on 23 August 2002
This is as good a collection of studio songs that the late, great Irish guitar maestro, Rory Gallagher has produced. Top Priority was Rory's final album of the Seventies and closes was what was a very successful decade for the guitarist in terms of album releases and live performances.
Top Priority features the nine original tracks released in 1979 plus two bonus tracks. All have benefited greatly from re-mastering. The sound is more powerful and decisive than its original vinyl counterpart. Many of the tracks, including 'Follow Me,' 'Wayward Child' and 'Off the Handle,' became vital songs in Rory's live repertoire. Indeed, 'Follow Me' opens the album and sees Rory kicking off at an energetic pace. Others on Top Priority also display a fast-paced Rory concentrating on shorter 'to-the-point' rockers. These include 'At the Depot,' 'Just Hit Town' and the blistering 'Wayward Child,' which features some of the most fluid and inventive soloing that the Irishman has committed to tape. 'Keychain' and 'Off the Handle' fly the flag for Rory's trademark slow blues numbers and, whilst there are no acoustic offerings on this occasion, consolation can be found in the poignant and melancholic delivery of 'Bad Penny.' Even the two medium-paced bonus tracks, 'Hell Cat' and 'The Watcher,' are very welcome additions to the album.
Top Priority is a fine collection of blues-based rock songs that any one new to the Irish guitarist will not find disappointing. Tightly produced with creative soloing makes the album a great introduction to the world of Rory Gallagher and those familiar with his work won't be let down either!
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2012 CD REISSUE ***
"Top Priority" is one of five new 2012 CD, Download and Vinyl reissues covering Rory Gallagher's 'studio' album period at Chrysalis Records between 1975 and 1979. His Polydor Label years (1971 to 1974) were released in full in January 2012 (see list below). The next set of studio and live album reissues are due in early 2013 - all supervised by Donal Gallagher - his brother, tour manager and keeper of the flame.
So what's different? In a nutshell - cheaper price, restored artwork with upgraded packaging and 2012 remastering from the original tapes. Here are the finite details...
Released 24 September 2012 in the UK (9 October 2012 in the USA) - "Top Priority" is on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461452 and comes in a card digipak rather than a jewel case (46:40 minutes total playing time). The original vinyl album was released September 1979 in the UK and USA on Chrysalis CHR 1235 (it charted at number 56 in the UK and Number 140 in the States). "Top Priority" was his 4th studio LP for the British label - continuing on from the blisteringly good run of "Against The Grain" in 1975, "Calling Card" in 1976 and "Photo-Finish" in 1978.
When "Top Priority" was first re-issued on CD by Da Capo in February 1999 - the tapes were remixed and remastered by Tony Arnold - giving it a sound some found a little shrill. That first reissue also altered the original artwork. This time the original tapes have been returned to by ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM and remastered as 'untampered' versions in August 2012 at Wired Masters Studios in London. They've done a great job - the sound is very clear and muscular - still full of piss and vinegar for sure but less showy than before. And the original white sleeve album artwork has been restored in the digipak and inner layout.
The foldout 3-way inlay of 1999 has been replaced with a 2012 12-page booklet with Donal Gallagher's song-by-song liner notes reproduced again. But as well as other colour photos - there's a new inclusion - Michael Davis' article on the album in Creem Magazine from January 1980. The card digipak repros the lovely original album artwork (back and front), the CD itself is a picture disc and there's even a repro live photo beneath the see-through plastic tray that appeared on the lone single issued off the album - "Philby". It looks the business and sounds great too - and for fiver sterling - is a classy little reissue for not a lot of wonga.
Like "Photo-Finish" before it - the album is again co-produced with Alan O'Duffy and the band a three-piece - Gerry McAvoy on Bass and Ted McKenna on Drums while Rory covered everything else - Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica and Dulcimer. All songs are RG originals and have a harder-hitting feel than previous outings. The guitar solo on the really strong opener "Follow Me" for instance is fantastic - and now remastered to its full string-screeching sonic potential (lyrics from it title this review). "Philby" sings of the infamous British spy Kim Philby and sees Rory play an unusual instrument - a 60's Coral Electric Sitar he borrowed from Pete Townshend. Both the fast "Wayward Child" and the stunning slow rocking of "Keychain" have guitar-playing on them that would many sit up and take notice - fab stuff. The frantic pace continues with the rip-roaring layers of "At The Depot" while the chugging "Bad Penny" is typically Rory - and became a huge live staple. A genuine blast is "Just Hit Town" which rocks like a monster and would give ZZ Top or Ted Nugent a run for their money. It ends in the bluesy "Off The Handle" which has a mean streak running through it and wild harmonica warbling and a tribute to a favourite B-movie of his youth "Public Enemy No.1". The two fast-paced studio outtakes "Hell Cat" and "The Watcher" that came with the 1999 version as 'bonus tracks' reappear here and are worthy rocking additions - even if the experimental vocal treatment on "The Watcher" doesn't quite work (and you can hear why it was left in the vaults).
