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Tony Banks - Strictly Inc. CD (album) cover


Tony Banks

Crossover Prog

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4 stars pretty decent prog pop album for Tony Banks... better than any other one he did anyway... not very exciting stuff though except the final 17mn epic "An Island in the Darkness"... really breathtaking beautiful modern sounding prog piece... better than the best "I can't dance" era song... almost like a miracle for pre-retired old Tony... just for this song you must get this album !!!
Report this review (#27192)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars If you're as crazy as I am, i.e. willing to buy an album for the sake of a single good track, if "Firth of Fifth" still gives you goosebumps after all these years, then do yourself a favour: go out and get this album. Now!!! Nine of its ten tracks are your average ballads - some nice vocal/instrumental tunes disguised as pop songs. Yet the man concludes this seemingly non-threatening album with a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, gut-wrenching 17-minute number entitled "An Island in the Darkness". A masterpiece that, in my books, ranks second only to his classic "Firth of Fifth".

For lack of better means, here is a description of the track in plain words: some quiet piano notes introduce the listener to the main theme, then a drum machine à la "Duke" ("Dutchess" style) steps in alongwith a so-so obscure vocalist. But don't despair: when the fake drums fade out and the dude finally shuts up, that's when the fireworks begin. The tempo picks up and the keyboard arpeggios start cascading over one another at dizzying speed. The chordal variety in this section is stunning; it condenses BANKS' finest compositional abilities into a 10-minute frenzy of colourful, dramatic peaks before exploding into a grand finale, complete with rousing, swelling keyboards and a plaintive DARYL STUERMER guitar solo (shades of STEVE HACKETT on 'Firth"), a combination that will tear your heart out. As was the case with "Firth" (and "One for the Vine" also), the track then quietly dies out on a piano reprise of the opening theme, closing the loop as it should - a perfect ending for a perfect song.

This is the one, my friends: the genius of TONY BANKS in all its glory. For the love of prog, don't let this one pass you by!!!

Report this review (#27193)
Posted Sunday, April 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was Bank's most successful album in terms of finding the best blend between vocal and keyboards. Jack Hues proving to be a winner. I love this album, it is well balanced and Jack Hues fine vocals compliment Bank's signature sound. A pity they did not do more together.' Island in the darkness' is real scintillating stuff all 17 odd minutes. ' Only seventeen' is a great song with a catchy chorus. There was life after Still, for sure.
Report this review (#27194)
Posted Friday, July 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Today I received this CD from US as it was never released in Germany. To make it short, the first 9 tracks are typically Banks-solo tunes, very lightweighted, they don´t hurt anyone but they don´t make fun to anyone, too. So let´s skip to No. 10, Island In The Darkness, it´s really brilliant, reminds me in some cases on early 4-piece Genesis era! So, how to note this CD, tracks 1-9 might get 1 or two stars, track 10 5+ stars!!! So this CD gets 3 1/2 stars from me.
Report this review (#27195)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars This is Tony Banks best solo album after his debut A Curious Feeling. Actually I did not expect much from this album since I never really like Wang Chung, and the colaboration between their lead singer and Banks seemed quite unlike to succeed. But it worked! After the hideous The Fugitive, the only average Bankstatement and the good, but uneven Still, it looks like Genesis keyboards player finally found a good balance between his hability to deliver great melodies and his ambition to write simpler, catchy tunes. All songs are good. Of course I don't have to praise his best latter day composition, Island In The Darkness. All the other reviewers have done that. It's a masterpiece, end of the story.

But the other tracks are just as atractive to me.Great variety of sounds, rhythms and styles. And he seemed to rediscover his knack for writing clever, yet disturbing lyrics. It's amazing how he writes great pop tunes with words from the point of view of such characters. Jealousy, anger, fear, temptation, recklessny, madness, greed, even a girl with multiple personalities, you name it. They're all here. Original and intelligent. Tony Banks is really a very underrated songwriter. His views of the human being are so lucid they're scary sometimes. But fortunatly he has the talent to deliver them with an equally good sound landscape. If you get this CD listen carefully to the words as much as the music. Your attention will be rewarded. Recomended for the ones who believe that rock can be also excellent food for thought.

