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HAPPY THE MAN

Happy The Man

Eclectic Prog


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4 stars With its soft beginning...."Starborne" a Kit watkins (Keyboard extraordinaire)track...this lovely record slides into the superior progworld of Happy the Man. Track 2 is a hybrid of Zappasque and VDGG music In all, Happy the mans first album is quite an experience to the first time listener. As i am acquintet with these wonderful musicians it is no surprise to me how fantastic this album is!! Friends of Zappa,Gentle Giant and VDGG and other species of the fabulous world called prog music....should buy this at once!! There are grand guitar themes...weird tunes and odd breaks. If you like what you hear (and you WILL!!)go get the next one..and the next one, and...well you get the picture!! Happy the man, is just....well...absolutely..progmusic supreme !!!!

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Send comments to Tonny Larz (BETA) | Report this review (#3364)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
The Owl
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Original with a Capital O! HTM sounded like NOBODY but themselves! An intoxicating mixture of whimsy, complexity, lush beauty, frighteningly precise ensemble work, humor and mystery. "New York Dreams Suite" is by turns harrowing, hilarious and tear-jerkingly beautiful all in one song. "Starborne" and "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" are additional high points.

The only weak point is the vocals (which if you removed them wouldn't be missed at all). Thankfully, the vocal sections are very brief.

Grab this!

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Send comments to The Owl (BETA) | Report this review (#3365)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I don't quite understand the hype this album had received. Certainly it isn't bad, but doesn't quite live up to the hype. The comparisons to YES, GENESIS, and GENTLE GIANT are quite valid. There are a lot of quirky numbers, in between more atmospheric numbers drenched in string synths. Two cuts have vocals, one of the, "Upon the Rainbow (Befrost)", believe it or not, is one of the better numbers on the album, in my book. Yes, the vocals aren't anything to write home about, but they seem better at vocal cuts than instrumental. There are also plenty of wind instruments. But, given they were American, this is the kind of band that I would recommend if you aren't too fond of most American prog that's too influenced by AOR, or perhaps you're not too keen on KANSAS because it sounds too much like prog rock for rednecks for your liking, so the good thing is HAPPY THE MAN leaves out any of the less desirable American traits (like AOR) out of their music. It's a decent enough album, but doesn't live up to the hype.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#3368)
Posted Sunday, May 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Official debut album by my all-time prog act from the U.S.A., and what a debut! Happy the Man's namesake recording is one of the most relevant and peculiar in the history of prog. Brilliant compositions, incredible arrangements, top-notch musicianship, fluid collective functioning: the best ingredients you can ask for in a prog meal. The diversity of musical ideas that appear on the album is no small degree based on its influences: Canterbury's pleasant freshness, Gentle Giant's harmonized dissonances, 76-77 Camel's melodic taste, accademical stuff (Gershwin, Grieg), even some hints of Zappa-esque bizarreness and Retrun to Forever's colourful fusion. Yet, the overall result isn't derivative at all, but an original one. Kit Watkins' keyboard playing combines Emerson's fire and Bardens's texturial sensibility in a unique style, and IMHO, he's the most prominent masters in this band of talents. The rhythm section deals with all these complex time signatures with incredible ease and precise energy; meanwhile, Whitaker's guitars and Wyatt's wind instruments exhibit absolute finesse in their solos and harmonic parts. Many times it happens that Wyatt plays keyboards too (grand and electric pianos), and so he and Watkins interplay cleverly for the benefit of melodic lines and the enhancement of ambiences. The repertoire comprises reflective pieces ('Starborne', 'Hidden Moods') as well as explicitly energetic ones ('Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest', 'Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo') and evocative ones (the sung tracks, 3 and 7): some tracks lay somewhere in the middle, like the longest ones (tracks 4 and 9, which are the most amazing ones), and we can even find an exquisite excercise in mysterious crescendo ('Carrousel'). Tracks 4 and 9 take full advantage of their respective timespans in order to generate a sense of complexity through the linkage of its various sections, but it is always a controlled complexity. There's always room for pyrotechnics in the hands of Watkins, Whitaker and Wyatt, but the impressive solos are never too long, always making sense as part of each track as a whole: somehow, these five guys manage to show their skills unabashedly without betraying the integrity of each piece. This feels particularly true about the two sung tracks, which are evidently rich in melodic terms (track 7 even includes an unexpected twist into Latin-jazz inspired moods for its coda), yet bearing enough constrain as to keep the overall ambience solid. What else can I say about this album as a whole? 5 stars!!

