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Happy The Man - Death's Crown CD (album) cover


Happy The Man

Eclectic Prog

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The Owl
3 stars "Death's Crown" was a multi-media performance that HTM did on the dinner theatre circuit, circa 1973-74 or so. It comprises pieces that would later be developed on their Arista albums.

Not the greatest recording quality by any means (it's from rehearsal tapes at the band's house), but it does give you an idea of how their music developed. The vocal version of NY Dreams Suite" is rather inferior to the purely instrumental version on "Happy The Man" (the vocals and lyrics just saddled it really), but the real high point here is the beautiful "Merlin Of The High Places", which sends chills up my spine.

Report this review (#3403)
Posted Monday, January 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This gem from Happy the man is a long gone ..ahem..musical....they were supposed to perform it live with.. Choir..orchestra...theatregroup....back then in 1974. Now that they´re back in "action"..its rewived....and with 2 bonus tracks!!! First of all..its a wonderfull album...beautiful music..with hints to Crimson,Yes & even Zappa.......there are timechanges....strange sounds..wonderfull in name it...its here !!! All in all...a wonderfull prog amazed..this was done in 1974 !!! So...dear friend....if you´re into prog with the above mentioned ..... all you THIS..GET IT BEFORE...your friend does!!! Otherwise he has the upper hand....with happy the man!!

Report this review (#3404)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The text in the CD-booklet says: "Death's Crown and New York Dreams Suite were recorded in the rehearsal room at the band house on New York Ave., Harrisonburg, VA during the last half of 1974. Merlin of the High Places was recorded in the rehearsal room at the band house on Kenmore St., Arlington, VA in early 1976". It is very exciting when record companies is releasing previously unreleased recordings with old bands, especially when the recordings are as incredible as this release. The sound quality isn't that good, but considering the primitive conditions they were recorded at; it's amazing how they have managed to get them as good as this. The musical aspect of the recording though is very good, with great spacey, jazzy, complex symphonic progressive rock with many instrumental passages. Kit Watkins is a very good keyboard player and so are the other musicians. The CD consists of three tracks. The 38 minute "Death's Crown" is divided into 11 parts that is put together, so that you can't hear where one part is going into another part. "Death's Crown" was written as a collaborative work with dancers, actors, lighting & coordinated slide shows - a multi-media event staged at a local dinner theatre in their original hometown of Harrisonburg, VA. This is an album that I highly recommend
Report this review (#3405)
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars An amazing example of a true rock symphony and an extraordinary release, this opus has been lovingly preserved by the band and shared with us by the beautiful people at Cuneiform. Sure, the sound is substandard but the initial recording is rather good and considering its previously unreleased - and still little known - status, it is a real find. The main track 'Death's Crown' is presented in eleven parts; 38 minutes of some of the most stunningly good symphonic rock from an American band you will ever hear. The piece is not perfect, they hadn't quite worked out all the kinks and connections before the project was shelved but considering both its musical accomplishments for the time and its unearthed importance, these things are easily overlooked. The record tops off with two excellent tracks, 'New York Dreams Suite' and 'Merlin of the High Places' and I believe deserves a very high rating.
Report this review (#95180)
Posted Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars It is amazing to see that some twenty years after their latest studio release, there was still the will to release whatever pieces the band had produced in their early days.

"Beginnings" was already such a work of "unreleased" songs and now, almost ten years later, this album saw the light.

After six incredibly poor and useless minutes of noisy and unbearable jamming, the centre piece of this album, the long "Death's Crown Suite", turns into a very attractive track. Vocals which were always scarce in their songs are incredibly melodic and the instrumental parts are much more structured than during the initial part.

Even if improvisation is widely experimented, this is a good epic. A mix of pastoral and jazzy sections, which is going to be their style during their short career. The closing part is somewhat more bombastic and "organized". An interesting piece of work. But difficult to apprehend and complex to get into.

The second song featured is the original version of "New York Dream's Suite". The band had already released a version of this one on their debut album. It was not my fave out of it, but if you are into jazzy material, you might feel alright. But I have more problems to appreciate this one.

The band was also influenced with the early "Genesis" sounds, for my greatest pleasure. The last song of this album fully reflects the atmosphere of the "Trespass" recordings. Tranquil music, nice fluting combined here and there with a more jazz-oriented section. A typical HTM song.

This album is interesting in many aspect. Not a masterpiece but a good piece of work IMO. Three stars.

Report this review (#168217)
Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Capturing the entirety of the long-lost Happy the Man conceptual suite Death's Crown (plus a couple of scraps that didn't make it onto Beginnings), this archival release will doubtless excite the interest of those fascinated by the band's history, but isn't really a quality listen compared to their studio albums. First off, the sound quality is really quite poor, being sourced from home demo tapes recorded during rehearsals of the Death's Crown performance (which as I understand it involved dancers and actors as a dinner theatre piece... prog rock dinner theatre, what will they think of next). Secondly, the piece itself just isn't that special. Sure, it's well-played and ticks all the boxes, but it's hardly a dazzlingly original piece - especially considering it was composed well before the band defined their own sound, so it shows a strong Genesis influence. Personally, I'd rather just relisten to Crafty Hands.
Report this review (#548613)
Posted Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Review Permalink

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