Triumph

Just a Game

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Triumph's first worldwide release, Rock & Roll Machine, had managed to capture the attention of many hard rock and heavy metal fans (as well as some borderline prog rock nerds), but still many more remained suspicious of the Canadian power trio's similarities to that country's established elder statesmen, Rush. Thankfully, 1979's Just a Game would see Triumph taking measures (albeit discreet ones) to establish a stronger personality of their own, by relinquishing some of those progressive tendencies in exchange for a generally bluesier, unquestionably rock-based songwriting approach that eventually defined them as slightly heavier foils to their famed countrymen. Another in-house production overseen by bassist, keyboard player, and all-around peacekeeper Mike Levine, Just a Game once again balanced an equal number of compositions from dual lead singers and songwriting forces Rik Emmett (guitar) and Gil Moore (drums). But whereas the squeaky-voiced Emmett was in fine form throughout, delivering two of Triumph's best singles ever in the anthemic "Lay It on the Line" and the irresistibly upbeat "Hold On," before scoring high marks with the majestic title track itself, many of Moore's contributions (including cornball rocker "American Girls" and the passable blues "Young Enough to Cry") suffered from an excess of musical clich├ęs and terribly cheesy lyrics. "Suitcase Blues" had other problems entirely, falling flat on its easy listening face, and sounding more appropriate for the local Holiday Inn lounge than a Triumph LP. To be fair, though, these were simpler times, far removed from the cynical attitudes that would evolve after a few decades of rock & roll repetition, so modern listeners would do well to cut Moore and Triumph some slack. And what better place to start cutting slack than album opener "Movin' On," whose chorus of brightly layered harmonies alluded to Chicago pomp rockers Styx, who were enjoying the peak of their popularity and influence at the time of this release. With all that in mind, it's easy to understand why Just a Game -- imperfections and all -- remains one of Triumph's best-loved and best-selling albums.

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