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Happy The Man - The Muse Awakens CD (album) cover

THE MUSE AWAKENS

Happy The Man

 

Eclectic Prog

3.58 | 129 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
2 stars The Muse Oversleeps and is 27 years late for work

27 years after their charming and quirky début, 'Happy the Man' were it appears sufficiently disgruntled to feel the need to address some unfinished business. I have to say they look a damn sight more aesthetically appealing than the 'spaniels in bathrobes' that looked out sheepishly at us from their early publicity shots. (Notwithstanding the recruitment of two new spaniels in the interim) Time has also been a lot kinder to their music than it has for the likes of contemporaries 'Starcastle' (another flouncy pyjama-clad shampoo orgy but whose coiffured artwork and bouffant music makes some 'Yes' tribute bands sound original) It's a shame that Happy the Man's career timing were not as exemplary as their musical one, seeing as how they formed just as 'Punk' aimed its first glob of phlegm in the direction of everything it deemed hopelessly hippy, soft and fluffy. Those who are truly original but unsuccessful always seem to have to wait for the world to acknowledge them during that final straight inside the stadium and suffer with good grace the unrealistic expectation that marathon runners should embark on a victory lap.

You would expect the lads to have mellowed in the intervening years certainly, but perhaps not to the detrimental extent that is vouchsafed by the music contained herein. It's often bland, tame and mostly just far too damn polite by half. The delightful and intricate interplay is still abundantly in evidence but the melodic ideas just don't stick to the cranium walls like they did on Crafty Hands back in 1978. Perhaps maturity robs some musicians of that compensating tension that comes with exploring and aspiring towards what is currently just out of reach?. There are lengthy portions of this critter that make me believe the aforementioned race really is the prize for we listeners.The muse has not so much awakened as simply leant over to hit the snooze button for another untroubled hour between the sheets. As damning as the foregoing may appear it is testimony to the regard I have for this band that I was expecting so much more but rest assured, no ensemble as talented as this lot can be completely bereft of good ideas for a whole 55 minutes:

Shadowlites - A stirring and beautiful song ushered along by some huge and majestic electric guitar arpeggios that chime their unheeded warning beneath a haunting and brilliantly emotive vocal melody from Whitaker. Exemplary use of pace and dynamics to build inexorably towards a climax that like all the best ones, leaves you dangling and begging for more. All of which suggests that this being the only track with vocals, perhaps more conventional 'song' based material may have cast the 2004 incarnation of 'Happy the Man' in a more flattering and contemporary light ?. They are one of the very few prog outfits who have never outstayed their welcome on any track.

Adrift - Eerie yet beguiling acoustic guitar arpeggios outline an elusively smudged harmony redolent of a creepier stalking 'Genesis' and the creamy as buttermilk sax of Wyatt is achingly poignant. Once again the judicious use of dynamic contrast for the soaring climactic theme is brilliantly negotiated but just makes me pine for a more regular fix of same as provided by the first two albums.

Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen - A title pun to die for luvvies and here we meet the quirkier and 'disclocated funk branch' of Happy the Man on an alternately agitated then serenely calm tune that conjures up King Crimson teaching Gentle Giant a Return to Forever number (shorn of all the hey ma look at me, those lessons are now paying for themselves bits i.e. any RTF intro)

Il Quinto Mare - (Fifth Sea?) Rippling piano implies the harmonies and crunchy single note guitar operates as unnerving pedal point before a very attractive wobbly synth lead is stated over the most overtly meaty groove on the record. Much of this type of development carries a nod to a somewhat meeker Crimson but jettisons the latter influence for a more conventional symphonic Camel/Focus conclusion. Unfortunately the whole thing rather paddles it's way down the sink like an amputee spider at the end though, on a very muted and unsatisfactory conclusion.

I think it goes without saying that if you like this band you should get hold of The Muse Awakes but I cannot envisage many non believers are gonna start knocking on doors with evangelical zeal to spread the good word after hearing this album. However, any proghead owes it to themselves to seek out and hunt down Happy the Man's first two albums and embrace some magnificent music that tragically fell under the radar the first time around.

ExittheLemming | 2/5 |

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