For many - Rory's classic period was with Polydor Records in the early Seventies - and like so many fans - I adore those albums with a passion. But having just waded through all 5 of these 24 Sep 2012 reissues of his Chrysalis studio records - I'm absolutely blown-away by how good they are. While so many rock acts floundered (especially after 1975) - Rory just kept putting out one gem after another. If anything - I'm tempted to say that these albums are where his real genius lies.
Like most Irishmen, I can't be rational about Rory Gallagher. I saw him and his band as a teenager live in Dublin in the early Seventies and the experience was mind-blowing (I'm actually in the audience at Dublin on Irish Tour '74). I then bought every album he ever put out after that and always looked forward to hearing where his flying fingers would take me next.
Rory was sadly lost to us in 1995 through liver failure - and it still hurts to think that this most unassuming and brilliant of guitar heroes is gone. "Top Priority" is a great way to remember him - and frankly the other 4 titles in this 2nd phase are pretty much the same.
All five reissues are whole-heartedly recommended...and what a blindingly great player he was.
PS: the titles in this 2011/2012 CD, Download and LP reissue series so far are:
1. "Rory Gallagher" (originally UK released in May 1971) - REVIEWED
2. "Deuce" (November 1971) - REVIEWED
3. "Live! In Europe" (May 1972)
4. "Blueprint" (February 1973)
5. "Tattoo" (November 1973) - REVIEWED
6. "Irish Tour '74" (July 1974) [2LP set on 1CD - Sides 1 to 3 are Live - Side 4 is Studio Jams]
7. "Against The Grain" (October 1975) - REVIEWED
8. "Calling Card" (August 1976) - REVIEWED
9. "Photo-Finish" (October 1978) - REVIEWED
10. "Top Priority" (September 1979) - REVIEWED
11. "Jinx" (April 1982) - REVIEWED
1 to 6 released January 2012 on CD and Download. 180-gram vinyl versions of each were also made available 27 February 2012 on the "Music On Vinyl" Label
7 to 11 released September 2012 on CD and Download. Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions of each will be made available 22 October 2012 on the "Music On Vinyl" Label
on 2 June 2006
Well, folks, you know that anything by Rory is going to be worth listening to, but if you are anything like me, you play the CDs to death for a year and then file them under "indispensible". What happened here is that my daughter, having seen Fall Out Boy live in Newport last Friday, grubbed about in the cars and the cupboards to see what was about from Dad's prehistoric era and came up with Top Priority. Fall Out Boy, with the relentless thrash and monochord banging, failed to ignite the senses, so to speak. They also left me deaf and numb from the ridiculous volume they played at - made Cream seem like Freddie and the Dreamers (RIP, Freddie).
I had forgotten just how accomplished this little-promoted collection is. My band used to perform Follow Me, and it's a great powerful surge to the record, with some quite extraordinary guitar pyrotechnics from Rory. It's actually got a very good tune, too, and it's fun to see Gerry McAvoy singing harmonies on the chorus on the Live At Cork video - with Rory and Gerry cracking up when they get the sequence wrong! Philby continues Rory's fascination with spies, molls and the underworld and then the whole album continues with a collection of Rory's usual interests, all performed well.
I gather that the collection was recorded in a very short time and occasionally the production values are not perfect. What is nearly perfect is the playing. Rory is on fire, and, as always, his faithfull band is exemplary. This CD is a timely reminder of just how exceptional Rory and his bands were, and the new wave of punk thrashers would do very well to listen to his control, dynamics, words and, it has to be said, incredible ability. They won't, of course, and will continue to deafen and batter their teeny audience into submission which is a great shame - because my 13 year old daughter is going around singing Follow Me and she is the winner.
A lovely CD. Not a duff moment, really.
on 10 December 2013
I had this in a kind of box set, 5 cd's in a sleeve, I wanted the remastered one so I had the sleeve notes which I didn't have. Its Rory, in case no-one has figured yet, I am a HUGE Rory fan, just love everything he did, haven't heard anything I don't like - just brilliant.
on 9 December 2009
It all seems so old school now doen't it? You know, bands.Bands that played instruments.And were good at it.And, you know, write songs.Proper songs.Like Wayward Child, and Follow me,good solid driving songs with cracking guitar work from The G Man. Another reviewer mentioned control and ability and that is exactly it.(He also mentioned pyrotechnics, and Rory aint too shabby there either)Its the difference between good rock, and great rock and that dear reader is what this album is. It's great Rock.Buy it play it savour it.It's an album to be enjoyed not admired. It's fun too. Try resisting steering wheel guitar on wayward child.You can't can you? can you? Thought not.