Report this review (#84322)
Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yes, this is indeed one of Tony's best albums. Full of those great Banks chord changes and inventive layered keyboard sounds. Jack Hues's voice suits Tony's songs better than any of his previous collaborators (except Phil and Peter, of course). Thankfully, Tony doesn't do any singing himself this time, and the musical contributions of the guest session musicians are properly mixed and more prominently featured to good effect this time around. My favorite three songs are Walls of Sound, A Piece of You, and of course, Island in the Darkness, all of which coincidentally feature guitar. I suppose that, as much as I admire Tony's ability to be a one-man orchestra, it's still the sound of all the elements of a band complementing each other which brings the music to it's greatest heights. Nathan East, John Robinson, and Daryl Stuermer all turn in great performances on this album.

The only songs I tend to skip over are Don't Turn Your Back on Me (there's that annoying fake reggae groove again!) and the title track (perverted lyrics and stiff rhythmic feel). It's true that Island is perhaps Tony's best song as a solo artist, but other than that, I think that the album Still has more great songs to offer. A solid 4 stars for Strictly Inc.

Report this review (#158293)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A bit too strict maybe?

Strictly Inc. is in my opinion Tony Banks' best solo album. If this is your first encounter with Banks' solo career (which it should be as this is the best place to start) and you think that this sounds too 80's, too Pop and isn't progressive enough, then you should really forget about Banks' earlier solo albums as they are clearly "worse" in all those respects!

I have never really understod the love some people have for Banks first solo album A Curious Feeling. It was in my opinion a rather weak debut. His second, The Fugitive was far worse, though. Bankstatement and Still both had some good songs, but they were overall not very strong albums. The latter suffered from incoherence due to having too many different singers involved. One of the strong points of Strictly Inc. is that all the vocals are handled by a single vocalist. Indeed, instead of having a cast of guest musicians, there is slightly more of a band feeling here compared to previous albums. Tony himself can concentrate on playing his keyboards, leaving vocal, bass, drum and guitar duties to his band. Only Daryl Stuermer guests on a couple of tracks.

The songs themselves are not great by any means, but certainly as good as anything from previous solo albums. Some of the songs are among Banks' best songs written outside of Genesis. However, with the exception of the 17 plus minute closer, these songs are hardly lost Genesis classics or anything of the sort. This last epic song is obviously the most progressive song on this album, but also in some of the other songs there are flashes of Banks' progressive past, mostly in the shape of short keyboard passages.

This is a decent album with at least one quite good progressive song on it. Just don't expect too much from it.

Report this review (#257819)
Posted Saturday, December 26, 2009 | Review Permalink

For me, the best rock keyboardist ever, Tony Banks fits in a perfect way the composer side with the virtuous performer side, as any other rock keyboardist can`t do. The problem is that in general terms, he needs someone else who takes his creations to a high level. Seems to be that he lacks about how to arrange tracks and about the production job. That's why, in my opinion, being him the driving force behind Genesis, he never could reach the same success on his solo career. His solo tracks might need the support of a Hackett or a Collins, both too great arrangers (For me Hackett is not a good songwriter, and Collins is a good pop songwriter). So, the Banks grandiose appears just sometimes in his solo works, generally through some tracks mostly than albums. For me his only masterpiece, in albums terms, is A Courious Feeling. But here, in Strictly Inc., he puts a monumental progressive track, in the same level than his greatest compositions of Genesis (as Firth of fifth, Cinema Show or One for the vine for example), and with a modern feel. Of course this song is An Island in the Darkness, a 17 minutes epic, full of piano instrumental parts, drum machines, guitar solos and a great melody line, great voice and great lyrics. It's just the song I`ve always wanted from Tony Banks. The rest of the album is rather good, dominated by atmospheric keyboards and great sound, but no more than this. So I give more than 5 stars to An Island in The Darkness, and 3 stars for the rest. The results is 4 stars for the album. If you are a progressive rocker and doesn't know this one, this track (An Island in the darkness) is enough to get into it.

Report this review (#281476)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars It is difficult to say a bad thing about Strictly Inc.

It is Tony's best solo effort by far with excellent production by Nick Davies.

For this outing, Tony engaged the excellent Jack Hues to provide guitar and voice. And, fortunately for us, there are no Tony Vocals!

The overall feel is very positive and the first 9 tracks are all very listenable and argueably better than much of "I Can't Dance", which may hint at the influence (and voting power) of Phil and Mike on latter Genesis.

