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JUST A GAME

Triumph

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3 stars Let me just start with the fact that I was a huge Triumph fan back in the day. Saw them twice in concert late 70's early 80's. Also Rik Emmett is and was a great talent. He could play with the best of them. I'm always perplexed by the comparison between these guys and Rush. The word Trio is the only thing the two bands have in common. With that said, Just a Game is a good aor/rock record. As much as I liked it then, it does sound very dated now. What it is not is Prog. To me, there isn't a hint of it with this record. This is straight foward Rock. Nothing more, nothing less.
Report this review (#49998)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Just A game is the third album and IMHO the last one I would qualify as a four star album if I was on another site than the PROG Archives. Among all of Triumph albums that got a first wave Cd reissue this one got a raw deal as it was on MCA which did not care for the impressive gatefold artwork sleeve (giving them for the first time their definitive logo) although the inside gatefold was a "get your band to the top" dice game.

And the game is exactly what most of these tracks are all about. No mysticism, no D&D lyrics, just good time RnR with the lyrics expressing their very state of mind - "this band is On The Loose" on the opening track - , some of them brutal enough to be Macho Rock - American Girls - , but there are many more delicate moments that still make this album endearing. There is only one weaker track, the throw-away acoustic Suitcase Blues, but even then, it has some qualities.

The majority of the tracks are your standard Triumph tracks (their formula was now well established) and of little use to adult progheads (but cater many ideas to revolted teens) , but clearly Triumphs many qualities can be more visible in their mid-tempo tracks such as Lay It On The Line , Young Enough To Cry and the title track. Emmett's voice mixed with Moore's can make an exciting combination and both have almost similar vocal timbre, that one must really pay attention to find out which is singing what lines. In those mid-tempos, we can hear fully the good but pedestrian bass play of Levine, his light Kbs layers mixing in so well with Moore's heavy skin-pounding drums. Again as is now the tradition, a short track allowing Emmett's impressive prowesses to be showcased is a highlight: Fantasy Serenade.

Clearly the opening track sets the mood of this album (a bit like Genesis did with the opening track of ATTWT, Down And Out ) they tell their fans that they made a choice to stick with shorter tracks and less constructed songs. This will be further documented in the following two albums. but by then the progressive Triumph had clearly been discarded.

Report this review (#51075)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
arcer
PROG REVIEWER
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.
Report this review (#52415)
Posted Thursday, October 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Like their "Progressions of power" album, "Just a game" is very straightforward hard rock-oriented: the progressive related elements are mostly absent here, and the songs are not really elaborated. The sound is however better than on the "Progressions of power" album. The songs sound pretty deja vu, clearly reminding American bands like Journey, Boston and Shooting Star. On a different note, the song "Just a game" is more melancholic, while "American Girls" is a very catchy hard rock'n roll hit; there are a couples of more bluesy tracks. Rik Emmett still plays here some interesting usual acoustic guitar intros. Triumph did better.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#73152)
Posted Saturday, March 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It's another straight hard rock album. The opening track "Movin' On" (4:07) has a good and motivating lyrics. The second track "Lay It on the Line" (4:05) is agood track with nice vocal, good melody line and nice guitar solo and riffs. This song is typical of early seventies song like Budgie's "Ain't No Mountain" which once became hit in my country on mid seventies. "Young Enough to Cry" (6:03) is Triumph's answer to blues rock music. It's one of my favorites because the composition is good, the guitar solo resembles like a true blues track. The guitar solo is also stunning.

"American Girls" (5:03) is another nice offering with clear vocal quality and rhythm section of guitar riffs. The music is composed in Southern Rock style; somewhat .. it reminds me to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Bloodrock. The title track "Just a Game" (6:13) is a good slow rock outfit with nice guitar fills and attractive singing style with blues influenced style. It's a very accessible track for many ears.

It's not a prog album but it's a good rock album to have. Almost all tracks are good.

Report this review (#120974)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
1 stars I was spreading manure over my rose bushes this evening and it occurred to me that I hadn’t played any Triumph albums in quite some time. Well the mood seemed right, so off I went to the den to fish out something suitable to the occasion. And nestled back in the stacks just behind a couple of Butthole Surfers records and the stylish Keith Carradine ‘I’m Easy’ album I found this thing. Imagine my surprise it survived the Shaun of the Dead skeet-shoot my brother and I had last summer! And the goofy proto- Guitar Hero band board game on the inside fold was an added bonus I had forgotten about. My kids were so not impressed when I asked if they wanted to play it. Oh well.

This is the record that did two things, one for the band and one for me personally. On the band front the release of “Lay it on the Line” and “Hold On” gave them their first American hit singles. For me the album supplied some of the best lyrical arguments for Triumph being the most chauvinistic, juvenile, and shallow trio of Canadians I’ve ever laid eyes on. And yes – unfortunately I did see them live in the seventies. Then again, I also saw their countrymen April Wine and Loverboy (three times), so it’s clear my bar for acceptable entertainment was hovering pretty close to the ground in those days. For the record I’d rate April Wine as the overall least-sucky of the bunch. But I digress.

