rik emmett

REVIEW: Triumph – Allied Forces (40th Anniversary Box Set)

TRIUMPH – Allied Forces 40th Anniversary Box Set (Originally 1981, 2021 Round Hill Records RSD set)

Triumph is under-celebrated.  That’s a fact.  To the unknowing, they were “the other Canadian power trio with the high voice”.  To the Allied Forces, they were Rik, Mike and Gil:  Triumph!  And really incomparable to Rush except in superficial ways.  Finally, some of their back catalogue has received the treatment it deserves and that is Allied Forces, for its 40th anniversary.  Overseen by Andy Curran,* this vinyl box set (no CD) features some exclusive music and a wealth of goodies packed within.  The usual content like booklets and reprints, but also a little surprise awaits you inside.  Released for Record Store Day back in May, limited quantities were later made available for the schmucks like us who couldn’t snag one in time.


Allied Forces itself is pressed on a picture disc.  The brilliant yellow A-side shows bullet belts and a Spitfire.  Vibrant imagery that only serves to enhance the tunes you’re about to hear.  Opening with “Fool For Your Love”, the beautiful picture disc sounds great with low surface noise.  Rik Emmett goes deep with some wicked slide guitars, on a good time rocker sung by Gil Moore.  In the luxurious liner notes, Rik explains that there are four tracks of guitar layered.  Indeed, Canada’s greatest guitarist sounds nice and thick with a delectable crunch.  With a nice tasty riff to bite down on, this opener stands as one of Triumph’s most enjoyable pure rockers.

The iconic #8 single “Magic Power” introduces Rik’s acoustic contemplative side.  Triumph succeeded in marrying all their facets on Allied Forces, and “Magic Power” is a fine example of this.  It has a quaint folksy vibe, but when the electric guitar kicks in, it becomes a pop rock classic.  With lyrics about drawing a “magic power” from music on the radio, what could be fitting?  Mike Levine’s big Hammond B3 is the ultimate accoutrement.

“Air Raid” is an interlude, a sonic experiment honed at the band’s new home studio, Metalworks.  It serves as a war-like intro to “Allied Forces”, one of Triumph’s heaviest.  A rallying cry for the live setting.  According to Uncle Rikky, it’s Triumph letting out their Deep Purple side, and you can certainly hear “Speed King” and “Highway Star” in its DNA.  Gil Moore rips it up on drums and vocals.  Triumph at their most Purple, and powerful.  But to end the side properly, they go for a good-time party rocker in “Hot Time (In This City Tonight)”.  Of course in the live setting, this enabled Triumph to honour their host city every night.  Just change the words to “Hot time in Cleveland tonight,” as we’ll see!  With a hot boogie behind him, Rik Emmett sings some ongodly high notes and wails away a fresh solo laden with wicked licks.

Flipping the record over, Side B depicts a triumphant B-17 bomber dropping its massive payload.  A strong graphic statement.  “Fight the Good Fight” is the clear album centerpiece.  Built upon Rik’s 12-string depth, it boasts many strengths.  Gil Moore’s complex beat and Mike Levine’s keyboards accent the song and build upon its heart.  Emmett’s solo is a sub-composition until itself, as they often are with him.  It has peaks, valleys and hooks of its own.  Adding to the true weight of “Fight the Good Fight”, the liner notes add the wrinkle that the song was inspired by a battle with cancer.

“Ordinary Man” is one likely to split opinions.  Fans of the progressive side will love the choir and acoustic arrangement.  Rawkers will say, “bah, pombous prog bullshit!”  Gil expresses regret that they didn’t play it live; it certainly would have been a challenge.  Queen-like vocals and guitar layers would be hard to perform by a power trio.  Speaking of power, that kicks in around the three-minute mark.  That’s when the riffing starts; full-on metal mode.

In the penultimate position, Rik’s classical instrumental (a Triumph institution) is “Petite Etude”, which also boasts some jazzy chords if you listen carefully.  Finally Rik ushers in the album closer “Say Goodbye” with more of that juicy slide guitar.  A pop rocker in the truest sense, and a Rik construction.  Mike and Gil seem a little cool on it in the liner notes.  It might not seem like the kind of song that fits on Allied Forces, but it does close the album on a really bright note, which is not a bad thing.  Mike’s Hammond B3 returns to add some integrity.