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#3369)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars Apparently when the first two historical albums got released , no-one seemed to have noticed . Ok , wrong time to put something of the kind out , but this has an absolutely over- rated reputation IMHO and if I was mean I would say that no wonder that it was unnoticed. Not that the music on this album is bad , far away from it , but rather tedious , sometimes reminding me a jazzier Camel (circa Snowgoose) at best and a more energetic BJH at worst . I have only heard the two albums and nothing posthumous and although many friends have tried , I doubt I will extend my search towards this group. Still a pleasant listen , though but should not be high on your priority list.

As for people not being able to take people's neutral and unbiased opinions on this and other albums for newcommers, some people tend to be too generous and criticize reviews that are not extatic or superlative..... Sad!!!. Must all reviews be good for an average album Mr. Redhead?!?!

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#3372)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
annette@go-we
4 stars Happy the man,,,are a fantastic prog band,this album and all the others ones,are excellent for anyone who just has a little ear and good taste in prog, If you are a real proghead,then you must own this album (the others will be on your wishlist!!) Forget Mr;Chantraines negative reviews,he doess not give more than 2 stars in 70% of his reviews!!!!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#3373)
Posted Friday, November 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Many people do not like this band, and I think it has a lot to do with their quirky, sometimes goofy humor. Those folks miss the point: humor is an important part of progressive rock. If you can go beyond that, good for you - you will discover brilliant musicianship, compositional sophistication to the point of pain, plus a soaring imagination. This is complex, rich symphonic prog at its best. If you had to compare them with other bands, the closest would probably be PFM and Maneige. Kit Watkins' chops can match any of the prog-o-saurs like Emerson, Banks or Wakeman. They are not really a fusion band, make no mistake about it. Jazzy at times, yes - fusion, no way, not on this album. Happy indeed will be be the man who discovers this album!

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Send comments to EMinkovitch (BETA) | Report this review (#3375)
Posted Monday, January 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars "Mr. Mirror's Reflection on Dreams" is a fine, varied instrumental that, for me, makes buying the album worthwhile. There are a few other tracks that are good. I think the band thought that forced quirkiness equals unique personality, but the studio sheen that permeates the album deadens the effect. Maybe it was the fact that Supertramp was so successful around the same time, and Happy The Man strove to duplicate their production values. By the way, bands that can't come up with an original name (I've noticed a ton of them on this site with names lifted from Genesis songs, King Crimson songs, Jethro Tull songs, et al) get no respect from me. When I bought this in 1977, I had never heard of the song by Genesis, or I wouldn't have considered buying it "sight unseen". Kit Watkins seems to have come away from the band with the most talent; some of his solo (electronic) albums have been good.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#3376)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Being a prog fan (like the label "prog" really existed then!) in the D.C. area at this time. I really thought these guys were just a bunch of Yes, Genesis, King Crimson wanna be's. And guess what? I was right! As far as I was concerned, Kit's keyboards were only thing worth listening to. At least he was current with the jazz-fusion styles going on at the time and not trying to be a Rick Wakeman/Keith Emerson clone. I remember being a drummer, everybody kept telling me "Hey! You need to checkout this guy Mike Beck! He's got percussion instruments hanging all around him!" So when I saw them at my high-school, I just went "So what?!" He hardly used any of his instruments! Palmer, Bruford and even Peart at the time were way ahead of this guy! Thank God at least later they got smart and got Cocco (a drummer I knew and respected then, and certainly blew the skins off Beck) to help out. But unfortunately they crumbled during their peak with him. Oh well. During this early stage with them, they were sort of a joke as far as I was concerned. But they did evolve in the right direction. They got more jazzier and improvisational as they went along. I look at these guys in a sad way. Very talented, but very prentious and very unoriginal. What I call the fusion group that just got away. Again, Oh well.

