Album review: RIK EMMETT & RESolution 9 – RES9

Rik Emmett - RES9

Provogue [Release date 11.11.16]

Rik Emmett’s RESolution 9 is a beacon of quality on a sometimes bewilderingly fragmented rock landscape. Emmett’s 26 year solo career reflects the fact that he’s a gifted songwriter with something meaningful to say.

When he does fall back on the more riff-driven material such as ‘End of The Line’, he rocks out hard enough to remind us just why we were originally drawn to the rock genre.

‘RES9′ is a coherent set of songs that reflects an independent musician at ease with who he is. His wide ranging musical palette embraces tight funky workouts, riff-driven rock, expansive ballads and hook laden radio fare, but it’s all delivered with just enough edge and memorable riffs to remind us of his Triumph days.

‘RES 9′ balances intense playing with lyrical introspection. Over the course of ten songs and a melodic bonus track ‘The Grand Parade’, Emmett leaves his unique calling card, which is that of a fine singer and multi-genre songwriter with real craft.

Canadian Rock Hall Of Fame inductee Emmett is a thoughtful, reflective and humorous songwriter, who is never more than one song away from real commercial potential. You suspect his hook laden material is the end result of the joy of songwriting, rather than the desperate search for a hit.

Such is his essential craft that even an apparent lightweight link track such as ‘Sweet Tooth’ still raises a smile with its cheesy imagery, Graham Nash style vocal and deft country picking.

This album is full of imaginative ideas, musical diversity, sumptuous grooves and great playing from his road band, which features guitarist Dave Dunlop, drummer Paul Delong and bass playing keyboard player Steve Skingley. Additionally, there’s plus special guest appearances by Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Dream Theater’s James LaBrie and former Triumph members Gil Moore and Mike Levine who reinforce the album’s underlying maturity.

‘RES9′ gives each musical nuance its full reign on 11 songs. From the opening slide-led boogie-funk of ‘Stand Still’ to the closing riff-driven rocker ‘End Of The Line’ and the postscript bonus track ‘Grand Parade’, the whole musical journey sounds like a de facto album rather than a simple aggregation of songs.

Surprisingly perhaps, when original Triumph members Gil Moore and Mike Levine finally do reassemble on ‘Grand Parade’  it’s on the album’s most introspective track on which Emmett’s rich lyrics paints an evocative picture that is closer in style to Billy Joel and Harry Chapin than the power trio Triumph used to be.

And yet for all the reflective moments, ‘RES9′ is still essentially a rock album made by a songwirter with real depth who gives the burgeoning ‘Human Race’, a self-reaffirming opening yell before delivering a classic opening line: “I got a raging heart, the hot wired kind, I got the fire of a dragon lighting up a hyper active mind.” The song moves towards an enveloping hook and an expansive bridge that leads to a magical harmony guitar part featuring Alex Lifeson.

‘Heads Up’ is a similar riff-led rocker with potent harmonies and a wall of sound, but with more of a pop-rock feel.

‘My Cathedral’ is a lyrical gem sandwiched between two ballads and has the kind of lyrical weight to stand out in any part of the album:  ”She claims God’s will, fashions every twist of fate, things happen for a reason, there’s no divide in church & state.”  The song also benefits from a gospel tinged hook that will surely bring more radio play.

‘When You Were My Baby’ is a funky Latino infused highlight, on which Emmett’s core trio stretch out and transform an overly familiar relationship song into a deep groove on which Emmett and Dunlop swap Santana style flourishes.

Dream Theater’s James LaBrie makes the first of two appearances on ‘I Sing’, which teeters on the brink of being an MOR style ballad, but successfully reaches an uplifting conclusion via stirring harmonies.

The heartfelt ‘The Ghost Of Shadow Town’ is another ballad, which opens with dual guitar lines and has echoes of Gary Moore, before Rik reverts to pop rock on ‘Rest Of My Life’, to remind us that ‘RES9′ is ultimately about the quality of his songs rather than the his ability to rock.

There’s still room for a sting in the tail though, as Emmett, Lifeson and LaBrie rock hard on ‘End Of The Line’, while Emmett lights the fuse and indulges himself in the kind of blues-rock bonfire that everyone buying this album would have hoped for. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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