Triumph - The Sport Of Kings

geoviangeovian Earth Orbit
edited August 2 in year-1986

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ARTIST: Triumph
ALBUM: The Sport Of Kings
LABEL: MCA
SERIAL: MCA-5786
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: MCA, MCAD-5786 * 2005, Universal/TML, 78009 * 2007, Airmail Recordings (Japan), AIRAC-1437

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image
LINEUP: Rik Emmett - vocals, guitars * Gil Moore - vocals, drums * Mike Levine - bass, keyboards

Additional Musicians:: Lou Pomanti, Michael Boddicker, Scott Humphrey - synthesizer, keyboards, synthesizer programming * Johnny Rutledge, David Blamires, Neil Donell - backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Tears In The Rain * 02 Somebodys Out There * 03 What Rules My Heart * 04 If Only * 05 Hooked On You * 06 Take A Stand * 07 Just One Night * 08 Embrujo * 09 Play With The Fire * 10 Don't Love Anybody Else But Me * 11 In The Middle Of The Night

Background

Not sure what was happening in the Triumph camp circa 1986, but all was not a happy camping ground by the sounds of things. The band had embraced AOR as if their life depended on it, though I'm not altogether certain they were wearing lifejackets.

From an outsider's perspective, musically this would appeal mostly to melodic rockers and AORsters, less so diehard Triumph fans who probably thought 'The Sport Of Kings' was a sellout. Well, it wasn't completely a sellout, who was to blame?

The band blamed the label MCA, the label in turn blamed the band's internal bickering. Sounds like a vicious circle. The label certainly didn't make life easy for the trio, instituting changes that went against the grain of the band's prior fortunes, but then again, perhaps change was necessary.

The band hadn't really broken through into the big leagues with their records, despite their live performances and tours amassing impressive numbers. Who's idea was it to bring in three keyboardists and ignore Mike Levine's previous handiwork? I guess some suit at MCA made the call.

Producing the album was Mike Clink. 1986 was the breakthrough year for Clink, who would also unveil a certain album called 'Appetite For Destruction' released by an up and coming band called Guns N Roses, the rest as they say, is history.

Sonically, 'The Sport Of Kings' is a great sounding album, though lacks a bit of the fire and brimstone heard on earlier albums.

The Songs

It's AOR Central with the opening blasts of 'Tears In The Rain'. The keyboards are to the fore here, plus there's a big dose of harmony vocals all round. The parping keys on the chorus should appeal to most of the readers here.

The best track on the album for me is the very melodic 'Somebody's Out There', this would be a compulsory track on a Greatest Hits package if ever there was one. It's a safe bet to be played on radio, that's for sure! 'Hooked On You' returns to a traditional sounding Triumph, though unusually, Rik and Gil share lead vocals, and it works well.

'Just One Night' is an alternate version of the Eric Martin song, which was released on his self-titled album the year before, the song itself was written by Eric, Tony Fanucchi and Neal Schon. Eric's version is very AOR oriented, Triumph's is very smooth too, Gil Moore does a fantastic job wrapping his tonsils around this one.

Rik provides another brief Spanish flavoured instrumental, 'Embrujo'. I kinda wished he'd left these tracks off Triumph albums and saved them for his solo efforts to be honest. Just sayin'.

'Don't Love Anybody Else But Me' is another highlight for me, an understated song, with a nice AOR chorus, layered synths and vocal melodies. The closer 'In The Middle Of The Night' is a power-ballad and though restrained mostly (even the solo is milder than mild), the choruses rear up slightly.

In Summary

'The Sport Of Kings' didn't venture any higher than around the 50's mark in all the major album charts (USA, Canada, UK), while two singles 'Somebody's Out There' and 'Just One Night' had some action, but not enough to be considered successful.

However, Triumph did hit the road in support of the album, and included Yngwie Malmsteen, Bad Company, Saxon, Mountain, Kick Axe and Brighton Rock as guests/support along various parts of the tour, though from all accounts, the tour was not as financially rewarding as previous tours.

It seemed that Triumph was a different animal when comparing life in the studio versus being on the road. It's a pity they couldn't develop more consistency. The next album 'Surveillance' would be the final 80's album to feature the original line-up, things coming to a head with the departure of Rik Emmett.


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