Tony Banks was born on March 27, 1950 as Anthony George Banks. Undoubtedly he's one of the best keyboard players and composers in the prog rock scene. This English musician and multi-instrumentalist, is primarily known for being the keyboardist and founding member of Genesis. He's one of the two members − the other one is bassist-guitarist Mike Rutherford − who has been with Genesis throughout the band's career. Next to Genesis, Banks had also a solo career. His first two solo albums A Curious Feeling (1979) and The Fugitive (1983) were lately re-released on several formats by Esoteric Recordings. You may choose between the one-disc version, the two-disc version or the 180-gram vinyl LP edition. I was so lucky to get the two-disc expanded editions of both albums.
A Curious Feeling:
October 1979 saw the release of the first official solo album by Tony Banks, which was considered to be a true masterpiece at the time. Together with Smallcreep's Day (1980) by Mike Rutherford, these albums fit in perfectly between two Genesis albums. The band had an inactive period to give Phil Collins a chance to solve his private problems. If Genesis would have split up when singer Peter Gabriel left the band, we could have enjoyed a solo album by Tony Banks much earlier. This didn't happen and so songs like Mad Man Moon, A Trick Of The Tail and Robbery, Assault And Battery were used for the Genesis album A Trick Of The Tail (1975).
Few people know that Undertow from the Genesis album And Then There Were Three (1978) was the starting point for Banks' first solo album. A longer intro was written for the song, but never used for the album. Banks used this longer part for the soundtrack of the movie The Shout, but it turned out to be less good than he intended. People who own A Curious Feeling know this strong instrumental piece as the opening tune called From The Undertow. It was the start of a story about a man who was gradually losing his mind, but was aware of what was happening to him.
The core of this concept was recorded at Polar Music Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, the famous Abba Studios. Here Banks got some help from producer David Hentschell. In the past Hentschell already produced several albums with Genesis. At the time Chester Thompson was Genesis' drummer during concerts, so Banks asked him to do the drum parts, because that was the only instrument he couldn't play properly. We also know that Tony Banks is able to sing, but it neither is one of his strongest points. So he looked for a real singer who could sing his lyrics. He heard a tape of Kim Bacon singing He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother which convinced him to ask Bacon for the job. Unfortunately Bacon will remain unaware of this re-release, since he passed away a couple of years ago. Bacon's voice sounds perfect on this album and he certainly lifted the album to a higher level.
I won't mention all tracks of this great album separately, but it's obvious that the music is dominated by Banks' fantastic playing on the keyboards. Especially the Yamaha electric grand piano, which was a very popular instrument at the time, can be heard on many tracks. You can also hear many impressive layers of string synthesizers, which were played to create an orchestral feel on the instrumental pieces From The Undertow, Forever Morning and The Waters Of Lethe. Moreover, he obviously included several awesome synthesizer solos. Especially the solos on After Me and You are excellent and remind me of the solos on classic Genesis pieces like The Cinema Show and In The Cage. Besides, his efforts on the electric and acoustic guitar are worthwhile listening to. Fine examples are the electric guitar parts on For A While and The Waters Of Lethe. However, the bass parts sound rather simple making clear that he isn't a trained bassist.
On the CD you can hear a new stereo mix of A Curious Feeling. After listening to it I realized that it sounds better than in 1979. The music has more depth and more details can be heard. The second disc is a DVD. It features the 5.1- surround version of the same album. As you might expect you hear more details and sound effects. Furthermore a 96 kHz/24-bit stereo mix can be enjoyed and finally you can watch the rare promotional videos of For A While and The Waters Of Lethe! As I mentioned earlier, this album is a true masterpiece in my opinion and a must have for all fans of Genesis. After all those years it still has a special place in Tony's heart as you can read in the fine booklet that has been published with this release.
In October 1982, Genesis' two-month tour in North America and Europe was meant to support their live album Three Sides Live. After that the band took a short break during which Banks recorded his second solo album. Like bandmate Phil Collins, Banks recorded the basic tracks at his home on a professional 8-track tape machine. It was mixed at The Farm, the band's recording studio in Chiddingfold, Surrey. In May 1983, Genesis convened a month before the album's release to start to work on their next studio album at the same studio. The Fugitive was released in late June 1983. The album was produced by Banks himself and co-produced by the Grammy Award-winning Stephen Short. At the time the album received mixed reviews. After listening to the LP in 1983, I was rather disappointed, because the music differed from what he had recorded on A Curious Feeling. This time I couldn't welcome a second masterpiece. The album is the first and only album on which Banks sings the lead vocals on all tracks. Unlike A Curious Feeling the songs on The Fugitive are rather accessible and less experimental.
On his second album three guest musicians played the drums, namely Tony Beard, Andy Duncan and Steve Gadd. On the instrumental Thirty Three's, a Linn LM-1 was used instead of a drummer of flesh and blood. Daryl Stuermer from the backing band of both Genesis and Phil Collins was recruited to play the guitars. For most of the bass parts he asked Mo Foster, who also played on Collins' solo album Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982). The bonus tracks K2 and Sometime Never were not included on the original album due to lack of space, but they were still recorded in the same sessions. However, they can be found on this reissue. The tracks And The Wheels Keep Turning and This Is Love were released as singles, but they both failed to chart in spite of the fact that they were rather short and radio-friendly. The most interesting songs on this album are the two instrumentals Thirty Three's and Charm. They tend towards the musical style of his debut.
On the CD you can hear the new stereo mix of The Fugitive done by Nick Davis and Tony Banks from the original master tapes. It sounds far better than the original album. The second disc is a DVD featuring the 5.1-surround version of the same album. As you might expect you hear more details and sound effects. Furthermore a 96 kHz/24-bit stereo mix can be heard and the rare promotional videos of This Is Love. Finally I must say something about the packing of this version. It's packed in a hard-back book containing an illustrated booklet and a note from Tony Banks.
Again I can only be thankful to Esoteric Recordings for releasing such great reissues of A Curious Feeling and The Fugitive, two albums that show two different musical sides of Tony Banks. The first one I like a lot; about the second one I have mixed feelings. Nevertheless I still can enjoy both records, even more than when they were released initially.
A Curious Feeling ***** / The Fugitive ***-, Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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