And that’s Allied Forces, a great album with no weak songs.  A solid 4.5/5 on a bad day.  But this box set has so much more to go.


“Magic Power” (Live in Ottawa 1982) is an exclusive 7″ single.  The A-side is the live version of the Triumph classic, unavailable elsewhere.  With the Triumph logo emblazoned on the right, a female mechanic services a World War II-era warplane on the sleeve.  As for the track, it’s a brilliantly energetic performance although you sure do miss that Hammond B3.  Still you can’t beat it for the electricity in the air.

The B-side was a bit of a mystery until we did a little digging.  “Allied Forces 2021” is not a re-recorded version by Triumph.  It is a new version by former Triumph guitarist Phil X, reportedly for an upcoming tribute album that’s in the works.  Phil’s version is way heavier, but he sings it pretty good and the solo work is absolutely wicked.  It doesn’t seem to say anywhere in the box that this version is by Phil X, but the RSD site credits the Bon Jovi guitarist properly.  It’s certainly far heavier than anything coming out of Jon’s camp these days.

A nice little bonus single here, and a nod to Phil X who helped keep Triumph going in the early 90s.


Live In Cleveland – 1981 will be the serious bonus here for many fans.  Although this concert was released on CD in 1996 as King Biscuit Flower Hour (In Concert), this is its first vinyl release and remastered at Metalworks.  By the time Triumph hit Cleveland, they were on their fifth studio album and had plenty of great material to play; all now classics.  Only a few tracks from Allied Forces had worked themselves into the set, the bulk of which is still made up of earlier material and long instrumental stretches.

From the previous album Progressions of Power, “Tear the Roof Off Tonight” opens on a Zeppelin-y party rock note.  Before you can say “Rock and Roll”, they’re into the second track “American Girls” from 1979’s Just A Game.  A nice tasty riff with bite, and two Gil Moore tunes in a row, the drummer working extra hard.  Dig that break into “The Star-Spangled Banner” right before the incendiary solo.

Rik’s up with the first epic of the night, “Lay It On the Line”, 12-string majesty ringing clear and true.

“Same old story, all over again.  Turn a lover into just another friend.  I wanna love you, I wanna make you mine…won’t you lay it on the line.”

Then Rik misses the mark and there are a couple extra power chords before he picks up the vocal where he left off.  Things that only happen on true untampered live recordings.  This passionate version of “Lay It On the Line” has some of Rik’s most incredible singing ever captured.  Period.

First new song of the night is “Allied Forces”, Gil going in extra hard on the lead vocals.  Rik screamin’ in the back.  Triumph were frickin’ hot in 1981.  “Allied Forces” is a work-out before Triumph lets loose some more serious epic material.  “Fight the Good Fight”, impressive itself, is followed by “Blinding Light Show / Moonchild”.  This is just a solid 15 minutes of compositional and instrumental brilliance.  Not to mention a lead vocal tour-de-force from Rik.  Serious drum thunder from Moore on “Moonchild”, and Mike Levine relentlessly laying down a melodic rhythm the whole time.

Gil demonstrations his ability to scat out a wicked song intro on “Rock ‘N’ Roll Machine”.  It ain’t easy to front a band from behind the drum kit but here he does a song intro to rival Paul Stanley.  They blast through that tune, complete with Rik’s signature solo, and then “I Live For the Weekend”.  It’s Triumph at their most Van Halen, boogying and soloing with the big boys.  Then it’s “Nature’s Child”, a drum solo, and an instrumental jam.  They exit on “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Hot Time (In Cleveland Tonight)”, two live standards.

Live In Cleveland is not the definitive live Triumph album.  That will remain to be Stages, which had a better song/solo ratio.  This is however the heaviest live Triumph album and its rawness and unpolished veridity make it the perfect one to accompany this box set.  Listen to the whole thing in one sitting, is my recommendation.


There is a treasure trove of relevant Triumph goodies included inside.  Box sets sold in Canada included an exclusive replica poster for Triumph live at Maple Leaf Gardens, New Year’s Eve 1981.  For a show at the Gardens, it’s pretty ballsy for them to use a picture of Rik Emmett wearing a Habs shirt.  This box set is loaded with Rik in the Habs shirt!

