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Tony Banks - A Curious Feeling

(1979, remastered 2009)

 

It is quite peculiar that the first „real“ remastered solo album from the Genesis camp should be the debut of keyboarder Tony Banks. Let me say this upfront: It sounds good! After all, it was Nick Davis, sound engineer with Banks' main band who achieved enormous improvements for the Genesis back catalogue including live albums from 2007 onwards using state-of-the-art studio equipment. Banks and Davis have worked hand in hand on this. It was Banks who was present almost all the time and assisted Nick Davis, and so it may have been obvious to consider Tony's solo debut for an acoustic overhaul. Banks seized the opportunity and began to polish A Curious Feeling with Davis, to amazing effects.


But first a couple of words on how this album, which is the most popular from the not quite so small solo oeuvre this exceptional musician, came to be. When the first album Genesis recorded as a trio, And Then There Were Three was completed Banks, Collins and Rutherford decided to take a sabbatical to follow their solo projects. The time out was also related to marriage problems Phil had, so his band mates decided to give him a couple of months to get his marriage back on track. They would use it to record their own solo albums. Tony Banks released A Curious Feeling and Mike Rutherford debuted with Smallcreep's Day. Tony's liner notes in the remastered A Curious Feeling offer even more details on how the album developed.


A Curious Feeling was recorded at Polar Studios, Stockholm, supported by Genesis producer of many years, David Hentschel. Tony wanted to make this album „his own“, and so he decided to play all instruments himself – an idea Phil Collins would pick up on years later for Both Sides. Since Banks did not know how to play the drums who would he ask but Genesis tourdrummer Chester Thompson. After several auditions he picked Kim Beacon and his raspy voice as a singer. Everything else, including what little guitar there is, was played by Banks himself. The concept album is loosely tied together by a plot based on the utopian short story Flowers For Algernon. Tony was a big science fiction fan in the 70s.

When it came out in 1979, the album reached a remarkable #21 in the UK charts. For A While was released as a single; an edit of the song A Curious Feeling might have been a better choice. The single did not do well. Interestingly enough, For A While was re-released as a single (at least digitally, on iTunes) for the remastered album.

 

From The Undertow

We launch into an instrumental prelude. The remaster makes the intro sound even bigger and more bombastic.


Lucky Me

Lucky Me sounds familiar in its pop character. Kim Beacon's vocals sound good. The guitar accompaniment and the keys in the background can finally both be heard clearly on the remaster.


The Lie

Onwards to the opus magnum on the album. Here is where you will really notice how much the drum sound has improved. The rhythmic The Lie segues to the highpoint of the album,


After The Lie

Dramatic tension, structure and particularly the keyboard solo are absolutely on a par with some of Genesis' best output. Chester Thompson's drumming is the best during this song, and the new mix finally recognizes that.


A Curious Feeling

This light-footed pop song lifts your spirits, as opposed to the other rather melancholy pieces on the CD. The new mix leaves room for the bass and brings out effects one would hardly notice before.


Forever Morning

An elegiac instrumental which suffers a bit from the „squeaky“ sounds Banks liked to use back then. The new version does not change that.


You

A lovely, balladesque song turns very cleverly into a prog inferno. The keyboard solo may be a bit long and not quite as to the point as in After The Lie, but the song then moves on into...


The Waters Of Lethe

... and sounds amazingly beautifully like Wind & Wuthering.


For A While

... is a melancholy little pop song which shows that it was not only Phil Collins who would write simple popsongs. All parts can be heard more clearly in the new version.


In The Dark

The album ends with what is probably the most intimate and fragile piece. A thoughtful finale to an exciting work by an artist who would never get the attention he deserved as a solo artist beside his immensely successful main band.

 

The remastered version of the album is a transparent audio experience that will bring tears to your eyes of the fans and also offers the perfect start into the Tony Banks solo universe.
The remaster is available in a deluxe edition with the 5.1 mix on DVD and a single disc stereo version. Both come with a cardboard sleeve that shows a detail of the cover. Like it or not.


by an unknown author, English by Martin Klinkhardt



Some information about the 5.1 surround sound mix


So the original version of Tony Banks' debut album is something I am not familiar with. I own the record, but I do not think I have listened to it more than three times in as many decades. There will be few comparisons, but maybe an unbiased view helps with the review.

The album in general is not as bad as I remember it, but it has this particular piano sound that betrays the artist from the first note of From The Undertow and becomes annoying in the third song, The Lie. The singer is a non-descript zero, Chester Thompson does not play up to his abilities and those who hated And Then There Were Three for their overbearing keyboards will not find much to like here. Still, the album has its moments: There is some lovely 12-string guitar that prompts me to find out who plays it – Tony himself, respect. The title song has some fine percussion and acoustic guitars and a couple of nice ideas, but nothing to write home about.

Again and again the cheesy keyboard sounds from And Then There Were Three surface and spoil one's appetite with their tiring portamento. Forever Morning sounds like a song intro from Duke that does not go anywhere, it remains an intro, as it were. In the end it all becomes overly solemn with a droning church organ. After The Lie ends with one of those typical Banks synth solos that is best when it finally fades out.

While the music goes on, a couple of notes on the design of the Deluxe edition. Like the bonus track CDs in the Genesis Archive boxes it comes in a pleasant book format with stable and washable covers. CD and DVD are placed in cardboard pockets on the insides of the covers. Between these there is a twenty page booklets that sports slightly self-congratulatory liner notes by Tony („I strongly felt that the material I've written for A Curious Feeling was as good as anything I'd written for Genesis“), the lyrics and a few photos from the recording sessions. The big disappointment is the cover: One cannot recognize the black bar, on which the title is printed, as a boat, nor that it is empty but that a body is mirrored in the water. Whoever has to plead guilty of this artwork must have thought it was an abstract painting – with the detail chosen it does look like one, indeed. The background image for the music (on the DVD) has been picked with more care; as with Genesis, the track title has been place in the middle of the image.

The second part of the next piece, You, is worthwhile listening to. It suddenly grows into a nicely arranged uptempo number that anticipates Duke's End in a way. There is a neat fast keyboard solo with the Slipperman sound. Certainly the highlight on the album. Why not more of this? Instead we get an extremely ponderous, stomping Somebody Else's Dream that is hard to bear because of its dissonances. The Waters Of Lethe offers a good contrast when it begins with a pleasant tune à la One For The Vine. Later some bombast is added, as is a solo guitar that uses the same sound Mike Rutherford used for his Many Too Many solo. One is almost happy to hear Kim Beacon's voice again on For A While, if only because it means relief from the long-winded instrumentals in the preceding pieces. But this song, too, is drenched in keyboards. They have been moved almost exclusively to the rear speakers so that I am tempted to simply cut off those. The final piece, In The Dark begins on the – you guessed it – piano. Then there are some vocals and – big surprise – a florid big organ sound. The 5.1 mix of the album is as predictable as the original arrangements. As with the Genesis albums Nick Davis has moved most of the sound blankets to the rear. Percussions and guitars (where applicable) have been moved far out, which provides a good sense of space. Drums are usually in the front except for the odd percussion or cymbal. The center is used exclusively for the vocals. The mix is solid handiwork, a clean and transparent mix, but it is rather conservative and lacking spontaneity, nothing to write home about.

The album is a rather sad combination of weak songwriting, overblown arrangements and David Hentschel's dull production. The surround mix would have profited from some lively surprises.

It should be noted that the promo videos offer 5.1 sound, too, and excellent video quality.

By Tom Morgenstern, English by Martin Klinkhardt

Tony Banks


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Tony Banks - A Curious Feeling (CD/DVD)

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