The Canadian hard-rock power trio Triumph stands out as a visionary, uniquely influential entity among their fellow brethren. Virtuoso musicianship, soaring melodies and exceptional songs with a positive perspective and outstanding live shows made vocalist/guitarist Rik Emmett, bass guitarist/keyboardist Mike Levine and vocalist/drummer Gil Moore destined for stardom. They defined and epitomized arena rock.
Individually, Emmett, Levine and Moore received countless accolades for their instrumental abilities. Their creative prowess manifested itself in other outlets as well. Levine co-produced some of the band’s early work. Emmett became a cartoonist for Hit Parader magazine. Moore designed Triumph’s phenomenal live show, which consistently evolved over the years and always utilized state-of-the- art lighting, laser and pyrotechnic effects. In fact, Triumph received the influential Performance Magazine’s “Innovators of the Year” award in 1981 for the unique way they changed the arena rock landscape.
Triumph formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1975 after a chance meeting led Emmett, Levine and Moore to embark on a marathon jam session. They immediately decided to form a band and the debut ‘Triumph’ was released in 1976 on Attic Records. Triumph’s gift for delicate, intricate pieces and blistering raveups was evident on this first album. Blinding Light Show features mellow acoustic passages but was a prophetic song title considering the senses-stunning concerts the band was soon to perfect. “Street Fighter” is a full-bore rocker.
The second album, Rock ‘N’ Roll Machine, followed in 1977. The title track is a standout due in large part to Emmett’s light-speed guitar solo. Also included are a cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” and the two-part “New York City Streets” and the adventurous epic medley “The City.”
Triumph’s initial popularity developed in an unusual way. Both Triumph and Rock ‘N’ Roll Machine were first released only in Canada and garnered significant airplay in Texas. The “Lone Star State” has always been a prime U.S. market for hard rock and fans responded so favorably that Triumph specifically undertook a Texas tour to promote Rock ‘N’ Roll Machine.
RCA Records signed Triumph on the strength of the positive buzz generated and the band’s steadily increasing notoriety, and in 1978 released a compilation off the first two albums titled Rock ‘N’ Machine. In 1979, the album Just a Game was a commercial breakthrough. It generated the band’s first Billboard Top 40 hit single, “Hold On.” Another notable single was “Lay It On the Line,” which was a smash at rock radio. Just a Game really solidified Triumph’s relationship with their fans and rock radio. The album was certified gold, the band’s first in the US.
Next up was 1980’s Progressions of Power and its single “I Can Survive.” The sizzling anthem “I Live for the Weekend” was a big hit in the United Kingdom and a Friday-at-5:00 staple in the United States.
1981 saw Triumph explode into the mainstream with Allied Forces. It immediately went gold and eventually platinum. This album became a critical and commercial smash, reaching # 23 on the Billboard charts. Its standout song, “Magic Power,” was a hit single and “Fight the Good Fight” was another fan favorite. Both songs are still staples at rock radio.
Never Surrender followed in 1983 and went gold due in part to rock radio’s airplay of the powerful “A World of Fantasy.” It was during the Never Surrender tour that Triumph took part in the US Festival in San Bernardino, California. The band was a cornerstone of what became popularly known as the festival’s “Heavy Metal Sunday” on May 29, 1983. An estimated crowd of 500,000 people rocked along to Triumph as well as Van Halen, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and Quiet Riot.
Triumph and RCA parted ways and the band signed with MCA Records. Thunder Seven — appropriately titled since it was the band’s seventh album — was released in 1984. Triumph co-produced Thunder Seven with legendary producer and engineer Eddie Kramer, famed for his work with Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss and others. The album became another gold seller, with the popular single “Follow Your Heart,” and another highlight, “Spellbound.” The tour was arguably Triumph’s most awe-inspiring, as it was a sold-out trek that showed once and for all that the group was one of the few arena headlining acts that truly pushed intricate lighting and lasers to the max.
After a decade together as one of the most popular live acts of the time, the long overdue double live album Stages was issued in 1985. The songs were recorded on the road between 1981 and 1985.
