11. THURSDAY THE TWELFTH


DISC SIX: CD STILL
1. RED DAY ON BLUE STREET
2. ANGEL FACE
3. THE GIFT
4. STILL IT TAKES ME BY SURPRISE
5. HERO FOR AN HOUR
6. I WANNA CHANGE THE SCORE
7. WATER OUT OF WINE
8. ANOTHER MURDER OF A DAY
9. BACK TO BACK
10. THE FINAL CURTAIN


DISC SEVEN: CD  STRICTLY INC: Strictly Inc
1. DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME
2. WALLS OF SOUND
3. ONLY SEVENTEEN
4. THE SERPENT SAID
5. NEVER LET ME KNOW
6. CHARITY BALLS
7. SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR
8. A PIECE OF YOU
9. STRICTLY INCOGNITO
10. AN ISLAND IN THE DARKNESS


DISC EIGHT: DVD THE PROMOTIONAL VIDEOS 1979 �" 1995
1. FOR A WHILE (1979)
2. THE WATERS OF LETHE (1979)
3. THIS IS LOVE (1983)
4. SHORTCUT TO SOMEWHERE (1986)
5. THROWBACK (1989)
6. I WANNA CHANGE THE SCORE (1991)
7. THE GIFT (1991)
8. ONLY SEVENTEEN (1995)

Added: July 6th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Banks Vaults @ Cherry Red
Hits: 418
Language: english

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