TONY BANK-LIFE AFTER GENESIS.

TONY BANK-LIFE AFTER GENESIS.

All too often, Tony Banks has been referred to as “the keyboard player from Genesis.” This is doing the sixty-seven 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 nine 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 show Tony Bank’s versatility and ability to innovate over five decades. During this period, Tony Bank’s career has taken a few twists and turns.

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, a progressive rock 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 at the hands of the the new breed of gunslinger critics. They neither to recognised nor were willing to acknowledge the quality of music on 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.

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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. Tony’s vision and creativity had been put to good use on The Wicked Lady. However, later in 1983, Tony released the followup to A Curious Feeling, The Fugitive.

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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. That was until The Fugitive was released.

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.

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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. Maybe this was why Soundtracks wasTony Banks’ final soundtrack album? For his next album, Tony was inspired by the success his friend Mike Rutherford was enjoying with his “other” band.

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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. Following the commercial failure of Bankstatement, the project never released a followup. Instead, Tony’s next album was his third solo album, Still.

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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 entire album Instead, Tonye 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 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. Following the disappointing sales  ofStill, Tony Banks would to reinvent himself. 

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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, and became Strictly Inc. which 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.  Given the response of critics to Strictly Inc,Tony decided to reinvent himself  yet again.

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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. Despite this, Seven: A Suite For Orchestra didn’t catch the imagination of record buyers. It was too far removed from what people expected of Tony Banks. Sales were disappointing, and successful continued to elude Tony Banks. It was too far removed from what people expected of Tony Banks. So much so, it would be eight years before Tony returned with the followup to Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

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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 co-produced 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. It features two of Tony Banks’ finest classical works. This is further proof, if any was needed of Tony Banks versatility and ability to reinvent himself. 

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This versatility allowed Tony Banks to reinvent himself several times between the release of A Curious Feeling in 1979 and Six: Pieces For Orchestra in 2012. During that period, Tony Banks solo career has taken numbers twists and turns. He’s released three solo albums, two soundtrack albums, two, orchestral albums and formed two bands, Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. In total, Tony Banks has released nine albums between 1979 and 2012. That’s pretty good going, considering Tony Banks was still a member of Genesis until 1998.

This meant that up until 1998, Tony Banks had fit his solo career around Genesis’ recording and touring schedule. They were one of the most successful bands on planet rock. Genesis’ albums sold by the million, so Genesis’ took priority. Solo careers and side projects were when the band had some downtime. During that period, Phil Collins enjoyed a hugely successful solo career, while Mike Rutherford’s band Mike and The Mechanics were also enjoying commercial success. However, Tony Banks never reached the same heights as his bandmates and friends.

While Tony Banks is undoubtably a talented and versatile musician, he never enjoyed the commercial success his talents deserved. Maybe his constant determination to reinvent himself musically worked against him? If he had forged out his own unique sound, then maybe Tony Banks’ would’ve gone on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim? This might have taken a couple of albums, but would’ve paid off in the long run. It certainly paid off for his former bandmates in Genesis, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. However, this wasn’t for Tony Banks. Instead, he wanted to explore new musical frontiers.

Tony Banks went on to write soundtracks, classical albums and formed two short-lived bands. Each of these projects took Tony Banks’ career in a different direction. Even his three solo albums A Curious Feeling, The Fugitive and Still are quite different stylistically, and show different sides to Tony Banks’ music.

It’s a career where Tony Banks has explored everything from art rock, classical, pop, progressive rock, rock, soft rock and symphonic rock. No two albums were the same, as Tony Banks sought to reinvent himself. He certainly succeeded in doing so during a long and varied career.

Sadly, Tony Banks didn’t come close to enjoying the commercial success that came Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford’s way. However, throughout his solo career, Tony Banks was a musical maverick, who created ambitious and pioneering music. To do this, Tony Banks often flitted between, and combined disparate musical genres. The result was ambitious music that pushed musical boundaries. Sometimes this music failed commercially and divided the opinion or critics and record buyers. Maybe, part of the problem was Tony Banks had the safety net of Genesis?

Given the success Genesis enjoyed, Tony Banks wasn’t relying on his solo career putting food on the table. So he was able to experiment, and sometimes, indulge himself musically? Virgin Records and Atlantic, who released Genesis albums in Britain and America respectively, were willing to indulge a member of one of their most successful signings by releasing albums Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. 

Both albums failed commercially and weren’t well received by critics. The cost of these albums would be a drop in the ocean compared to what Genesis were earning for Virgin Records and Atlantic. However, while Strictly Inc. was a low point in Tony Banks’ career, at least he was willing to head in new directions musically, and release ambitious music.

That was the case throughout Tony Banks’ thirty-three year solo carer. Constantly, Tony Banks released ambitious and pioneering music, where he continually pushed musical boundaries, and in the process proved that there was life after Genesis.

TONY BANK-LIFE AFTER GENESIS.

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