Red Priest's Priest on the Run was its first album, released in 1998 on Dorian Records with harpsichordist Julian Rhodes as a member of the group. Red Priest has since taken on its own destiny in terms of recordings and has released several discs, and this reissue of Priest on the Run occupies the first catalog number on its own label, Red Priest Recordings. Several things have happened in the interim: first, Julian Rhodes tragically succumbed to cancer at age 36 in 2001, and the Dorian label went belly up soon after that. It is certainly worthwhile to have this album back in circulation again, and the cover image is far stronger than that on the original Dorian album, which was an image of Vivaldi standing in the foreground. The only problem was that it made you think it was an album devoted to Vivaldi, which it is not, although his Chamber Concerto in D, RV 92, subtitled "Priest on the Run," is included and provides the collection with its heading.
However, the album does establish Red Priest's basic approach; the group's take on Baroque music is highly energetic, involved, and popularly oriented; playing at very high speeds or bursting into passages of improvised music is not anathema to them and to entertain appears to be their main guiding principle, not wonky matters of historical correctness. The group does not assemble programs according to historical relationships between composers or works; the effect of the program is the main motivating factor: whether a piece is edgy, exciting, or can be made to rock out, though it does play slower movements with sensitivity. This being its first album, it is not perhaps perfect; between the sparklingly eccentric Castello Sonata terza, the effervescent Telemann "Gypsy" Sonata, and the hyperactive Vivaldi title work there are occasional moments that seem to sag under uncertain tempo choices and other vagaries, but not many. The sheer bravery of the group in taking Baroque music as far as it can is in itself impressive, and Red Priest Recordings' Priest on the Run is well worth the time of both those into the Baroque and others who are just wondering why you can't find classical music that you can shake your booty to; with this album, there are parts where you almost can.