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Triumph (band)

From Academic Kids

Triumph was a Canadian rock band popular in the late 1970s through the 1980s.

Like their fellow Canadians, Rush and Saga, Triumph began building their reputation across North America as a live band, peaking in the early 1980s as an import before interest gradually declined. Today, they are largely forgotten, outside of Canada. The band was formed by Toronto music veterans Gil Moore (b. 1950) (drums/vocals) and Mike Levine (b. 1948) (bass/keyboards), after meeting guitarist/songwriter Rik Emmett (b. 1953) in a manager's office in Toronto in 1975.

Being a power trio, Triumph were often compared to Rush, but at the start, their own brand of heavy rock remained structured and traditional, eschewing concept albums and instrumental improvisation. However, Rik Emmett's eclectic songwriting styles soon revealed his personal tastes ran closer to the heart of progressive rock. Each Triumph album included a classical guitar suite, often the sole highlight amid rather predictable collections of anthems and ballads.

Triumph's bombastic style proved unpopular with rock critics, who paused their harangues against Rush long enough to print more than a few diatribes against them. Rolling Stone reviewers, in particular, were unkind to the Canadian trio, rating their albums as consistently poor. Yet, Rik Emmett's boyish charm and guitar heroics attracted numerous young fans, not to mention high esteem from professional and aspiring guitarists alike. Some also compared his guitar chops to Eddie Van Halen, also a rising star at the time. Another attraction to Triumph's concerts lay in their lavish fireworks displays, courtesy of drummer Gil Moore, a pyrotechnics expert in his own right. Because their stage show proved too large for a support act, Triumph essentially began as a U.S. headliner at San Antonio in 1977.

Triumph's first record deal was signed with Attic Records in Canada. They later signed with RCA Records in the USA that covered everywhere else except Canada. After the RCA deal ended in acrimony, MCA Records picked up the band and re-released all their music to date in 1984. Bassist Mike Levine handled the band's early production, but later Triumph albums would feature more sophisiticated production techniques. After the shift to MCA, the musicians would prove unable to perform much of their later catalogue in concert. Due to the power trio's limitations (particularly their rather threadbare live sound), Triumph later added Rick Santers, a Toronto guitarist/keyboardist, to support their last three tours.

Triumph's self-titled first album is extremely rare, but their widely released second LP, Rock and Roll Machine, received scattered airplay, with a cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way", sung by Gil Moore. For the 1978 American release of Rock and Roll Machine, elements from both albums were combined, including the title track, which remained a concert showcase for Rik's fretwork. Triumph's third album, Just a Game, featured a minor U.S. radio hit, the pleasant folk-rocker "Hold On." Their 1979 album eventually went gold in the U.S., their first glimmer of stardom. Another band favorite, "Lay it on the Line," clinched Rik Emmett's image as the band's frontman. However, 1980's drab, metallic Progressions of Power did not fare quite as well commercially. Gil Moore's "I Live For Weekend" and "I Can Survive" received only sporadic airplay. However, the resultant tour solidified their presence in the U.S. and Great Britain, while paving the road for their three most successful albums.

Both 1981's Allied Forces and 1983's Never Surrender went immediately gold in the U.S. and platinum in Canada, based on their reputation as a live band. However, Triumph also had a string of moderate hit singles in the early 1980s. "Magic Power" and "Fight the Good Fight," both sung by Rik Emmett, became staples on album radio stations, while Never Surrender featured Rik Emmett's "A World of Fantasy" and Gil Moore's blues-rocker "When The Lights Go Down." Following their label change, MCA initially released Thunder Seven on compact disc in 1984, misjudging the new technology's viability in a time where relatively few could afford CD players. Despite two hit singles, Gil Moore's "Spellbound" and "Follow Your Heart," the album failed to achieve expected levels, even when cassette and vinyl copies were later released. Thunder Seven is perhaps the band's high mark, with Rik Emmett's lyrics addressing social concerns in a surprisingly adult context. The entire second side forms a loose concept, focusing on different perspectives of Time. "A Midsummer's Daydream" received numerous accolades for best classical guitar composition. Thunder Seven at last became a RIAA certified gold album in 2003.

