TONY BANK-A CHORD TOO FAR BOX SET.

TONY BANK-A CHORD TOO FAR BOX SET.

Too often, Tony Banks is referred to as “the keyboard player from Genesis.” This is doing the sixty-five year old a huge disservice. Tony Banks is a multi-instrumentalist, whose just as comfortable playing guitar as his playing piano, Hammond organ, synths or Mellotron. Seamlessly, Tony Banks could switch between musical instruments. That and his ability to innovate, played an important part in Genesis’ success. However, while Genesis dominated a large part of Tony Banks’ career, it’s just part of the story.

By the Genesis split-up in 1998, after thirty-one years together, Tony Banks was already an established solo artist. He released his debut album A Curious Feeling in 1979. After that, Tony Banks released another eight albums. They showed the different sides to Tony Banks.

As well as solo albums, Tony Banks released soundtracks and orchestral albums. Then there’s the albums Tony recorded with his  Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. projects. These albums showed Tony Bank’s versatility and ability to innovate. Tracks from each of these ten albums feature on the Chord Too Far box set, which was recently released by Estoteric Recordings. 

The Chord Too Chord Too Far box set is a four disc box set. It documents Tony Banks’ five decade solo career. Annoyingly, the Chord Too Far box set isn’t in chronological order. That would’ve made sense, and really done justice to Tony Banks thirty-six year solo career. Instead, A Chord Too Far jumps between albums and decades. This is disappointing. It would’ve made sense to start with Tony Banks debut solo album A Curious Feeling, which was released in 1979, and worked through the ten albums, reaching 2012s Six: Pieces for Orchestra. That’s what most people, myself included would’ve done.

A Curious Feeling.

For the past twelve years, Tony Banks had concentrated on making Genesis one of the biggest bands. He had cofounded the band in 1967, and by 1979, the only original members of the band were Tony and Mike Rutherford. The most recent departure was guitarist Steve Hackett, who left in 1977. This left Tony, Mike and Phil Collins, whose first album was a trio was 1978s …And Then There Were Three… The following year, Tony released his first solo album, A Curious Feeling

Before heading off to Polar Music Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, Tony Banks had written eleven tracks. They became A Curious Feeling. It was a concept album. The concept for the album was Daniel Keyes’ short story Flowers for Algernon. Recording of A Curious Feeling took place during the spring and summer of 1979. Accompanying Tony were drummer Chester Thompson and vocalist Kim Beacon, while Tony Banks and David Hentschel produced A Curious Feeling. It was released on 8th October 1979.

When A Curious Feeling was released, the reviews were scathing. This was no surprise. 1979 was the height of the post punk era. Critics slated anything that represented the musical establishment. Tony never stood a chance, despite the quality of music on A Curious Feeling. Six tracks, including From the Undertow, Lucky Me, After The Lie, You, For a While, and The Waters Of Lethe, which feature on A Chord Too Far, show how wrong the critics were about A Curious Feeling.

Despite the protestations of the gunslinger critics, A Curious Feeling reached number twenty-one in Britain and number 171 in the US Billboard 200. Tony Banks was vindicated in his decision to release his debut album. However, it would be five years before he released the followup. 

The Wicked Lady.

After a gap of five years, Tony Banks released the first of two albums during 1983. The first was a remake of the soundtrack to Wicked Lady. It had originally been released in 1945, and featured Margaret Lockwood. An estimated 18.4 million million people saw The Wicked Lady, which was based on Magdalen King-Hall’s novel The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton. Thirty-eight years later, and Tony Banks collaborated with the National Philharmonic Orchestra on the remake of The Wicked Lady.

While Tony Banks featured on side one of the remake of The Wicked Lady, the National Philharmonic Orchestra featured on the second side. This unlikely collaboration found favour with critics. 

When The Wicked Lady was released in April 1973, critics were impressed by the Tony Banks produced soundtrack. Especially, the second side. Its drama and complexity found favour with critics. However, the only track on A Chord Too Far from side two is The Wicked Lady. The other two tracks are The Chase and Kit. Even this trio of tracks show that Tony’s vision and creativity had been put to good use. However, later in 1983, Tony released the followup to A Curious Feeling, The Fugitive.

The Fugitive.

Just like A Curious Feeling, Tony wrote the nine tracks on The Fugitive. This time around, Tony recorded The Fugitive closer to home. The Farm in Surrey, Genesis’ studio, was the venue for the recording of Tony’s sophomore album. To coproduce The Fugitive, Stephen Short was drafted in. Recording began in 1982.

Tony began recording the album at home, on an eight-track studio in 1982. He laid down the basic tracks. Then in 1983, recording began at The Farm. This time around, Tony took charge of the vocals. He was joined by Genesis’ touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer, bassist Mo Foster and drummer Steve Gadd. On Charm, no drummer was used. Instead, Tony used a Linn LM-1 drum machine. Eventually, the nine tracks were complete, and The Fugitive was released in late June 1983. By then, Genesis were preparing release their eponymous album in October 1983.