The best of the best? Here we go:

“Are you sure I'm the heartless one woman, after all we've been through? I gave you the best of my love, my sweet hoochie- koo”;

“Don't waste my time - lay it on the line; you got no right to make me wait - we better talk, girl, before it gets too late”;

“I'm talking about American girls, they got what I need; American girls, that's what I want - American girls”;

Inspiring stuff. I really am at a loss to understand why Fish didn’t cover a few of these classics. Or even Wishbone Ash during their ‘Twin Barrels Burning’ days. Wasted opportunities.

Really there’s nothing much to say about this album that can’t be said of most of the rest of the tripe Triumph put out in the seventies. Shallow, loud, two-chord pseudo white-boy blues with plenty of spandex, hair extensions, well-placed cucumbers, and as always Rik Emmett’s just-raped-a-cat vocals. To be fair though, Emmett manages to push out the worst first on “Movin’ On” with his unique brand of scorched-earth lyrical mangling. After that he actually seems to come to the realization that he’s both out of tune and well beyond his octave range most of the time and reigns things in vocal-wise until almost the end where the title track proves to be too much temptation and he strangles a few more small critters in the name of art. I have say to his vocal performance on the instrumental “Fantasy Serenade” is one of his finest efforts of that decade though.

For some reason the band felt the need to enlist some help in the vocal department; maybe they actually listened to Emmett’s reference tracks early enough in the process to realize that an auditory masking agent was in order. Whatever. Vocal-Coach-To- The-Stars™ Elaine Overholt, Leigh-Ashford (who?) guitarist Gord Waszek, Anne Murray sidekick Colina Phillips and somebody named Clint Ryan from something called Spuff all lend their vocal chords, but nobody bothered to turn off Emmett’s mike so really it’s no use. At least the boys showed some patriotic spirit by only surrounding themselves with fellow Canucks. Or maybe it’s just that the Labour department didn’t buy the ‘artistic value’ rationale for the work visa applications of American or British session musicians. Whichever.

Well, I have my fix of these guys for another year or so. Apparently I need to go scrape fungus out of the rain gutters before bedtime, so its time to switch out Triumph for some appropriate accompaniment for that task. Some Ratt maybe.

Anyway – peace

Report this review (#131463)
Posted Thursday, August 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars It's straight hard rock album

The opening track Movin on sounds like Styx, the rest are between Led Zeppelin and very vague Rush. Anyway this is a good album with a lot to appreciate like the blues Young Enough to Cry, very strong blues song, "American Girls" (5:03) is another nice offering with clear vocal quality and rhythm section of guitar riffs. The music is composed in Southern Rock style. The title track "Just a Game" is a good slow rock outfit with nice guitar fills and attractive singing style. It's a very accessible track for many ears. In the end a 3 star album for this canadian band.

Report this review (#144871)
Posted Monday, October 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
1 stars Laying it on the line

Just A Game is possibly Triumph's least interesting album. While most of their albums have at least one or two good songs or moments, Just A Game is a pure, straightforward Hard Rock/Blues Rock and Rock 'N' Roll album filled with generic and wholly unchallenging Rock numbers. The party rocker American Girls is lyrically so clichéd and musically so utterly dull that I must press 'next'. And the album's first three tracks are not much better. Movin' On sounding like Styx (in their worst Hard Rock moments). The title track is a far better song but it is extremely far behind songs like Blinding Light Show and Ordinary Man.

Fantasy Serenade is Rik Emmet's obligatory acoustic piece, easily the best moment on the whole album. Hold On reminds strongly of Boston and is acceptable, but it will hardly impress anyone in any way and neither will the Blues number Suitcase Blues that closes the album. I have to "lay it on the line" here and give this album the lowest possible rating. Triumph never made a great album, but they made much better ones both before and after this one.

The only positive feature of this album is its short length (even though it feels like an eternity!).

Only for completionists!

Report this review (#248187)
Posted Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I discovered Triumph when I was 18, about the same time that I learned about Rush and Yes. An assistant manager at the movie theater I worked at suggested that because I like these other awesome prog bands that I should check them out, too. So I picked up Just a Game, probably for $18 at the Silver Platters record store in Seattle (only after previewing them via Napster... those were the days). This may have been one of the most misguided music suggestions I've ever received; not only is Triumph not really progressive rock (at all), but they're also not anywhere near as interesting as that "other" Canadian power-trio. That being said, I still had fun with Just a Game and Triumph's other albums; they're a guilty pleasure rock band that has just enough hard rock excellence to make them worthy of discussion.

With Just a Game I think you'll find some of Triumph's best work. It's '70's era hard rock, which means its pretty awesome and genuine. The band sounds powerful, crunchy, fuzzy, and bottom-heavy. If all you need is a bit of hard rock... what more could you ask for? If you're looking for something deeper, well then you'll be skipping tracks a bit.

