If you were to ask most Triumph fans -- even self-professed die-hards -- living in the pre-internet era to name the Canadian power trio's debut album, they'd probably tell you it was 1978's Rock & Roll Machine. They'd be wrong ...

An obscure, self-titled LP had been released solely in Triumph's homeland back in 1976, through the local Attic Records; and it was only after import copies started trickling across the border -- soon followed by the original version of the band's second album, Rock & Roll Machine  -- that Triumph landed an international deal with RCA in the States.

The label combined four songs each from the two Canadian pressings into the Rock & Roll Machine that was more readily available to fans around the world. It was even repackaged with cover art depicting stylized Flying Vs instead of the computerized rendering of singer and guitarist Rik Emmett, bassist and keyboardist Mike Levine and singer and drummer Gil Moore seen on the domestic version.

But what about that modest, overlooked first album in its original form? When Triumph's discography was reissued on CD, the album was given a new title, In the Beginning, and new cover art depicting a Spinal Tap-like Stonehenge-sized monolith that looked just as cheap as the original's unflattering portrait of the band.

In any case, the music was rather astutely summarized by writer Martin Popoff in the first volume of The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal -- The Seventies as getting "lost in the headlights between party metal and epic metal."

This was certainly illustrated by the album's first number, "24 Hours a Day" (the party), and its last, "Blinding Light Show / Moonchild" (the epic), both of which were familiar to fans who owned the international pressing.

So was the two-part "Street Fighter" suite (the first part was speed metal-fast; the second was deliberate and dreamy), but not the rest, including the muscular blues-rock of "Be My Lover" and "Don't Take My Life," the BTO-esque "What's Another Day of Rock 'n Roll," the meandering "Easy Life" and the white-knuckled rocker "Let Me Get Next to You."

These songs set the fundamental blueprint, even if crudely, for most of Triumph's future albums. You can even argue that the band applied new layers of polish and finesse to these raw essentials until the hits and platinum sales started coming its way.

But loyal Triumph fans know otherwise, appreciating the gradual evolution of their sound as they successfully navigated the seismic changes -- in consumer tastes, industry processes, etc. -- that rocked the '70s' transition into the '80s, and survived longer and stronger than countless groups of the era.

Their efforts to build upon that modest and often forgotten first album taught them quite a bit about persistence and belief in themselves for the challenges, and eventual triumphs, that lay ahead.

Triumph Albums Ranked Worst to Best

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