The Right Honourable 2018
Affirmative denial of career that lay in no-man’s land for a guitar man who could have the world at his feet.
Less than two years spent with YES, a band Peter Banks helped create, would be a blessing and a curse for any musician – only he didn’t care. It may have overshadowed his further oeuvre – but it was too sporadic to take umbrage at fate. The fate that prevented his next ensemble, FLASH, from shining commercially, and another one, EMPIRE, to rise at all. He didn’t bother with a solo career, either, yet if Peter’s personal output seemed meager, the records released under Banks’ name contain many precious gems, the pieces gathered now on the two discs which don’t diverge from the great late artist’s individual path and venture into collective territory.
The first CD is mostly focused on his oft-overlooked '90s output – the “Instinct” / “Self-Contained” / “Reduction” trilogy that found him toiling away on his own and exploring fusion rather than prog rock of yore. Fantastically evocative, these tracks may open a new, overtly romantic perspective on Banks’ ability to blind the listener with filigree lines and intricate melodies – unpredictable and unexpected. The Saracen scene in “All Points South” conceals an unhurried, flamenco-flavored reverie in its many layers, while the Eastern patterns in a couple of parts from “It’s All Greek To Me” aspire for even more adventurous cadences, yet the funky fizz and surf twang which drive “The Age Of Distortion” could feel futile if they weren’t also delicately squeezed into the synthetic buzz of “Tone Down” alongside wah-wah wigout and tribal groove
For the sheer energy, nothing can beat “Knights” – the highlight of "Two Sides" – where Peter’s six-string harmony directs the blistering attack and blissful respite from his FLASH fraternity, Ray Bennett and Mike Hough, and he wouldn’t get lost in the stellar line-up on this track’s brief reprise, featuring John Wetton, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins. Still, no matter how Banks liked to challenge himself, it’s on his own that the axeman shone the brightest, as his latter-day streamlined, yet splashy, instrumental returns to aforementioned band’s smash “Small Beginnings” – encompassing a stunning variety of styles and tempos – or YES’ “Astral Traveller” suggest, the former epic created totally solo, which clearly was a different kind of challenge, and the latter in the company of Robert Berry.
To be surrounded with kindred spirits obviously meant a great deal to him, as well as humor, and the collection’s second CD can be a testament to that. Blinding smile and brilliant technique shape “Massive Trouser Clearance” whose onslaught is as impressive as Banks’ complex interplay with Martin Briley’s bass and Colin Towns’ ivories on “Warning: Rumble Strips” and unusually wild solo on Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme” – recorded on-stage in 1980 and implying a whole cache of live tapes is waiting to be released. Instead, there’s a few cuts that don’t have any real tune attached, so the inclusion of a couple loops outside an album context doesn’t make a lot of sense, and a smattering of previously unreleased numbers don’t add much to the legend, although the extended versions of “As Night Falls” and “Endless Journey” come across as a display of Peter’s fluid, often fragile, otherworldly delivery.
Upon hearing it all, further investigation might be in order – a pity, the rediscovery of Peter Banks arrived after his demise.