Deke and I also received a Rik Emmett 2021 guitar pick taped to the front shrinkwrap of our sets.  Picks are the kind of added bonus we really appreciate.  Something material.  The included replica backstage pass is also cool, as it looks better than just a piece of paper.

There are lots of paper goods inside too including:  a massive 24″ x 36″ poster, three lyric sheets, three sketches, the booklet and Allied Forces replica tour book.  Plenty of photos and text to sift through.  There are interviews with Rik, Mike and Gil, and a song-by-song breakdown.  Everything about the making of Allied Forces from to the music to the iconic cover.

Hopefully the powers that be continue to honour Triumph’s history as it deserves to be.  Allied Forces is a triumph indeed but it’s ridiculous that it was released in such limited numbers.  Let all the fans have a chance to get one.

5/5 stars

Personal note:  This box set was released June 12 2021, for Record Store Day.  Deke and I tried mightily but were interviewing Andy Curran at the exact moment the box was released.  Having failed to buy the box, Curran advised us not to pay inflated second-hand market prices to get it.  “Something special is planned,” he hinted.  A few weeks ago, the remainder of stock was made available via Rock Paper Merch.  A kind viewer left a comment here with the link to buy, and both Deke and I managed to get one.  Thank you Andy, and thank you viewer!  It goes great with my official Triumph hockey jersey.

REVIEW: Triumph – Never Surrender (1983)

TRIUMPH – Never Surrender (1983 RCA, 2004 Universal remaster)

Triumph, the other Canadian power trio, scored multiple hits with their sixth album Never Surrender.  “When the Lights Go Down” was a popular music video.  “A World of Fantasy” was a concert staple.  The title track is an absolute (pardon the pun) Triumph of epic songwriting and performance.  It’s easy to hear why Never Surrender is so beloved.

Drummer Gil Moore opens the album with “Too Much Thinking”; steamhammer drums pumping hard.  Rik Emmett comes in with a slaying riff while bassist Mike Levine, the glue, rolls out some determined bass grooves.  Emmett’s talkbox solo is well constructed and extra cool.  This riff rocker has the silhouette of topicality, with Reagan samples and lyrics like “Prophets of doom fearful of the violence, preaching to no one at all.”

Triumph ballads were often too brilliant for their own good.  Not really “ballads” but more like melody-based compositions.  “A World of Fantasy” is one such song, a real accomplishment and unmistakably Triumph.  Triumph always had panache and they backed it with Rik’s strength as a guitar player.  Rik’s voice, sometimes compared to Geddy Lee’s, was well suited to heartfelt rock like this.

Rik Emmett also takes the lead vocal on a battle cry called “All the Way”, preceded by a classical piece entitled “A Minor Prelude”.  Get it?  The guy is a tremendous and monstrously intelligent guitar player.  Rik could have shredded circles with all the other lead guitarists, but that was not his focus.  He realized that you can play really fast as much as you want, but less is actually more.

“All the Way”, which sounded like a battle cry, is actually followed by “Battle Cry”, vocalised by Gil Moore.  It’s a slower, more determined metal track; the heavier side of Triumph.  Rik’s crystal clear chords keep it from being too generic.

Back when albums had sides, the second half opened with “Overture (Procession)”, a short guitar intro backed by Levine’s synth.  It sets the scene for the album centerpiece, “Never Surrender”, which itself is nearly seven minutes of pure undiluted awesome sauce.  Constructed with distinctly different sections, “Never Surrender” was just a tad progressive and more than enough song for the average mortal.

Out in the streets inspiration comes hard,
The joker in the deck keeps handin’ me his card.
Smilin’ friendly he takes me in,
Then breaks my back in a game I can’t win.
Jivin’, hustiln’, what’s it all about?
Everybody always wants the easy way out.
Thirty golden pieces for the Judas kiss,
What’s a nice boy doin’ in a place like this?

Gil Moore’s drums are sometimes considered simple, or basic.  That may be the case, but are they not the perfect backbone on “Never Surrender”?  Who can resist when Gil throws down a big, long drum roll from high to low?  Hey, he might not be Neil Peart, but he works those songs!  His fills here are just as essential as Peart’s in “Tom Sawyer”.  Meanwhile, Rik’s guitar chords can only be described as shiny.  One of the classiest players in rock can really do no wrong here, as he goes from funky chunky strumming to full shred, all within the confines of some damn catchy riffs.