The opener, "Moving On" is a bland arena rocker about being on the road, sort of a required song in the repertoire of bands of this era. It's comes and goes harmlessly, though the overdubs of arena crowds cheering is a little ostentatious. "Lay it on the Line" and "Young Enough to Cry" are bluesy, heavy, and feature some good guitar work by Emmett. His playing, and the band's transitions between them and the bridges of songs, are probably the best thing you'll hear on this album.

You can just skip the trite "American Girls" for the two songs that anyone will remember about this album: "Just a Game," a slow-tempo, hard rocking crunch-fest, and the sickeningly radio-friendly and upbeat "Hold On," which is hook-laden montage material which is basically an extended version of Rush's "Closer to the Heart." It, like most of the material on this album, are just good old fashioned hard rock fun, made sort of quaint by Emmett's weak vocals. Drummer Moore's vocals are much stronger, but unfortunately he doesn't get to sing on the key songs.

So, if you're willing to take a recommendation from the burn-out assistant manager from your local cinemaplex... you'll probably find a ton to enjoy in Triumph's Just a Game! If you want a recommendation from a prog-head like me, then this is the only Triumph album you'll enjoy, but only then if you find it in the bargain bin.

Songwriting: 2 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1477938)
Posted Tuesday, October 20, 2015 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Three good songs

In my defense of Triumph as a great live band I mentioned the fact that they made some pretty mediocre studio albums. This is one. The problem with Triumph in my opinion is that no one had the apricots to tell Gil to zip it and just worry about the drums. While Gil is a decent drummer and backing vocalist who compliments Emmett's vocals well, the band suffers from the tracks he leads. I don't know how the writing arrangements break down, but I do know that the "Rik vocal songs" are the good ones generally, while the "Gil vocal songs" are usually the ultra predictable, painful bar room blues hard rockers you could hear at the corner pub. Nothing wrong with that if you like it, but I don't. It certainly hurt this band's studio output overall I would argue.

"Just a Game" delivered one huge hit (Lay It on the Line) which brought the band a ton of radio airplay but beyond that it's slim pickins'. Side 2 had two decent tracks that sound very much like some of Tommy Shaw's early contributions to Styx (Just a Game, Hold On). I would describe them as dreamy, melodic 70s rock with nice use of acoustic guitars for flavor and beautiful lead playing. Put these three fine tracks with the short acoustic Fantasy Serenade solo and you have a pretty good half album. But the other half ranges from brutal to mediocre. I think there is still enough good stuff here for *fans* of the band to add this to their collection, but I can't quite call it a "good" album overall. But if you like a song like "American Girls" (which you can preview on YT), then by all means dive in. If you like that stuff there's a good chance you'll like this album more than I.

Report this review (#1537608)
Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars The Canadian power trio TRIUMPH had been on an upward trajectory of gaining popularity in their home country and with their second album "Rock & Roll Machine" finding a global market, their reputation as a hard rock and heavy metal band was growing by the day which included a small crossover from prog fans who were hoping that they would delve more into those arenas. However on their third album JUST A GAME, the comparisons to Rush had finally taken their toll so TRIUMPH streamlined their sound more into the hard rock camp but also found their niche with those catchy AOR power ballad hooks that found two of their most popular tracks of their career hitting the top 40 worldwide including the Billboard charts. "Lay It On The Line" and "Hold On" showcased Rik Emmett's high pitched vocals while the more heavier tracks focused on hard bluesy rock which were primarily written by drummer Gil Moore.

As a result of the world of popular music ditching prog oriented music in favor of punk and heavy rock in the latter part of the 70s, TRIUMPH jettisoned the ambitious longer tracks presented on their first two albums and created a more cohesive albeit less exciting collection of nine tracks. JUST A GAME as well played as it is, sounds very much in tune with the mainstream hard rock of the era with not only the Styx and Journey sounding AOR tracks but with the bluesy rockers such as "American Girls" that remind me a lot of 38 Special and other Southern-tinged hard rock of the late 70s / early 80s turnover. Musically TRIUMPH basically sold out as JUST A GAME doesn't even feature any outstanding virtuosity of Emmett's guitar skills as heard on the previous albums however as a standard commercial sounding hard rock album of the era, all tracks are catchy and pleasurable to listen to as they are well performed, well produced and take the final step in finding their unique sound that jettisons many of the characteristics of fellow Ontario mates Rush.

While JUST A GAME may not be the most sophisticated album musically, the album cover is absolutely brilliant with the original LP vinyl version that folded out to display a giant board game that could actually be played although bassist Mike Levine convinced the band that it should be impossible to win and so it was! The futuristic looking front cover also contains a symbol that depicts every song on the album, so apparently they weren't quite ready to let go of the all the prog urges which becomes even more apparent by the short classical guitar number "Fantasy Serenade" that sounds a bit out of place actually. When all is said and done, JUST A GAME is a competent album that plays it all too safe. While commercially it was the right thing to do, it seems a little too tame in comparison to the albums that surround it. While the singles are some of the strongest TRIUMPH had to offer, the rest of the album seems a little mediocre in terms of quality. Pleasant album but not outstanding either.

3.5 rounded down

Report this review (#1738784)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2017 | Review Permalink

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