This is goign to be a brief review, as I don’t have the full album to review yet. When I do get it, I’ll go back and review the whole thing properly. I’m just so excited to have some Tony Banks to listen to (and critique), I couldn’t wait.
For those like me who love Tony’s rock music, this may be a bit of a letdown, as this is his second album in a row of purely orchestral pieces, which would seem to confirm that he is finished with writing pop songs, more’s the pity. Nevertheless, I have a deep and abiding love of orchestral music as well, so I’m eager to give this a chance. My feeling about his previous orchestral album was that it hewed a little too close to the styles of other composers’ works, with very little of his ‘voice’ in the pieces. I’m eager to hear whether he asserts himslef a little more with this piece. So let’s get started.
THE REVIEW: Pastoral strings and oboe open in a figure that sounds so very much like Tony Banks, it’s like the aural version of fingerprints can be heard all over this piece. Not derivative, although the key motif and arrangement are reminiscent of Before the Undertow and certain segments of the Wiked Lady (obviously). I also hear little minor key figures not unlike Evidence of Autumn, which happens to be one of my all-time favourite Tony Banks compositions, so it’s not hurting me one bit.
I think I also heard little snippets that could be related to certain melodies on the Still album. Nevertheless, the piece is both familiar and yet strange, because it’s not like his pop music and it isn’t very much like his prog music, and not simply because of the lack of drums and guitars. The finale of the piece reminds me of the close of Duke’s End, but again, it’s like looking at a distant decendant in a certain light and being reminded of someone who is no longer living.
Something about the piece suggests that it could very easily have been a song with very little change to the overall style or arrangement. Phil once said Tony writes music that needs to be sung, and while I don’t agree with him 100%, over the years I’ve seen this statement borne out time and again. Tony is a very melodic writer, and his melodies suggest lyrical performances even when there are none, which is not common to instrumental music.
All in all, a beautiful piece that makes a series of very graceful shifts without ever feeling like something a prog songwriter cobbled together from various parts. I’m thoroughly looking forward to hearing the whole album. Tony is one of my greatest influences, though I will say, I’m not sure this will be my album of the year. Nevertheless, it’s gorgeous, and I’ll definitely be giving it a few spins when I finally get my hands on it.