Triumph - The Sport of Kings
(1 reader vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

by Tim Durling

Triumph - The Sport of Kings review

Released: 1986
Label: MCA
Producer: Mike Clink

Rik Emmett - lead vocals, guitars
Mike Levine - bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Gil Moore - lead vocals, drums

Dug this chestnut out to send an mp3 of "Just One Night" to the radio station to fix the one they had...bad I figured while it was out I'd give it a spin. I've always had a soft spot for this band, who've unfortunately been relegated to "Canada's 'Other' Power Trio" after you-know-who. I've never understood the comparison myself, just chalked it up to sloppy, lazy journalism. "Oh here's another Canadian band with three members, let's call them 'a junior Rush' even though they sound nothing like them and are altogether different in their approach." Much like when Rolling Stone or other idiots call 2112 a concept album even though the second half is simply five songs without a unifying theme. Wow Tim, get up early a what a cranky bitch you can be!!

Anyhoo, this album has been the subject of much criticism from arch-Triumph fans who call it a sellout. Well, yes and no it's definitely more pop-oriented but were really Triumph ever that heavy? People make it sound as if they went from Black Sabbath to Bon Jovi, not really the case. One of my problems with it is the proliferation of outside writers on this album, but to be fair Triumph do make those songs their own. What really bothers me is the beginning of a trend which climbed vine-like all over their next (and final with the classic far) album Surveillance. DRUM MACHINES...I can't believe I never noticed it when I was younger. Gil Moore was never that great a drummer, he did the job, and that's not a slam on him because I always enjoyed his vocals, I thought they meshed perfectly with the higher range of guitarist Rik Emmett. But either play the drums yourself or get Mickey Curry in for goodness sake, don't use a machine!! Especially these mid-80s ones which couldn't hold enough memory to do more than one drum fill per song. Ugh...anyway, here's the track listing...

1) Tears in the Rain - The synth tones let you know that this definitely isn't Allied Forces, but the guitars and drums kick in soon enough. Good pop rock song.
2) Somebody's Out There - Triumph's most successful single ever, this hit #27 in the U.S. Pop Charts, and deservedly so. Incredibly catchy melody, I always thought this song would have done better if it had been released in the early summer instead of fall which it was.
3) What Rules My Heart - Into the mid-tempo stuff a little early, this song rocks hard enough but the melancholy vibe would permeate into most of the remainder of the album.
4) If Only - Very light rocker, saved my some great melodic guitar lines from Emmett, who is kind of the Canadian version of Neal Schon (who comes into play later in this review), a player who can shred with the best of them but is also capable of incredible melody. I suppose the comparisons between Triumph and Rush could also have to do with the fact that Rik Emmett and Geddy Lee both have ridiculously high voices, but even then they don't sound the same.
5) Hooked on You - My old guitar-playing buddy Joe always used to joke around with me on this song, called it "Hooked on Phonics" but never mind. I have to say, for an album released in 1986 the production, drums specifically (when real that is) sound really good, did you catch the production credit? Yes that's right, Mike "G N'R" Clink, and this is one of the earliest albums I know of him producing.
6) Take a Stand - Big-time fans of Canadian hard rock will recognize the name Rick Santers, one of the co-writers of this song. Not only did Rick tour with Triumph as a backup guitarist, but he had his own self-titled band in the early 80s. If you can find it, check out their 1982 album "Racing Time", "Mistreatin' Heart is a cool, cool, cool song. But anyway, this is one of the few songs on this album that could be called "vintage Triumph" indeed if such a term exists. A lot of their best known songs could be classified as anthems, and this one's no exception.
7) Just One Night - ...and speaking of Neal Schon, he co-wrote this excellent, slightly R&B based ballad, which became Triumph's most heavily played song on Canadian radio. This song was originally recorded (and co-written) a year earlier by none other than Eric Martin, from his self titled Capitol album. It was years before I actually heard his version of it, much lighter and in a higher key but man does he ever sing the hell out of it. But I still prefer the Triumph version, a little tougher and Gil sounds good.
8) Embrujo (instrumental) - And what would a Triumph album be without a guitar instrumental?
9) Play With the Fire - Probably the heaviest song on the album, unfortunately the song (for me) is hampered by the use of drum machines. Give it a listen, fills are minimal. Still a powerful song, I've always preferred Rik Emmett's voice when he's kicking ass.
10) Don't Love Anybody Else But Me - This might fit in the guilty pleasure department. This (non band written) song is a fine, melodic AOR song, but it's way too light for Triumph. Would sound completely appropriate on a Boston album, in fact the interlocking guitar lines are slightly reminiscent of "Peace of Mind"-- having said that I don't normally skip it.
11) In the Middle of the Night - Very mellow album closer, another power ballad, which at least the band wrote themselves.

So there you go, the second to last Triumph album with the original lineup, a lineup I thought would have never reunited, but they did.


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