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Triumph - Just A Game CD (album) cover




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2.73 | 57 ratings

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3 stars Triumph's applicability as a prog-related band probably suits this album more than any other in their oeuvre, at least in the second half of the album, which above seems to come from the CD reissue. The cassette copy I had as a youngster had a different running order but this, presumably, correct order seems to make more sense, veering twoards a definition of the material into the Rik Emmet penned second side and the Mike Levine penned first half. After ploughing away, somewhat unsuccessfully, as a hard-working bar band without breakthrough from their first recorded efforts, Just a Game, was as Emmet has said a concerted effort by the band to tap AOR radio in the US, taking bands like Boston and Journey as a template. The opening side of the album demonstrates this well. The first four tracks are really nothing to write home about. Movin' On is high-pitched vocal, guitars wailing, chugging radio-friendly 70s rock and American Girls is a crass piece of cynicism aimed at playing on the worst foibles of US FM jocks whose limited imagination might be piqued by the reference to America and girls in a song title. Young Enough to Cry is a poor white-boys' blues pastiche but here reaches a bit of a nadir in the genre, Emmet, Moore and Levine going through the 12-bar motions with about as much soul as Kraftwerk. The one redeeming feature of the first half of the record is 'Lay it on the Line'l, a fine, well crafted slice of FM rock kicked off with a nice phased guitar motif punctuated at the end of the verse with a big, catchy, powerchord-driven chorus. It was the obvious choice as a single. However, one out of three is not a good batting average. Things pick up on the second 'side' however. The title track is a six-minute little wonder, a genuinely good rock song and the highpoint of the album. Again employing a tasty circular guitar riff, Emmet sets up his small tale of the small man versus The Man well with simple verses linked by a small bridge and repeat of the intro refrain before delivering another killer chorus. The lyrics are nonsense but fit well. Emmet demonstrates some great guitat chops too. He always seemed to be a far more adventurous musician than his rather 'obvious' rhythm section could accommodate and his arrangement here, for mutliple guitars, is really nice. His solos on the title track are tasteful and well executed. In lyrical concept and musical execution it's about as close to prog as Triumph ever got. Just A Game seems the record up well for a grand finale and it achieves that finale well, giving respite after the title track with the nest little acoustic workout Fantasy Serenade followed by the 'we all dig musi, man, it's so powerful' anthem of Hold On. Another six-minute plus song, it's got Boston written all over it. From the opening acoustic guitar and string synth passage through the radio friendly rock of the mid-section right through to the closing section featuring some guitar pyrotechnics from Emmet over a neat pedal of almoist disco octave split, semi-damped guitar notes. It's a great big singalong rocker and is excellent feelgood American radio rock. Sprawling, harmony-laden, pop rock for the US heartland. It's the sort of song that was probably the soundtrack to a million and one prom nights. The album ends with a fun little jazz pastiche of suitcase blues, where Emmet again gets to show off his versatility as a guitar player. To some it all up, 'side one' is turgid, bland bar-room rock with little or no passion or enthusiasm but when Emmet gets his teeth into the arrangements and songwriting on 'side two', Just a Game proves itself to be a thoroughly enjoyable album. It isn't challenging, it isn't worldview-altering but it might make you smile and hum along.
arcer | 3/5 |


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