CD Review: FIVE (Tony Banks)

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by Tony Frankel on May 17, 2018



Tony Banks gathers no moss. At 68, the co-founder of Genesis is releasing yet another album, his tenth outside of the band. After a successful career as songwriter, singer, film scorer, and multi-instrumentalist (most especially on keyboards), Banks turned to orchestral compositions. His third, released in February 2018, is labelled “classical” but the gorgeous, transporting music sounds exactly like a soaring soundtrack. Easily the most successful of his triad — the first two were Seven: A Suite for Orchestra (2004) and Six Pieces for Orchestra (2012) — Five consists of five long-playing tracks that lift the spirit and cleanse the soul, a pretty neat trick given that these types of compositions seem suited for a romantic adventure story and could easily have become cheesy muzak.

I actually put this CD in my car while I was on a road trip up the California coast, and it was amazing how well each of the tracks matched the scenic beauty. Unlike the soundscapes of so much new music, the atmospheric, melodic richness here complimented every view I saw, almost as if Banks was writing the soundtrack for my experience. The multifaceted tonal shades start with the 15+-minute “Prelude to a Million Years”: Written as an opening for 2014’s Cheltenham Music Festival, the sweeping, pastoral give and take lightly flirts with minimalism as the tone moves from passive to pounding, aided by the superb strings of the Czech National Symphony and Chorus, the latter of which is used to great effect in “Ebb and Flow.”

Even as Banks is creating something new here, he revisits his formative years in the 80s in “Reveille,” which has a gorgeous cornet line — played by John Barclay — that is reminiscent of Banks’s synthesizer work (the sumptuous arrangements are by conductor Nick Ingman). Indeed, Banks writes that the last two pieces, the playful “Autumn Sonata” and the haunting “Renaissance,” were born out of older themes. And speaking of the 1980s, the mood here is that of bittersweet optimism, reminding me of James Newton Howard, Ennio Morricone, Michael Gore, and others who did much of their best work in that decade. But this never feels derivative; it’s majestic, magnificent, magnetic, magnanimous, and mighty mesmeric.

Tony Banks
1 disc | 5 tracks | 57:55
released February 23, 2018
available as CD, double 12″ gatefold vinyl, digital download and stream at Amazon

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