"Definitely a serious undertaking!" - The Strictly Banks Live CD. Review by Alan Hewitt.
OK folks, I will freely admit that what follows is biased! I was quite heavily involved in this project and it still rates as one of the most satisfying which I have had the pleasure of being asked to participate in (if only everything else I have participated in, in the last twelve months had been as enjoyable but we can't have everything I suppose). The gig on September 6, 1998 certainly involved yours truly in some of the hardest physical labour of my entire life, writing programme notes pales in to insignificance to being one of the "roadies for a day" (now there's a song title in there, somewhere, isn't there?). But that is what made this entire project special; the spirit of determination and team work and I think that more than actual musical perfection is what makes this recording special. OK, that said, what does the disc offer to Tony's fans...
Well, more than anything else, this recording offers you a chance to hear what some of Tony's music would sound like live. No, this recording is not perfect; there are mistakes and yes; you can hear them too! However, the heart and dedication of the group of musicians performing this music far outweighs the odd bum note or missed cue!
"Queen Of Darkness" opens the actual recording and Sophia Capernaros' vocal performance is flawless. The band really take off however, by the time we reach the third track, "Back To Back" once again featuring Sophia's vocals but this is where the entire band really stretch themselves out into a hearty rocker and special kudos here to Doug Boucher's pounding bass lines and Andy Monk and Richard Mill's keyboard work.
"Strictly Incognito", after a shaky start also develops into a fine rendition of one of Mr. Banks' more unusual songs. Dave Whitehouse's vocals equate nicely to the original manic delivery of Jack Hues (although I suspect for different reasons!). Even the occasional skew wiff keyboard phrase somehow adds to the overall mood of the song. This was followed by the superb rendition of "Red Day On Blue Street" where Dave's vocals sound spookily like Nik Kershaws', no easy feat I can tell you!
"The Lie" and "Somebody Else's Dream" hold a special place in my affections, mostly because I had always wanted to hear these classic Banks tunes played in the live context but also because they were done so well on the night and it is a tribute to the entire band that the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end and tears were in my eyes as they came to the end of the latter track and no... before any cynical wag says it; it was not because of anything lacking in the musical department although the guitar intro to the latter could have been slightly shorter... a minor quibble more than redressed by Dave's superb vocal delivery!
Another highlight was the jazz-tinged "The More That I Hide It" with a stunning vocal performance from Sophia and superb piano from Richard Mills and Judith Spillar's mournful saxophone - this is the track more than any other that justifies all the hard work by everyone on stage - I don't think in all honesty that Tony himself could have done this one better!
The decision to perform "An Island In The Darkness" could have been a nightmare and even Dave's introduction admits this... "It's a toughie but we are going to have a go at it..." Well, did it work? YES it DID! The sheer dedication of all the musicians to this project shone through loud and clear and it rounds off this disc in much the same emotional way as it did the actual concert.
So, there you have it... an excellent tribute to the music of one of Britain's foremost composers, warts and all.. An honest representation of what was for everyone involved in this project, a truly remarkable project - buy it now!
See the Strictly Banks web site for more information and purchaing details.