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Triumph: Rock & Roll Machine (remaster)

Fresh off the debut In The Beginning, the “other” trio from Toronto reported back to famous Phase One Studios to record another gut-bustin’ rock record that would wear several visible nods to prog on its brass knuckles. The earliest albums by Triumph had the most to benefit from the new remastering process Brett Zilahi at Metalworks put them through, and this Rock & Roll Machine has never sounded better. Sounds are separated like colors on a page, and every guitar lick, bass low and drum strike reverberates with a renewed vitality

In fact, Levine’s four strings are at their most audible, revealing him to be more than the overlooked void-filler he was unfortunately often regarded as. Vocal duties between guitarist Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore are evenly split, Gil sounding his best on the opener and closer, Rik’s golden pipes crowning “Bringing It On Home,” “New York City Streets, Part II,” and “Minstrel’s Lament”—with a voice like Rik’s, it must’ve been hard to not sound great.

The first three songs are gritty enough and induce visions of urban street life, free love, parties, relationships, and (naturally) babes! Though it disappeared from later setlists, “Takes Time” makes hands ball into fists. Still, there is this pervasive innocence, a transporting medium that becomes the soundtrack to a life and time that was and still is. The opening salvo is balanced by the sweet contours of “New York City Streets, Part I” and its wonderfully understated guitar work and splendid “country-jazz” outro; the steel-grooved second half of “City Streets” that echoes Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” with its chord progression; the melodic detour Mike Levine’s uniformly complementary bass-playing takes in the aforementioned songs; and finally, the unlisted Mellotron flutes and choirs on “Minstrel’s Lament.” Nothing of the sort would be experienced on future Triumph albums (though synthesizers would occur more frequently).

Even this far back, an Emmett solo guitar piece was more or less mandatory, and exists in the form of the second part of the nine minute-plus concept, “The City”—Triumph wouldn’t gravitate towards a concept again until Thunder Seven. The first part of the suite is actually an uncredited lift of Holst’s “Mars, The Bringer Of War” (well, it does sound very similar!).

The cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” is very solid, and Joe made sure to thank the guys for the “royalty checks” whenever he ran into them at parties back then. The classic title track, an instant concert staple present on all three live albums, is the bookend of this chapter—still close to seven minutes in length, still containing Rik’s legendary long guitar interlude. This is what rock’s all about!

Track Listing:

1. Takes Time (3:48)
2. Bringing It On Home (4:35)
3. Little Texas Shaker (3:24)
4. New York City Streets – Part I (3:09)
5. New York City Streets – Part II (3:09)
6. – The City – (9:20)
›› Part I – War March [2:14]
›› Part II – El Duende Agonizante [1:46]
›› Part III – Minstrel’s Lament [5:20]
7. Rocky Mountain Way (4:04)
8. Rock & Roll Machine (6:53)

Sport Of Kings Review:

I remember when I came across this album back in ’86 and I was 15 and I had no idea who Triumph even was but a good friend of mine lent this album to me. Well let me tell you, I never have been able to put it down since; I still have it and still listen to it and from beginning to end. I never skip one song on this album. I think it was aged well too, still stands up well today, actually I would be thrilled if someone tried to release something like this today, it would be very refreshing to hear something like this instead of all that crap I have been hearing for the last 15 years. Excellent guitar licks through out, I especially like them on “Take a Stand.” Very good singing, everything is crisp and sounds great, a very clean sound. I never really knew what happened to Triumph after this but man this one did a lot for me. I must have worn out four cassettes before I got the CD and every time I ever played this album for anyone they always had the same response, “Who is this?” and they would also be as very impressed with the music as I was.

Date Reviewed: 04/19/06
Reviewer: Scott H
Location: Blakely, PA

Never Surrender Review:

To follow up an album like Allied Forces is for sure not an easy task, and Triumph did its best. Unfortunately, Never Surrender just wasn’t the same commercial success as Allied Forces and it missed the mark.

The album starts off strong. With the furious rocker “Too Much Thinking” followed by “A World Of Fantasy,” things really get rolling. Unfortunately, the second half of the album has a more tedious feel to it, which is hard to swallow.

Also included are several impressive instrumentals that showcase Rik’s guitar talent, and Gil’s drumming. Although the album did have some good songs, it just didn’t seem to fit together as well as Allied Forces did.

Just A Game Review:

This album is known by most as the record that introduced Triumph to the rest of the world, and they couldn’t have started off on a better note! Just A Game is a nice little album, easy to sit down and enjoy, which makes it a great factor to appealing to many people. The album also have a nice balance of some good rock and roll (Lay It On The Line, Hold On, American Girls), some amazing blues-rock that does a good job of showcasing Rik’’s guitar playing talents (Suitcase Blues, Young Enough To Cry) and some more prog rock tracks (Just A Game). A solid album that sure promised more good things to come from Triumph!

Date Reviewed: 02/15/06
Reviewer: Scott
Location: Quebec

Allied Forces Review:

Without a second thought, Triumph’s Allied Forces is definitely one of the quintessential rock albums of the 1980s. Beginning with the hard rocking “Fool for Your Love” and ending off with the lighter, more carefree “Say Goodbye,” this record keeps the hits coming one after the other. Not only was this a change for Triumph’s sound, it also sported smash songs like “Magic Power” and “Fight the Good Fight.” Even the more over looked “Ordinary Man” displays some amazing song writing and vocal talent.

Date Reviewed: 02/15/06
Reviewer: Scott
Location: Quebec