Back in the ’80s, I don’t think I could have given you the name of five songs by Triumph, and perhaps, not even one song by the Canadian rock trio that didn’t have the name “Rush” on their albums. In spite of my ignorance, Triumph apparently did just fine, and had themselves quite a career, beginning in the mid ’70s with their self-titled debut release in 1976 and wrapping up eight albums later with Surveillance in 1988. (The band would later regroup in 1993 with a revised lineup, releasing Edge of Excess, their lone studio release in the ’90s.)
With a number of gold and platinum releases to their credit (a total of 8 certifications in Canada alone), Triumph sold over 10 million albums during their career. Singles like “Hold On,” “Magic Power,” “Fight The Good Fight,” and especially “Lay It On The Line” drove Triumph to arena rock success (and later, a high profile appearance at the legendary US Festival), driven by the shared lead vocals of drummer Gil Moore and guitarist Rik Emmett. The Rush comparison is a natural one to make, since both bands are trios, but aside from the occasional Peart-like drum fill from Moore (and yes, he had a really big drum kit too), and brief Geddy-esque vocal moments from Emmett, Triumph fit more comfortably with bits and pieces of the sounds of any one of the so-called “corporate rock” bands (Journey, Boston, etc.) that were making albums in the ’80s. And hearing a song like “Hold On,” I think it’s safe to say that future Giant mastermind and producer Dann Huff might have listened to a few Triumph albums before eventually forming his own band in the late ’80s.
While Triumph might not be the most original sounding band of their time, they are quite possibly one of the smartest bands in their genre. Butting heads frequently with their label (RCA Records), Triumph pushed hard and overspent with no regret on each album that they made, and put additional money out on the table to make sure that fans were getting their money’s worth with the coolest light and stage show (and one that was revolutionary for the time period) they could possibly bring on tour (with a road show that at one point, cost $100,000 per week). Investing further in their future, Triumph built Metalworks Studios, a state of the art facility established in 1978 for exclusive use by the band. The studio went on to become one of Canada’s most successful recording studios, eventually hosting clients from Barenaked Ladies to Rush to Guns ‘n Roses, and Moore continues to operate the studio to this day. In 1998, after Emmett rejected a proposal for a 20th anniversary reunion tour, Moore and bassist Mike Levine made their smartest move to date, purchasing the entire Triumph catalog from MCA Records, and they subsequently established TRC Entertainment (later renamed to TML Entertainment) to release a series of Triumph archival recordings, culminating in the 2004 release of remastered editions of all of the band’s studio albums.
Which brings us to the release of Greatest Hits Remixed, a title which made me wince when I first read about the pending release, but after hearing it, I can assure you that this release is a good thing, especially if you’re a Triumph fan. You won’t find the eight minute dance remix of “Magic Power” on this CD, so there is no need for any panic. Additionally, these are definitely the Triumph songs that you remember – they haven’t been futzed with in a unnecessary history-altering sort of way. Instead, the best way that I can describe these remixes is to say that everything has more presence, with a sound that is more full than the previous versions. It certainly helps that the originals were well-recorded, giving producer Rich Chycki a good palette of colors to work with in constructing the new mixes. After hearing “Lay It On The Line” on the radio a bazillion times, I was blown away at how good the new mix sounds, compared to the version I’ve been familiar with all of these years. You’ll experience a similar feeling, listening to the rest of the tracks on the album, all of which boast unbelievable sonic clarity that is hard to believe, considering the time period that all of this stuff was recorded in.
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The liner notes present an extensive history of the group that is thorough, although as an audio geek, I would have liked to have read some notes behind the process that went into remixing this material, and in fact a short video documentary regarding the remixes on the accompanying DVD would have put this package over the top. But the DVD on its own is equally worthy – a collection of 11 of the band’s videos, plus bonus footage featuring two videos from the later version of Triumph with singer Phil X, some “bootleg fan video” from 1980 that is surprisingly crisp, and the DVD is rounded out with footage of the band’s 2007 Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and 2008 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductions.
The music videos look about as good as you’d expect them to look for the time period, but all of the audio has been cleaned up with the new mixes presented in 5.1 Surround Sound. A special mention regarding the DVD authoring for this package, which really deserves some sort of Canadian Juno Award, if they give out awards for that sort of thing. Authored in house at Metalworks, the menu visuals are incredible and they are some of the best that I’ve seen on any music DVD release. The entire Triumph/Metalworks team really put a lot of effort into making this the coolest anthology release a fan could possibly want, whether you’re a hardcore Triumph lifer, or just someone like myself that liked a few of the hits over the years. The DVD is worth the purchase of this package on its own merit – a full length piece that very easily could have been released on its own as a separate release. Considering that this was a release that was one of my least anticipated releases of this year, Greatest Hits Remixed ultimately will probably rank as one of the best archival releases of the year – it’s that good.
I hear rumblings that a reunion tour is possibly (and finally!) on the books for 2011 (after a couple of one-off shows a couple of years ago, including a performance at Rocklahoma), and if that’s the case, Greatest Hits Remixed is the perfect release to tune up for those shows.