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Triumph - 'The Diamond Collection' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     December 23, 2010    
 
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For the price 'The Diamond Collection' is pretty much a no-brainer.

Even though Triumph are one of my all-time favourite bands I’ve kind of lost track of just how many times their back catalogue has been re-issued. The classic Toronto power trio of Rik Emmett (guitar/vocals), Gil Moore (drums/vocals) and Mike Levine (bass/keyboards) recorded nine studio albums and a live album together between 1976 and 1987, most of which have been put out on CD by MCA at least twice, then twice again by Levine and Moore when they regained ownership of the recordings, and again in remastered LP replica form in Japan a couple of years ago; both separately and in two very expensive box sets. ‘The Diamond Collection’ claims to be remastered yet again but I can’t hear any discernable differences between these discs and the Japanese ones, although the advantage here is that you get all ten cardboard sleeved albums in a box for about the same price it would cost you for any three of the Japanese ones on eBay.

Whether you’re a fan wanting better sounding discs than the ones you already have, or just a casual fan who wants everything recorded by the classic line-up, this is a bit of a bargain. Most of Triumph’s albums were pretty well recorded, with extra emphasis on the drums on the remaster of their workmanlike 1976 debut (now called ‘In The Beginning’ rather than ‘Triumph’) on which the band mix typical Gil Moore sung rock and rollers like ’24 Hours A Day’ and ‘What’s Another Day Of Rock And Roll’ with Rik Emmett’s slightly proggy overtones on the two-part ‘Street Fighter’ and the epic ‘Blinding Light Show/Moonchild’; a multi-textured piece from Emmett’s previous band Act III, complete with the classically-influenced acoustic guitar solo that would become a feature of subsequent Triumph albums. ‘Rock And Roll Machine’ (1977) is a stronger release that saw Emmett deliver the strongest tunes with ‘Bringing It On Home’, ‘New York City Streets’ and the crowd favourite title track, whilst the deeper voiced Moore would chip in with ‘Takes Time’ and a version of the Joe Walsh track ‘Rocky Mountain Way’.

After being picked up by RCA for both the States and Europe, a compilation of their first two records was followed by ‘Just A Game’ (1979), a deeper and more melodic affair that further emphasized the difference between Moore and Emmett’s songs. All Moore’s three straight rockers, including opener ‘Movin’ On’ and the catchy ‘American Girls’, were on side one, whilst Emmett’s efforts were more diverse and expansive (‘Lay It On The Line’ on side one, and the whole of side two including the amazing title track, the hit single ‘Hold On’ and the autobiographical ‘Suitcase Blues’). ‘Progressions Of Power; (1980) was more of a treading water exercise, heavier than it’s predecessor and a little more of a straight rocker, high energy songs like ‘I Live For The Weekend’, ‘Nature’s Child’, ‘Hard Road’ and ‘Tear The Roof Off’ had plenty of Emmett’s awesome fretwork but the album suffers from a lack of variety. Not so ‘Allied Forces’ (1981), which was the one that broke the band big style in North America, with Emmett taking the lead on all the albums big hitters like the single ‘Magic Power’, the awesome ‘Fight The Good Fight’ and jaw-dropping ‘Ordinary Man’, whilst Moore’s hard rocking title track was no slouch either. ‘Allied Forces’ is felt by many to be their strongest album and I can’t really disagree with that.

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‘Never Surrender’ (1983) was originally a disappointment to me personally as it seemed to get bogged down in too many instrumentals and attempts to follow ‘Allied Forces’; ‘A World Of Fantasy’ for instance was a none too subtle attempt by Emmett at writing another ‘Magic Power’, whilst elsewhere there was great music with the title track, ‘Too Much Thinking’, ‘When The Lights Go Down’ and ‘Writing On The Wall’. However, by bringing in master producer Bob Ezrin for ‘Thunder Seven’ (1984) they produced their best sounding and most underrated record featuring the rocking hit singles ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Follow Your Heart’, as well as some of Emmett’s more subtle and inspired moments in ‘Time Goes By’, ‘Killing Time’ and ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ and perhaps his best acoustic showcase, ‘Midsummer Daydream’. It also includes a real clunker in ‘Cool Down’ but you can’t have everything.

Their first live effort ‘Stages (1985) has always been a major disappointment to me as it doesn’t sound that good and just doesn’t flow. Some of the songs (‘Rock And Roll Machine’ for instance) are just too long and get bogged down with solos, whilst Emmett’s solo acoustic version of ‘Hold On’ emphasises the fact that they’ve never been able to do justice to a full version of the song. The best thing about ‘Stages’ is the two studio bonus cuts, ‘Mind Games’ and the Pink Floyd-ish ‘Empty Inside’, which are two of the most interesting things they’ve ever recorded, but if you want to hear Triumph at their live best, both the ‘King Biscuit Flower Hour’ and ‘Live At The U.S. Festival’ (both released long after the band had split up) are far better. ‘Sport Of Kings’ (1986) saw Triumph go in a more commercial direction with radio friendly songs like ‘Somebody’s Out There’, ‘If Only’, ‘Take A Stand’ and an impeccable Gil Moore vocal on Eric Martin’s ‘Just One Night’. It’s not an album I play an awful lot but it has it’s moments. Another one that has some terrific songs is their final album with this line-up, ‘Surveillance’ (1987), which is actually the straw that broke the camel’s back. By this time the band were falling apart due to record company pressure to be more commercial, but despite that and the silly image makeover to compete with the likes of Bon Jovi and Whitesnake, there’s no arguing with songs like ‘Never Say Never’, ‘Headed For Nowhere’ and the truly dynamic ‘All The Kings Horses/Carry On The Flame’, and whilst there are also a few fillers later on, the album is the strongest of their later efforts.

As I said previously, the sound is comparable to the excellent Japanese releases of 2008, so if you want an upgrade or to complete the discography of a band you don’t have much by, for the price ‘The Diamond Collection’ is pretty much a no-brainer. All credit to Frontiers for putting together all the great music this band ever made (so far?)

Phil Ashcroft

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