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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Work by a Superb Composer
The bridge between classical music and rock is littered with the wrecks of well-intentioned hybrid works that unfortunately end up somewhere in the middle ground between both genres. Often, orchestras will play “the music of . . .” rock acts such as the Rolling Stones, or rock artists themselves will try their hand at composing pieces for an orchestra. Too...
Published on 13 May 2004 by Jerry

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awfully Pleasant
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was heavily into Genesis, and the songs I found most inventive and imaginative tended to be those written by Tony Banks. `Me and Sarah Jane' from the `Abacab' album had a certain orchestral grandeur to it. I was therefore intrigued when I heard that Tony Banks had written a suite for orchestra.

And yet the orchestration...
Published on 14 Jun 2009 by Nicholas Casley


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awfully Pleasant, 14 Jun 2009
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was heavily into Genesis, and the songs I found most inventive and imaginative tended to be those written by Tony Banks. `Me and Sarah Jane' from the `Abacab' album had a certain orchestral grandeur to it. I was therefore intrigued when I heard that Tony Banks had written a suite for orchestra.

And yet the orchestration has been done by Simon Hale. Why? For, it is the orchestration that adds character to the notes; a piece written by Vaughan Williams and orchestrated by him is profoundly different from a piece he has written and orchestrated by someone else. Banks writes in the sleevenotes, "I wanted to make sure that the pieces ended up being a true representation of what I had originally written, even though I know I was going to need the help of an orchestrator." I am surprised that Banks does not consider he has the experience to orchestrate the pieces himself, especially with the software that has been available since the 1980s.

On first hearing, I was disappointed by how twee the suite sounds, at the conservatism and traditionalism on offer. I was reminded of Miss Marple! Is this the music of the twenty-first century? Hardly; it could have been written one hundred years ago. Is Banks making a stake for film soundtrack commissions? But on further hearings, I grew more appreciative of the Englishness of the soundscape, which often mirrors a Home Counties pastorale. By the way, I found it easier to appreciate the pieces by not thinking of their titles; indeed, it would have been better, in my view, to have called the suite `Seven Orchestral Etudes'. They are at best a pleasant set, but I was never moved.

After the opening `Spring Tide', the second piece, `Black Down', orchestrated almost exclusively for strings, opens with hints of Barber's famous adagio, betraying a quiet melancholy, but later transformed into a warmer take on something that hints at Vaughan Williams. Then follows `The Gateway', a lovers' theme for a soundtrack. There is a pleasant theme on the flute; indeed, everything is all oh so pleasant! The climax of the piece brought John Barry to mind.

The fourth piece, `The Ram', is the only allegro and is probably the best of the set. It's a shame that it is not as incisive or as angry or stormy as it could have been. Something grand could have been made of this with its mocking brass and incessant rhythm. It is let down again by too large a dose of pleasantness. The fifth, `Earthlight', is light and fluffy; the sixth, `Neap Tide' starts with rhythms that hint of things becoming interesting, but alas Class FM calls!

The seventh and final track, `The Spirit of Gravity' (yeah, right), at almost twelve minutes, is the longest piece. Despite an interesting opening, we enter the world of what sounds like children's games in a playground. The recapitulation of the opening theme could have been so easily developed into a Bruckner-style chorale, but it fades too soon into Sibelian woodwind trills. The resulting ride through themes heard earlier in the work is, though, quite impressive, and `Seven' ends poignantly unresolved.

