Triumph is a Canadian hard rock power trio that was popular in the late 1970s through the 1980s. Between the band's 16 albums and DVDs, Triumph has received 18 gold and 9 platinum awards in Canada and the United States. Triumph was nominated for multiple Juno Awards, including Group of the Year Award in 1979, 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Like their fellow Canadians Rush, Triumph began building their reputation across North America as a live band, peaking in the early to mid-1980s. The band was formed by Toronto music veterans Gil Moore (drums, vocals), Mike Levine (bass, keyboards), and Rik Emmett (guitar, vocals) in 1975.
Triumph was a Canadian power trio, often compared to fellow Canadians Rush. The band's musical style was hard rock and heavy metal although the band itself was reluctant to embrace this label. Moore once described Triumph as a cross between Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Who. Guitarist Emmett's songwriting style showed a progressive rock influence, as well as displaying his classical music influence; each Triumph album included a classical guitar solo piece. Moore also doubled as lead singer on many of the band's heavier songs; bassist and pianist Levine produced their early albums. Triumph's style proved unpopular with rock critics, much like many progressive rock and heavy metal bands. Rolling Stone reviewers labeled them a "faceless band."
Moore and Levine scouted Emmett one summer night in 1975 at a west-end Toronto club on The Queensway, called The Hollywood Tavern, where Emmett was playing in a band called ACT III. The three musicians subsequently got together for a jam session in the basement of Moore's house in Mississauga, after which Moore and Levine showed Emmett promo materials and contracts they had already secured for gigs starting in September of that year. They offered Emmett a guaranteed minimum weekly paycheck of $175, and Emmett agreed to join as an equal founding partner.
Triumph's first paid concert was at Simcoe High School on September 19, 1975, for $750. By August 26, 1978 they were headliners at the Canada Jam Festival at Mosport Park playing before a crowd of 110,000 people. . Triumph signed their first record deal with Attic Records in Canada. They later signed with RCA Records in the US covering all areas 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. After the shift to MCA, the band began to work with outside producers, and their studio albums became increasingly difficult to replicate onstage. Rather than following the sequencer-laden path taken by Rush to remain a true power trio, Triumph later added Rick Santers, a Toronto guitar and keyboard player, to support their last three tours.
Triumph's first album (originally self-titled but later renamed In the Beginning) was rare outside Canada, but their widely released second LP, Rock & Roll Machine, received some scattered airplay, with Gil Moore's cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way." In mid 1978 Triumph subbed in for Sammy Hagar on an FM radio-station promotion date in San Antonio, Texas, followed by a run of 5 shows in Texas for JAM Productions (a promoter named Joe Miller), then toured across Canada with fellow Canadian rockers Moxy and Trooper. San Antonio remained a popular location for the trio throughout its career.
Triumph's third album, Just a Game (1979), featured a minor U.S. radio hit, "Hold On," which reached the Top 40. The album eventually went gold in the US. Hold On made it to No. 38 on Billboard: and it became a significant song in some select markets. In St. Louis, for example, the song made it to No. 1 on KSHE, an AOR-FM classic rock radio station. More significantly, the song 'Lay It On The Line' received an even greater acceptance at AOR-FM radio across the U.S. and Canada. The heavy-rotation FM radio airplay of 'Lay It On The Line' solidified the band in the minds of classic rock audiences. In 'oldies' classic rock formats, it remains the most widely played and recognized song from the Triumph catalogue.
Both 1981's Allied Forces and 1983's Never Surrender attained gold record status in the United States. Triumph also began releasing a string of moderate hit singles in the early 1980s. Allied Forces eventually sold over a million copies in the U.S. and included the rock radio staple "Fight the Good Fight".
Never Surrender saw the band's compositions take on more political overtones. Previously, Rik Emmett seemed content to limit himself to a single political theme on each previous Triumph album. ("Just a Game," "Hard Road," and "Ordinary Man" portray Rik Emmett's strong populist leanings.) However, Never Surrender featured no fewer than five anthems. The Jimi Hendrix-inspired riff-rocker "Too Much Thinking" even samples Ronald Reagan from one of his presidential speeches. Rolling Stone gave Never Surrender a one-star rating, yet the album earned gold record status in the United States (sales of 500,000 units). Perhaps more damaging to Triumph's success, their relationship with RCA soured at this point, and the label did little to support their albums. MCA Records executive Irving Azoff demonstrated his faith in the trio by co-opting their debts and signing them for five albums. Following their 1984 label change, MCA took over distribution of their old catalogue for ten years.
Thunder Seven debuted on compact disc in late 1984, a time when relatively few people could afford CD players. Despite two hit singles and videos, "Spellbound" and "Follow Your Heart," the album failed to achieve expected levels, even though cassette and vinyl copies were soon released. Thunder Seven is perhaps the band's high mark, with Rik Emmett's lyrics addressing social concerns in a surprisingly adult context. Continuing in the direction of Never Surrender, the entire second side forms a loose concept focusing on different perspectives of time. Thunder Seven became an RIAA certified gold album in 2003.