As if that wasn’t enough, Triumph goes for round two on “When the Lights Go Down”.  This time, the acoustic intro is swampy, but soon that riff will hit you square in the face.  Gil Moore’s back on the microphone, so let’s not forget  how hard it is to sing and play drums at the same time.  They had to play this stuff live, and they did!  This is just pure rock, four on the floor.  “Let the party roll!” sings Moore in this paean to the concert stage.

Rik goes for the brightest of melodies on “Writing’s On the Wall”, a really “triumphant” sound, and great way to draw the album to a close.  All that’s left is a soft guitar outro called “Epilogue (Resolution)”.  This beautiful piece illustrates where Rik would go in his future solo career, decades down the road.  Hints of jazz and classical pointed the way.

There are several songs that you don’t want to leave out of your life.  Own Never Surrender.

4/5 stars

 

VHS Archives #44: Power Hour Bumpers collection!

This one goes out to good pals Mars and Sarca Sim!  I know they love the nostalgia of old MuchMusic bumpers.  Here’s a collection of them that I assembled into one mega-bumper!

The bumpers are generally somebody saying, “Hi, I’m [insert name] from [insert band], and you’re watching the Power Hour on MuchMusic!”  Some flub their lines (Craig Goldy), some put in that extra 10% (Poison) and some do both (Anvil).

It’s either they got only one take, or these are the best ones!

Check out these hilarious rock star ads below, including (in order): Mark Metcalf, Motorhead, Poison, Lita Ford, Anvil, Dio, Rik Emmett, David Coverdale and a couple surprises.

 

 

 

VHS Archives #25: Rik Emmett of Triumph – the Holy Grail of videos – Power Hour 1987 live performance!

It’s Friday so here’s something you’ll want to watch from start to finish.  This episode of the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic should be considered a “Holy Grail” find for fans of Triumph. Foreshadows of Triumph’s impending breakup can be sensed in this excellent interview, coupled with a performance of “Let the Light (Shine On Me)” and a guitar duel with protégé Sil Simone! All on live, national television.

Rik was always comfortable in the Much studios and gave great interviews.  (I have at least two more on tape.)  He is one of the world’s premier guitarists, as you will hear in the guitar duel!  Rik also performs Triumph’s “Let the Light (Shine On Me)” acoustically.  (Listen for that one bum note!  Live television, people.)

Topics discussed include going solo (seriously!), guitar, heavy metal, Whitesnake, Steve Vai, and more.

Believe me when I say you won’t regret watching this whole interview/performance.  Special mention must go to Erica Ehm, a charismatic host who had great rapport with Rik.

REVIEW: Rik Emmett & RESolution9 – RES 9 (2016)

Had I got it in time, this album could have made the Top Five of 2016 list.

scan_20161231RIK EMMETT & RESolution9 – RES 9 (2016 Mascot Music)

Rik Emmett had a long productive career as 1/3rd of Triumph, but he has rarely looked back.   Post-Triumph he has released a steady stream of jazz, rock, blues and acoustic music, sometimes revisiting Triumph songs in re-arranged form.  Finally the ice thawed and Triumph successfully conquered Sweden Rock.  In 2016 Rik released RES 9, a new rock album with his new band RESolution 9.

RES 9 is in fact a time machine.  Dial up track 1.  You will be transported back to 1990 with the rock boogie of “Stand Still”.  This is a spiritual sequel to “Drive Time” from Rik’s first solo album Absolutely.  Then punch track 2.  “Human Race” (not a Red Rider cover) could have been a single from 1986’s The Sport of Kings.  With Alex Lifeson guesting on guitar, Rik and the band tapped into the hookiness of 80’s Triumph, but with a modern integrity.  When you hit up track 3, you will find yourself in the future.  Accompanied by fellow Canadian James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Rik turns in a modern rock anthem with “I Sing”.  Big and uplifting choruses preceded by mellow verses are built for radio.  LaBrie’s vocals are the perfect compliment.  Without a shred of hyperbole, “I Sing” is absolutely one of the best songs Rik’s ever recorded.

The bluesy soul ballad “My Cathedral” gives Rik a chance to show off his impeccable chops.  His tone — unbelievable!  Moving on to “The Ghost of Shadow Town” effectively dials up 1976 in the time machine, with a dark heavy Zepp-ish blues.  “When You Were My Baby” continues down smoove blues street, throwing in some jazz licks.  “Sweet Tooth” is turn down a brightly lit side avenue, a sweet treat indeed.

