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Happy The Man - Better Late... CD (album) cover

BETTER LATE...

Happy The Man

 

Eclectic Prog

3.49 | 92 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Happy the Man's third album is, more accurately speaking, a 1990 release of the remastered demo tapes that registered the band's material for what was supposed to become their '79 recording . before Watkins joined Camel and HTM irremediably broke up. Having said that, let me add that the sound is pretty good, and the material is incredible, showing off all the artistic qualities and musical dexterity that had already been present in their previous two albums. The fact that new drummer Coco Roussel instilled his high-caliber touch of subtlety and delicate precision helped to keep the band's flame of exquisiteness burning on with the usual level of brightness, if only with a more pronounced inclination toward the jazz-fusion facet of their prog style. All throughout the entire repertoire the jazz thing plays the starring role: both the up-tempo numbers ('Shadow Shaping', 'Run Into the Ground', the gem 'Labyrinth') and the melancholy ones ('The Falcon', the captivating 'At the Edge of This Thought') are spectacularly molded into the patterns of eerie magic and soft sensuality that are so essential to jazz, and given some extra symphonic colours when conveyed into HTM's prog territories. The aforementioned pieces are my fave tracks from the album, but still I feel that some of the remaining tracks are worth mentioning. 'Eye of the Storm' - soon to become part of Camel's '79 repertoire - kicks off the album with a sense of majestic splendour that feels restrained when compared to the more pompous, refurbished 'I Can See Your House from Here' version, yet I wouldn't dare label this original version as weak: it is just more focused on the counterpointed melodies played by sax and flute while the other musicians build a well structured harmonic foundation. 'Who's In Charge Here?' and the closure 'Such a Warm Breeze' are both penned by Whitaker, who takes the chance to show his (until then unsuspected) skills as a songwriter: these ballads are successful at evocating feelings and thoughts with a sense of intimacy and genuine introspectiveness, mostly due to the lyrics and the melodic lines being intertwined in perfect fluidity. Well, after all this praise, I must add that I find a minus point in this album: the level of energy and colourfulness that is comprised here is not as amazing as in the band's previous efforts, which may be due to the fact that the band was perhaps experimenting with the most melancholic side of their music, or maybe the energy that was lacking in these pieces was to be gained in following arrangements in the context of a proper recording session,.or maybe the band was simply coming to a certain point of exhaustion regarding the energy factor. But indeed, no exhaustion was taking place regarding neither the writing nor the skillful musicianship: as a matter of fact, the musical ideas were still tremendously good, and the ensemble was still in great shape. To cut the long story short: not as much energy, but still keeping a high standard at creating and performing - therefore, not a masterpiece, but still fairly worth of the grade "excellent" in Prog Archives terms.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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