TRIUMPH - Allied Forces (RCA Victor Records AFL1-3902, 1981)
Triumph is a Canadian hard rock band formed in 1975 that was popular in the late 1970s and the 1980s, building on its reputation and success as a live band. Between the band's 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. Triumph is most known for its guitar-driven rock songs, such as "Lay It on the Line", "Magic Power", "Fight the Good Fight", and "World of Fantasy". The band was formed by Toronto music veterans Rik Emmett (guitar, vocals), Mike Levine (bass, keyboards), and Gil Moore (drums, vocals) in 1975. This lineup, spanning nine studio albums, lasted until 1988, when Emmett left the band to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by Phil "X" Xenedis, and Triumph recorded only one album with him, which remains their last to date, before going on indefinite hiatus in 1993. The classic original lineup of Moore, Levine and Emmett reunited for two live concerts in 2008.
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 and in their later years, some softer ballads; 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. 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 in the US, 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 Anthony), 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 moderate U.S. radio hit, "Hold On," which reached No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Hold On" became a significant song in some select markets, for example, in St. Louis the song made it to No. 1 on KSHE, an album-oriented/classic rock FM radio station. "Hold On" peaked at No. 33 on the RPM Singles chart in Canada. More significantly, the second single "Lay It on the Line" received even greater acceptance at album-oriented rock 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, although there was no Billboard Mainstream Top Rock Tracks chart at that time to tabulate the popularity of rock songs at album-oriented rock radio stations. "Lay It On the Line" reached No. 86 on the Hot 100. In 'oldies' classic rock formats radio stations in the US, it remains the most widely played and recognized song from the Triumph catalogue. The album eventually went gold in the US. In 1980, "Progressions of Power" was released and peaked higher in the US (No. 32) than "Just a Game" (No. 48) had, although overall sales were less (Gold instead of Platinum). The album did not have any breakout songs, although "I Can Survive" did reach No. 91 on the Hot 100.
1981's "Allied Forces" sold over a million copies in the US, while attaining the highest chart positions any Triumph album would attain; No. 23 in the US and No. 13 in Canada. It included the songs "Fight the Good Fight" and "Magic Power", the later of which reached no. 5 at Canada's largest Top 40 radio station, CHUM-AM in Toronto. "Magic Power" peaked at No. 14 on the national Canadian RPM Singles chart, their biggest hit in their native Canada. "Magic Power" reached No. 8 on the Billboard Mainstream Top Rock Tracks chart and No. 51 on the Hot 100, while "Fight the Good Fight" went to No. 18 on the Top Rock Tracks chart. "Never Surrender" was initially released in 1982 on Attic Records in Canada, and was not released in the United States until January 1983. The album attained gold status in the USA, and peaked at No. 26 on the US album chart. It 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. "All the Way" (No. 2) and "A World of Fantasy" (No. 3) became Triumph's highest ever charting songs on the Top Rock Tracks chart, while the title track peaked at No. 23. The album earned gold record status in the United States (sales of 500,000 units). However, Triumph's relationship with RCA Records 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" was released in late 1984, but initially only as a compact disc. Despite two hit singles and videos, "Spellbound" (No. 10 on the Top Rock Tracks chart) and "Follow Your Heart (No. 13)," the album failed to achieve expected levels of sales, even though cassette and vinyl formats were soon also released. "Thunder Seven" is perhaps the band's high mark, with Rik Emmett's lyrics addressing social concerns in a surprisingly adult context and Rik Emmett and Gil Moore singing alternating vocal parts within some songs, such as "Follow Your Heart" and "Killing Time." Continuing in the direction of "Never Surrender," the entire second side forms a loose concept focusing on different perspectives of time with "Time Canon" mostly featuring multiple part voice harmonies. "Thunder Seven" became an RIAA certified gold album in 2003. In 1985, the band released "Stages", a double live set culled from the previous three tours. It also included two new songs, including "Mind Games", for which a video was filmed, but the song failed to chart in either Canada or the U.S. On June 7, 1985 Triumph was ranked #2 in Performance Magazine's 6-week period ending "Tops in Performance" list. That year the band performed with Mountain at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Illinois.
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, a significant amount of 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, "Somebody's Out There" made it to No. 27 on Billboard Hot 100 during October and November 1986. "Somebody's Out There" still stands as the highest-charting song from the Triumph catalogue on the Hot 100. It also reached No. 9 on the Top Rock Tracks chart, although it did less well in Canada, only reaching No. 84 on the Singles chart there. Gil Moore's "Tears in the Rain", cut from the same cloth as "Mind Games", did not fare as well in the charts in the US, as it peaked at No. 23 on the Top Rock Tracks charts. The third single, the slow-tempo "Just One Night", which also had a video, did fairly well in Canada hitting No. 33 on the Singles chart in April 1987, but did not chart in the US. 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 first single released to radio stations in Canada was "Let the Light Shine On Me", which did well on certain Canadian rock stations, such as reaching number 1 at Q107 in Toronto (as the lead one or two singles on most Triumph albums since 1979 had) while reaching No. 61 on the Canadian singles chart. It did not chart in the US. The first single released to radio stations in the US, "Long Time Gone," reached number 23 on the Top Rock Tracks chart; the song did not chart in Canada. A video was released for the single "Never Say Never," but the song was not able to chart on the Top Rock Tracks chart or on the Canadian Singles chart.
