October 5, 2007

tp Part 1 of an interview with Paul Sorvino, executive producer of “Top Priority – Anthology: 1974-76”, scheduled for official release on the Kittyhawk Productions label later this year:

Q: How difficult was it to find material sufficient enough to satisfy the die-hard fans of Top Priority?

PS: Actually, it wasn’t difficult at all, considering there really are no die-hard fans of Top Priority to speak of.

Q: Given the fact you had enough material for multiple CDs, how did you choose the ones that ended up on the Anthology?

PS: Easy, I simply listened to all the material available to me and picked the numbers most representative of the band’s various stages of existence and least offensive to my ears.

Q: Was there anything about the Top Priority tape archives that surprised you?

PS: Yes, the sheer lack of tunes that weren’t offensive to my ears.

Q: What will Top Priority’s fans find most surprising about this CD?

PS: That I was able to find 21 songs that wouldn’t cause dogs to howl and mothers to board up their windows and hide their children.

Q: OK, let’s take the tracks one at a time. You started off with their cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”. Why?

PS: It was their trademark song, if you will. This version features a solid Ken “The Cat” McDougal vocal and an exciting Ken Sandler lead solo. There were other versions available to me without Sandler’s guitar on it, but they just didn’t radiate in the same way.

Q: “Green Onions”…

PS: An early instrumental by the band with three guitarists – Sandler, “The Cat”, and “The Bouch” all making a decent enough go at it. One of the surprises of the tapes, incidentally, was that no one could ever recall these three guitarists ever playing in the same room together; this recording bears that fact out, so that in and of itself was kind of amazing – not just to me, but to Vince [Ed. note: Vincent N. Cugini, recording engineer for the project] and Doug [Richard, mixdown producer] as well.

Q: “And I Love Her”…

PS: Another fairly good representation of the band’s early ‘three guitar’ sound. Ken Sandler sings the lead and, while somewhat lacking in verve, it is sung both sincererly and on key. You don’t find THAT very often in the band’s archives…

Q: “Blue Suede Shoes”…

PS: I chose this track because it featured only three players – Mark Richard on drums, Doug Richard on bass and singing lead, and Ken Sandler on fuzz guitar. What they were trying to do, only God knows, but what the song lacks in brevity it makes up for in enthusiasm.

Q: “Green River/Susie Q”…

PS: Actually, this is not a bad cover at all. The Cat’s vocal is spot on, the guitar work by the three guitarists once again provide decent cover, and Sandler’s lead solos throughout are interesting enough. This is the one cut, by the way, where The Bouch’s guitar actually adds something to the song, during the transition from “Green River” to “Susie Q”. Almost makes it a cut above standard garage fare.

Q: “Jackie Blue”…

PS: I chose this song not only because it came as a complete surprise to me – there was no prior indication whatsoever of the song’s existence on tape – but also because it’s the only song in the Top Priority archives with The Bouch’s unique guitar sound: thin, clipped, and utterly void of any kind of underlying creativity whatsoever. He plays it straight, and the band does nothing to overcome it. While his vocals (shared with The Cat) are sung on key, the song limps along to a close and serves as an example of Boucher’s contribution to the Top Priority legacy.

Q: “Let Me Be There”…

PS: The first of several live performances of the band chosen from a gig recorded at the Billerica Masonic Temple sometime after The Bouch’s departure from the group. Here, the band was playing a party for a primarily adult audience, so we hear a lot of their adult/wedding material. This instrumental, which apparently kicked off the band’s performance that night, rolls along cheerily to the point where you start wondering what the bride and groom have chosen to feed the invited guests; perhaps that’s why I had a craving for stuffed chicken while hearing this song. Some some inventive bass lines by Doug Richard help underscore the song’s rhythm.

Q: “Sloop John B”…

PS: Barely passable vocals by Doug and The Cat, but decent enough instrumentation throughout. There’s something about their rendition that doesn’t sound right to me – the drums come in full on the second verse instead of the chorus, as one would expect, but my guess is this is being done to either make up for the lame vocal work, or gin up some excitement from the crowd. Probably a little of both…

Q: “Get Back”…

PS: Once more, the band tries hard and musically gives a good enough accounting of itself, but the vocals are just so-so. One saving grace here is the keyboard work by “Keys” Palma; he does a fine Billy Preston impersonation, and Mark’s drums are Ringo Starr-solid.

Q: “Saturday Night”…

PS: First of all, let me say I couldn’t believe this choice of a song – I mean, the Bay City Rollers? Who did they think their audience was – twelve year olds? Nevertheless, the band does a fine version of this song with much enthusiasm, and it was obviously well received. One interesting note: that’s Doug’s and Mark’s aunt, the famous “Auntie Marge” of Billerica fame who is heard on the fade telling the band their performance was “better than the record”…

Q: “Wild Fire”…

PS: Starting with the previous track, I call this part of the Anthology “Drowning in the Seventies”. Another mundane choice of song by a band that, frankly, could have chosen better. I mean, the actual released song [Ed. note: a one-hit wonder by Michael Murphy] wasn’t much to write home about to begin with! Nevertheless, The Cat’s vocal is earnest, surviving some shaky harmonies on the chorus, and the band makes a pleasant enough go at it.

Q: You sound disappointed in the material that was available to you…

PS: Well, it is important to keep in mind that these recordings date from the early and mid-70s, so one shouldn’t be surprised at some of the material chosen. In addition, the band really was never a “rock” band, per se. It was, after all, The Bouch’s desire that they be a wedding/Top 40 band, so their material was simply a reflection of that time and the work they had done as a band. So, while one wonders what they could have done with better material, it is, as they say, what it is.


Tomorrow: Part 2 of the Sorvino interview.

Filed in: Top Priority - News! by vcugini at 01:13 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. […] Originally, this book, to be published by Kittyhawk Productions‘ own publishing arm, Permanent Press, was due for release in late 2007, but unforeseen delays caused by all sorts of things – you know, the need for further interviews with the band members, trips to the supermarket, increased solar activity, etc. – have delayed its expected release (not to mention the official launch of the Top Priority website) until the spring of 2008. Patience is the key word here, rabid fans! […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » Top Priority Update — February 19, 2008 @ 9:44 am

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