Great Metal Albums of 1986: Triumph- The Sport of Kings

Theory: Triumph is the best Canadian band not to have made a big impression in the UK. Support for my theory comes in the form of the 1986 album, “The Sport of Kings.” The album came out just a few weeks before I departed for the UK and for some unknown reason, I never got around to getting it before I left. When I did get to Britain, there was no talk of the album, even by some of the fellow metalheads I would eventually befriend at college. The album was on sale at a few good record shops but you had to dig to find it. Therefore, I get the feeling that Triumph never really made a huge impact in the UK.

From what I have read, Triumph, Rik Emmett especially, have pretty much disowned this album. It could be the fact that there was a lot of tension between the band and their record label, MCA, or it could be the fact that it appears that the album has a more commercial friendly sound. The more hard rocking edge which I came to love Triumph for seems to have been noticeably turned down here. The first three songs are a prime example. While only, “Somebody’s Out There” was the only track officially released as a single, all three of those tracks could have been. They all seemed to have been toned down to appear more radio friendly. In the case of “What Rules the Heart,” it is a bit of a shame because if the guitars had been turned up a little, it would have made a good song great! I love the way Rik solos through the entire song.

“If Only” is more of a return to Triumph’s more traditional territory. However, it’s more towards their creative side than a rock out. Not a criticism, just an observation. This song reminds me a little of the classic “World of Fantasy,” so that’s not a bad thing. On the other hand, the next track, “Hooked On You,” is more of a return to the hard rock which made Triumph famous in my eyes. Each time, I hear the song on the album, I find myself saying, “Let’s have more of this.” Therefore, it gets my vote for hidden gem.

If listening to “The Sport of Kings” on cassette or vinyl, “Hooked on You” ends the first side. This whets the appetite giving hope that side two provides more of the same. “Take a Stand” delivers on that hope. It is a rocker with power chords and some cool harmonizing on the chorus and a pretty cool guitar solo from Emmett. Then when you think things are rocking along, the ballad, “Just One Night,” pops up. It’s okay as far as ballads go but I can’t shake the belief that it would have been better placed earlier on the album, before “Hooked on You.”

Following the ballad is an instrumental, mainly acoustic but there is a brief solo at the beginning and some keyboards. Only a minute and a half long, it does provide a brief break before things go back to more rock with “Play With Fire.” Yes, more of this please! And you get more of that with “Don’t Love Anyone Else but Me.” That song has a killer intro and though I still class it as a rocker, it does seem to be toned down a little. It does have a catchy rhythm to it. In fact, I think it would be a better closer than “In the Middle of the Night.” The actual closer sounds like, a ‘let’s do some experimenting’ type song with the different flavours which a appear on it. All of which are done very well, mind you but it’s not what a call a ‘closer’ song.

Track Listing:

  1. Tears in the Rain
  2. Somebody’s Out There
  3. What Rules My Heart
  4. If Only
  5. Hooked On You
  6. Take a Stand
  7. Just One Night
  8. Embrujo
  9. Play With Fire
  10. Don’t Love Anyone Else But Me
  11. In the Middle of the Night

Rik Emmett- guitars, lead and backing vocals, Fairlight CMI

Mike Levine- bass, synthesizers, backing vocals

Gil Moore- drums, lead and backing vocals, percussion

Additional Musicians:

Lou Pomanti, Michael Boddicker, Scott Humphrey- additional synthesizers, keyboards

Johnny Rutledge, David Blamires, Neil Donnell- backing vocals

While “The Sport of Kings” doesn’t make me want to put other classic albums like “Thunder Seven,” “Allied Forces” and “Never Surrender” on the shelf, the musicianship of Triumph still shines through. It is on account of this that they are able to make what many call a lackluster album, still sound good.

Next post: Kick Axe- Rock the World

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9 Responses to “Great Metal Albums of 1986: Triumph- The Sport of Kings”

  1. Yeah this one was a tough listen after the previous three were stellar! I bought it cheap on vinyl last year and spun it. Not bad, not great but ok. You can hear the drum sound that Mike Clink had going on as a year later on Appetite For Destruction there’s the sound of the drums.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I got this tape finally in 89, I thought it had to be one of the best albums I ever heard in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allied Forces was my favorite Triumph studio LP.

    Liked by 1 person

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