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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 ā 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 donīt hurt anyone but they donīt make fun to anyone, too. So letīs skip to No. 10, Island In The Darkness, itīs 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

Before i start with this, i want to point out that in the previous review i mentioned "Still", i don't know when i'll review it, but i'll continue with Tony Banks until i finish the discography, as well, i was updating older Genesis reviews with B-Sides, but that might change, i'm not sure what to do with that as of now, but some albums are already done (as mentioned at the end of my previous review). Before choosing Strictly Inc. i was almost ready to review The Fugitive, that could be the next review, but i don't promise anything.

First up, 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 don't enter in the eyes and it looks really lazy as well.

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, so it sets a good mood at the start but then i feel like skipping the song.

2.- Walls of Sound 4/10 Now another catchy rythm that repeats even more, but the song is more than ok, it changes enough on the other instruments to make the song somewhat enjoyable.

3.- Only Seventeen 6/10 Tony knows how to do catchy starts to songs, its the same case as the previous song but it is really different and feels more "action-packed" than the previous one, the last part of the song becomes more like a soundtrack, but that still doesn't save it from being really average.

4.- The Serpent Said 7/10 Going more into soundtrack territory, is still pop but more serious and with more chord progressions, yet it still falls short.

5.- Never Let Me Know 5/10 This should as well be a song without voice, only the keyboards. It sounds good, its extremely average but the nice little solo near the end saves it a little.

6.- Charity Balls 3/10 Another song heavily done with chord progressions, some of this songs feel like taking out from little pieces of the last song in this album, this song is boring, it has nothing more going than those chords. The little guitar solo at the end saves it a little.

7.- Something To Live For 6/10 A little boring with a nice guitar solo at the end and for some reason it is in 7/8, only that saves it, because overall is extremely average.

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. The little solo halfway is also a modified piece from the last one.

9.- Strictly Incognito 8/10 The title track, reminds me of Throwback, and its a nice throwback to what Tony Banks does, mixing sundtrack sounds with that strong good pop that he can do, just one problem, repetitive.

10.- An Island in the Darkness 10/10 If he says that he got inspired by Firth of Fifth, then this song might be something, right? The introduction is already something incredibly beautyful that could very well be from a classic era pianist, when the drum synths kick in you can already feel how the atmosphere changes to something more obscure, and then the lyrics appear and are on top, so the mood is already set, misterous, melancholic, cloud but with bits of light delicately expressed by Tony Banks synths. A little solo appears that makes you feel lonely in wichever kind of terrain you're standing, while seeing the sea and feeling the breeze that those drum synths bring every so often. Then everything comes to a halt and the music starts progressing, this is your time to shine and do everything, the fog clears and everything seems to work again, but as time passes you realize and think of everything you have accomplished so far and on the next steps that you have to follow, hours and days keep passing and you get closer and closer to success but then... you hit the top, you know that there's more out there but for some reason you can't reach more at the moment, you look back and feel proud at how everything turned out, while you still want more, maybe it is time to rest and think about everyone and every good moment... and now its time to hit it back again, but the fog surrounds you, see the ghosts of your past and want to change the score, but its too late, you miss everyone and all your frights become a reality, just when you're about to hit it big time, do you have the will to carry on? Don't leave time to do your job and start, that's what you do, and that's how you succeed, yet its so difficult but you keep doing it because the reward is even better that way, while everything pushes you down, you remember all the people that have helped you out, all those moments in the past and realize that you can do it again, and if you don't, you still have your dearest people close and the memories with you, so on a last effort you manage to get into a place where you can finally rest again and in expectansy of your next challenge, but now with relief.

Sadly, this album is a 55/100 for me, wich is 2 stars, i didn't want to put 2 stars because An Island in the Darkness is one of the best works that Tony has ever done, but the rest of the album has unnecesary songs, this album never needed to be that long, maybe it was to accomodate the new longer format (like Genesis did with We Can't Dance), in the end i don't recommend this album as a whole, but i do recommend tracks 9 and 10, specially 10.

Update 31/8: My opinions remain the same for the most part, the enjoyment of the songs have shifted a little and i reflected that in the scores, so the scores shifted but the total remains the same. I must say that my perspective on this album has changed a little thanks to Tony Banks explanations, and i understand what he was accomplishing but its clearly just not meant for me, it is not epic in any way, there is so much dull in many parts that could be improved, yet the biggest quality in this album are Tony Banks chords and sounds, its the rest that don't much to make this album really something more, i don't hear much improvisation over Tony's idea and the only times where this album feels with life is only when Tony only does, the drums in this record suffer from the classic 90s flatness, the voice mostly copies what Tony is playing and the guitar almost does the same in every song, the contrast between all the songs and the last one is just insane in that regard.

Report this review (#1943489)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2018 | Review Permalink

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