A hard Triumph-like vibe permeates “Heads Up”, another fine hard rocker for the radio.  “Rest of My Life” adds the jangle of acoustic guitars to the rock and roll mixture, creating another fine concoction just begging to be a hit.  Things toughen up with the pure rock power of “End of the Line”, featuring the returns of LaBrie and Lifeson.  The sheer star power of all these Canucks in one studio must have driven the temperatures well below freezing.  Still the track smokes, and if you’ve ever wanted to hear Emmett and Lifeson go head to head, then wish no more.

But it is not the end of the line.  Back to the future, we have a bonafide Triumph reunion featuring the full trio of Emmett, Gil Moore and Mike Levine.  This long awaited reunion happens on the bonus track “Grand Parade”.  The genuine surprise here is that it’s not a hard old time hard rocker, but a thoughtful and musically deep blues ballad.  It strikes me as appropriate that this much anticipated track sounds nothing like old Triumph.  That was, after all, a long time ago.

With RES 9, Rik has re-established his rock credentials.  Whether he does another album like this is beside the point.  RES 9 is the point; a damn fine album indeed.

4.5/5 stars

 

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Rockland (1989)

KIM MITCHELL – Rockland (1989 Alert)

This album was huuuuge in 1989. In Canada, summer time is Mitchell time. Cottages, brewskies, BBQ and Mitchell. That’s what it was all about! Shakin’ Like a Human Being was also a huge success for Kim, but he expressed a desire to use less keyboards and programming. Kim recorded in the US this time, and for budget reasons, did not bring along lyricist Pye Dubois with him. Pye had been in the studio with Kim for every album prior, and this caused a rift between the two that took years to heal. This was the last time they collaborated until 1994’s Itch.

The pseudo-title track, “Rocklandwonderland” refers to the “concert bowl” at Canada’s Wonderland.  “Listen to the music, listen to the voices, listen to my guitar,” sings Kim, although the song is a little light on guitar. “Rocklandwonderland” was a big hit for Kim, and although it’s not a heavy rock, his guitar playing on it is stellar. Perhaps he shouldn’t have followed a slow rock tune with a ballad, although “Lost Lovers Found” is a hell of a ballad, with just a hint of twang. Some felt that Rockland was too soft compared to Kim’s progressive rock past, but a Kim ballad has more integrity than most. Kim’s backup singer extraordinaire, Peter Fredette, is present here and he also serves to class up any song by several notches.

Other ballads on the record include “Tangle of Love”, which is quirky and experimental but not great. “O Mercy Louise”, which has a rocking chorus, is a fine song with cool lyrics. The “big one” however was the single “Expedition Sailor”. This introspective acoustic song is sparse and effective. Kim’s buddy Rik Emmett from Triumph drops by to play an excellent solo on classical guitar. “Expedition Sailor” is top drawer stuff.  (The music video received a remix, which you can get on Kim’s Greatest Hits album.)

The “big” song on the album, still getting airplay today, is the anthem “Rock N’ Roll Duty”.  The tougher direction of the song is exemplified by a “live” style music video in a seedy bar.  As a fan I really wanted Kim to come out with a tough rocking tune, with a killer chorus, and he did.

“I’m just doing my rock n’ roll duty,
Creating a buzz buzz buzz,
Some say I’m in it for the money,
Man, I’m in it for love love love!”

The phrase “I’m just doing my rock n’ roll duty,” is now commonly heard among music fans in Canada. The song just hits the spot, and the riff is now synonymous for summer in my mind.

Other highlights on Rockland include the joyful “The Crossroads” which opens side two. The guitar-heavy “This Dream” is another favourite. I could always identify with the lyrics. It’s just a stellar song, an also-ran that could have been a fourth single. The record is rounded out by “Moodstreet” and “The Great Escape”, two decent but unremarkable tunes.

MVP:  Drummer Lou Molino, a near legend in these parts.  Curiously, when you Google images of Lou Molino, you will also get hits for Lou Ferigno.

