Tony Banks - Vaults Box Set

Tony Banks – Banks Vaults: The Albums 1979 – 1995

Tony Banks, a very familiar name to most, one of the founders and for over 50 years one of only two constant members, in every incarnation of Genesis. Banks’ elegant and grandiose keyboard playing and composition skills were one of the mainstays of the band through every album and tour. Those of you expecting more of that Genesis magic however may be somewhat surprised by this collection, one that encompasses all the solo albums recorded by Tony under his own name, from his debut A Curious Feeling in 1979, right through to his Strictly Inc. album in 1995, along with a few bonus tracks and a DVD of a selection from each album with accompanying visuals.

Of these seven albums, it is the first one that will probably be of most interest to Genesis fans. A Curious Feeling dates from around the time of …And Then There Were Three and acts as a companion piece to that album. From the very Genesis sounding opener From the Undertow, it’s clear that this is a fine piece of art and music. Wisely, Tony chose to use Kim Beacon from labelmates String Driven Thing as the vocalist to bring these songs to life. There is some excellent keyboard work, especially on The Lie, which has a solo section that is highly reminiscent of his approach to many Genesis songs. There’s a layered approach to the solos where he builds the melody up to make an expansive sound. Very interesting and skilful too. Drummer Chester Thompson is also to be found on this album, a great player and one used to Tony’s way of working, and therefore makes for a cohesive, mature sound. This is an album that improves the more that you hear it, and certainly this mix and remaster is very fine indeed, bringing out the subtleties that are enshrined within its tracks.

A Curious Feeling album is very mellow and English, pastoral, conjuring up visions of lazy rivers, haybarns and watermills in my mind’s eye. It’s a fine piece of work, one that I had ignorantly dismissed before and now, and sincerely wish that I hadn’t. A really absorbing and interesting album and gives rise to a re-evaluation of Tony Banks’ talents and musical vision.

Other albums in this collection differ significantly from the debut, both in style and in tone and again in many respects mirror, in part, what was happening with his main band – shorter songs, far less ‘progressive’ in the main, but still with touches and moments of worth and interest. There’s also the use of 1980’s sounds and keyboards, a fairly obvious comment given the period the were recorded in, that sometimes distract from what is happening and can sound a bit ‘of its time’. So on The Fugitive, his second solo album, Tony undertook the vocals himself, which may have not have been the wisest choice, as his voice is workmanlike and not significantly memorable enough to carry the material. Another characteristic on The Fugitive is the unnerving presence of the Linn drum, which now sounds somewhat weak and weedy, especially noticeable on the track Charm, much improved when the real drums come into play. To my mind you see where songs like Mama and Abacab had their origins, and The Fugitive has interesting moments, but not enough to make it great. The album opener This Is Love is indicative of the release as a whole.

Bankstatement follows a different path again, and this time around Tony invited Steve Hillage as both guitarist and producer. The vocals are undertaken this time around by the unknown Alastair Gordon and Jayney Klimek, and with a brass section and the ever in demand Pino Palladino on bass, there’s certainly more of a band feel than before. Another positive is the songs, which benefit from a band format and are much stronger than The Fugitive. Prime examples are That Night, which features both vocalists to fine effect, and The Border with its hypnotic opening rhythm pattern and great dynamics. Finally of note here is Big Man where Tony takes the lead vocals, more effectively than on the previous release, against a jaunty rhythm backing. The end result is a very ’80s pop track, but not a bad attempt. All in all, not a bad album, but a little dated sound wise perhaps.

Still is a better album again, partly because the vocals are shared across the album by Fish, Nik Kershaw, Jim Diamond and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. The album opens with co-write Red Day On Blue Street, a song that has a similar chugging rhythm to Land of Confusion, although with no Spitting Image video 😉 . Interesting lyrics, quite politically charged, and one where Nik Kershaw’s voice is ideally suited.

Next up is Angel Face which features the then-current Marillion singer Fish at the helm – a suitably dramatic piece it is too. Also noteworthy is Still It Takes Me By Surprise, with a very good keyboard solo that takes me back to Firth of Fifth, an elegant reminder of Tony’s great talent. Concluding this brief look into the Still album is Another Murder Of A Day, the longest track on offer here and once again with Fish handling the vocals. This track has great dynamics, creating a dark, sinister mood to the proceedings. Tony’s keyboards are central to all that is happening here and another, albeit brief, solo flourish adds greatly to the atmosphere – simply marvellous stuff.

Soundtracks, as the title implies, is a compilation of pieces used in the films Quicksilver and Lorca and the Outlaws. Highlights here are The Redwing Suite, which makes for interesting listening, Fish’s vocal on Shortcut To Somewhere, demonstrating that had they done more work together it could have been a worthy venture for both parties, and finally Lion of Symmetry, with Toyah Wilcox. The longest piece on offer is a great vehicle for both talents to shine, reminding me a little of some of Sinéad O’Connor’s early works, before the dreaded Prince cover Nothing Compares 2U. The remainder of the album comprises instrumental themes taken from the relevant films – not bad but not terribly exciting either.

