The Sport of Kings

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By the release of their eighth studio album, The Sport of Kings, in 1986, Triumph were struggling to navigate the depressing hard rock cesspool of the mid-'80s, a period when serious musicianship, songwriting adventure, and individuality itself had come under assault by the inexplicable success of superficial hair metal bands. So after bowing down to frosty token synthesizers on the preceding studio album, Thunder Seven, then killing time with 1985's lackluster live double, Stages, The Sport of Kings found the group searching for both a hit and a new identity by ill-advisedly taking the plunge into a rather gutless post-Journey and Foreigner brand of sleek AOR. To be fair, new offerings like "What Rules My Heart" and "Play with Fire" did manage to reinstate a certain sense of grandeur -- and class! -- reminiscent of Triumph's glory days, but nothing like their old pomp and bombast. Likewise, although commercially oriented fare like opener "Tears in the Rain," the Top 40 single "Somebody's Out There," and the surprisingly cynical "Don't Love Anybody Else But Me," with its acoustic and harmony lead guitars inspired by Boston (and arguably the album's best chorus), had their share of "moments," they simply lacked heart. Indeed, perhaps the band's general songwriting indifference and unenthusiastic performances were a direct reflection of the pressures to sell, sell, sell imposed by their record company and the marketplace, because The Sport of Kings ultimately turned out to be one of the most uninspired and sanitized album of Triumph's career.

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