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Send comments to marktheshark (BETA) | Report this review (#3377)
Posted Sunday, April 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This not very well known American band makes one of the best prog-jazz music ever!! Extremely well structured, this record is dynamic, rhythm changing, very funny and very complex. The synchronization of all the instruments is absolutely outstanding: actually "Happy the man" are the KINGS of synchronization! The trip involved is very intellectual, but, unlike Gentle Giant, it can also be quite relaxing and sentimental. The disciplined saxophone is very present, and the keyboards can be very floating and atmospheric, often right in the middle of extremely loaded and nervous patterns. Despite the use of perfectly balanced vintage keyboards like clavinet, organ, piano, Fender Rhodes and moog, the overall sound is surprisingly modern, mainly because of the other fresh & atmospheric floating keyboards. The electric guitar complexifies the overall textures, a bit like Gary Green does with the Gentle Giant; the guitarist also often uses a very subtle wah-wah effect. The drums & bass are always restless & very sophisticated, and even the flute parts are often synchronized with the rest of the music, like on "Hidden moods". Obviously, this music, like Frank Zappa, is almost impossible to be played live, unless you belong to the band! As a comparison, let us say that the Camel's "Eye of the storm" track sounds just a bit similar to this record. The "Knee bitten nymphs in limbo" track is completely crazy and spacy: nobody can remain indifferent to this impossible track! There are no weakness on this record! At the listen, it becomes clear that Kit Watkins is one of the best keyboards player ever!!! This record is certainly among my all-time top 10 albums! I cannot get enough of such albums!

EXTREMELY RECOMMENDED!

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#3378)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This, along with Crafty Hands, represent the best Happy the Man had to offer. These two releases showcase the most original american prog band with their complex, melodic sound. The run the gamut from jazzy vocal songs to intense angular themes to a playful, almost circus like atmosphere. In short, these two releases are must haves, especially to those who enjoy complex instrumental prog.

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Send comments to beterdedthnred4 (BETA) | Report this review (#3379)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Debut album by one of, if not, the best American prog band of the 70's. It contains two of the greatest instrumental prog songs that ever came from these shores, "Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest" a tour-de-force of rapid fire, breakneck speed, tempo changing mastery of music with Frank Wyatt's sax blowing, Stanley Whitakers liquid guitar and Kit Watkins screaming keyboards all vieing for your attention, all at once! It MUST be heard to be believed. Second is "Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo", again a song that melts your mind but with more of a groove, yet, it has tempo changes up the wazoo. Just unbelievable! Not that there isn't songs with vocals. "Upon The Rainbow (Befrost)" has plaintive vocals by Stan Whitaker that, for me, hits all the right buttons. Sure, he's not the greatest vocalist around, but for some odd reason he has just enough soul and always gives it his all. There are very moody songs sprinkled about. "Starborne" starts the album dreamly. "Carousel" is very forboding, and "New York Dream's Suite" ends the album with many mood swings. Is it the greatest American prog album of the 70's? Given the time period, 1977 no less, it deserves to be considered, along with it's sister "Crafty Hands". If you haven't given these guys a try, by all means buy this album. It has everything one wants in prog, virtuoso playing, memorable melodies and humor. How many times can you say that in prog?

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Send comments to NJprogfan (BETA) | Report this review (#87677)
Posted Saturday, August 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
Matti
COLLABORATOR
Neo-Prog Team
3 stars At the time (1993) I bought this as a cheap used vinyl, I had never heard of this band. The peculiar cover, a long list of used instruments and keyboardist Kit Watkins (known to me from Camel's album from 1979) made me have it. Now, on this PA page I see that it has a respected status among progheads. I sure understand that: this is technically brilliant, jazzy playing with lots of complexity. But still I don't want to give more than three stars. And I remind you this is my subjective opinion. Objectively I admit this might be an excellent addition to a prog collection.

There are several bands and artists that come to mind when trying to describe the music. Jazz-rock a la BRAND X. Rain Dances/Breathless -era CAMEL - but more complex and restless. Time signature complexity owes to YES and GENTLE GIANT. Mostly it's instrumental, but lead vocals by the guitarist Stanley Whitaker remind me of CAT STEVENS - well, not so much of that beggar-in-the-gutter -style though. Compositions are addressed to Watkins (4), reeds player Frank Wyatt (3) and Whitaker (2). Watkins is most up to my taste of them. He seems to be less obsessed by showing off how complex structures they can write and play; his compositions are more peaceful and elegant. As a keyboardist he's a master, using e.g. Mini Moog a lot, and has perhaps the key role in the band's sound.

What gets to my nerves listening to this album is the restless nature of many tracks, especially on Whitaker's 'Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest' and 'Kneebitten Nymphs in Limbo' - can you think of more idiotic titles? Anyway, one can't blame these debutants on the lack of bravery. They are very skillful but maybe just too anxious to show it.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#113443)
Posted Sunday, February 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Oh Happy the Man, where were you when I needed you - I mean: why did I never hear about you when you EXISTED? I would have loved you and supported you; you would have brought a lot of light into a world that seemed to be dominated by the likes of Elvis Costello and the Bee Gees.

