On September 11, 1986 "Triumph" released its eighth album "The Sport of Kings".
This album came straight after "Thunder Seven" from 1984, one of the band's most successful albums, which gave the record company a great appetite to create an album that would be even more commercialized than the previous one.
Indeed, this album found singer/guitarist Rik Emmett, singer/drummer Gil Moore, and bassist/keyboardist Mike Levine giving in to the commercial trends of radio and television and succumbing to the record company's pressures.
Bassist Mike Levine later noted that this album made the band members question what they were doing and how they were allowing the record company, for the first time, to be a part of "Triumph". He noted that the whole process was "no fun" and that all the band members felt like they were getting root canals every day during the recordings. The intervention of the record company was no small matter, they even forced the band to include a cover version of the saccharine ballad "Just One Night" in the album, by Eric Martin which he wrote in collaboration with Neal Schon known from the band "Journey".
Levine added that "The Sport of Kings" was a "poppy" album and that there were some parts on it that he even refused to play. In the end, the band's management had to bring in three different keyboardists to step into his shoes Lou Pomanti, Michael Boddicker, and Scott Humphrey.
Today it can already be said that the pressures exerted by the record company did not only affect the specific album, but also the fate of the band as a whole, since right then began the deterioration of the classic lineup of "Triumph", which ends with the departure of guitarist Rik Emmett in 1988.
And with all that, listening to the album will reveal that it is a "fun" album to listen to, although not like a classic "Triumph" album, but more like a pop-rock or "AOR" album with ticking, radio-friendly tunes. It is interesting to note that this result came despite the presence of producer Mike Clink, whose next task will be completely different - the production of the album "Appetite for Destruction" by "Guns n' Roses".
The album includes some hits and interesting songs, but they too are not compared to the band's massive repertoire. Among the better songs on the album are the two opening tracks, "Tears in the Rain" which is led by Emmett's power chords and the powerful vocals of Gil Moore, and the melodic "Somebody's Out There" which was sung by Rik Emmett, both of which won quite a bit plays on the radio at the time.
It is worth mentioning that, similar to the band's previous albums, the singing duties are divided between singer and guitarist Rik Emmett and the singer and drummer Gil Moore, with Emmett singing lead vocals on six of the ten songs on the album, Moore singing on four songs from the album, while one track is sung by the two together, as a duet
Whoever listens to the album will discover that the sound and style sometimes remind him of bands like "Journey", "Foreigner", "Boston" and more, such as the guitar sound at the beginning of the song "Don't Love Anybody Else but Me" which is very reminiscent of the guitar harmonies and sound layers of "Boston".
However, there are moments that this album will remind you somewhat of the classic sound of "Triumph" such as in the songs "What Rules My Heart" sung by Gil Moore and "Hooked on You" which is the only song on the album where Emmett and Moore share vocals.
Other interesting songs worth listening to are the ballad "If Only" sung by Rik Emmett, an atmospheric pop-rock song with symphonic keyboards and layers of guitar, and "Take a Stand" with a guitar whose vibe is a bit reminiscent of Tom Hamilton's bass in the song "Sweet Emotion" by "Aerosmith", the hard rocker "Play With Fire" with its incredible guitar work and Rik Emmett's massive solo (don't miss it) and high pitched howls, his amazing instrumental "Embrujo" which features breathless classical Spanish guitar and the radio-friendly closing song "In the Middle of the Night" which also includes Emmett's most emotional vocals on the entire album.
For many of the band's long-time fans, "The Sport of Kings" may sound too commercial, but even so, they certainly won't allow themselves to skip it. If you're into eighties hard rock or "AOR" music, we think you'll enjoy this magical album, even if you're not a die-hard fan of the band.