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1 stars I didn't really know that much about Triumph when I found this album in my uncle's vinyl collection. I had maybe heard one or two songs on the radio but dismissed them as just another rock band that kind of sounds like early Rush. That sound was what I was expecting when I put the needle down on THE SPORT OF KINGS; needless to say, the album didn't have that sound, but the sound I did hear wasn't pleasing to my ears.

I could give a track by track explanation into the fabric of the album, but what would be the point? Think of the most stereotypical 80's pop-rock album complete with sappy love lyrics, AOR power guitars and poppy synths, and that pretty much takes care of the ten tracks beyond the three minute mark. I am more reminded of Steve Perry's Journey rather than early Rush, but I honestly don't have much affinity for the former band.

The only track I can really stomach is the short, guitar piece ''Embrujo''; it's sort of a breath of fresh air in comparison to the rest of the album. It's not a great guitar thing, especially when I've heard a few other guitar pieces like the ones from Tony Iommi.

On the whole, the album is drab to my ears. Progressive rock contents are extremely minimal if not completely absent. Only proggers with a sweet tooth for AOR-pop stuff should be interested in this album.

Report this review (#242202)
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars Call me a glutton for aural punishment but I assure you that I'm not a masochist. I've found that in Progland there are not only glorious peaks to admire but shadowy valleys and a lot of in-between plateaus to navigate and explore so, as a reviewer, I must honestly rate the product manufactured by its inhabitants accordingly. A few years back an assortment of albums by Triumph came into my possession and I finally got around to giving the group a listen in hopes of discovering some savory prog rock to chew on. Unfortunately I'm finding that instead of steak and lobster I'm being presented with unseasoned cauliflower and beets. I started with their '81 release, "Allied Forces," and by the final cut I thought it should've been called "Let's do what those other guys are doing" instead because rarely have I heard anything so imitative and mimicking in my life. However, being the forgiving sort that's ever willing to give artists another chance to redeem themselves (even the best lay a rotten egg from time to time) I gave their "Sport of Kings" from '86 an unbiased spin. The good news is that it's not quite as despicable as the aforementioned turd. The bad news is that the improvement is negligible.

They open with "Tears in the Rain," a pop rock song indistinguishable from the lame offerings of a thousand other groups that swarmed like flies on a week-old wildebeest carcass in the mid 80s. Think Jefferson Starship mating with Toto and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this track sounds like especially since drummer Gil Moore could've been the shrill vocalist Mickey Thomas' stand-in. "Somebody's Out There" is next and it would've fit into the soundtracks for "Footloose" or "Flashdance" perfectly. It's slick as a quart of Quaker State, formulaic to the nth degree and contains incredibly vapid lyrics that were probably jotted down on a coffee-stained Denny's napkin at the eleventh hour. Scorpions come to mind on "What Rules My Heart" and I don't mean that to be a compliment. This is a prime example of faux metal and it's so blatantly derivative as to be a disgrace. My guess is the answer to the tune's title is "an insatiable yearning for a Top 40 hit single." "If Only" follows and to that I'd add in parentheses "we had an atom of originality." I'll concede that singer/guitarist Rik Emmett owns an impressively strong set of lungs and if there'd been an American Idol competition in those days he might've made the judges drool all over themselves but maybe he was just born too soon for such a fate. As for this particular number I find no redeeming qualities to report. "Hooked on You" is as banal as its moniker suggests and even though I hate to keep making comparisons this is an obvious rip off of the "rawk" hairballs Billy Squier was repeatedly coughing up in that era. The trio tosses in a few audio tricks to try to fool us into thinking they're clever but they're woefully ineffective.

Their mutual Canadian upbringing notwithstanding, "Take a Stand" is most likely what Rush would've sounded like if they'd decided to abandon their inventive muse and chase the almighty dollar. (May we all pause for a moment and thank the prog gods they didn't.) I deem this track pathetic schlock. Moore steps back up to the mike to croon "Just One Night," a ditty that may've been written with Michael Bolton in mind. It's a pedestrian power ballad signifying nothing. Next comes a short instrumental, "Embujo," and wow, that detour into Tijuana really paid off for you guys, huh? I will grant them this, though. At least they display a modicum of inspiration even if it's only for a few minutes. "Play With the Fire" sports the tired boogie rock beat that I so despise because it unfailingly wears out its welcome in a nanosecond and then you're stuck with it for the duration. The song's words must've been assembled from a dollar store rhyming dictionary with no regard for content whatsoever. Emmett does get to show off his fretboard tapping technique at one point but it comes off cheesy and patronizing. The name they stuck on "Don't Love Anybody But Me" is as insipid as their designation as a prog-related band. This tune is so commercial that it should have a price tag hanging off it.

In their defense putting out this brand of rock & roll is the trap that a great number of their peers stepped into during that dismal decade so perhaps they simply fell victim to a fatal strain of the MTV virus that sapped them of all progressive tendencies. I have no doubt they were giving it all they had but it's like trying to make a cake without flour. A vital ingredient was missing. As I said before, they could've been leaning in a prog direction in their early years but nothing I've heard so far convinces me that they should be given the time of day by any serious progger. 0.7 stars.

Report this review (#1105516)
Posted Thursday, January 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I feel really embarrassed with some of the reviews on this band. Actually, these reviews and the overall abyssal ratings detracted me from trying Triumph again after something like a thirty years hiatus. Fortunately, traveling from link to link on Youtube, I happened to stumble upon some Triumph songs and I was really surprised by how good some of these songs are. That being said, with all due respect to guideline number 5, Triumph obviously have nothing to do on this website since their music is not remotely prog and the biography doesn't give much explanation on their presence. But they are here and so I guess that they deserve a fair or at least -since musical taste is a highly subjective matter- a more open minded treatment.

The Sport of Kings is not one of Triumph most praised albums, being seen as too poppy and slick, so this is no surprise that it gets the lowest rating of all of their discography on PA. This is indeed an AOR album in the vein of Foreigner (the band that comes to my mind first), Styx or Journey, where most songs can be labeled generic of the genre. Though, as far as I am concerned, these songs, while unspectacular, make it for a pleasant listen and lay the scene for the four gems of the album. Amongst these gems, first comes Somebody's Out There, a pop tune with a catchy as hell chorus that made for an obvious single ; two tracks later arrives If Only, a great power ballad ; finally the acoustic guitar instrumental Embrujo blends with Play With The Fire, a brilliant rocker that is the longest and IMHO best song of the album. A few words can be added for the second and last single, Just One Night, a ballad that in my book went, listen after listen, from totally lame at first to an assumed guilty pleasure. I read somewhere that this is the most radio-played Triumph song, which is not necessarily a good thing for the band's fame.

Overall, I consider The Sport of Kings a solid three stars album. But I suggest that prog fans who are not allergic to heavy AOR start somewhere else with Triumph, Allied Forces being probably the safer pick.

Report this review (#1340915)
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2015 | Review Permalink

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