triumph

#595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

GETTING MORE TALE #595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

Sorry for the lack of musical content in this instalment of Getting More Tale, usually a series of stories about music.  In lieu of a music story, I’ll include my Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause at the end!

 


Our friend Kenner Fee has not given up the fight, so neither will we.

Kenner has Autism. And Ivy is a Black Lab. Ivy calms Kenner’s anxieties and helps him cope with school and socializing. Outside of school, the two are inseparable. At school however, Ivy isn’t allowed to be with Kenner. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board says that Kenner doesn’t need a service dog. Kenner’s doctors, psychologists, therapists, parents and the Lions Foundation say otherwise.

Kenner’s parents, Craig and Amy. have been fighting with the WCDSB for over three years to get them to allow Ivy to attend school with Kenner at St. Kateri Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener. The fight has now escalated to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, where the Fee’s have had to invest thousands of dollars into lawyers and their charges, out of pocket. While the WCDSB has, what seems to be, unlimited taxpayer resources to pay for their lawyers.

Kenner was denied his basic human right to have his service dog in class with him.  Allow me to share a little bit about what I know of Kenner, because I see quite a few people are misinformed about this situation.

Ivy is not a therapy dog, as some sources have stated.  She is a service dog, trained and matched by the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.  Some bystanders have asked, “What about kids who are afraid of dogs?”  An excellent question, and I think Kenner’s supporters have offered a lot of great suggestions about that.  The truth is, if you have ever met a service dog, you know that they basically just…lay there!  That’s part of the training.  Second, having a service dog in a school would be a rare and valuable teaching experience.  I was terrified of dogs as a kid.  I’d run and they’d give chase!  Ivy would not do that, because she is a service dog.  If I had the chance to meet a dog like Ivy as a kid, it really would have helped me get over my fear of dogs earlier.

Another legitimate question has been about kids with allergies.  Supporters have suggested solutions to these problems too.  None of them are unsolvable.  I’m terribly allergic myself.  If there happens to be only one class for Kenner’s grade, make sure the classroom doesn’t have carpet flooring, and keep Kenner on the opposite side of the room as any kids with allergies.  Ensure that teachers have a supply of each child’s allergy medication — Reactine, Visine, whatever.  Why is every other child’s needs more important than Kenner’s?  Allergies are real, but so is autism.  And the results Kenner has seen because of Ivy are extraordinary.  I know a little bit more about the situation than I can talk about, but I can say this.

I’ve seen Kenner, with Ivy at his side, give an amazing speech in front of hundreds of adults.  I couldn’t believe it.  Seeing that knocked me out; he made me see what potential can be unlocked.  He’s a gifted young man.  He deserves to be able to go to school and be at his best.  The Catholic school board keeps talking about how they assess each kid on a case by case basis.  It is interesting to note that they don’t have any service dogs in any of their schools in Ontario.  A child in Burlington is currently fighting the same battle as Kenner Fee, for the same reason.  He too has autism.  I wonder if the Catholic School Board is fighting this so hard simply because it’s easier than doing the work to accommodate. Currently, the Board is denying Kenner his basic right to fulfill his potential in school.  They say he gets good grades without Ivy.  That may be true, but he is truly exceptional when he is with her.  I have seen this and  I admire the little guy.

This is an expensive fight.  A GoFundMe page has been set up.

We’re asking the public to join us in raising  funds to help the Fee’s offset a fraction of the legal expenses they’ve personally incurred throughout the Human Rights Tribunal.  Anything raised over our target amount will be donated to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, where Ivy was obtained.

Even if you can’t donate, every comment helps!  I know for a fact that Kenner is blown away by the amount of support he’s seen.  “I didn’t know so many people cared about me!” he said after a recent service dog protest.  He loves to know he has support so feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll make sure his parents get them!

