Sunday, 23 September 2012

“Top Priority” by RORY GALLAGHER (September 2012 Sony/Capo/Legacy CD - Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...


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"…Won't You Follow Me…Where I'm Bound…"

"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" by RORY GALLAGHER on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461452 (Barcode 88725461452) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and new Remaster. It comes in a card digipak (rather than a jewel case) and features two Bonus Tracks (46:40 minutes): 

1. Follow Me
2. Philby
3. Wayward Child 
4. Keychain 
5. At The Depot 
6. Bad Penny [Side 2]
7. Just Hit Town 
8. Off The Handle
9. Public Enemy No. 1
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.

BONUS TRACKS: 
10. Hell Cat 
11. The Watcher 

SOUND:
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. 

PACKAGING:
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. 

MUSIC: 
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". 

BONUSES: 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. 

The Eleven Titles in the 2012 RORY GALLAGHER Remasters Series
CD Digipaks, Downloads and 'Music On Vinyl' LPs:

16 January 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
1. "Rory Gallagher" (May 1971 debut) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917352 (Barcode 886919173529)
2. "Deuce" (November 1971 2nd studio LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917372 (Barcode 886919173727)
3. "Live! In Europe" (May 1972 1st Live LP) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917432 (Barcode 886919174328)
4. "Blueprint" (February 1973, 3rd studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917452 (Barcode 886919174526)
5. "Tattoo" (November 1973, 4th studio album) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917462 (Barcode 886919174625)
6. "Irish Tour '74" (July 1974, 2nd Live Set, 2LPs onto 1CD) – released January 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88691917472 (Barcode 886919174724)

27 February 2012 VINYL:
1 to 6 above also released 27 February 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

24 September 2012 CD DIGIPAK and DOWNLOAD:
7. "Against The Grain" (October 1975, 5th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461492 (Barcode 887254614920)
8. "Calling Card" (August 1976, 6th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461472 (Barcode 887254614722)
9. "Photo-Finish" (October 1978, 7th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461462 (Barcode 887254614623)
10. "Top Priority" (September 1979, 8th studio album) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461452 (Barcode 88725461452)
11. "Jinx" (April 1982) – released September 2012 on Sony/Capo/Legacy 88725461432 (Barcode 887254614326)

22 October 2012 VINYL: 
7 to 11 above also released 22 October 2012 on Limited Edition 180-gram vinyl versions on the "Music On Vinyl" Label

PPS: Most of the eleven above have been reissued since in standard jewel cases – but have different catalogue numbers and barcodes (the jewel case barcode issue for “Deuce” fro instance is 886919369625 and is minus the two bonus tracks). So if you want the ‘digipak’ repro artwork versions – use the Barcodes provided above...

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