Following the release of the career-spanning box set A Chord Too Far and the expanded reissues of the albums A Curious Feeling and The Fugitive, Cherry Red's Esoteric Recordings imprint has recently celebrated founding Genesis keyboardist (and guitarist) Tony Banks with a sprawling 7-CD/1-DVD box set. Banks Vaults: The Albums 1979-1995 brings together newly remastered versions of all of Banks' albums including the soundtrack to The Wicked Lady plus a DVD of music videos.
Banks' solo career began in 1978 when he embarked on the recording of A Curious Feeling, the first album in the box set. The album was originally conceived as a musicalization of Daniel Keyes' novel Flowers for Algernon. Though Keyes consented, he revealed to Banks that Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie, Annie) and David Rogers were already working on a stage musical of the novel. Banks pressed forward with the album but adapted his in-progress songs for a different story on this concept album featuring vocals by Kim Beacon of the band String Driven Thing and drums by Chester Thompson. Peaking just out of the U.K. Top 20, A Curious Feeling marked an auspicious debut. Banks' next album coincided with a lull in Genesis' activities. 1983's The Fugitive featured Banks as lead vocalist and keyboardist, with guest musicians including drummer Steve Gadd filling the other roles. The songs were shorter and more commercially oriented than on A Curious Feeling but the album only placed at No. 50 in the U.K. despite eventually going Gold. (Both A Curious Feeling and The Fugitive are presented in the new stereo mixes created by Banks and Nick Davis for Esoteric's previous standalone reissues.) Also in 1983, Banks scored director Michael Winner's film The Wicked Lady, the soundtrack of which is presented as a bonus disc here. The first half of the album features Christopher Palmer's orchestrated tracks from the movie while the second half has Banks' own variations on the themes.
Another Tony Banks album didn't arrive until 1989, but he busied himself with film scoring; some of the fruits of his labors from the films Quicksilver and Lorca and the Outlaws formed the basis of the 1986 solo release appropriately entitled Soundtracks. Much as The Fugitive had differed from A Curious Feeling, Banks' 1989 effort took his music in yet another direction. Taking his cue from bandmate Mike Rutherford's Mike + the Mechanics, Banks released the pop-leaning album under the punning group name of Bankstatement. Steve Hillage co-produced the album featuring vocalists Alistair Gordon and Jayney Klimek and musicians including Hillage on guitar and Pino Palladino on bass. Just two years passed before Banks went properly solo again with Still. A variety of vocalists brought the album to life including Nik Kershaw, Klimek and the single-named Fish. Both Kershaw and Fish co-wrote songs with Banks, and Genesis associate Nick Davis co-produced. Banks welcomed musicians including Palladino, Genesis associate Daryl Stuermer on guitar and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums to the band. Despite heavy promotional pushes and a number of singles released, Still didn't make waves commercially.
Banks' final rock album to date remains 1995's Strictly Inc., a duo project between Banks and Wang Chung vocalist/guitarist Jack Hues. Daryl Stuermer, bassist Nathan East, and drummer John Robinson played on the album which featured as its centerpiece the 17-minute long epic "An Island in the Darkness." Banks then turned to modern classical compositions; his three albums in that genre (released in 2004, 2012, and 2018) are outside of the purview of this box and therefore not included.
A bonus DVD, however, presents eight music videos originally released between 1979 and 1995: "For a While," "The Waters of Lethe," "This Is Love," "Shortcut to Somewhere," "Throwback," "I Wanna Change the Score," "The Gift," and "Only Seventeen." The DVD is Region 0 NTSC, meaning that it is playable worldwide.
All of the albums within Banks Vaults have been newly remastered by Miles Showell and Nick Davis at Abbey Road Studios. They're all packaged in individual paper sleeves with custom labels based on each album's artwork. A squarebound 60-page booklet boasts credits for each album as well as lyrics where applicable, plus numerous photographs of the artist throughout the years. Alas, there are no new liner notes. The whole set is housed in a handsome, sturdy slipcase.
Banks Vaults - The Albums 1979-1995 is a fine testament to an ever-adventurous musician who has followed his muse for the past four-plus decades. It's available now at the links below!
Tony Banks, Banks Vaults - The Albums 1979-1995 (Cherry Red/Esoteric ECLEC 82680, 2019) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
Box Set Contains:
- A Curious Feeling (1979)
- The Fugitive (1983)
- Soundtracks (1986)
- Bankstatement (1989)
- Still (1991)
- Strictly Inc. (1995)
- The Promotional Videos 1979-1995 (DVD)
- The Wicked Lady (Bonus Disc) (1983)
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