Overall I was pleased with the direction of Rockland, going a bit more raw and rocking. Unfortunately with the exception of a few tracks like “Rock N’ Roll Duty”, it feels very tame. Except for quirky moments within guitar solos, it doesn’t possess enough of Kim’s humour and idiosyncrasies. It feels as if it’s on a leash, but it’s also not straining to get off it. It feels like Rockland hits the mark in many respects, but plays it too safe.

3/5 stars

ROCKLAND_0004

REVIEW: Rik Emmett – Absolutely (1990)

RIK EMMETT – Absolutely (1990)

Alright, to be fair, with 20/20 hindsight now we all know that Rik Emmett wanted to be a jazzbo. Back in 1990, those of us that weren’t expecting the second coming of Triumph were at least hoping for something with some balls. Either alternative would have been acceptable, but Absolutely is so middle of the road, so directionless, so antiseptic, so horridly contrived and ill-conceived, that we just had no idea where the man’s head was at.

Absolutely is purportedly a rock album, but the sterile cover reveals the terrible secret within.  Absolutely is glossy and clean; overloaded with ballads and lite-rock dreck.  You’re left with only a couple real rock songs. “Drive Time,” which deceptively opens the album, is a Van Halen speed boogie.  (Drummer Randy Cooke is frickin’ amazing.)  “Big Lie,” the second song, has a bit of that latter day pop-Triumph sound. It also has decent lyrics which are more relevant than ever today.  On side two, there’s a song called “Heaven Only Knows” that has some hard rock trappings. But that’s where it ends.

“The disappearing forests should be no cause for alarm, the greenhouse effect won’t do you any harm.”

The single “When a Heart Breaks” is sappy crappy, the kind of boring ballad that was too common at the beginning of the 90’s. The rest of the album is just shamelessly pop rock. That’s not always a bad thing, I enjoy quite a bit of pop in my life, but this isn’t even good pop rock.  “World of Wonder” makes me want to retch.  I mean, wait until you get to “Smart, Fast, Mean & Lucky”. Think that title sucks?  Wait till Rik starts rapping. When Rik raps, it’s like the Bartman. Hey, at least it was current for the time, but why did rock bands think they had to start rapping in the early 90’s?  (Kip Winger, I’m looking at you.)

For fans of Rik’s guitar, there’s just not enough. A song like “Stand and Deliver” has some smoking guitar work, but it’s drowned out by claptrap and clutter.   It’s a shame. I’m glad that Rik is now doing what he loves, and even found time to do a mini-Triumph reunion. Anything to forget this misguided solo project.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Triumph – Greatest Hits Remixed (2010)

My Triumph reviews to date:

GR HITS REMIXED_0001TRIUMPH – Greatest Hits Remixed (CD+DVD 2 disc set 2010 Universal)

I was very impressed with the “new” Greatest Hits Remixed by Triumph. Normally I don’t go much for remixes, as 9 times out of 10 the original versions are superior. Greatest Hits Remixed however was done by none other than Rich Chycki (ex-Winter Rose) whose credits include remixing work with Rush, particularly on Retrospective III. He did the first remixes of the Vapor Trails material, leading to the band remixing the whole album today.  Chycki’s work elevated those songs to a new level, likewise with Triumph.

The drums are louder and harder (read: modern sounding). The guitars more aggressive. The rolling, grooving basslines are now in your face. (I may have underrated Mike Levine in the past.)  Keyboards have been toned down. Vocals have been stripped dry and place high in the mix. In the case of “Just One Night”, the entire song sounds re-recorded, particularly the lead vocal.  Gil sounds older on this version. Even the hokey cheese of “Somebody’s Out There” has been replaced with a new edge, drowning out the formerly keyboard-heavy leanings. My only complaint is that some vocals are a little heavy on echo.

This CD-DVD 2 disc set comes with a wealth of interesting extras.  The DVD here is a great package on its own, and would have been worth buying in the $10 range alone. Every major Triumph video is here, now backed by the remixed tracks. In addition, there’s some bonus features, such as the “Child of the City” music video by the “v2.0” version of Triumph with Phil X.  There’s some early fan-cam footage (“Blinding Light Show”) and perhaps best of all, Triumph inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  They are inducted by Tom  Cochrane, introducing Gil Moore as one of his closest friends.  Who knew?  Additionally, the set is housed in a nice double digipack, with lots of photos (a couple recent ones too) and lots of text to read. On the whole, a well made and timely package.