#KennerAndIvy #WeStandWithKennerAndIvy #IStandWithKennerAndIvy

 


Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause

5. Triumph – “Fight the Good Fight”

4. Warrior – “Fighting for the Earth”

3. Motley Crue – “Fight for Your Rights”

2. Bob Marley – “Get Up Stand Up”

1. Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”

 

In the top photo there is a service dog and a Party Dog.  Can you tell which is which?

 

 

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: Triumph – Edge of Excess (1992)

Bought in Taranna at Kops for $2.50!


 

Scan_20160102TRIUMPH – Edge of Excess (1992 Virgin)

When Triumph split in ’87, Rik Emmett went off in a pop direction leaving his two bandmates with no singer/guitar player, and without their most recognizable member.  As bassist Mike Levine said in M.E.A.T Magazine, “We couldn’t just be Duo-umph”.  Since Triumph always had two lead singers in Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore, this time Gil simply stepped up and sang everything.  Then they needed a guitar player.  Gil and Mike Levine wrote and recorded most of Edge of Excess with Mladen Zarron in Toronto, before hiring ex-Frozen Ghost (current Bon Jovi) shredder Phil X.  Five years after the split, the new Triumph emerged with a heavier and darker album, Edge of Excess.

Triumph boldly opened the album with a whole minute of nothing but bluesy guitar noise.  If there was a stronger way to say “We don’t need Rik,” I don’t know what that would be.  This guitar noise serves as an intro to the first Triumph song without Emmett, “Child of the City”, a harder edged Triumph song with the same kind of hooks.  It’s hard to determine who is playing lead guitar, Mladen or Phil X, but rest assured that whoever it is has laid waste to the land.  Rik Emmett wasn’t just a shredder, but a talented player who composed his solos with class and ability.  Mladen and Phil have done the same, but without emulating Rik.  (Phil’s going to have his work cut out for him in Bon Jovi, though.)

The rip-roaring “Troublemaker”, easily the fastest and heaviest Triumph track to date, was featured on the soundtrack to Hellraiser III, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s as close to speed metal as Triumph have been, and I shouldn’t need to tell you that again the solos shred.  Who’s playing?  Fucked if I know, there are three guys credited on the song.  The song is actually very close to high-octane Whitesnake and it would be easy to imagine Coverdale’s crew doing it.

Lest you think that ballads were a thing of Triumph’s past, “It’s Over” has a country & western feel. Unfortunately of the two singers, Moore had the less commercial voice.  This is where Gil’s voice reveals its limitations.  On backing vocals, some big names are on hand such as Fred Coury of Cinderella and Steve DeMarchi of Sheriff, to help beef up the big chorus.  It’s not enough to make a memorable song.  They cook up some groove on the title track, tapping the vein of Van Hagar.  But without Rik Emmett, Triumph lost part of what made their unique sound.  On Edge of Excess it’s too easy to compare them to contemporaries.  “Turn My Back on Love” is better, occupying a dirty mid-tempo groove, and with Phil X handling all the guitars himself.  The big chorus is the closest thing to old Triumph on the album.

That’s the side; the second one opens with “Ridin’ High Again”, a sleezy rocker that sounds like Don Dokken emigrating to Canada.  Phil X really can shred though, and anyone who’s curious what he can do should check it out.  I don’t think Phil will be able to play to his strengths in his new band, so give this a listen and hear the guy blaze like Vai meets Van Halen.  “Black Sheep” starts as a total surprise; a blues right in the middle of the album.  No drums, just claps.  Sadly instead of sticking with this, it transforms into a stock hard rocker.  “Boy’s Nite Out” has a grammatically incorrect title:  The lyrics are clear that it is not a boy’s night out, but “the boys”, plural.  It should therefore be called “Boys’ Nite Out”.  Here I am bitching about the grammar and not the word “Nite”…anyway, back to the song.  Standard rocker.  Plenty of great shreds, but this album is far too burdened by generic rockers.  Rik Emmett used to bring a variety of influences to the table, and their albums with him may have had their weaknesses, but they were more diverse than Edge of Excess.  Without enough identity, Triumph forged a batch of largely forgettable bluesy hard rock songs.  Lots of crunch, not enough stick-to-your-brain hooks.

