“A Musical Box of Delights” - Tony Banks' A Chord Too Far box set review by Alan Hewitt.
It is amazing to think that as the mainstay of Genesis for the past forty eight years, Tony Banks’ solo output has not received the attention that it deserves, In fact, at present all but two of his albums are currently deleted – a parlous situation which, thankfully, is now being redressed to a great extent by the latest box set from those good people at Esoteric Records.
Comprising four discs, spanning Tony’s entire solo career, there is at least one track from each of his albums on this set and when you look at the sheer range of the music that this set represents, Tony’s lack of commercial success is all the more astonishing. Existing fans will almost certainly already have the albums from which this material is taken, but even if you have, the remixed versions of many of the tracks will take you by surprise. Here we have a selection which is not in chronological order, but which serves more as a demonstration of the various facets of Tony’s career.
Thus, the first disc does not open by referencing Tony’s first (and most successful) solo album: 1979’s A Curious Feeling, but instead, with Rebirth from 1986’s Soundtracks album. The choice is an apt one as this release signals the rebirth of Tony’s solo material and is the first salvo of Esoteric’s re-issues campaign which should see the bulk of his solo albums re-issued by the label. A great amount of the material on this set has been remixed by Tony and long time producer, Nick Davis and the results are surprising as pieces which you think are so familiar have been given the equivalent of an oil bath to reveal many details which were obscured previously for one reason or another. The great debate over whether to remix or remaster had been laid to bed by the critically well received re-issues programme which EMI undertook with Genesis’ albums back in 2007 -08. Here it is Tony’s music which has its chance to shine.
Tracks such as Lion Of Symmetry and The Waters Of Lethe, already substantial in their own right, shine with a brightness of detail unsuspected before. The tracks which feature Tony’s own vocals in particular, such as This Is Love, and Moving Under give the lie to those who derided Tony’s singing voice, as here it can be heard in a fresher light and is surprisingly strong, giving the material a character all of its own.
The decision to mix the material up was a wise one, as the resulting contrasts only serve to heighten the overall strengths of the catalogue, and what I find most impressive is the fact that all of Tony’s albums are given more or less equal billing within the set when it could have been so much easier to place the emphasis on the better known material. The wealth of additional detail brought out by the new mixes will satisfy existing fans ,as will the handful of previously unheard demos from Still and the two orchestral suites which have been the most recent focus of Tony’s musical endeavours. Those who bemoan the lack of further unreleased material on this set are really missing the point. This is very much a musical CV and introduction to Tony’s work, squarely aimed at those who liked his work with Genesis but who never got round to investigating his solo work (shame on you, folks!) and as such, this release achieves its mission admirably because as an overview of Tony’s career outside of Genesis, it really is hard to beat and sits nicely alongside the marvellous Harvest Of The Heart set by Tony’s former compatriot in Genesis, Anthony Phillips which Esoteric released last year. Accompanied by a lavishly illustrated booklet and informative sleeve notes by Tony himself, this set will satisfy the curiosity of those who wondered what Mr Banks got up to while Genesis were on hiatus, and no doubt, it will whet the appetites of existing fans for the back catalogue re-issues. Either way, another extremely satisfying result – well done to all involved!