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Tony Banks - A Curious Feeling CD (album) cover


Tony Banks


Crossover Prog

3.42 | 216 ratings

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3 stars Have you ever had a friend talk you into going on a blind date by endowing the mystery woman with highly desirable, glowing qualities? What we used to call the "Summertime Syndrome?" (You know, her Daddy's rich and her Momma's good looking?) So you convince yourself that, with that kind of pedigree, maybe this will be THE ONE and you'll fall in love at first sight and you can't wait to meet her. But then after spending an hour or so with her over dinner and drinks you realize that, while she has a cute personality and she's actually kinda nice, there's just no spark, no chemistry, no real attraction going down. Well, that's the way I feel about Tony Bank's "A Curious Feeling." With him being one of the founding members of one of the greatest progressive bands ever and a keyboard genius highly revered by his peers, I expected to be lovestruck and smitten by his first solo album. But soon I discovered that it was just another plain Jane, decent company for an evening but ultimately forgettable.

True to where his head was at in '79, Tony starts off with "From the Undertow," an instrumental that's a lot like what his band Genesis was doing on "And Then There Were Three." I don't really like that particular album but this is an improvement musically and I'm thinking that Banks is going to take me on a fantastic journey. "Lucky Me" follows and it's my first exposure to vocalist Kim Beacon and, while he's no Peter Gabriel, he's not half bad. The song is a bit contemporary in tone and has a flowing melody but it never seems to reach a peak. Nonetheless, it's one of the album's better tunes as it introduces us to a man who has no long-term recall and has "lived alone for all I can remember/though that only means some six or seven years/I would rather be nobody else/I'm happy as I am." Next is "The Lie" and it's more uptempo but Beacon's voice lacks the depth and emotion the song needs and it detracts from the lyric describing our protagonist as being a natural-born speculator in his youth. The bridge belies a definite Elton John influence and the musical build-up toward the end is excellent. "After the Lie" logically follows and it is here that I start to sense that drummer Chester Thompson is being kept on too tight a leash and that's not a good omen. His considerable talent could lend some much-needed excitement to the proceedings. Here our hero sings of seeing things "in a different light" but what that means exactly is rather vague. The musical interlude in the middle is pleasurable but once again Tony makes me wait until the tail end before things get interesting. "A Curious Feeling" is next but it's a letdown. A boring pop song that says not to listen to anybody who says they know anything, it goes absolutely nowhere.

Another fine instrumental, "Forever Morning" comes along in the nick of time to resuscitate the gasping momentum. It's all Tony on this one and it's a well-thought-out piece tastefully arranged. Not spectacular, mind you, but imaginative all the same. However, it points out something that is becoming obvious about the album and that's Banks' tunnel vision regarding keyboard sounds. They are redundant. At the end of this tune he ascends to a Gershwin-like crescendo where banging on a big ol' Steinway would have been perfect but he stays with the electric, synthesized piano and it fails to climax. A missed opportunity if there ever was one. "You" follows and it's a romantic ballad about our guy finally noticing and falling in love with a girl he's known all his life but "meant nothing when I was younger." The song segues into a fast instrumental section that reminds me of Genesis again but it pales in comparison with where I believe his bandmates Phil and Mike would have taken it. "Somebody Else's Dream" (finally, a rocker!) is next and at last Thompson has been unchained to add some welcome dynamics. Kim's vocal has a little more edge to it as he sings "it's not for me to die with children around my bed after a happy life" because "please to say/love is here today/but it's going away/going away." Not a good turn of events for our hero, I'm afraid, but Tony's music is wonderful on this one.

"The Waters of Lethe" is the final all-music number and it's very pleasing to the ear as he incorporates different themes into the piece. Yet I can't help but think back on Banks' incredible piano playing on Genesis' "The Firth of Fifth" and wonder why he avoids the simple elegance of the acoustic keyboard on this effort. The whole album cries out for some tonal variety but Tony and his producer aren't listening. "For a While" is a light pop shuffle in which the singer tells us that love "sure felt good for a while" but now he's going back to being a loner. It's a quaint little tune and one of the highlights of the record. "In the Dark" is a lonesome ballad that ends things on a tragically sad note (I'm still not sure why the poor dude's love affair went sour) and it leaves me unsatisfied.

Tony Banks is a progressive rock icon but, like others who venture out on their own discover, he is at heart a team player and his best work comes in conjunction and cooperation with other talented composers/musicians. That being said, this is still a better album by far than Patrick Moraz's pitiful "The Story of I" and some of Rick Wakeman's less-than-stellar solo efforts. Others may find it much more entertaining and fulfilling than I do, but for me it's always felt like a one-night stand that just never went any further.

Chicapah | 3/5 |


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