Fresh off the debut In The Beginning, the "other" trio from Toronto reported back to famous Phase One Studios to record another gut-bustin' rock record that would wear several visible nods to prog on its brass knuckles. The earliest albums by Triumph had the most to benefit from the new remastering process Brett Zilahi at Metalworks put them through, and this Rock & Roll Machine has never sounded better. Sounds are separated like colors on a page, and every guitar lick, bass low and drum strike reverberates with a renewed vitality.
In fact, Levine's four strings are at their most audible, revealing him to be more than the overlooked void-filler he was unfortunately often regarded as. Vocal duties between guitarist Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore are evenly split, Gil sounding his best on the opener and closer, Rik's golden pipes crowning "Bringing It On Home," "New York City Streets, Part II," and "Minstrel's Lament"—with a voice like Rik's, it must've been hard to not sound great.
The first three songs are gritty enough and induce visions of urban street life, free love, parties, relationships, and (naturally) babes! Though it disappeared from later setlists, "Takes Time" makes hands ball into fists. Still, there is this pervasive innocence, a transporting medium that becomes the soundtrack to a life and time that was and still is. The opening salvo is balanced by the sweet contours of "New York City Streets, Part I" and its wonderfully understated guitar work and splendid "country-jazz" outro; the steel-grooved second half of "City Streets" that echoes Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" with its chord progression; the melodic detour Mike Levine's uniformly complementary bass-playing takes in the aforementioned songs; and finally, the unlisted Mellotron flutes and choirs on "Minstrel's Lament." Nothing of the sort would be experienced on future Triumph albums (though synthesizers would occur more frequently).
Even this far back, an Emmett solo guitar piece was more or less mandatory, and exists in the form of the second part of the nine minute-plus concept, "The City"—Triumph wouldn't gravitate towards a concept again until Thunder Seven. The first part of the suite is actually an uncredited lift of Holst's "Mars, The Bringer Of War" (well, it does sound very similar!).
The cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" is very solid, and Joe made sure to thank the guys for the "royalty checks" whenever he ran into them at parties back then. The classic title track, an instant concert staple present on all three live albums, is the bookend of this chapter—still close to seven minutes in length, still containing Rik's legendary long guitar interlude. This is what rock's all about!
1. Takes Time (3:48)
2. Bringing It On Home (4:35)
3. Little Texas Shaker (3:24)
4. New York City Streets – Part I (3:09)
5. New York City Streets – Part II (3:09)
6. – The City – (9:20)
›› Part I – War March [2:14]
›› Part II – El Duende Agonizante [1:46]
›› Part III – Minstrel's Lament [5:20]
7. Rocky Mountain Way (4:04)
8. Rock & Roll Machine (6:53)
Total time: 40:22