If you’re a new fan who hasn’t got their first Triumph CD yet, this package is a pretty good buy.  You might really get into the more modern sound. If you’re an old fan, I think it’s fun to enjoy the memories and the harder rocking sounds.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Triumph – Surveillance (1987)

Part 2 of a 2 part series by request of reader DEKE! Today we look at the final album by the original Triumph. For the first installment, The Sport of Kings, click here!

TRIUMPH – Surveillance (1987 MCA, 2003 TML)

Triumph bassist Mike Levine once called this album your proverbial “contractual obligation” record. What he meant by that, was that Rik and the boys were barely on good terms anymore, the end was near, but the band needed to crank out one more album (plus a “greatest hits” record entitled Classics) before they could call it a day.

And who can forget that awkward interview on MuchMusic’s Power Hour, when Erica Ehm unwittingly asked Rik, “Have you ever thought of going solo? Wait a second, I have the chance to break up Triumph with this question!” Rik mumbled something about how the guys in the band always gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted, and there was no need to go solo. Then a couple months later, WHAM!  The headline was all over the Toronto Sun — RIK QUITS TRIUMPH.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, this sounds like the last album by a once powerful band. It sounds like a band out of ideas, a tired band, a band who doesn’t care anymore.  It has an atmosphere of “let’s see if this one will stick to the wall.”

Yes, Rik Emmett was and remains a genius guitar player.  Mike and Gil, God bless ’em, were the average backing band, given a tremendous boost in our native land due to the fact that they are Canucks. There’s a certain Canadian mediocrity to Triumph — not quite as good as Rush, but similar. A loyal fanbase, but with not nearly the treasure-rich back catalogue that Max Webster has. A talented guitar playing frontman, but as a vocalist a bit shrill even by Geddy standards. A T-shirt-and-jeans type image, maple leaf proudly emblazoned on their hockey jerseys, but an image just too bland for anybody but us hosers by the late 1980’s.

Surveillance struck me from the start as Rik taking control of the machine for one last spin. It treads the progressive tendencies, with two instrumental intro tracks, a guest shot by Steve Morse, and some lyrically interesting pieces (“All The King’s Horses”). This is tempered by Rik’s increasing interest in pop — “Let The Light (Shine On Me)”, and “On and On”. On Gil Moore’s side, we have nothing but terrible filler tracks, the worst of which is “Rock You Down”. This is perhaps the worst song Gil’s ever foisted upon us. At some points trying to be R&B, at others hopelessly lost in a morass of bad lyrics and muddy mix, it is a bit of a train wreck.  The whole album suffers from this muddy mix and too many odd crashing keyboard samples.

Dark Helmet.

The best tune was the lead single, “Never Say Never” (co-written by Rik’s new protege Sil Simone).  Unfortunately this is a video that Rik soon found embarrassing to watch.  The bouffant hairdo (or as Rik referred to it, “good hair production”), the fancy wardrobe…what was wrong with jeans and jerseys?  It was 1987.  That’s what was wrong with it.

I wanted to give this album one star, as I believe it truly has some of the worst songs of Triumph’s career. Upon reflection I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t because lyrically, I like some of this album, and musically there are a couple good moments here and there that save the album from being a total torpedo. The guitar playing, like on “Carry on the Flame”, is absolutely fiery.  You know a guitar player like Rik Emmett isn’t going to lay a turd.  There are a couple interesting riffs. And, as a Power Hour nerd, I loved the voice cameo by J.D. Roberts (now known as CNN’s John Roberts).

Much to my surprise (and delight, because I didn’t like it when bands broke up), Triumph carried on with one more album (Edge of Excess) and a new guitar player.  Phil X (ex-Frozen Ghost  and currently on tour with Bon Jovi) joined the band, while Toronto’s Mladen Zarron wrote on played on the majority of the album.  Sound wise, they rocked it up several notches before calling it a day.

When they did reunite with Rik, they didn’t play any songs from Surveillance.  Can’t say that I’m surprised.

This album serves as a reminder of what a terminally ill band sounds like. You can hear the tension and lack of cohesion. Despite that, there are still a couple interesting tracks and melodies here for the Triumph fan, some of which have not yet resurfaced on a compilation CD. Check it out if you’re a fan, avoid like the plague if you are not.

2/5 stars

Also worth noting:  The guy on the cover of Surveillance is the same dude from the Never Surrender album!