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Tony Banks - The Fugitive CD (album) cover

THE FUGITIVE

Tony Banks

 

Crossover Prog

2.40 | 115 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars While Tony Banks is with little dissension or doubt, a keyboard stalwart who has been rewarded by universal acclaim as well as a wicked pile of dough, going from prog to pop seamlessly (at least for some), he does seem to be a strange cat, not always very politically correct and in my opinion, he could rub a few people the wrong way (namely Gabriel and Hackett). In a few interviews, he has come across as being judgmental and acerbic but there is no denying his considerable talents. His first solo album, 'Curious Feeling' was a proggy affair but from then on, Banks progressively (oopsy) slanted his craft in more mainstream direction which paralleled his Genesis gig. Hence, albums such as 'Bankstatement' and 'Still' were rather tepid affairs that really had little return adulation (or sales). That all being said, I have deeply enjoyed 'The Fugitive' since day one of its release, a much-maligned masterpiece that has had the misfortune of being perhaps the wrong style at the wrong time, thus ostracizing his fan base. I was therefore delighted to replace my old cassette (remember that thingy?) with a new re-mastered CD version which can only do the material justice as its truly a fine piece of work, if taken for what it was and not what it should have been. Upon closer inspection, the virtuoso keyboard manifestations are replaced with less symphonic stylistics that are closer to Tony Mansfield (New Musik, Aha, etc') or even Thomas Dolby, focusing on synthesizer instead of piano, mellotron or organ. In fact, there is hardly any mellotron at all to be found! Add masterful talents like Mo Foster on bass, Darryl Stuermer on guitar and drummers Steve Gadd, Andy Duncan and Tony Beard, you have some serious possibilities. There has been criticism from many sources of the mechanical drumming, well that may be but there is one of these 3 drummers on all tracks except the short instrumental 'Thirty Threes' where Linn drum machines are used. Of course, it's not prog by any stretch but why crucify him for daring to go into more accessible mode and having the courage to tackle the vocals? These are HIS songs, for God sakes! It's his artistic right and call. But I am the silly guy who loves 'Under Wraps' by Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson's debut solo album 'Walk into Light', mainly because I feel the songs were real good but many other purist fans hated the technology (the synthetic sounding electronics). I had no problems with it, having survived on a diet of Thomas Dolby, Magazine and Ultravox at a time when prog was kind of dead but not yet buried.

The melodic opener 'This Is Love' is a fine song, catchy and certainly within the sign of the times, very 'plastic new wave', a style quite prominent at the time. Nothing wrong with a smart pop song from time to time and this is a real good one. Tony Beard bashes hard, the trembling synths carving a mood , a sensational melody that Tony does well in carrying forward, a cool 'slinky' guitar intervention and a turbo-charged section that has a 'do what you want' sizzle that combines a sweet synthesized flurry. Yes, the lyrics are corny, that very un-prog 'love' stuff, yeah, I know, Yuck! Whatever'

The infuriatingly addictive 'Man of Spells' has been playing in my head for so long, I believe it has its own drawer in my cortex, even though it does sound a lot like Brit synth-pop band Naked Eyes, fueled by screeching and meowing synthesizers, spewing along a drop-dead beautiful melody that is ear-candy. The legendary Steve Gadd handles the slick beat propelling this superb piece ahead, Darryl playing with his (heart) strings and Banks throwing in some delicate ivory tangents.

Maintaining the sweet seduction, 'And the Wheels Keep Turning' is another strong melody with a decent vocal from Tony, though he is not an opera singer by any stretch. But honestly, no worse that Steve Howe, Steve Hackett and many other prog heavies. So he sounds a bit like Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys), so what? A nice slippery synth solo adorns the light flavored tune.

Though the melody on 'Say You Will Never Leave Me' eerily rekindles memories of the Beatles, particularly John Lennon, one must give credit to Tony for attempting a rather effort laden vocal that is both demanding and challenging. The sweeping orchestrations are remarkable with tons of string synths blaring along. 'Thirty Threes' is all instrumental, heavily electronic and totally enjoyable piece of music with cascading sweeps of synthesized orchestrations and clever electronic keyboard textures. With 'Charm', these are the two more proggier pieces, since there is no singing to be found.

The suave and bouncy 'By You' continues the accessible style, Tony singing rather well (he does manage to hit a few high notes which BTW, many in prog would falter at) as cannonading keyboard bubbles float convincingly in a pool of moody sounds. Yes its mechanical yes it sounds more like Thomas Dolby and his science blindness but those were the times, people!

At over 6 minutes, 'At the Edge of The Night' might seem as the epic attempt here but I assure you , this is a hard core stomper, a 'rock n rolla', designed to feature a stonier approach, with Darryl Stuermer's guitar rasps front and center, challenged by that still saccharine Banksian voice ('Gonna be alright'). It even has a synthesized brass section (boo, the plastic technology) that gives it added oomplh, admittedly could have been a Phil Collins song quite easily, though the 'bent' Stuermer axe solo is quite experimental.

My favorite track remains 'Charm', a thoroughly convincing instrumental number that has haunted my memory ever since I heard it for the first time. I do not know why, nor do I feel the need to explain. But I will nevertheless: It just really inspire me, as Banks draws very close to the genius of Tony Mansfield, probably the most underrated British musician arranger ever, whose New Musik project yielded 3 stunning albums that have stood the test of time. The intricate electronics displayed are simply fabulous, trilling synths looping madly in sequence. The disc ends with 'Move Under' which reignites a certain sense of accessibility, both playful and creative. The chorus is undoubtedly attractive and the music is very Brit-pop in its presentation, very akin to what was being played at the time of its original release (1982), smack in the middle of the Simple Minds/Duran Duran/ABC/Toto rage that was popular at the time. There is some tremendous soloing from Stuermer and Banks on the outro finale.

Bonus tracks 'K2' and 'Sometime Never' do not add or distract from the overall impression. Though seen by many hard-core fans as a sell-out, the context of the times will prove them wrong, as the music scene in 1982 was dismally confused, waiting for the band Marillion to finish practicing the imminent release of 'Script of a Jester's Tear' in some dingy basement somewhere in Albion and forever revive the prog movement from its Momentary Lapse of Reason and inspire a renaissance that continues today. Upon reflection and as noted by the artist in the 2016 remastered liner notes, he feels that 'his vocals gave the album a sort of charm' because it was just him singing the vocals and no one else. He remains very fond of the album. As do I.

4 renegades

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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