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Tony Banks

+ {Bankstatement} + {Strictly Inc.}

During the first half of the 70s, prog-rock keyboard players were renowned for their flashy displays of self-indulgence (RICK WAKEMAN, KEITH EMERSON, et al) – and then there was silent son, TONY BANKS (founding member of GENESIS), an unassuming wizard of his trade.
Born Anthony George Banks, 27th March 1950, East Hoathly, Sussex, the young Tony was a bit of a child prodigy, having been taught in classical piano and guitar at the famous Charterhouse School. After leaving a chemistry degree at Sussex University, he abandoned his studies to play for the group Garden Wall (alongside PETER GABRIEL and Chris Stewart). When pooling their resources with the likeminded pop-rock outfit, Anon (MIKE RUTHERFORD and ANTHONY PHILLIPS), the five became GENESIS. From 1967 onwards, with a few intervals and several personnel changes ahead, GENESIS were regarded as Britain’s best prog combo, Tony’s contributions on seminal sets, “Foxtrot”, “Selling England By The Pound” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, probably the highlight of his career.
As a side-line to GENESIS, as the group were about to trade as arena-rock superstars at the turn of the 80s, TONY BANKS kick-started a solo career with A CURIOUS FEELING (1979) {*6}. An album that just about left a dent in the Top 20 (but only No.171 in the US), he was joined in the studio by singer Kim Beacon (of STRING DRIVEN THING) and drummer Chester Thompson (of touring GENESIS). `For A While’ didn’t quite achieve a chart placing, but it one of a handful of cerebral tracks, including `From The Undertow’, `In The Dark’, `Somebody Else’s Dream’ and `The Waters Of Lethe’.
In June 1983, composer BANKS re-emerged with two almost simultaneously released sets, THE FUGITIVE {*6} and soundtrack to the re-make of THE WICKED LADY {*3}; incidentally, his first score was for 1978’s “The Shout”, scribed with the aforementioned RUTHERFORD. Even further removed than GENESIS from his 70s prog-rock salad days, the first of these was relatively light and fluffy, with Tony’s singing vocals being put the test on the likes of the airy `This Is Love’ and `And The Wheels Keep Turning’; both of them flop 45s.
As in most tales and legends, or yarns in this case, there were always two sides to every story, so for the context of the Wicked Lady soundtrack (side one: TONY BANKS solo on 8-track, side two: arrangements & orchestrations by Christopher Palmer & London’s National Philharmonic conducted by Stanley Black), there was no exception to the rule. While Tony’s “other side” was of the symphonic film score variety and unappealing to any sane GENESIS disciple, side one had all the traits of BANKS’ elaborate keyboard style – albeit “un-progged” if not unplugged. The distinctive opening title track came off best, the rest were simple and reticent by comparison, while the theme is revisited on numerous occasions (example `Repentance’ and `Barbara’). BANKS was certainly playing it a little risque and close to one’s self-indulgent chest on this occasion, but while GENESIS were still a revelation in the commercial stakes, did he really care?
A subsequent Hollywood sequel score, “2010: The Year We Made Contact”, didn’t find favour with the film’s producers, but was recycled for excerpts to 1985’s Lorca And The Outlaws” (aka “Starship”); Tony produced another score to “Quicksilver” (1986), and although it featured MARILLION singer FISH, it was only available via a SOUNDTRACKS (1986) {*4} compilation. “Lorca” featured the singing talents of hit-makers, JIM DIAMOND (on `You Call This Victory’) and TOYAH WILLCOX (on `Lion Of Symmetry’).
In 1989, and as always the force behind GENESIS, Tony “popped-out” again courtesy of a mainstream rock album under the title and billing of BANKSTATEMENT {*6}.
Produced with the help of guitarist STEVE HILLAGE, and augmented by singers Jayney Klimek and Alistair Gordon, the record was a million miles from the old GENESIS – not so many away from their polished, synthetic sound of the 80s; `Throwback’ and `Raincloud’, probably stand out. Could be one for MIKE + THE MECHANICS fans.
Featuring a couple of songs penned and performed by 80s pop star, NIK KERSHAW, BANKS’ next solo venture, STILL (1991) {*6}, added further sheen and sophistication to his musical CV by way of `Red Day On Blue Street’ and `I Wanna Change The Score’. Klimek and FISH were again on hand to help out on the vocals, while DURAN DURAN guitarist Andy Taylor gave the star further star quality appeal.
Moving away from solo albums, Tony teamed up with singer Jack Hues (ex-WANG CHUNG), for the release of the eponymous STRICTLY INC. (1995) {*4}. Hardly a multi-layered match made in heaven, the collaboration between the two at least uncovered a few good songs in `Don’t Turn Your Back On Me’ and `Walls Of Sound’.
With GENESIS out of the picture since a disastrous 1997 set, “Calling All Stations” (PHIL COLLINS had now made way for STILTSKIN singer, Ray Wilson), TONY BANKS turned full circle and into the realms of classical music on 2004’s SEVEN: A SUITE FOR ORCHESTRA {*6}. While this record credited the London Philharmonic (conducted by Mike Dixon), his next studio outing SIX: PIECES FOR ORCHESTRA (2012) {*6}, credited the City of Prague Philharmonic (conducted by Paul Englishby), developed his passion for the refined and noble; Charlie Siem (violin) and Martin Robertson (alto saxophone) brought forth some warm and sweeping performances on the half a dozen tracks.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS / rev-up MCS Feb2013

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