Records That Made History

Rory Gallagher – Top Priority

todayDecember 2, 2023 83

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Top Priority is the tenth album by Rory Gallagher. It was his fourth and final studio album with Chrysalis Records. The album was the second with the renewed trio, himself on vocals, guitar, harmonica and electric sitar, Gerry McAvoy on bass and Ted McKenna on drums.

Like the previous album Photo-Finish, Top Priority, released only a year later, is Gallagher’s return to hard rock. The ballads, acoustic and folk influences that were present on albums such as Calling Card are replaced by more ordinary but powerful rock.

With Gallagher then spending much of his time on the road, it is admirable that he was able to continue to unfold the exciting high quality music he wrote for this album.

Playing the bigger arenas has resulted in his songs becoming harder and more aggressive, almost all of which here, are high octane and jersey sweaty. Although this results in exciting and intense music, the relentless live energy rush is never balanced by a ballad or even the original, swampy blues that Gallagher has always played with unparalleled skill. So, although the opening powerful solo on “Follow Me”, the slower tempo on “Keychain” and the melodic, relatively thin and hard rock beat of “Bad Penny” were notable additions to Gallagher’s concert catalog.

The lack, on the other hand, of acoustic or less aggressive music gives the album a one-point feel. So, Gallagher and his duo were in top form, churning out the songs with supremely pure energy. Rory shouts more than he sings, but his voice is still powerfully expressive, particularly on “Just Hit Town” where he transcends the patented guitar playing and his blues-rock vocal screams make him sound like he’s on fire.

Gallagher also plays excellent harmonica for the first time on “Off The Handle”, one of the album’s most famous tracks, and sounds equally enthusiastic throughout. Despite the lack of variety, Top Priority remains a strong album from the Irishman and is highly recommended to his less bluesy fans.

The album’s title reflects the pressure Gallagher often felt when it came to the business side of his music. After the release of Photo-Finish, Gallagher’s band had a successful tour of the United States, which resulted in the best reviews both abroad and at home.

Chrysalis was keen to keep this momentum going, so she encouraged Rory to release a studio album soon, telling him she would make it a “Top Priority” and actively promote it. To remind the company executives of their promise, Gallagher used their phrase for the album’s title.

The song “Philby”, which we are selecting from this album, was based on Kim Philby, who was a famous cold war double agent for the Soviets. The song is an example of the charm that was exercised on Gallagher by men outside the social circle. For the guitar solo on this song, Gallagher used a Coral electric sitar borrowed from Pete Townshend to give it a better Eastern Bloc feel.


Follow Me                   4:41

Philby                          3:51

Wayward Child           3:31

Keychain                     4:09

At The Depot              2:57

Bad Penny                   4:03

Just Hit Town              3:37

Off The Handle           5:37

Public Enemy No 1      3:46


Written by: Dimitris Sigalos

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