It was a battle of the albums, one that The Fugitive lost. Reviews of The Fugitive were mixed. Some critics like the sparseness of the arrangements, and were won over by Tony’s vocals. Up until then, they were a well kept secret. They can be heard on And the Wheels Keep Turning, Thirty Three’s, By You, At the Edge of Night and Moving Under on A Chord Too Far. The three songs are an introduction to one of Tony Bank’s most underrated albums.

The Fugitive was released in late June 1983, and stalled at number fifty in the British charts. After just two weeks, The Fugitive disappeared from the charts. Since then, The Fugitive has become a rarity. So did Tony Banks solo albums. Genesis were on the cusp of worldwide domination, where commercial success and critical acclaim was omnipresent.

Soundtracks,

So it wasn’t until 1986 that Tony Banks next released an album.  Soundtracks featured tracks from two soundtracks that Tony Banks had been involved with. The first was Starship. It was released in December 1984, and is also known as Lorca and the Outlaws. Quicksilver was the other soundtrack. Tony was just one of a number of artists who contributed tracks to Quicksilver. Tracks from both these albums made their way onto Soundtracks.

When Soundtracks was released in March 1986, reviews were mixed. Critics noted that the quality of music was mixed, with the poppier sounding tracks lacking that all important hook. Given the reviews, it was no surprise when Soundtracks wasn’t a commercial success. Despite that, five tracks from Soundtracks feature on A Chord Too Far. They’re Shortcut to Somewhere which features former Marillion frontman Fish, Rebirth and Lion of Symmetry which features Toyah Willcox. You Call This Victory features Jim Diamond and Redwing. These five tracks include the highlights of what proved to be Tony Banks’ final soundtrack album. For his next album, Tony was inspired by the success Mike Rutherford was enjoying with his “other” band.

Bankstatement.

When he wasn’t busy with Genesis, Mike Rutherford was busy with his new group, Mike and The Mechanics. They were enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. This inspired Tony Banks to form his own band, Bankstatement.

Essentially, Bankstatement were a trio featuring Tony, Alistair Gordon and Australian born singer-songwriter Jayney Klimek. Each of the three vocalists shared vocal duties. They were augmented in the studio by a band that included former Genesis guitarist Steve Hillage. He co-produced Bankstatemen with Tony. Recording took place during 1988 and 1989. A total of eleven songs penned by Tony Banks were recorded. These songs became Bankstatement, which was released in August 1989.

On the release of Bankstatement, the album was well received by critics. They recognised the quality of what was carefully crafted pop songs. Despite the reviews, neither Bankstatement, nor the three singles charted. Two of the singles Throwback and I’ll Be Waiting feature on A Chord Too Far. So do Queen of Darkness and Big Man. However, there’s an error on the back cover of A Chord Too Far. This Is Love isn’t a track from Bankstatement. It was a single released from The Fugitive in 1983. Following the commercial failure of Bankstatement, the project never released a followup. Tony’s next album was his third solo album.

Still.

Five years had passed since Tony released The Fugitive, his second solo album. Since then, he had been busy with Genesis and released an album with Bankstatement. A solo album was overdue. So in 1990, Tony Banks began recording what would become Still.

Unlike Tony’s two previous solo albums, Tony didn’t write each of the ten tracks. He wrote seven and cowrote Red Day On Blue Street and I Wanna Change The Score with Nik Kershaw. Tony cowrote Another Murder of a Day with Fish from neo progressive rock band Marillion. They were just two of the guest vocalists on Still.

The other two vocalists were Jayney Klimek and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. Along with Nik Kershaw and Fish, recording of Still got underway in 1990, and was completed in 1991. The album was scheduled to be released later in 1991.

Originally, Still was going to be called Still It Takes Me by Surprise, after one of the tracks on the album. However, it was shortened to Still, and released in April 1991. Reviews of Still were mixed. However, Giant Records had high hopes for Still. They promoted the album heavily. Despite their best efforts, Still didn’t sell well in Britain. That was the case a year later, when Still was released in America in April 1992. Since then, Still is regarded by some as Tony Banks best albums. There’s plenty of opportunity to decide if this is the case. Eight tracks from Still, including Red Day On Blue Street, Angel Face, Still It Takes Me By Surprise, I Wanna Change The Score, Water Out Of Wine, Another Murder Of A Day, Back To Back and The Final Curtain feature on A Chord Too Far. Following Still, Tony Banks would reinvent himself several times.  

Strictly Inc.