in 1985, the band released Stages, a rather wooden live set culled from the previous three tours, with a couple studio tracks, "Mind Games" and "Empty Inside," to flesh out the double-album. However, Triumph would take a commercial turn with their 1986 studio album, The Sport of Kings. For the first time since Rock and Roll Machine, the band relied on outside songwriters for their own material -- a move that all three members would soon regret. They also began to soften their image as tough Canadian rockers, following the examples of successful American bands, such as Styx, Journey, and Night Ranger, the latter group also in the MCA stable. Many hardcore fans were disappointed with the results, although Rik Emmett's affable mid-tempo rocker, "Somebody's Out There," managed to crack the American Top-40 in late 1986, gaining some needed radio and video exposure. Gil Moore's "Tears in the Rain," cut from the same cloth as "Spellbound," did not fare as well. Adding Rick Santers to their line-up, Triumph toured with Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen across the United States. However, cracks had begun to appear on the wall, along with diminishing tour dates.

In 1987, the band attempted a return to form, with Surveillance emerging late in the year. While Gil Moore and Mike Levine remained firmly planted in their trademark blues-rock, Rik Emmett took more of a modern progressive turn, even involving Dixie Dregs and Kansas guitarist Steve Morse. They collaborated on a dual-guitar solo for Gil Moore's angst-ridden "Headed For Nowhere." But the album's lead single, "Long Time Gone," vanished without a trace on U.S. radio, while the ballad "Let the Light (Shine on Me)" only charted in Canada. In early 1989, amid growing disharmony over writing credits and artistic direction, Rik Emmett made a total break with Triumph, yielding any commercial interests in the band's merchandise or property investments. He subsequently begin a modest but distinguished solo career, with his first album, Absolutely, yielding four hits in Canada.

In 1992, the remaining members of Triumph recruited Phil X (Phil Xenides), a Canadian guitarist known for his work with Aldo Nova. However, Gil Moore remained the principal songwriter and lead vocalist for 1993's Edge of Excess, with additional help from guitarist-producer Mladen. Rick Santers also remained on hand as touring keyboardist/vocalist for the 1993 Canadian tour. Triumph's comeback album proved to be a lacklustre collection of rockers and ballads that lacked something of the melodic veneer of their earliest albums. Nevertheless, initial reception from American radio seemed quite favorable, until Triumph's recording label, a subsidiary of Polygram, dissolved unexpectedly in 1993. After this event, members of Triumph effectively disbanded to pursue their careers.

In 1998, Rik Emmett resisted overtures from his former bandmates for a potentially lucrative 20th anniversary U.S. tour. The former Triumph guitarist cited his mistrust of Gil Moore and Mike Levine over their controlling influence in the past, citing their insistence of joint songwriting credits -- including his classical guitar compositions. Nevertheless, Moore and Levine purchased back their entire album catalogue from MCA, and they continue to release live recordings and videos from their long career. Furthermore, Gil Moore and Mike Levine co-own and operate Metal Works Studio in Mississauga; originally built in the 1980s for Triumph's exclusive use, Metal Works has become a well-regarded recording studio across North America.

Discography

Singles

  • 1978 Rocky Mountain Way
  • 1979 Hold On
  • 1979 Lay It On The Line
  • 1980 I Can Survive
  • 1980 I Live For The Weekend
  • 1981 Magic Power
  • 1981 Fight the Good Fight
  • 1982 Say Goodbye/Allied Forces
  • 1983 A World of Fantasy
  • 1984 Follow Your Heart/Stranger In A Strange Land
  • 1985 Spellbound/Cool Down
  • 1986 Somebody's Out There
  • 1986 Tears in the Rain
  • 1987 Just One Night
  • 1987 Long Time Gone
  • 1988 Let The Light (Shine On Me)
  • 1988 Never Say Never/Headed For Nowhere
  • 1992 Trouble Maker
  • 1992 Child Of The City
  • 1993 Somewhere Tonight

Reference

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