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. He subsequently began a modest but distinguished solo career, with his first album, Absolutely, yielding four hits in Canada. Meanwhile, Triumph released 1989's "Classics" as their obligatory fifth album owed to MCA Records. 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 1992's "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 bandmates 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 bandmates, 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. In 2013, Triumph was inducted into Legends Row at the inaugural ceremony held at Mississauga City Hall. In 2016, Rik Emmett released the album RES9, which included the song "Grand Parade," on which Gil Moore played drums and Mike Levine played bass. The song is a ballad reminiscent of "Suitcase Blues" and even includes the line "Me, I'm hanging out with Johnny Walker once again."
Since the group’s inception, individually and collectively, Triumph have contributed time, energy, music, facilities, equipment and funds in support of a wide range of charitable, educational and humanitarian causes. Triumph’s largest single charitable contribution was its final appearance at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, January 22, 1987. Staged by Gary Slaight for the "Sounds United" campaign of the United Way of Canada, Greater Toronto Division, all proceeds of $179,356.66 were donated. More recently, the trio has raised over $250,000 (and still counting) with its Signed Guitars Program. Since 2009 Triumph has signed over 100 Fender guitars and donated them to various charities for live and silent auctions, raising between $1,500 and $6,500 each. Individually, Emmett has also contributed guitars for Kids With Cancer, CNIB Ride For Sight and Barrett House Aids Hospice. In 2011 Triumph donated their music and business archives to the University of Toronto Libraries, which were valued by University of Toronto appraisers at over $1,000,000. Moore, Levine and Emmett have participated, together and alone, in many major fundraising events, including the latter’s appearance on “Tears Are Not Enough”, the Canadian music industry single for Ethiopian Famine Release in 1985, which would eventually raise over $3.5 million. Moore was on the committee, along with Tom Cochrane and Rush’s Alex Lifeson, and others, who spearheaded the tsunami relief effort, Canada for Asia, in January 2005.
Other causes Triumph and Metalworks have supported and/or sponsored include: MusiCounts, Rock Star for a Day Program, the Children’s Wish Foundation, Canada's Walk of Fame Emerging Artist Program, Canadian Music Week National Songwriting Contests, many High School Battle of the Bands, Full Circle, Camp Rock, Bike for Betty, and Friends of We Care - Easter Seals. The state-of-the-art facilities at Metalworks Studios have also been donated many times to help causes, including the Canadian Live 8 Concert, held in Barrie, Ontario on July 2, 2005. In 1996, Triumph donated royalties from one million units of the song "Magic Power" on the certified Diamond "Oh What a Feeling: A Vital Collection of Canadian Music" compilation CD in support of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Science and Juno Award, as they have done many times in support of charitable initiatives. Moore has participated in and donated Triumph autographed guitars to countless celebrity golf fundraising tournaments over the years, Levine has bowled for TJ Martell Foundation and Emmett regularly performs at fundraisers for many causes, including AIDS, Food Bank and Shelter benefits.
In 2013 Emmett was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for Community Service and Moore was given a star on the Mississauga Music Walk of Fame for contributions to education and community support. Metalworks Production Group was given the 2014 Sam McCallion Small Business Community Involvement Award by the Mississauga Board of Trade. Metalworks Institute coordinates volunteers for Make Music Matter, a Calgary-based charity (formerly Song For Africa), by going to Africa and sharing their technological and musical training; and the music curriculum from the school has been donated for use by Drake’s Strawberry Mansion High School studio project for underprivileged in Philadelphia since 2013. In May 2015, Moore Received the Mississauga Arts Council, Laurie Pallett Patron of the Arts, MARTY Award for his contributions to the Mississauga arts community. In April 2016, Moore received the Mississauga Board of Trade, Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to business in Mississauga and the community. The group members have also served on various boards over the years. Currently, in 2014, Moore is on the Advisory Boards of Music Canada and CAAMA (Canadian Association for the Advancement of Music and the Arts) and Levine serves on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board for the Musicians’ Rights Organization Canada (MROC). In the past Emmett has served on the Advisory Boards at Humber College and the Songwriters Association of Canada. Moore has also served on the Executive Board at Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Science (CARAS) as well as the Toronto Musicians Association (TMA).