Triumph is a Canadian hard rock band that was popular in the late 1970s through the 1980s. Eight of the band's albums were certified gold or higher, and Triumph was nominated for multiple Juno Awards, including Group of the Year Award in 1979, 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Like their fellow Canadians Rush and Saga, Triumph began building their reputation across North America as a live band, peaking in the early to mid 1980s. The band was formed by Toronto music veterans Gil Moore (drums, vocals) and Mike Levine (bass, keyboards, producer), after meeting guitarist, singer, songwriter Rik Emmett in a manager's office in Toronto in 1975.
Triumph was a Canadian power trio, often compared to fellow Canadians Rush. The band's musical style was hard rock and heavy metal although the band itself was reluctant to embrace this label. Moore once described Triumph as a cross between Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Who. 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; bassist and keyboardist Levine produced their early albums. Triumph's style proved unpopular with rock critics. Rolling Stone reviewers labeled them a "faceless band."
Triumph's first paid concert was at Simcoe High School on September 19, 1975, for $750. Triumph signed their first record deal 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. Rather than following the sequencer-laden path taken by Rush to remain a true power trio, 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, with Gil Moore's cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way." In mid 1978 Triumph first five dates in San Antonio, Texas, and then toured across Canada with fellow Canadian rockers Moxy and Trooper; San Antonio remained a popular venue for the trio.
Triumph's third album, ?Just a Game (1979), featured a minor US radio hit, "Hold On," which reached the Top 40. The album eventually went gold in the US.
Both 1981's Allied Forces and 1983's Never Surrender attained gold record status in the United States. Triumph also began releasing a string of moderate hit singles in the early 1980s. Allied Forces eventually sold over a million copies in the U.S.
Never Surrender 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" betray 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. Rolling Stone gave Never Surrender a one-star rating, yet the album earned gold record status in the United States (sales of 500,000 units). Perhaps more damaging to Triumph's success, their relationship with RCA 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 debuted on compact disc in late 1984, a time when relatively few could afford CD players. Despite two hit singles and videos, Gil Moore's "Spellbound" and "Follow Your Heart," the album failed to achieve expected levels, even though cassette and vinyl copies were soon released. Thunder Seven is perhaps the band's high mark, with Rik Emmett's lyrics addressing social concerns in a surprisingly adult context. Continuing in the direction of Never Surrender, the entire second side forms a loose concept focusing on different perspectives of time. Thunder Seven became an RIAA certified gold album in 2003.
The band's fortunes continued to slide. In 1985, the band released Stages, a double live set culled from the previous three tours. 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, gaining some radio and video exposure. Gil Moore's "Tears in the Rain", cut from the same cloth as "Mind Games," did not fare as well in the charts. 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 "Headed for Nowhere." The 1988 tour concluded amid growing disharmony over writing credits 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, a costly move resulting from a long-standing agreement that if any one of the trio left, they would leave with only one ninth interest. He subsequently began a modest but distinguished solo career, with his first album, Absolutely, yielding four hits in Canada. Meanwhile, Triumph released 1989s Classics as their obligatory fifth album owed to MCA Records.
1990 - Present
In 1992, the remaining members of Triumph recruited Phil Xenidis, a Canadian guitarist known for his work with Aldo Nova and Frozen Ghost. Gil Moore remained the principal songwriter and lead singer for 1992s 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 band-mates for a potentially lucrative twentieth anniversary US tour, but 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 band-mates, 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. More promisingly, Metalworks recently mixed Rik Emmett's latest hard rock project, Airtime (2007).
On January 18, 2008, Triumph announced it had united to play at the Sweden Rock Festival in June 2008, and following on from the announcement, it was reported that the band might play a few dates in July 2008, then would be gearing up for a full scale world tour in 2009. Triumph added Toronto guitarist/vocalist Dave Dunlop to support their shows in 2008 and beyond.
On April 6, 2008, Triumph was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as part of the Juno Awards.
On November 8, 2008, during a show in Elgin, Illinois, Rik Emmett told the crowd that Triumph would tour in 2009. This was reiterated at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia on November 22.
Rik Emmett ??? lead vocals, guitars (1975???1988, 2008???present)
Gil Moore ??? drums, percussion, lead vocals (1975???present)
Michael Levine ??? bass, keyboards, backing vocals (1975???present)
Phil X ??? guitars, backing vocals (1992???1993)
Rick Santers ??? guitars, keyboards, backing vocals (1984???1993)