The London Philharmonic is conducted by Mike Dixon. There is a fragility often evident in the playing of the pieces, which may or may not have been intended. Banks himself plays the piano. It does not appear on all the tracks and, when it does, it is not too obtrusive; it is merely another instrument in the `pleasant' mix.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Work by a Superb Composer, 13 May 2004
By 
Jerry (Chula Vista, US, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
The bridge between classical music and rock is littered with the wrecks of well-intentioned hybrid works that unfortunately end up somewhere in the middle ground between both genres. Often, orchestras will play “the music of . . .” rock acts such as the Rolling Stones, or rock artists themselves will try their hand at composing pieces for an orchestra. Too often the former ends up sounding like muzak and the latter ends up being largely arranged and orchestrated by others with dubious results. In the end, most fail to engage the listener musically.
Looking at this past history, it is a brave person who seeks to cross the path between these worlds. Seven: A Suite for Orchestra, though, stands out as a prime exception to the general rule. Composer Tony Banks is perhaps best known for his writing and keyboard playing with the progressive rock group Genesis over the last three decades. Seven is his first full orchestral album, and represents the best example of a rock artist crossing over into classical thus far. Generally, there are several reasons why this work succeeds. Banks’ compositions have always favored more complex musical structures that lend themselves to expansion with an orchestra, compared with normal pedestrian three-chord rock structures. Many of Banks’ previous compositions were laden with classical influences such as Rachmaninov and Ravel. Additionally, as Banks explains in the notes accompanying the album, he wrote and arranged the pieces himself and minimally used an orchestrator, Simon Hale. The pieces were written for an orchestra, and are not rock compositions later adapted by an independent arranger. Banks had previously done orchestral music for the film entitled The Wicked Lady in 1983, and instrumental music for several film scores thereafter. Banks also avoided making the album a display of instrumental virtuosity with mere orchestral coloration in the background. Rather, the emphasis here is on composition. Where Banks plays piano, he does so minimally and only to augment the orchestra. The music on Seven also does not pander to the trendy “pop” classical pastures of acts like Bond, and instead has depth and substance. Finally, Banks himself is a listener and aficionado of classical music, and thus Seven is not some whimsical foray into a new genre.
As for the music on Seven, there are seven separate songs that can stand on their own, yet which work as a whole. The musical influences range from Banks’ own instrumental and film work to the English Romanticism of Vaughan Williams. There is also a touch of other 20th Century composers, including Sibelius and Shostakovich. Banks plays piano on three of the tracks: Spring Tide, The Ram, and The Spirit of Gravity. Black Down, which is named after a hill located near Banks’ residence, ranks highly with this listener, as it evokes a dark romanticism throughout. Spring Tide features several interlocked melodies, and its introduction is also an appropriate opening for the album. Another favorite is The Spirit of Gravity, which like much of Banks’ previous instrumental work, progresses through several differing parts while remaining focused in purpose.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra was appropriately selected by Banks—they assist throughout with fervent playing of each piece. The sound is excellent and results from co-producer Nick Davis along with the location of the orchestral recording at Air Lyndhurst, which is an advanced studio with an old Victorian church as its “live room.” Even the painting “Le Pays Avec Arbres” by the late Stefan Knapp was selected by Banks personally and appropriately adorns the cover, thereby completing the whole package.
Therefore, Seven is highly recommended by this listener as a superb work by an excellent composer who should do more within the classical genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Faulty Expectations?, 29 Aug 2007
By 
Q (Harefield, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
I can only imagine that it is my expectations that are at fault. I have loved Tony Banks' work over the years - especially 'Curious Feeling' - and I based my expectations upon what he has done so far - hardly an unreasonable basis. However, all the gorgeous chords and chord-changes, all the scintillating arpeggios and all that wonderful Banks "feeling" - these are mostly conspicuous by their absence. I am very sorry to say that although 'Seven' is pleasant and pastoral, it is, to my ears at least, bland.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full potential unleashed, 11 May 2004
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
I have long considered Tony Banks the key creative force in Genesis, and the man behind some of the most memorable elements of the classic 'prog rock' albums of (gulp) 30 years ago like Foxtrot, Nursery Cryme, and Selling England by the Pound - which by the way still sound pretty good if you like that sort of thing.
With 'Seven', he demonstrates the full range of his melodic gifts and abilities as an arranger. I don't know how the classical 'establishment' would take to this stuff, but if you like (for example) Elgar's Enigma variations, then chances are you would enjoy Seven. I was slightly surprised that that the keyboard elements are so low key, given his background, with the major themese being delivered by strings and woodwind (plus some brass), but the music is none the worse for that. If I had to make a criticism, it is that the seven pieces, while sharing a common style, lack any real unifying or repeating themes, and come across as a collection of separate works - which is, I believe, how they were written. Otherwise a real treat, and very reasonable priced into the bargain.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His finest hour!, 28 Mar 2004
By 
Chris Pearson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
I've been an admirer of Banks since the early 70's when as a classical musician his piano introduction to 'Firth of Fifth' sparked my interest in prog rock.However, this CD is Banks at his best. His style has matured. Yes, the Genesis 'roots' and modulations are there, but also some extremely sensitive and well arranged orchestrations that release and enable the evocative melodies and lyrical themes to soar. There is evidence of Elgar, Finzi, Sibelius and Walton's influence here, plus the movie 'greats', particularly John Williams and Maurice Jarre. This is his finest work-it makes his other solo work,esp Wicked Lady, seem somewhat inconsequential. Buy this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interersting., 25 July 2013
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
Hints of Genesis here and there and a very interesting piece of music. Bought for my husband and we have only listened to it once through. Interesting is probably a better description than enjoyable though - I think you would have to be a bigger classical fan than we are to really get into this.
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3.0 out of 5 stars ok, 22 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
Have listened to this a couple of times but have not rushed to listen to it lately. sounds like a film score
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seven or is it Heaven, 24 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
Here was a pleasantly surprising package from the talented writing of Mr Tony Banks,I was so surprised at the content of this CD and would not hesitate to recommend it to any classical music fan, it really is a a musical adventure and treat to listen to - time and time again - MORE PLEASE Mr Banks
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seven - Tony Banks, 5 Jun 2012
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An excellent compilation of original very pleasing to listen to relaxing music from a person with a history of producing very different sound for a very different audience.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No!, 5 Aug 2006
This review is from: Seven - A Suite for Orchestra (Audio CD)
A long time Genesis fan, I really really wanted this to be good. But frankly, the reviewer that mentions this in the same breath as Vaughan Williams, Shostakovich and Samuel Barber is so far off the mark as to be laughable. As a musician who spent 17 years playing in the best UK orchestras whilst also being a rock fan, I can categorically say that Tony Banks just ain't a classical composer and shouldn't try to be. He writes great songs and has done for getting on for 40 years, but to try to cast him as a classical genius is laughable.

Its a pretty album, but occasionally embarrasing, I'm afraid. His rock solo stuff is where he should be at.
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