The latest reinvention of Tony Banks came in 1995, when he released Strictly Inc. It was a collaboration between Tony and Jack Hues, the lead singer of Wang Chung. They were joined by a rhythm section of drummer John Robinson, bassist Nathan East and guitarist Daryl Stuermer. Jack Hues played guitar and Tony took charge of keyboards. Ten tracks were recorded between 1994 and 1995. Strictly Inc. was released later in 1995.

Strictly Inc. was released on 11th September 1995. Critics weren’t impressed by Strictly Inc. The highlight of the album critics said, was Tony’s keyboard playing. Layers of keyboards were stacked one on top of another, melting seamlessly into one. They were augmented by Jack’s vocals. However, critics felt that vocals were no match for Tony’s keyboards. Unsurprisingly, when Strictly Inc. was released it failed commercially. That was despite Strictly Inc. bearing the band member’s names.

That was against Tony Bank’s wishes. He wanted Strictly Inc. not to feature the band member’s names. While this would’ve added an air of mystery, it would’ve also meant that cynical critics couldn’t take a swipe at Tony. They weren’t impressed by Strictly Inc. Nor were record buyers. So much so, that Virgin Records never bothered to release Strictly Inc. in America. For those yet to discover Strictly Inc., A Chord Too Far is an opportunity to do so. Walls of Sound, Never Let Me Know, Charity Balls, Something to Live For, A Piece of You and An Island in the Darkness all feature on A Chord Too Far. Strictly Inc. proved to be Tony Bank’s last album.  Given the response of critics to Strictly Inc., Tony decided to reinvent himself again. 

Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

In the nine years between Tony Banks releasing Strictly Inc. and the release of Seven: A Suite For Orchestra in March 2004, a lot had happened. Genesis had split-up in 1998. After thirty-one years together, the trio went their separate ways. Five years later, Tony began work on Seven: A Suite For Orchestra in 2003.

Seven: A Suite for Orchestra was a first for Tony Banks. He had never released a classical album. Tony penned the seven suites, and played piano on Spring Tide, The Ram and The Spirit of Gravity. Accompanying him were the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mike Dixon. Producing Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was Tony and Nick Davis, who Tony knew from his work engineering and producing Genesis. The pair finished Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was completed in 2004, it was released in March 2004.

When Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was released in March 2004, some critics were surprised by this stylistic departure from Tony Banks. However, Tony had written soundtracks and orchestral pieces before. He took this further on Seven: A Suite For Orchestra. For those who have yet to hear the album, two tracks from Seven: A Suite For Orchestra, Black Down and The Ram feature on A Chord Too Far. It would be eight years before Tony returned with the followup to Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

Six: Pieces For Orchestra.

It wasn’t until April 2012 that Tony Banks returned with his second classical album, Six: Pieces For Orchestra. Eight years had passed since the release of Seven: A Suite For Orchestra. However, Tony had been busy.

He wrote the six suites on Six: Pieces For Orchestra. Again, Tony and Nick Davis coproduce Six: Pieces For Orchestra. It features the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. They’re conducted by Paul Englishby. Two soloists play an important part in this evocative, haunting and bewitching album. Martin Robertson plays the alto saxophone on the opening track Siren. Charlie Siem plays violin on Blade. Fittingly, these tracks feature on A Chord Too Far, and feature two of Tony Banks’ finest classical works.

With the story of Tony Banks’ solo career brought up to date, that’s also the story of the A Chord Too Far box set. This four disc, forty-eight track box set documents Tony Banks’ thirty-six year solo career. It features the twists and turns that Tony Banks’ solo career has taken.

Who would’ve thought that after Tony Banks released A Curious Feeling in 1979, he would go on to release soundtracks, orchestral albums and form two bands, Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. However, he did. Then there’s the small matter of Tony’s two other solo albums, 1983s The Fugitive and 1991s Still. These albums are just part of Tony Bank’s long and varied career.

Sadly, of the three members of Genesis, Tony Banks didn’t come close to enjoying the commercial success that came Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford’s way. However, Tony Banks was a musical maverick, who for the last thirty six years has flitted seamlessly between musical genres. He’s a true musical adventurer, whose music is celebrated on the A Chord Too Far box set.

A Chord Too Far is the perfect introduction to Tony Banks’ nine album career. It goes beyond Tony Banks’ solo career, looking at soundtracks and orchestral works. The forty-eight tracks feature some of the best music that Tony Banks has released. Other tracks, like the albums they’re taken from will divide opinion. This includes 1986s Soundtracks and 1995s Strictly Inc. Neither were Tony Banks most successful, nor according to critics, his finest hour. However, tracks from both albums were included, and allow the opportunity listeners to reappraise both albums. They’re part of the musical journey that is Tony Banks’ career. It’s documented and celebrated on A Chord Too Far which was recently released  by Esoteric Recordings. This four disc box set, celebrates the career of a pioneering musician, who continually, pushed musical boundaries and by his own admission, sometimes took things, A Chord Too Far.

TONY BANK-A CHORD TOO FAR BOX SET.

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