Tony Banks: A Chord Too Far

Four-CD box set of Genesis keyboardist’s solo output.

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The title is misleading – actually, in his solo work Tony Banks has been unexpectedly sparing with the bombast and overkill. Few opportunities to show off with the filigree and shadow are taken. Mostly his career outside of Genesis has been about the songs, with instrumentation largely in the service of atmosphere, not to demonstrate prowess.

On this, the start of an extensive Banks LP reissue campaign over the next 18 months, he has personally chosen 49 tracks, four of them unreleased (including three keyboard demos, and a song written for 1991’s Still). Many have been remixed and are taken variously from his three solo albums of pop-rock-prog, his two orchestral albums, his two albums of soundtrack work, plus his albums as Bankstatement and Strictly Inc.

It is, as a result, as diverse a collection as you could wish for from a member of Genesis. The Kate Bush-ish Water Out Of Wine, the vaguely Oriental stylings of Something To Live For, the choirboy synthpop of By You, the easy-on-the-ear The More I Hide It – this is well-crafted mainstream fare whose commercial viability belies the fact that most of it failed to connect in a big way with the public, a strange thing to say about a member of one of the biggest-selling bands in history.

If any criticism can be levelled at Banks’ music, it’s that it is proficient, displaying a mastery of technique and songwriting smarts, but somewhat anonymous, leaving the listener with little to latch on to, personality-wise – no bumptious cockney drummer he. Still, as packages go, this is a superb career précis./o:p

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.