But, as the other reviewers have noted it is the 17:21 "An Island In The Darkness" that surprises.

This one track surpasses anything by Genesis or offshoots since Wind and Wuthering (Hackett included).

It also features a guitar solo by Daryl Stuermer that matches any Genesis/Related solo other than Hackett's on Firth of Fifth.

This one track brings the overall rating from 4 stars (Excellent addition) to 5 stars (Essential).

A must have for any Genesis or Symphonic /Neo Prog fan. There are few better examples.

5 stars.

Report this review (#352173)
Posted Tuesday, December 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars As has been said by almost all the reviewers of this album thus fur, the album is seemingly unsubstantial until you reach the final track. An Island in the Darkness is my favourite Tony Banks solo song. It ranks up there along with the classic Genesis tracks, a poignant example I think would be One for the Vine. Being nearly 20 minutes long, An Island in the Darkness raises this otherwise dull album to a a 3 star rating. If you are willing to buy an album alone just for one track (or perhaps listen to it first as ProgArchives has it in it's music stream), I would recommend it. Especially if you're a fan of Banks' music, especially the likes of One for the Vine from Wind and Wuthering.
Report this review (#546545)
Posted Sunday, October 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars #21 Review

First up, this is a revised version (2-17-2020) of my original review (7-6-2018), with the 2 extra songs added.

What's up with that cover artwork? I like the ridiculous and over exagerated animations from the 90s, but i don't like what i see here, its one of those albums that just don't enter through the eyes.

1.- Don't Turn Your Back on Me 3/10 Starts with an incredible catchy rythm, and continues being a typical uninspired pop-song, very repetitive with no purpose and boring lyrics. It sets an interesting mood as expected, because Tony knows how to use his chords, yet this song feels like it could've been more.

2.- Walls of Sound 5/10 Another catchy rythm that repeats even more, but this song its kind of special, the key here are the chords, wich are very pretty and give some kind of a nostalgic feeling, a little wintery i could say, if the rythm in the background changed a little (like in the remix) maybe this song wouldn't be that repetitive and boring after the 2 minute mark.

3.- Only Seventeen 7/10 That techno house rythm that only Tony can do? What is this, kind of different but i dig it, specially because of the chords. This song's video along with Tony's commentary about why he made it are the reason why i revisited this album again, i kind of understand the objective of what he is doing and i think that its fascinating, not only that but i'm not the only one that thought that, this song was modified and used for parties as well. I appreciate the story and the soundtrack qualities that this song has.

4.- The Serpent Said 7/10 The soundtrack introduction and the chord progressions used here are really interesting, after the intro the first movement is a little bit boring because of those repeating chords in the background, not the scales, then the second movement becomes much more interesting, almost glorious compared to the first movement, the next segment is too simple and i'm not that big of a fan, the small solo that comes after the repeating of the first and second movement its really pretty, i believe that with a different mind set, this song could've been something really special for a progressive song, but as it is, is ok anyways.

5.- Never Let Me Know 5/10 Since most of the rythm is done with synths, the voice is really unnecesary in this song for the most part, yet it doesn't matter as this song is boring because of some uninspired drumming, the part near the end is the best though, gets into a completely new territory that could've been a better song if separated from the starting piece and if it had better drumming.

6.- Charity Balls 3/10 Another song heavily done with chord progressions, some of this songs feel like taken out from little pieces of the last song in this album. This song is boring, it has nothing more going on than those chords. The little guitar solo at the end saves it a little. I want to add that i have read some reviews and i can't understand how this song is related to Genesis, what Genesis song sounds like this??

7.- Something To Live For 5/10 That central drum rythm really gets stuck in your head along with the chords, the song is in 7/8 and has a nice little solo but it gets repetitive quick, the music here is as average as Man on the Corner.

8.- A Piece of You 3/10 Reminds me of charity balls on how it takes a little piece from the last song on the album, notably the notes used for the lyrics, i would've prefered if this song was out of the album, the last one does it much better and another ballad is just filler at this point.

9.- Strictly Incognito 8/10 Reminds me of the song Throwback from Bankstatement, this is a really fine pop song with very well laid chords, as Tony normally does. I really like the story that the song tells and how it progresses along with the music, yet the rythm gets repetitive quickly, atleast i can hear more effort put by the session musicians than in previous songs.