It's only thanks to Progarchives that I've found out about you now, and while you may not have been as multi-talented as Frank Zappa and the Mothers, you certainly are the most intriguing late-1970s North American prog band I've ever come across - far more sophisticated and subtle than Kansas (a band that never really appealed to me).

Two of the tracks on this album contain vocals; they remind me a little of early Genesis and even more strongly of the mid-1970s output of the Dutch band Kayak. But most of the music is instrumental, and as previous reviewers have told us, it's an engaging mixture of Gentle Giant-like quirkiness and dramatic B-movie soundtrack-style, fully of impish multi-tracked saxophones and clangy guitar solos. I know of no other five-man prog band who manage so expertly to sound like an utterly stylish, romantically inclined orchestra. The band's many keyboard solos are lush and dreamy, in a teasing sort of way. If you enjoy the mood of Genesis' "Cinema Show" you'll probably enjoy this album, even though Happy The Man are definitely no Genesis-clones and the sound of their twelve-string guitar is far less prominent.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#143426)
Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars For two reasons, I place Happy the Man's debut closer to the Canterbury genre than anything else: the quirky track titles, and the jazz inflections all over the place. They hailed from from the US mid Atlantic states yet sounded completely unAmerican in their style of prog even for the time. As if they knew that the prog movement had already come and gone by 1976, HTM eschewed commercial intent, instead simply playing their saxes and electric keyboards to odd time signatures and virtually dispensing with vocals. Yet the presence of acclaimed producer Ken Scott might imply a market interest, or maybe just deep pockets and perfectionism.

While Happy the Man doesn't sound blatantly like anyone else - there are Genesis and minimalist Mike Oldfield references, they don't sound all that fresh or unique either, and they don't stir me much. By this time, the quick tempo shifts and utter disregard for the mainstream audience was a well trodden path and was in fact passe. Yet if they could be said to have influenced anyone, it would be the "I Can see your House from Here" era of Camel, not surprisingly since Kit Watkins has a very distinctive keyboard style and played on both albums. The strongest tracks are the dreamy opener "Starborne", the perkily catchy "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo", and the smooth jazzy "Hidden Moods". While upbeat moments are not uncommon on the disk, it does tend to the mellow side of its various genres, if you will. The two vocal oriented tracks are both decent but not more.

I am torn between 2 and 3 stars but the lack of much really exciting music or emotion within doesn't make me a happy enough man to be overly generous.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#149158)
Posted Monday, November 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars With such a name, one could have thought of a Genesis clone or tribute band. But there is nothing as such here.

I very much like the opening number : aerial, melodious, fully ambient. Not the kind of song that impacts the memories, but a nice and spacey moment which goes nicely crescendo. A good start.

This good impression is totally ruined by the following song : "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" is fully jazz oriented. Hectic, direction less, weird and finally . useless. Press next. "Happy The Man" 's music is difficult to compare to. I have read similarities with Genesis, Yes or GG. I can hardly see any of these in this debut album.

A song as Upon the Rainbow is closer to Camel (Rain Dances period) than any of the other references IMO. It is one of the very few songs with lyrics available on this album. This band was first categorized in the Symphonic genre which was probably not the best place. Eclectic is probably more appropriate.

Their sound is substantially jazz-oriented. Nonetheless, a piece of music as Mr. Mirror's Reflection on Dreams combines brilliantly this musical style with some pleasant and symphonic keyboards. My fave out of this offering. Several theme changes, subtle and skilled piano play, complex passages. A rather diversified song. The highlight IMO.

I even can feel some Crimson or VDDG influences during a track as Carousel. Very powerful sax , hypnotic riff, repetitive theme and scary atmosphere. Brrrrr. not to listen to if you are depressed.

While I listened to Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo for the very first time, my impression was that I was hearing to a kind of mix between Genesis (for a few seconds only) and VDGG. Except that the main theme sounds pretty bad and chaotic. Not too good I'm afraid.

Vocal parts during On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs are not bad at all. Again, this song has a complex structure, great beat and the use of marimba adds a nice and exotic flavor to this track. Still, this is far from being a masterpiece. Just a good song, like there are several in here.

The symphonic-jazzy mood is again to be noticed with Hidden Moods. Another good instrumental track but don't expect anything from the other world. The closing number being just like most of this album. Pleasant, spacey at times, jazzy during others.

