Triumph - 'Greatest Hits Remixed' (Frontiers Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Russ P   
Monday, 10 May 2010 23:18

TriumphIt's at times like these that I feel like an amnesiac, or someone who has slipped into a coma and had the years pass them by. You see I remember Triumph well, but we parted ways in 1984. The last Triumph album that I listened to was 'Thunder Seven', and the question now is whether Triumph fell into a coma at the same time as me, or are there actually any post-1984 tracks on this compilation or not?


So for this experiment I'm adopting the blind test by not looking at the tracklisting and discovering which tracks I remember as they unfold.


Drummer Gil Moore takes the first vocal with 1981's 'Allied Forces'. It's a driving uptempo rocker which serves as a reminder that this 3-piece were never really a second rate Rush clone. Sure they're from Canada and both of the lead singers could sing as high as Geddy Lee but Triumph were always more straight ahead rock with shorter more direct songs.  Second song in and I know, just by the guitar intro, that it's going to be a Rik Emmett song, I don't recognise it at first but it turns out to be 'Lay It On The Line' from 1979 and it's here that I pause for thought. As this track sounds remarkably timeless in its sound and I'm wondering if this is where the 'Remixed' part of the album title comes in. I'm desperate to compare this with the original but for now, I continue listening blind so to speak. It's hard to believe, this track sounds from a year much, much later than 1979.


Ooh here we go. This is where I left Triumph all those years ago. 'Follow Your Heart' can't help but put a smile on my face as I love the opening guitar riff. It brings back good memories of craving a white Aria Urchin and having a desire to blast out this kind of riff on it.  ‘Magic Power’ is instantly recognisable with its Rush-like flute synth and 12-string guitar. Lyrically you can't help but be reminded of ‘I've Got The Music In Me’ as the song quotes it verbatim. There's always a fine line to tread when using lyrics that could potentially turn around and bite you in the ass. 'Magic' is one such word I think. Unbidden Saturday morning cartoon shows spring to mind starring sweet little characters with superhero strength and arcane powers. You can't beat the tweeness out of that word; it's embedded in it. That aside in the middle ages priests went around selling the aptly named indulgences and here, in the 21st century, I'm giving Triumph one for free for this typically 20th century crime.


I don't recognise the next song at first though I do know it, it's a bluesy high tempo boogie-woogie called 'I Live For The Weekend'. This kicked off their 'Progressions Of Power' album which I can't quite believe as it sounds like a filler to me, something which should end an album not start it off. Not my favourite hour of Triumph by any stretch. Custom made to get a live audience going mad but it's a little too run of the mill rock ‘n’ roll for my liking. Perhaps that's why I don't recognise it. Perhaps I skipped this track in my youth. Or purposely sanded the vinyl grooves down as smooth as an ice rink. Who knows?  Next up is a cheesy late 70s Rik Emmett composition called 'Hold On'. He uses the forbidden 'magic' word again. I'm having second thoughts about that indulgence that I accorded earlier. Some people will no doubt find this song delightfully kitsch. It's pleasant enough although it's lyrically a tad twee for my human frame to bear.


Alarm bells ring. I've never heard the next song "Just One Night'. I can tell because it sounds like Triumph on a distinct downward spiral. The production sounds slick and 80s, which may have been in vogue at the time but now sounds so dated. Those were dark days. Record company interference is audible and I suspect that external songwriters are to blame like they were to blame in so many other notable cases in the 80s and 90s - Alice Cooper, Heart, Cheap Trick et al. But, I learn, it's not written by Diane Warren, Holly Knight, Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly or Desmond Child. It's written by the evil within: Eric Martin, Neil Schon and Tony Fanucchi. And the original is only a shade better than the one we have on offer here so all we can say is that Triumph did their best with what they had.


The flute synth returns on the next track, which unsurprisingly takes us back to 'Allied Forces'. They must have rented the synth for the whole day. The production is so fresh on 'Fight The Good Fight' that, at first, I mistake it from being off a much later album. It's only the flute synth that points to the true recording date. It's an impressive song. Great rhythms, dynamics and changes with guitar sequences that go from delicate and pretty acoustic passages to a crunching 'I Love Rock 'N Roll' chorus.  The next track up is bound to be from ‘Thunder Seven’ as it has 'modern' keyboards on it. And sure enough it's 'Spellbound', a straight ahead rocker that thumps along like UFO and reminds me of the era of music that filled Channel 4's music show ‘ECT’.  'Never Surrender' is the title track from my most played and favourite Triumph album from 1983. This track sounds huge. Compared to the original this version has undergone a sonic facelift. The version that I have on the original CD is extremely thin and weedy. This version has put the balls and bass back into this funky and spacious track. After earlier insisting that Triumph don't sound like Rush I have to admit that from the 'Tom Sawyer-like’ intro to Rik Emmett's unfeasibly high vocals the signs are there for all to see.


The dobro intro to 'When The Lights Go Down' can't help but implant Cliff Richard's "She's just a devil woman, with evil on her mind" into my sensitive and suggestive mind. To discover that this piece of pub rock appears on my supposed favourite album is distressing. But the track does sound great and much improved from the album version. The ending is also different from the album version. Where the album track fades out the vocals and fades up the guitar this new version keeps the vocals in and treats them in such a way as to give them an authentic blues sound which blends really well with the dobro and makes my ears prick up.


'New track' (well to me anyway) number two is up next, 'Somebody's Out There'. It has even more modern synths on it, which makes me visibly wince, but as soon as I put myself into a Survivor state of mind my anguish fades and I can even enjoy this track. Now you can't say that Rush ever did Survivor can you?  Nest up is 'Rock And Roll Machine', which today plays a little like a Bad News song. Comically sincere heavy rock, right down to the extended guitar solo. But it's the real thing. Rock and roll historians take note.


"Oh My God" I blurt out when 'Love Hurts' starts. What's this doing on here? I'm often nonplussed when artists cover other well-known songs. Why cover other artists when you can write and record your own song? 'Love Hurts' is such a massive song too and has been done so well by, amongst others, Nazareth. So it doesn't bode well. Despite the gospel backing vocals providing colour and dimension it's all a little overblown in the guitar department, a bit too hair metal, a bit too power ballad with too much emphasis on the power and not enough on the pure simplicity of the ballad itself. When 'She's a Beauty' starts I'm not fooled. This is not another cover but a song by The Tubes and means that the album is over and iTunes has started playing the next band alphabetically. So, I can take my hands away from my eyes and look at the album as a whole.


So to answer my earlier question, as it happens, Triumph did go into hibernation not soon after I did. They only released two further studio albums with the original line-up and one without Rik Emmett (I'm morbidly curious now to hear exactly what this one sounds like). So, in all, I've got to hear two new original songs (albeit ones released after I’d stopped buying the band’s albums) and one cover which I could've lived without.


As for the remixing I enjoyed listening to the songs sounding a little more updated than mastering alone can achieve, and I wonder why more bands don't do this as a matter of course when releasing greatest hits packages. The songs from 'Thunder Seven' that I compared to the 2004 remaster didn't sound hellishly different from the ones on this album. But earlier songs, starting from 'Never Surrender' and going backwards, are fresher than they were when they were originally recorded. 'Hold On', for example, has more presence and urgency than the original although, on the whole I've not got a problem with the sound of 70s recordings. These updates tend to eradicate a bit of that 70s vibe, but I think it's a valid exercise and pays off here, and is certainly gives another dimension and another reason to buy this greatest hits collection other than the DVD (which unfortunately wasn’t included in our review copy so hence why no review of this) that will accompany this album’s full retail release on May the 14th.