Give Rik Emmett full credit. He never lied to you, never led you to believe something that wasn’t true and, in that, admit that your reaction to his new band’s album, RES9, may be hindered by your own unrealized expectations. By this, I mean that this new group, Rik Emmett Solution 9, or RESoultion9, or RES9, or whatever never once purported to be the second coming of Emmett’s former band Triumph, and they are not. They’re very good, but altogether different.
Triumph was, for a time, the second most well-known rock band coming out of Canada, behind Rush but ahead of April Wine and FM. (Ed.: What about The Guess Who? Dunphy: Shut up, Ed.) They had the occasional proggy lean but were, more consistently, delivering melodic hard rock. RES9, on the other hand, are a blues rock band, and not shy about it. The contradictions are clear but old Triumph fans had some thin reasons to believe otherwise. This new album features three songs including guests Alex Lifeson, guitarist from Rush, and James LaBrie, vocalist for Dream Theater. The former was a contemporary of Triumph while the latter was unarguably influenced by Triumph. A preconception about how the album would sound could be pinned to their inclusion, but their songs aren’t exemplars of the whole. Again, there are a couple of hard rockers included on a blues rock record by a band that is not Triumph.
Perhaps the hardest disconnection between expectation and realization came when people read about the CD’s bonus track, “Grand Parade,” featuring Gil Moore and Mike Levine. In case you didn’t know, these are Emmett’s former Triumph bandmates. People started doing faulty math, adding 1 + 1 + 1 and coming up with 30. This is not a reunion beyond the possibility that the two aforementioned gentlemen sat in the studio room with RES9 and played acoustic instruments. The CD sleeve goes out of its way to downplay any kind of “reunion” conceptions, and indeed, this is not the kind of song Triumph would have played even at their most sedate.
The cumulative effect of all of this is that RES9 gets the short end of the stick anyway, even though it’s not really their fault, even though this collective seemingly did their best to disabuse people of false notions. The album is good (but not great), and well-performed. It is not necessarily my cup of tea, and I cannot say that I would have bought it if Emmett’s prior commitments weren’t somehow known. But a disservice is nonetheless done to Emmett, Dave Dunlop, Steve Skingley, and Paul Delong because of the baggage brought to their doorstep. They are accomplished musicians.
It is at this point that you might guess there’s a lot of faint praise being doled out. The truth is that I simply don’t see myself listening to this record much. Setting aside those expectations, one is left with the songs themselves and no matter how professionally they are executed, they are on the whole lacking that all important hook that brings you around again. By the time I finished my first few listens nothing stood out for me. The lyrics didn’t grab me, either through cleverness or force of message, and the melodies were indistinct. If the best remark you can make is that it’s all rather unremarkable content-wise, that’s a problem.
I would genuinely like to say that Emmett and the new group have gone a different path and it payed off handsomely, but I can’t. Perceptions, misperceptions, solid musicianship, special guests or not, when it’s all boiled down what you’re left with are the songs. That’s what ultimately leaves RESolution 9 undone. The songs just wouldn’t hold up no matter who did them or how well they pulled them off. Rik Emmett was fair and square with us all, but without songs that demand you come back to them, the net result is about the same.