Triumph’s roots date back to 1975 when Rik Emmett (ex of Act Three), Gil Moore (ex of Sherman & Peabody) and Mike Levine began touring the local Toronto circuit, spreading the word of their head-banging gospel. Backed by Emmett‘s blending of classical guitar melodies with effects-ridden metal riffs, their reputation gained them a deal with Attic Records in barely a year.
Their self-titled debut was released in 1976 but was only met with moderate success. A side note is Emmett’s real name is spelled ‘Rick,’ but a screw up in the printing on the back jacket led him to simply drop the ‘c’. Though the record received some FM play, tracks such as “Blinding Light Show” (written by Emmett when he was in Act Three) and “What’s Another Day Of Rock & Roll?” were too long and too heavy to garner attention by the AM stations. Tracks such as “24 Hours A Day” however did showcase the band’s versatility, blending 12-string melodies with straight forward 2-chord riffs. The tour that followed their debut took them south and Triumph made an instant impact on the American rock fans, particularly in Texas.
Their second album, ROCK AND ROLL MACHINE was released the next year and every bit lived up to it’s name, from the harmonies in “Takes Time” to the ballsy “Little Texas Shaker”, the story of a Texan groupie to the 7 minute title track, to their first single in a re-make of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way”. Incidentally, Triumph’s first two records are considered collectable, as MCA re-released ROCK AND ROLL MACHINE in the mid-80’s, but it’s actually only half of that album with a different cover, with the other 4 tracks coming from the self-titled debut. The next year MCA then re-released the debut record, but with a different cover and entitled IN THE BEGINNING.
JUST A GAME was cut in 1979 and featured classic rockers such as “American Girls”, yet also showcased Emmett’s blues influences in “Suitcase Blues” and also featured “Lay It On The Line” and “Hold On”, FM staples 20 years later. By the release of PROGRESSIONS OF POWER in 1980, Triumph’s stage show had become the envy of almost all ticket buyers, backed by a light show rivalled by few others. Though “I Can Survive” was the only single released, “Nature’s Child” and “Woman In Love” further fed the appetites of rock-starved kids.
ALLIED FORCES was put out the following year and contained the singles “Magic Power” and “Say Goodbye”, a typical power ballad penned by Emmett. Not tailor-made specifically for radio play, the record stayed true to the band’s naturally evolving sound and also featured “Fool For Your Love”, title-track and “Fight The Good Fight”. By this time Triumph’s message had been firmly spread overseas and touring the UK had become the norm for the band.
NEVER SURRENDER was released nearly two years later and it seemed as though the time off may have cost the group some of the interest of the record-buying public. Now on MCA Records, the group failed to receive the support of management. And though it failed to generate a single, NEVER SURRENDER contained some of their most under-rated work, from the blazing riffs in “When The Lights Go Down” and social commentary in “Too Much Thinking” to “A World Of Fantasy” and Emmett‘s gear-shifting to the powerful “Battle Cry”.
1984 saw the release of THUNDER SEVEN, Triumph’s first collaberation with Eddie Kramer, whose most noteable work was with KISS. The record was well-received by radio, spawning the hits “Spellbound” and “Follow Your Heart”. Recordings from the ensuing tour ended up on Triumph’s only live record, 1985’s STAGES. Nothing really special, it was a typical live record. Cheesy marketing ploys on the part of MCA management also saw the inclusion of two new studio tracks, “Mind Games” and “Empty Inside”.
The band released THE SPORT OF KINGS in 1986 and contained the singles “Just One Night”, co-written by Neal Schon of Journey and “Somebody’s Out There”. Other noteable cuts included “Tears In The Rain” and “Take A Stand”. They set out on an ambitious world tour in support of the album. Rick Santers, who’d co-written many of the tracks and enjoyed Top 40 success a few years earler with a remake of Free’s “All Right Now”, put his solo project on hold and joined them on tour, which saw them hitnearly all 4 corners of the globe.
SURVEILLANCE hit the stores in ’87 and would be the last record Triumph would cut with Rik Emmett. With the support of only one single “Let The Light Shine On Me”, the band only toured minimally and Emmett then left the group prior to its end to pursue a solo career. The band fullfilled their contractual agreements in 1989 by releasing the compilation CLASSICS, a retrospective of the trio’s 9 albums together.
Moore and Levine reformed Triumph in 1992 and added Phil X ( real name Phillip Xeveris and formerly of Sidinex) and Rick Santers on guitars. Mr X was had gained a reputation as one of Toronto’s most sought-after studio musicians who’d just returned from touring with Aldo Nova, and would later go on to work with the likes of Tommy Lee and Rob Zombie. Santers meanwhile had fronted the group that bore his name for four albums during the 1980s.
The band released EDGE OF EXCESS later that year and saw two singles, “Child Of The City” and “Trouble Maker,” which was featured on the “Hellraiser III” soundtrack. Despite this the group soon found the public’s interest had wandered again and Levine and Moore again called it quits. Santers went back to his solo gig, and Mr X became a studio session player. In 2011 Bon Jovi hired him to replace Ritchie Sambora when he fell off the wagon again.
In 1995 the band’s Cleveland, OH show from ’82 was released in the King Biscuit Flower Hour series. In 2004 the band entered the DVD era, as their ’82 US Festival performance was released, followed a year later by A NIGHT OF TRIUMPH from their Halifax, NS stop during the THUNDER SEVEN tour. The phrase ‘irreconcilable musical differences’ proved too great to overcome for years, but in 2007, the Gospel according to Triumph was opened again, as the band ended years of speculation and got back together for a series of European outdoor festivals, but again went their seperate ways that fall. A double CD/DVD compilation called simply GREATEST HITS REMIXED was released in 2010.