October 1979 saw the release of the first official solo album made by Tony Banks. The keyboard player from Genesis made a true masterpiece with A Curious Feeling at the time. Together with Smallcreeps’s Day from Mike Rutherford it was a perfect way to kill the time between two Genesis releases. The band was on a break to give Phil Collins a chance to sort out his personal problems. If Genesis would have split up when singer Peter Gabriel had left the band, we would have enjoyed a solo album from Tony Banks much earlier. History tells us that this did not happen and so songs such as Mad Man Moon, A Trick Of The Tail and Robbery, Assault And Battery were used for A Trick Of The Tail. Not a lot of people know that the song Undertow from And Then There Were Three was the starting point for his first real solo album. A longer intro was written for the song, but never used for the album. This part of the song Tony used for the soundtrack of the movie The Shout, but it turned out not as good as he liked it to be. Everybody who has the first release of A Curious Feeling can hear this strong instrumental piece as the opening tune of the album. He gave it the title From The Undertow and it was the start of a concept story of a man who was gradually losing his mind, but was aware of what was happening to him.
The core of this concept was recorded at the famous Polar Music Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. At the Abba studios Tony got some help from David Hentchell. He had already produced several albums with Genesis and was the perfect man to help him with the production. Live drummer at the time for Genesis was Chester Thompson. Mr Banks asked him to do the drum parts for the album, because that was the only instrument he could not play properly. We know that Tony Banks can sing a little bit himself, but it’s certainly not one of his strongest points. So he looked for a real lead singer who could sing his lyrics. A tape of Kim Bacon singing He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother convinced him to ask this man. Too bad that Kim can not hear this new release, unfortunately he died a couple of years ago. His voice just sounds perfect on this album and certainly lifted the entire album to an even higher level.
I will not mention every track of this great album, but it’s very obvious that the music most of the time is dominated by Tony’s fantastic playing on the keyboards. Most of all the Yamaha electric Grand piano, which was at the time a very popular instrument, can be heard on a lot of the tracks. Also the layers of string synthesizers, which were done to create an orchestral feeling on the instrumental pieces From The Undertow, Forever Morning and The Waters Of Lethe sound very impressive. That he included several awesome synthesizer solo’s is also very obvious. Most of all the ones he did on After Me and You are excellent and reminded me of the solo’s which we can hear on classic Genesis pieces such as Cinema Show and In The Cage. Also Tony’s efforts on the electric and acoustic guitar are worth listening to. Fine examples are the electric guitar parts on For A While and The Waters Of Lethe. However the bass parts sound rather simple and it is clear that he is not a trained bass player.
When you hear the new stereo mix of A Curious Feeling you realise that it sounds even better than in 1979. The music has more depth and more details can be heard. Anybody who has the chance to hear the 5.1 surround version of the same album, which was released as a special version, might even hear more details and sound effects. But unfortunately I did not hear it and so I also could not see the extra video footage made for a promotional film of For A While. But without all those fine extra’s I still will give this album the highest rating possible. As I mentioned earlier, it is just a true masterpiece and most of all a real must for all fans of Genesis. This masterpiece has also a special place in Tony’s heart after all those years as he mentioned in the very nice booklet that comes with this release.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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