Fortunately the classy power ballad “Somewhere Tonight” helps wind things up properly.  Identity is still a problem, but at least this is a break in the rut the album had been in.  Right back into the rut for “Love in a Minute”, the last in a batch of heavily generic rock songs that sound like about a dozen bands…none of them Triumph.

Like any fan, I was pleased that Triumph kept going despite such a huge setback as losing your main guy.  Unfortunately the album they produced in ’92 was not up to par, and I guess that’s why it took me 23 years to finally buy it!  A couple good songs early in the album, but not much more.

2.5/5 stars

#398: New Rock, Old Rock

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#398: New Rock, Old Rock

A selection of songs I’ve been rocking out to on the radio lately, for your consideration and perusal.

ROYAL BLOOD – “Figure It Out”
It seems that bass/drums duos are all the rage. I like this awesome, aggressive groove from the English duo of Royal Blood. Just slammin’! Proof that you don’t need more than two people to make good heavy rock!

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 – “Trainwreck 1979”
Having ignored these two Canadian guys for years, I have recently become infatuated with “Trainwreck 1979”. I could do without the piano touches and the “woo ooo ooo’s” but it’s hard to deny that this is a slamming song living up to its name. Well done, Death From Above 1979.

THE TREWS – “New King”
This aggressive riff-based song combines three elements I love about the Trews – guitar hooks, memorable melodies, and a great singer. Bonus points for cool lyrics like, “A bitter hipster hick, Can’t stop talking shit, The F’N idiot, Don’t know when to quit.”

DANKO JONES – “Do You Wanna Rock”
No surprises here! Danko Jones = Danko Jones = Danko Jones, but it’s always nice to hear a new track. This one’s pretty simple — it’s about rocking! More cowbell!

I MOTHER EARTH – “The Devil’s Engine”
Different from anything I’ve heard this band do before, “The Devil’s Engine” combines traditional IME percussion with metallic riffs and licks. With the prior single “We Got the Love” out in 2012, it would be nice to get a new album by I Mother Earth.

THE PRETTY RECKLESS – “Follow Me Down”
I haven’t been a fan of the Pretty Reckless. Until now I’ve found their music to be tiredly generic. This track, however, kicks it! Taylor Momsen’s turned herself into a metal howler, in her natural environment. Her songs can get repetitive but I’m not bored with this one yet.

I’ve also recently rediscovered some of these tracks that I knew very well, but have been dusted off on the radio recently.

AC/DC – “Rock the Blues Away”
I’m glad that after “Play Ball” and “Rock Or Bust”, this excellent AC/DC track has been chosen as the newest single from AC/DC’s latest. It’s absolutely a favourite of mine! Great choice for a single.

NEIL YOUNG – “Downtown”
I’m pleasantly reminded of this collaboration between Uncle Neil and Pearl Jam, showcasing their kickass new drummer Jack Irons. A great, simple little rock tune.

TRIUMPH – “Lay It on the Line”
This is undeniably a Canadian classic of double-necked guitar majesty. I noticed that the version getting airplay today is the beefier remixed version, from Greatest Hits Remixed. (I was the only listener that noticed, I know because I wrote in to ask about it!)

