ALBUM REVIEWS

TONY BANKS
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ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!

 

Tony Banks - A Curious Feeling (1979)

WOG RATING: **

Released on the heels of Genesis' And Then There Were Three album, Tony Banks' solo debut shares many similarities, musically speaking, to the 1978 Genesis album that preceded it. Perhaps that's not so surprising to Genesis fans since And Then There Were Three was so heavily influenced by Banks himself. At the on-set of his solo career, Banks almost seemed to struggle to find his own 'voice' as a solo artist. The end result was a fairly safe solo album that, with few exceptions, almost comes across as a weak Genesis album. There are a few highlights on the album, including: "From the Undertow", "After The Lie", and "Forever Morning" that demonstrate Banks' potential as a solo act and his capabilities as a songwriter. Still, Curious Feeling is far from Tony Banks' best solo effort, and the wailing of the title track has to be one of the harshest openings of a song on a rock album - ever. 

As a Genesis fan, and someone who truly appreciates the long and winding web of music that Genesis' has spun over the years, I find Curious Feeling to be a pivotal piece of music from the band's somewhat fragmented state in the late '70s, but the casual listener will more than likely find the album to be less than memorable. While the album, in many ways, sounds like disjointed leftovers from And Then There Were Three, Curious Feeling clearly documents the significance of Bank's input into this stage of Genesis' career and while somewhat predictable, it will not disappoint people who appreciate this period of Genesis' music. 


 
Tony Banks - The Fugitive (1982)

WOG RATING: **

1982's The Fugitive marks the first time Tony Banks clearly found his own unique style as a solo artist. Despite some fairly sophisticated songs, the album provides a much stronger pop feel than demonstrated on A Curious Feeling. Although at times greatly diminished by Tony Banks' vocal abilities, songs like "This Is Love" and "And The Wheels Keep Turning", show subtle glimpses of what lies ahead in Tony's solo career on slightly more commercial projects like Bankstatement or Still. The Fugitive dramatically sets Tony Banks' solo work apart from his work with Genesis, and in many respects is light years ahead of his previous solo album, but is unquestionably not for everyone.


 
Tony Banks - Soundtracks (1985)

WOG RATING: ***

1985's Soundtracks album is a collection of music that Tony Banks has written for the movies Quicksilver and L'Orca and The Outlaws. Sadly, missing from this collection is any music Banks wrote for the film The Wicked Lady, which has yet to surface on compact disc (at least officially). With the exception of the Fish (formerly from the band Marillion) sung "Shortcut To Somewhere" from Quicksilver, this is a completely un-commercial sounding album filled with lavish instrumental pieces like "Redwing Suite." Also included is the Toyah sung "Lion of Symmetry" which, in my opinion, is the worst song on the anthology. Ultimately, what makes the album are those fantastic keyboard driven instrumental pieces. Again, Genesis fans will readily embrace this album, but the casual listener may find albums like Still or Strictly Inc. more appealing.


 
Tony Banks - Still (1991)

WOG RATING: ****

After the tepid commercial response to the Bankstatement project, Tony Banks decided to focus this 1991 solo project under his own name. The strength of the Still album was that Banks identified the weaknesses and strengths of his previous solo projects and seemed to tweak the direction of this album as as result. This time out, Banks re-enlisted the help of vocalists like Fish (featured previously on the Soundtracks album) and Jayney Klimek (from the Bankstatement album) along with Andy Taylor and Nick Kirshaw and crafted a much more pop friendly, more commercially accessible album. At times, unfortunately, the diversity of songs and singers makes the album a bit un-cohensive, sounding more like a selection of random songs than a single body of work. That being said, its a much stronger album than Bankstatement with quite a few memorable tracks like "Red Day of Blue Street", "The Gift", "The Final Curtain" and the ultra-catchy "I Wanna Change The Score." Despite a few below par songs, Still over all remains one of Tony Banks' best solo efforts to date.
 


 
Tony Banks - Seven (2004)

WOG RATING: ****

Any Genesis fan familiar with Banks' keyboard playing knows his signature Genesis compositions tended to have a very strong orchestral quality. Whether it be unusual combinations of chords or a chorus of sweeping angelic sounds, Banks' style has had a tremendous impact on the over all sound of Genesis over the years. For Tony Banks' aptly titled seventh solo project (which also happens to have seven tracks), he created a slightly more adventurous project, enlisting the help of the legendary London Philharmonic for his first true orchestral album. Perhaps not surprisingly, Banks' music works extremely well in the orchestral genre, and despite the fact that Tony Banks doesn't actually play on the album, his powerful influence is clearly heard through the album. This is clearly Tony Banks, make no mistake! Overall, this was a very good offering, and outstanding tracks like "Neap Tide" and "Spirit of Gravity" standout as highlights among a fairly well-rounded album. Anyone who enjoys Banks music, whether it be as a solo artist or as a member of Genesis, will definitely embrace Seven. Highly recommended!


OTHER PROJECTS FEATURING TONY BANKS:

 
Bankstatement - Bankstatement (1989)

WOG RATING: ***

Technically, a group project in little more than name alone, Bankstatement was a Tony Banks solo project guised under a band name much in the way the first Mike and The Mechanics album was. This project featured vocals by Alistar Gordon and Jayney Klimek predominantly on lead vocals, the latter of which also appeared in Bank's 1991 solo album, Still. Despite moments of pop brilliance with songs like "I'll Be Waiting" and "Queen of Darkness," the release is a fairly even mix of good material fused with mediocre to poor tunes with the worse of which being "Big Man," a Banks sung track worthy of relegation to the b-side of a single.  Up to the point of this album's release, it was by far the most mainstream sounding album Banks ever recorded, but the few really exceptional tracks are heavily eclipsed by the sub-standard pop that makes up a good portion of the album.


 
Strictly Inc. - Strictly Inc. (1995)

WOG RATING: ****

Much like Bankstatement, Strictly Inc. was more like a Tony Banks solo album than a genuine group project. This time out, Banks enlisted ex-Wang Chung vocalist Jack Hues and guest musicians like Genesis touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer and Phil Collins' former touring bassist, Nathan East. While many artists in the world of Genesis are somewhat unpredictable in terms of how good their solo projects will be, Banks has clearly shown that his rock solo projects continue to get better and better with each new release. This is no exception. Strictly Inc. is, by far, the best rock solo type album Banks has ever released. From epic tunes like "Island In The Darknesss" (which I often joke is the best Genesis song Genesis never recorded) to great pop songs like "Strictly Incognito" and "Walls of Sound" this album provides a myriad of solid keyboard driven rock backed by the incredibly formidable vocals of Hues, who sounds better than ever here. This album has very few low points, and I recommend it highly. I truly hope this is not the last collaboration between Banks and Hues.



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