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Seven - A Suite for Orchestra
Format: Audio CD|Change
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 June 2009
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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on 8 June 2015
Very good.Tony has always been the quiet man at the side playing keyboards.This shows him in a new light,having written and produced a superb piece of classical music.I hope Tony continues this avenue as it is his best solo album by far. n.g.
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on 22 July 2016
Not worth saying much about this un-impressing music.
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on 17 November 2016
lovely cd .
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on 16 January 2016
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on 25 July 2013
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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on 24 June 2012
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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on 22 February 2013
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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on 21 March 2016
Wonderful album with haunting themes.
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on 11 May 2004
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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