WTF Comments: Everyone’s a Critic edition

MUPPET-CRITICS

WTF Comments II: Everyone’s a Critic edition

Jeez, everyone’s a critic these days! Even critics have critics! Welcome to another installment of WTF Comments. This time I collected comments from readers who had a bone (or two, or three) to pick with my reviews!  I realize that sometimes my reviews can be a bit acerbic, but I calls ’em like I sees ’em.  Sometimes I can be a bit harsh, but it’s all in fun.  It serves me right to have some critics of my own take some shots at me! First up, Bryan did not like my 3.5/5 (70%) review for the Rival Sons. Bryan’s comment was lengthy so I took the liberty of highlighting the parts I like best!

your gimmicky comment is idiotic. They record with real vintage gear because they are trying to create that vibe not for one song, but that’s who they are and frankly I’m glad. So much of what is out now is 150 tracks of productions and tricks that cater to the ADD society who needs a new sound effect coming at them every 10 seconds to keep their attention. Just enjoy the fact that these are guys are setting up a few mics into some of the best gear studios can pull out of the closet and they deliver great songs that they can actually reproduce live with backing tracks…hey, there’s a concept. If you can appreciate that you shouldn’t be reviewing music…you know..music???

also, STOP comparing them to Led Zeppelin just because the drums are open mic’d and there’s space. Go back and read the reviews when Zep was playing…the critics killed them…but somehow now their the greatest thing ever. Have you ever hear them live? I love Zep but Jay Buchanan can hit EVERY note on the album live, Plant couldn’t do that a lot of the time. But I don’t even compare the two, just enjoy the band without having to pigeon hole them. Basically your saying here’s this band, but we don’t really validate them because I heard something similar before. The album has potential…Geez.. the album kicks ass so just get past yourself and get on board. How about this for a review…”Hey everyone, in this day and age of laptops and samples, finally a band just plugs in and records to tape and here it is…enjoy some great rock with soul and vibe and enjoy these guys laying it out there while not pitch correcting and time aligning everything. AND, when you see them live they’ll sound like what you heard on your iPod, how refreshing. Rival Sons should be applauded and you should buy the CD”.

:-)

Thanks, Bryan!  I always thought being compared to the mighty Zeppelin was quite a compliment, myself. Then there’s Dave.  Dave also does not think much of my writing skills, in regards to Triumph’s 1986 turd The Sport of Kings:

This article is pretty lame. Please do some research before you post stuff like this. Triumph had issue with the producer Ron Nevison. He wanted them to have a hit single and he was trying to craft the songs to be radio friendly. The band had been pretty much cranking out an album a year for the whole decade and touring in between and the record company was demanding more. The band was spent! Some of the songs aren’t as strong as previous outings, but it sounds like you were never much of a fan in the first place. Never be embarrassed about the music you like…whether it’s Triumph, Kenny G or Michael Jackson. I like what I like and i don’t care what anyone else thinks!

Somebody needs to tell Dave that you don’t have to be “much of a fan” to write a music review!

Then lastly, there’s scm.  He or she isn’t a person of many words, but smc didn’t think too much of my Man of Steel movie review.

You continue writing articles about what great screen writers & film makers bring son. Man of Steel 4.5/5.

For the record: I am not scm’s son!  Hope you enjoyed these comments.

 

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

RIK_0004

Gallery: Overload of Van Vinyl!

My pal Craig Fee has returned from Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh with a bag full of goodies for me!

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Craig strongly recommended a two to three day stay at Jerry’s Records should I ever find myself in Pittsburgh.  That’s how much vinyl they have.  He also told me that they had a whack of old Van Halen picture sleeves.  I said cool, bring ’em back to me!  So he did, every single one that they had.  He also picked up a promo Helix 12″ single for “Wild in the Streets” on red vinyl!  That and some Triumph 12″ promos, plus a surprise that I think tops them up.  I think the real treasure may be David Lee Roth’s “Stand Up”, from Skyscraper — a 12″ remix vinyl single that I was previously unaware of!  Pretty exciting huh?  Additionally, the Van Halen “Best of Both Worlds” contains the live version from the Live Without A Net video on the B-side.

Total expenditure?  $45 bones.  Craig is a great shopper.  Thanks man!

All of these will come in handy in the future, because they coincide with a couple different series ideas that I was already going to work on.  Now, those series will be even cooler.  Stay tuned.

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!