“The Fugitive from Fame” – Tony Banks’ recent re-issues reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

Esoteric Records have been extremely busy over the last few years with various offerings from the back catalogues of both Tony Banks and Anthony Phillips, all of which thus far have been of an impeccably high standard both in terms of quality and content. Their A Chord Too Far box set of Tony’s music set the scene for these, the first in their reissues campaign.

Beginning at the beginning with Tony’s solo debut, 1979’s A Curious Feeling is as good a place to start as any but it poses a fundamental problem for this reviewer. Esoteric issued this album back in 2009 and so, effectively this is the same album as it was then. That said, it is still great to see Tony’s albums available for a fresh batch of fans who I am sure, will be equally spellbound by the music herein.

Considering that this project was originally conceived as a potential musical, the end results are fascinating. Given that the musical industry usually panders to the lowest common denominator (with some notable exceptions) it is fascinating to think what might have happened if this had been the case here. Speculation aside, here we have Tony Banks at his most adventurous right from the symphonic opening of From The Undertow to the plaintive closer In The Dark, Tony manages to run the entire gamut of emotions in both music and lyrics with some of his finest examples of both to be found on this one forty five minute album.

Every Tony Banks fan that I have ever spoken to nominates this album as their favourite in Tony’s catalogue - me included and so anything more I say about this one would be superfluous indeed so it will suffice to say that once again, Esoteric have done a fine job and the end result is something that Tony Banks fans old and new will relish.

1983’s The Fugitive took Tony’s fans (me included) completely by surprise as he had finally decided to try his hand at singing himself, following Mike Rutherford who had grasped this particular nettle in 1982 with his Acting Very Strange album. And like that album, The Fugitive is very much a mixed bag.

The two tracks selected as singles: This Is Love and, And The Wheels Keep Turning are both prime examples of Tony at his best. Tony’s voice is far stronger than his fans expected and especially on the latter track, it works really well This is also the case too on Say You’ll Never Leave Me where his voice has just the right amount of strained emotion to really deliver the song.
Tony has always been dismissive of the two instrumentals on the album, Charm and Thirty Threes but they both have a strength and character all of their own and they work extremely well. I always thought that Charm in particular deserved lyrics but even without them it is a classic slice of Banks magic.

By You and Moving Under too are surprisingly strong and lyrically too, the latter is one of Tony’s best solo compositions. The same sadly cannot be said of the two bonus tracks - I say “bonus” because back in the days of vinyl these two were only available on the new fangled CD edition, and are perhaps among the weakest offerings from Tony especially the latter but we can’t have a winner every time now, can we?

As Tony remarked in our recent interview with him, the extras cupboard in respect of these albums is bare and so fans hoping for some newly discovered gems are in for a disappointment as there are none on either album although the inclusion of the promotional videos makes for a nice touch if you have a hankering after such things as I do. What the albums lack in terms of extra material, they more than make up for in terms of musical content and both are worthy of inclusion in any consideration of Tony’s musical career and will be a delight to fans old and new alike.