Strictly Inc. is the last album of the set and was a collaboration between Tony and Jack Hues from Wang Chung, of Dance Hall Days fame. Strictly Inc. is an interesting listen, although far more catchy pop songs than rock. In Jack Hues Tony found a fine vocalist who could breathe life into his material, delivering great performances throughout. Sadly, most completely ignored this album, their loss as it possesses one song that cried out for attention, the seventeen minute plus An Island in the Darkness, one of the best lesser-known songs Tony has ever recorded! Opening with symphonic sounds, this piece is a slow burner featuring lots of fantastic keyboard work, and the great guitar solo from Genesis bandmate Daryl Stuermer is the icing on the cake. A spectacular song. Why the wider prog community, and to a lesser extent the public as a whole, didn’t pick up on this is the question.

The final disc in this box set is the soundtrack to the Wicked Lady released in 1983 and Tony’s first foray into film soundtracks. Despite the film being a rather uninspiring period piece about a female highway-woman, played by Faye Dunaway, the score is suitably epic, with numerous romantic elements within. A superbly composed score and an early indicator of his classical releases in recent years.

The DVD and the the actual box itself I’ve not seen as they did not form part of the promotional package. There seems to be a slight variation in the listing of the seven main CDs, however I’m sure in the actual box set this is clearer. However, the booklet I have seen and that contains all the credits and the lyrics, along with various photographs of the albums and the sessions. As for the DVD, well the selection looks good.

All in all, a very worthy collection and one that admirably reveals the creativity that Tony Banks has always had, now available in this box set of his collected works. I thoroughly enjoyed listening through this fine collection and would recommend it to all, as there is a wealth of fine music to be discovered.

CD 1: A Curious Feeling

01. From The Undertow
02. Lucky Me
03. The Lie
04. After The Lie
05. A Curious Feeling
06. Forever Morning
07. You
08. Somebody Else’s Dream
09. The Waters Of Lethe
10. For A While
11. In The Dark

CD 2: The Wicked Lady O.S.T.
01. The Wicked Lady
02. Portrait Of Jerry Jackson
03. Caroline’s Theme
04. Scherzo
05. Pastorale
06. Prelude To The Wicked Lady
07. Kit’s Theme
08. Finale
~ The Wicked Lady Theme Versions:
09. Barbara
10. The Chase
11. Spring
12. Kit
13. Tepentance
14. Caroline
15. Jerry Jackson
16. The Wicked Lady (Custom Version)

CD 3: The Fugitive
01. This Is Love
02. Man Of Spells
03. And The Wheels Keep Turning
04. Say You’ll Never Leave Me
05. Thirty Three’s
06. By You
07. At The Edge Of Night
08. Charm
09. Moving Under
~ Bonus tracks:
10. K2
11. Sometime Never

CD 4: Soundtracks
Music from the film Quicksilver

01. Shortcut to Somewhere
02. Smilin’ Jack Casey
Quicksilver Suite:
03. Rebirth
04. Gypsy
05. Final Chase
Music from the film Lorca and the Outlaws:
06. You Call This Victory
07. Lion Of Symmetry
Redwing Suite:
08. Redwing
09. Lorca
10. Kid And Detective Droid
11. Lift Off
12. Death Of Abby

CD 5: Bankstatement
01. Throwback
02. I’ll Be Waiting
03. Queen Of Darkness
04. That Night
05. Raincloud
06. The Border
07. Big Man
08. A House Needs a Roof
09. The More I Hide It
10. Diamonds Aren’t So Hard
11. Thursday The Twelfth

CD 6: Still
01. Red Day On Blue Street
02. Angel Face
03. The Gift
04. Still It Takes Me By Surprise
05. Hero for An Hour
06. I Wanna Change The Score
07. Water Out Of Wine
08. Another Murder Of A Day
09. Back To Back
10. The Final Curtain

CD 7: Strictly Inc.
01. Don’t Turn Your Back On Me
02. Wall Of Sound
03. Only Seventeen
04. The Serpent Said
05. Never Let Me Know
06. Charity Balls
07. Something To Live For
08. A Piece of You
09. Strictly Incognito
10. An Island In The Darkness

DVD: The Promotional Videos 1979-1995
01. For A While
02. The Waters Of Lethe
03. This Is Love
04. Shortcut To Somewhere
05. Throwback
06. I Wanna Change The Score
07. The Gift
08. Only Seventeen

Too many to mention here…

Record Label: Esoteric Recordings | Cherry Red Records
Catalogue#: ECLEC82680
Date of Release: 19th July 2019

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