10.- An Island in the Darkness 10/10 In one of the weirdest pop albums ever made, Tony decided to end with what could be described as Firth of Fifth 2. It is a serious undertaking to make a song that could potentially hold up to that name, and this song is no small feat with a lenght of 17 minutes of pure brilliance.

The introduction is already something to behold, Tony has nothing to envy on classical artists, the main ideas for the rest of the song are stablished here.

Once the drum synths kick in, the song changes and gives a warm welcome to a cold new atmosphere, lyrics on this song are good, yet with another voice, this song could've been a little better, the same goes for the mixing, too clean and too loud, a problem that surrounds album since the early 90s, yet one thing that the 90s didn't ruin in this song are the drums, wich contrary to the previous songs in this album, they do much more work than before, everyone gave their best on this song more than in the rest of the album.

Near the middle part of the song, there's a solo that some people call "The Firth of Fifth part" because it shares some similar musical play and structure to that song. Right in the middle of this solo there's another classical piano solo piece, and some more vocals that do well to change the structure and maintain a good pace. After a glorious sounding synth climax, comes the guitar solo, but instead of Steve Hackett, its Daryl Stuermer, and i think that could be his best Firth of Fifth, while many say that Firth of Fifth is better done by Hackett (including me), i think that this is the solo that could make more people like Daryl since his playing here isn't so much filled with meaningless notes, but done with thoughtful pauses.

The ending part is probably one of the most beautyful things, it sounds perfect for an orchestral score and i just love it, what a great end for a great tune and an ok album, but that's not all...

11.- Wall of Sounds (Remix) 5/10 I have read that some people think that this version is better, but i feel the loss of chords in many parts, yet i like how the instruments sound here, they have like that old videogame arcade quality and i really apreciate the weirdness overall, yet i like the other version better, the begining in the original is so much better and i don't like how the voice gets hold as a synth in a certain part. This version though, represents much better the name of "Walls of Sounds", many more sounds displayed here.

12.- Back to You 7/10 This song was left out of this album's original release, but not only that, its a leftover from Still, a song that was conceptualized by Tony with Nik Kershaw, and it feels like that, i really like Nik's input on Still and i have learned a little more about his music and realized that he can do very repetitive but catchy choruses, Tony probably made a music piece and Nik said "That's the one", for some reason it was not featured in Still and the same here, i think that its pretty catchy and better than most of the repetitive pieces here.

This album overal gets a 57/100 wich is a pitty since it has some good songs in here, i really expected the score to increase more but it didn't, those songs that got a 3 are songs that i fail to appreciate or recommend, i have an explanation for the songs that i like here and Tony also helped with some of his interviews, yet i think this review is it for the moment. I think that this album could've been something else with less filler and more help by the session musicians, Tony did the better work here and i hope to some day do some covers of some of these songs so people can hear (musically) what i'm trying to say about this album.

Report this review (#1943489)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2018 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unlike other listeners, I don't consider this album to be in Banks' best effort; that position is firmly occupied by the "A curious feeling" despite potentially worse vocals.

What has happened since 1979 until 1995? Tony sharpened his intelligent pop crafting abilities and his progressive rock signature evolved more on the Genesis albums then in his solo path, on which he rested on his laurels or and limited himself to non-distruptive keyboards in the background.

Strictly Inc incorporates many similarities with the 1991's Still: clever pop melodies and rock/synth arrangements, variety of quality vocal guests (even Fish) and an epic majestic composition: "An island in the darkness". Tbe first two tracks are quite memorable, "Walls of sound" with a Genesis feeling. "The serpent said" has a dramatic underfeel and could be suited for Peter Gabriel. Subtle synth accompaniment and longer instrumental section have their charm. "never let me know" belongs to the best melancholic numbers on that album.

"Charity balls" is based around a semi-prog motive.

The last and epic composition "The island in the darkness" is generally overrated here on Progarchives, although it is a nice return to 1979's "A curious feeling". Instrumental sections on Yamaha-CP80 are great but do not bring anything new and the same goes for the vocal parts of the composition. Keyboard runs in the middle of the song are long awaited; however i have expected more based on the rave reviews on Progarchives and considering its lenght.

Summa summarum, a pleasant pop album with hints of progressive rock and an epic composiion that will appeal to all modern Banks and Genesis fans.

Report this review (#2271490)
Posted Sunday, October 20, 2019 | Review Permalink

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