“Lucky number 5” - Tony Banks’ latest orchestral album ‘5’ reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

It isn’t easy to establish yourself in the world of modern orchestral music. Especially if your background is that of rock music. Not many make the transition successfully but one such is Tony Banks. His third suite of orchestral music - ‘5’ is a definite coming of age as we shall see.

The suite opens with Prelude To A Million Years, which in its original form was “Arpegg” the piece Tony was commissioned to write for the prestigious Cheltenham Festival a couple of years ago. He has considerably expanded it here and after the quiet introduction the piece soon expands into a much more dramatic and expansive effort. There are several echoes of Genesis and Banks solo themes herein and if you are a fan of the man’s other career you will have no difficulty in recognising them. Thankfully, the music is pure Tony Banks and unmistakable for anyone else a difficult feat but managed here with consummate ease. The result is a luxuriant and spacious piece from which you can draw your own pictures, as should always be the case with the best of music. This is the kind of music which would find itself easily at home in film or TV and who knows, maybe some canny executive or producer may snap it up, I for one would be delighted if they did!

Reveille is next, not quite the clarion call of trumpets as you might expect but opening with what sounds like a marimba riff over which the orchestra build layer upon layer before the trumpet eventually makes its appearance. A scintillating piece that shimmers like the sun on water as a new day begins this is without doubt my favourite piece of the album, it ticks all of the boxes for me.

Ebb And Flow for me evokes images of a sailing vessel approaching land after a lengthy sea voyage, you can almost feel the expectancy of the crew as land finally comes into view. Wistful thoughts of loved ones ashore are interrupted by the bellowed orders of the captain. Beautiful vignettes are picked out by various elements of the orchestra and Martin Robertson’s saxophone makes for a soulful undercurrent. An unabashedly romantic piece this and one which the orchestra are evidently enjoying immensely. As indeed, am I!

Autumn Sonata does exactly what it says on the label. Here is a musical tone poem into which you can draw your own images. A beautiful landscape comes to mind when I hear it but you can make up your own minds. Musically, it has both strength and innate delicacy, and is an extremely accomplished piece.

The album concludes with Renaissance, and if the sleeve notes by Tony are to be taken into consideration, this is the only piece on the album which acknowledges his previous life in Prog Rock. The use of Duduk and choir at the outset sets the tone as somewhat elegiac, perhaps an acknowledgement that Tony’s days as a Prog rocker are over? Who knows, the result is a refined and by turns wistful and austere piece composed in the purest musical logic a suitably elegant conclusion to such a superb suite of music.

This is an impressive album. A stellar leap from the two orchestral suites which have preceded it. Tony’s compositions here are both confident and masterful, the hesitancy which to a certain extent spoilt both previous efforts has gone and has been replaced by the masterstrokes of a composer who has found his orchestral voice and it speaks loud and clear here. An album of music which refreshes the mind and one which any lover of music should have in their collection - bravo, maestro!

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TONY BANKS - ‘5’ BMG MUSIC 538356892.