The band's fortunes continued to slide. In 1985, the band released Stages, a double live set culled from the previous three tours. Triumph would take a more commercial turn with their 1986 studio album, The Sport of Kings. Rik Emmett's "Somebody's Out There" reached the American Top 40 in late 1986, gaining some radio and video exposure. Written and recorded in the 11th hour of The Sport of Kings sessions, in an attempt to deliver a hit 'single' to satisfy the demands of the record company, Rik Emmett's "Somebody's Out There" made it to No. 27 on Billboard during Sept. and Oct. of 1986, climbing higher than Hold On. It stands as the highest-charting song from the Triumph catalogue. Gil Moore's "Tears in the Rain", cut from the same cloth as "Mind Games," did not fare as well in the charts. Adding Rick Santers to their line-up, Triumph toured with Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen across the United States.
In 1987, the band attempted a return to form with Surveillance. While Gil Moore and Mike Levine remained firmly planted in blues-rock, Rik Emmett took a more 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 vocal on the Emmett-penned "Headed for Nowhere." The 1988 tour concluded amid growing disharmony over business decisions and artistic direction; however, their final concert on September 3, 1988, was a spirited show on the Kingswood stage at Canada's Wonderland, just north of Toronto. In late 1988, Rik Emmett made a total break with Triumph, a costly move resulting from a long-standing agreement that if any one of the trio left, they would leave with only one ninth interest. He subsequently began a modest but distinguished solo career, with his first album, Absolutely, yielding four hits in Canada. Meanwhile, Triumph released 1989s Classics as their obligatory fifth album owed to MCA Records.
Rik Emmett left the band in 1988 to do a solo career after the release of their 9th album Surveillance and was replaced by Phil X on their 10th studio album Edge of Excess.
In 1992, the remaining members of Triumph recruited Phil Xenidis, a Canadian guitarist known for his work with Aldo Nova and Frozen Ghost. Moore was the principal songwriter and lead singer for 1992s Edge of Excess, with additional help from guitarist-producer Mladen. Rick Santers also remained on hand as touring keyboardist and singer for the 1993 North American tour, singing Rik Emmett's parts in fan favourites "Magic Power" and "Fight the Good Fight." Initial reception of the album from American radio seemed quite favourable, until Triumph's recording label, a subsidiary of Polygram, dissolved unexpectedly in 1993. After this downturn, the remaining members of Triumph effectively disbanded.
In 1998, Rik Emmett resisted overtures from his former band-mates for a potentially lucrative twentieth anniversary US tour, stating he was not interested. Nevertheless, Moore and Levine purchased and acquired back their entire album catalogue from MCA and launched their own label TML Entertainment, and they continue to release live recordings and videos from their long career.
In 2003, TML released a live DVD album called Live at the US Festival originally recorded in San Bernardino, California at the US Festival in 1983. This historic festival, attracting nearly 250,000 rock fans, also featured Van Halen and The Clash. Triumph had earlier released this concert on VHS following the Never Surrender tour, featuring two videos from the forthcoming Thunder Seven album. In 2004, TML released a second DVD concert, A Night of Triumph, filmed in 1987 at Halifax Metro Centre during The Sport of Kings. The most comprehensive Triumph anthology, Livin' for the Weekend: Anthology, was issued in 2005. A CD of extended versions of some of the band's most popular hits called Extended Versions: Triumph was released in 2006.
Gil Moore now owns and operates Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, originally opened in the early 1980s for Triumph's exclusive use, which also trains engineers and sound technicians for Canada's music industry.
On March 10, 2007, Triumph was inducted to the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel. All original members of the group were present for the event. This first meeting in nearly twenty years appears to have broken the long silence between Rik Emmett and his former band-mates, but a recent interview with the guitarist did not promise a Triumph reunion. Emmett cited Gil Moore's full-time career at Metalworks, plus the fact Moore has not performed as a drummer since 1993. Bassist Mike Levine also does not seem to have much interest in touring at this late date. But Triumph's one-time camaraderie seems to have rekindled, and there may still be future collaborations on some musical level. For example, Nick Blagona mastered Rik Emmett's latest hard rock project, Airtime (2007), in the Metalworks mastering suite.
On April 6, 2008, Triumph was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as part of the Juno Awards.
"Lay It on the Line" was released as a DLC song for Guitar Hero 5 on October 22, 2009.
In 2011, the band reissued Allied Forces as a vinyl package for their 30th anniversary.
On July 14, 2011 Triumph Lane, in Mississauga ON, was officially dedicated in honour of the band.
On August 28, 2012 the band released a CD+DVD package of their June 7, 2008 reunion concert in Sweden titled "Live At Sweden Rock Festival" on Frontiers Records in Europe and on the TML label in Canada and the United States
- Triumph official web site
- Rik Emmett official web site
- Rik Emmett interview on Maximum Threshold 2008
- Gold Platinum Database Canada
- Gold Platinum Database USA
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