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119. Priority – The Imperials


The Imperials

Life is not fair!

Every child has heard that said countless times by a coach, friend and parent. One obvious proof of this is the vocal instrument God gave to Russ Taff as it compares to nearly everyone else that has walked the face of the earth!

With priority, Russ Taff makes his swan song with the famed Imperials and does so with a bang. Quite frankly there is not a bad song among the lot. Great pop and soulful rockers and soaring and inspirational ballads. all of it, though, rests in the capable vocal chords of Taff.

The album kicks off with the true classic, Trumpet of Jesus. Seriously it just unfair what Taff can do and it is never more painfully obvious than on this anthem. Great horn section, killer backing vocals and huge wall of sound production that was a scarce commodity at the time.

The album does slip at times when Taff does not command the lead vocal responsibility, though, to be honest, it is only noticeable because of his presence. One great stand out song not headed up by Taff is “I’d rather Believe In You.”

When Taff takes on ballads, the most subdued simplicity is just stunning. This is most notable on Be Still My Soul. The groups harmonies set against Taff’s most subtle passion works perfectly.

The best of the Taff lead Imperial albums also marks his last. It also marks the very best in the groups long and heralded career. Following albums would always suffer from Taff’s leaving though many great vocalists would follow, they simply did not measure up and the band also refused to change with the times. But even 30 years later, this album rings true.

  1. Brett C
    March 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned is that this is another great production by Michael Omartian. His contribution to this album is immense. His talent is unmatched as a Producer, Arranger and as a Musician.
    I’m a big fan of Russ Taff too but interestingly my favourite track on the album is “I’d Rather Believe in You” 🙂

  2. TopekaRoy
    March 11, 2011 at 7:42 am

    This is a great album and certainly deserves to be about here on your list. But for the first time in almost 400 records, I have to take you to task a little bit.

    “Heed the Call” didn’t make your list and I understand that. It wasn’t a great album but may contain The Imperials’ best song ever in “Praise the Lord.” For that reason alone It probably should have made the list (Maybe around 450 or so) but I can see leaving that album off the list.

    What I can’t see is how “Sail On’ didn’t even crack your top 500! Your statement that “The best of the Taff lead Imperial albums also marks his last.” leads me to believe that this is the last Imperials album on the list.

    In addition to the title track, “Water Grave,” “Keep on Walking,” and “Bread upon the Water” are great songs. The ballads “More Each Day’ and “Satisfaction Guaranteed” were both good enough that they could have been secular hits at the time.

    I listened to “Priority” again after I read your review, and I agree with everything you said here. Then I thought maybe I am making “Sail On” out in my head to be better than it really was. I just listened to it again and I don’t think I did.

    I understand everyone has different tastes and I’m not a big fan of Southern Gospel myself. I know with a list even this large a lot of deserving albums won’t make the cut for a variety of reasons. I’m just curious to hear your reasoning as to why “Sail On” was one of them.

    Great Job overall. I can’t to see what’s in the top 100!

  3. Brian
    March 14, 2011 at 3:24 am

    The single most important album in my early Christian life
    I was in my Honeymoon stage as a Christian and I was in love with every song on this one.
    Russ Taff won my appreciation from this work alone.

  4. Don
    May 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Great album, is all I can add – more of an echo than an addition. This one and the previous one “One More Song” were classic in my opinion

  5. Greenchili
    January 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    No doubt Russ Taff’s vocals alone definitely elevate alot of songs beyond a level that mere mortals would not be able to accomplish!

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