1986’s The Sport of Kings marked a career high point when the infectious “Somebody’s Out There” reached # 27, becoming a major hit single. “Just One Night” was a Top 10 smash on MTV’s video chart. The muscular “Tears in the Rain” also thrilled the Triumph faithful. The Sport of Kings was produced by Mike Clink, who followed this project with Guns ‘N Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ due in part to his work with Triumph.
Surveillance hit the streets in 1987. With this album, Triumph broadened its studio approach by adding guest guitarist Steve Morse (formerly of the Dixie Dregs and a member of Kansas at the time), who dueled with Emmett on “Headed for Nowhere”.
In 1988, Emmett left Triumph to pursue a solo career. The best-of album Classics was released in 1989 and still another gold album was added to Triumph’s tally. While there is no denying the greatness of the material included on Classics, it was a set that was issued to fulfill the group’s contractual commitment with the label, and as a result, was not all it could have been – especially in the packaging department.
Levine and Moore recruited new vocalist/guitarist Phil X, a fellow Canadian formerly of Aldo Nova’s band and Frozen Ghost. Triumph contributed the song “Troublemaker” to the soundtrack of 1992’s ‘Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.’ In 1993 the new lineup released Edge of Excess on Victory Music, which featured “Troublemaker” and “Child of the City.”
In 1995 the entire Triumph catalog was remastered and reissued on CD. In the Beginning, which was the first Triumph album and the original version of Rock ‘N’ Roll Machine, appeared that year.
During this era, Levine and Moore were hard at work at the Metalworks Studios facility in Mississauga, Ontario, preparing Triumph DVD and CD releases from the vaults. The band built Metalworks Studios long ago for its own recording use but it has become a highly revered, in-demand destination for other artists. In fact, Metalworks Studios was voted the #1 studio countless years in a row at the Canadian Music Industry Awards.
The legendary US Festival performance has been preserved as well. Live at the US Festival was released separately on DVD and CD by TML Entertainment Inc. on September 23, 2003. Another vintage Triumph DVD surfaced soon after on March 23, 2004, A Night of Triumph, which featured a sold out performance filmed on January 16, 1987 at the Halifax Metro Centre in Nova Scotia.
With the advent of new mastering technologies, all of Triumph’s classic studio albums were remastered at Metalworks, repackaged and released during 2005 — as part of the TML “Millennium Remasters” series, replacing the old catalog.
Upon Triumph being inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame on March 10, 2007, the classic Emmett-Levine-Moore line-up was reunited once more, with friendships being rekindled. A year later, fans’ prayers were answered as Triumph united to play at the Sweden Rock Festival in June 2008, and headlining a night at the mammoth Rocklahoma Festival on July 11, 2008. The same year, the group was also inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as part of the Juno Awards – joining such luminaries as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who, Rush and Bryan Adams.
With Triumph’s music reaching a whole new generation of fans via “Lay It on the Line” being made available for download for the ‘Guitar Hero 5’ video game in late 2009, and pressure from the existing fans, the time was right for the group to create a fantastic hits package. And on May 18, 2010, the definitive Triumph compilation was released, Greatest Hits: Remixed. Featuring all of the Triumph classics, the fourteen-track set featured simply awe-inspiring sonics, with Rich Chycki (who has previously worked with Aerosmith and Rush), remixing all of the tracks.
In addition to the Greatest Hits: Remixed CD, the set also includes a DVD mixed in 5.1 audio, featuring fourteen promo and live videos in widescreen, the band’s Hall of Fame Inductions, and comes with a 20-page color booklet, complete with liner notes, lyrics and chockfull of vintage photos.
And on August 28th, 2012, fans outside of Sweden finally got their wish – to see, hear, and experience Triumph’s awesome 2008 Sweden Rock Festival performance, with the arrival of the DVD/CD set, Live at Sweden Rock Festival. With both discs featuring identical track listings, all of the Triumph classics fans could hope for are included, as kick ass live renditions – including “Lay It On the Line,” “Never Surrender,” “Magic Power,” and “Fight the Good Fight”.
Nearly 40 years after bursting onto the scene, one thing is very clear: TheTriumph tradition lives on.