This album is not bad, but rating it higher than three stars is beyond appreciation. As I have said, this album is closer to VDDG, Crimson and the jazzy side of "Camel" than any other references. I am thinking hard, but a link with Yes is out of purpose IMO. And the only relation with the Canterbury scene is probably their proclivity towards using long titles.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#162487)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars Happy The Man's first album (the second of theirs I owned) was not quite as cohesive at "Crafty Hands", but every bit as good an album. Released in 1977, the album came out right when the major labels were conspiring with the journalists they owned to make truly creative music "uncool". Therefore, these albums went unpromoted and largely unknown to all but a few of us.

This debut introduced us to HTM's unique blend of fusion and symphonic prog. Like the second album, my favorite tracks are the upbeat ones. Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest, Kneebitten Nymphs In Limbo and New York Dreams' Suite are all fine tunes in this category.

My only complaint about this band is that I find Stanley Whitaker's voice a bit weak and too warbly. But that's a minor complaint, and hardly affects my rating.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#504933)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Orders of magnitude more original than the early material collected in Beginnings and Death's Crown, Happy the Man's self-titled debut album is a prog tour de force, showcasing a style that seamlessly balances accessibility with outbreaks of progressive complexity. It's hard to find many prior bands to compare their sound to, but at points the music suggests the more accessible direction that Camel were groping for at around the same time (which makes Kit Watkins' later tenure as Camel keyboardist make a lot of sense). Fans of relaxing, melodic progressive rock will find a lot to love in this masterful album.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#555837)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Colorful, Camel-esque space-prog with lots of character.

This is a totally underrated album, as a band's debut this is simply astounding and I wish more people were aware of it! I'm glad to have discovered this rare gem. This is probably the only space-rock (if we must call it that) I've been able to appreciate, as it fills its passages with plenty of time changes, colorful keyboards, and beautiful melodies. Vocals only appear on two tracks, and are actually quite good. I would most compare this album to Camel's Moonmadness.

Starborne: 7/10 Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest: 9/10 Upon The Rainbow (Befrost): 9/10 Mr. Mirror's Reflections On Dreams: 8/10 Carousel: 6/10 Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo: 9/10 On Time As A Helox Of Precious Laughs: 6/10 Hidden Moods: 7/10 New York Dream's Suite: 8/10 Total: 8/10, a great debut.

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Send comments to Jojowarren (BETA) | Report this review (#906167)
Posted Monday, February 04, 2013 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
4 stars By mid-70's Cliff Fortney had left Happy The Man because of his stagefright and technical inability and he was replaced by singer Dan Owen, while flute parts were handled by Kit Watkins.Owen spent about 8 months with the band and during his time the ''Death's Crown'' suite was recorded in the band's rehearsal room.After Owen quit in 1975, the rest of the crew decided to move on as a quintet.Happy The Man attracted the interest of Peter Gabriel, who was searching for a backing group after his departure from Genesis and, although this collaboration did not work, this was enough to increase Happy The Man's popularity.They were eventually signed by Arista in a 5-year recording deal and recorded their debut at A&M Studios towards the end of 1976, supported by the production value of Ken Scott, who had worked with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Supertramp and David Bowie.In 1977 the official debut of Happy The Man sees the light.

''Happy the Man'' was there to unite two different worlds.The one was the complex and intricate Progressive Rock of early 70's with GENTLE GIANT and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR references, a style totally out of fashion around the time.The other was a style by a Prog band heading to the next decade, smoother, more melodic and atmospheric, with pronounced use of synthesizers and elegant passages, which however contained lots of adventurous themes.The most surprising thing about the group was their ability to follow dense, virtuosic interplays with more delicate, harmonic passages in a very tight combination, revealing tons of composing talent.Their style included influences from Jazz and Fusion, dominated by Frank Wyatt's incredible sax work, the quirky keyboard parts of both Wyatt and Watkins and the consistent rhythm section of Beck and Kennell.They did have also a strong Classical character at moments with piano interludes and symphonic keyboards in the forefront, building structures for the upcoming rich instrumental lines.Happy The Man's introduction was music with unexpected twists, amazing interactions between the instrumentalists, powerful breaks and romantic soundscapes with mellow keyboards.The result is often astonishing with GENTLE GIANT being the main influence minus the Medieval vibes, a beautiful surprise in a scene that was fading around the time.

The early rehearsals of Happy The Man eventually developed into a fascinating, bombastic listening experience with a fresh attitude.Consistent Symphonic/Jazz Rock with both fiery and calm instrumental material, really a pure delight.Absolutely recommended.

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Posted Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Review Permalink

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