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Happy The Man

Eclectic Prog

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Happy The Man Happy the Man album cover
3.87 | 265 ratings | 27 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Starborne (4:22)
2. Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest (4:16)
3. Upon the Rainbow (Befrost) (4:42)
4. Mr. Mirror's Reflection on Dreams (8:54)
5. Carousel (4:06)
6. Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo (5:22)
7. On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs (5:22)
8. Hidden Moods (3:41)
9. New York Dream's Suite (8:32)

Total Time 49:17

Line-up / Musicians

- Stanley Whitaker / 6- & 12-string guitars, lead vocals
- Kit Watkins / Mini-Moog, piano, Fender Rhodes, ARP String Ensemble, Hammond B3, Hohner clavinet, flute, marimba
- Frank Wyatt / saxes, flute, piano, keyboards, vocals, lyricist
- Rick Kennell / bass
- Mike Beck / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Dennis Luzak with Mary Walsh (photo)

LP Arista ‎- AL 4120 (1977, US)

CD Arista ‎- ERC-32005 (1988, Japan)
CD One Way Records ‎- OW 34546 (1999, US) Remastered by Kit Watkins
CD Musea ‎- FGBG 4323.AR (2000, France)
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC 2354 (2012, UK) Remastered

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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Buy HAPPY THE MAN Happy the Man Music

HAPPY THE MAN Happy the Man ratings distribution

(265 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

HAPPY THE MAN Happy the Man reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Owl
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!

Review by Proghead
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.
Review by 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!!
Review by Sean Trane
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?!?!

Review by soundsweird
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.
Review by 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!


Review by NJprogfan
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?
Review by Matti
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.

Review by fuxi
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.

Review by kenethlevine
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 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 worn 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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars A musical project that I've always found completely inaccessible, Happy The Man are well-lauded around these parts but methinks it more for their skills than their memorable and engaging music. Many assume that they must be good because they knew of their live covers of works by Genesis, King Crimson, and Van Der Graaf Generator in their concerts in the early 1970s or are familiar with Kit Watkins' participation on late-1970s CAMEL albums and tours as well as his own solo output.

Line-up / Musicians: - Stanley Whitaker / 6- & 12-string guitars, lead vocals - Kit Watkins / Mini-Moog, piano, Fender Rhodes, ARP String Ensemble, Hammond B3, Hohner clavinet, flute, marimba - Frank Wyatt / saxes, flute, piano, keyboards, vocals, lyricist - Rick Kennell / bass - Mike Beck / drums, percussion

1. "Starborne" (4:22) this orchestra-jazzy opener shows a lot of promise and provokes genuine interest and enthusiasm for what is to follow. (9/10)

2. "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" (4:16) opens well before going country Gentle Giant. Very tight and virtuosic. (9/10)

3. "Upon the Rainbow (Befrost)" (4:42) the first carrier of a vocal displays some of the band's weaknesses: the vocals and lyrics. A little more radio/pop oriented. Nice chordal flow and arrangements. (8.75/10)

4. "Mr. Mirror's Reflection on Dreams" (8:54) opens like a Mike Oldfield melodic weave before side-stepping into a little GENTLE GIANT territory and then going jazz fusion. In the second minute it goes 'smooth jazz Genesis.' Nice bombast like an instrumental overture to a Liza Minelli or Gino Vanelli show in Las Vegas. It finishes in a circus-like GENTLE GIANT fashion. (8.75/20) 5. "Carousel" (4:06) kind of a continuation of the previous song with a darker, almost Zeuhl jazz timbre to it. Swings like GOBLIN soundtrack piece. (8.5/10)

6. "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo" (5:22) an impressive display of instrumental prowess and cohesion as well as compositional skill for a song that lacks melodic or sonic "hooks." (8/10)

7. "On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs" (5:22) opens pensively with Fender Rhodes and bass before vocal and Mini-Moog join in. Again, vocals are not this band's strength (though the lyric is better on this one than "Rainbow [Befrost]") After the first verse of singing, the music shifts for a bit into a heavier realm before drifting back down into more melodic jazz fusion. (Great electric guitar, bass, and dynamic piano play.) Quite a strong GENESIS/UTOPIA/NOVA (Corrado Restuci) crescendo here in the fourth minute! Too bad for the choice to have that vocal section weakening what would otherwise be a very strong song. (9/10)

8. "Hidden Moods" (3:41) a little foray into jazz lite--is a bit too light, like watered down Jean-Luc Ponty or Weather Report. (8/10)

9. "New York Dream's Suite (8:32) opens like a little bit of a mix of CHICK COREA and GENTLE GIANT: playful and using that MiniMoog as Chick would. At 1:45 everything shifts into overdrive with a GINO VANELLI-like keyboard jazz section. Nice! A delicate, soft section ensues at the 4:00 mark entering more of that NOVA/NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN territory. Next section shifts remind me more of some of TODD RUNDGREN's three-keyboardist work on Utopia and Initiation interlaced with some nice Relayer "Soon" sounds. Nice song. (18/20)

Total Time: 49:30

Clean, clear sound throughout with highly proficient performances from all instruments. The guitar sound and afew of the keyboard sound choices are a bit dated (though I do love the sound of both the Mini-Moog and clavinet), the thick bass sound and Bill Bruford-styled drums are solid, too. Solid four star album--more like 4.5--a near masterpiece of progressive rock music.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury 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.

Review by Warthur
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.
Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Of all the progressive rock bands from the USA that made the grade in the prog rich decade of the 70s, none were so eclectic and far reaching as HAPPY THE MAN which began its days as far back as 1973 in Harrisonburg, Virgina when guitarist Stanley Whitaker and bassist Rick Kennell met in Germany and once they returned back to the US decided to share their passion for progressive rock and form a band. The band actually took their odd name from a quote from Goethe's "Faust." ("Oh happy the man who can still hope") After several lineups along the way, the band spent some years as a cover band glorifying the bigwigs of the day such as Genesis, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. On one fortuitous day playing in Washington DC, the band caught the attention of an exec from Arista records who was so impressed that he showed interest in signing the band which was quite surprising considering the year of 1976 was seeing the major decline of prog and more interest building towards punk and arena rock. In that very same year, none other than Peter Gabriel was scouting out musicians for his solo career and although after hearing them play decided their sound wasn't compatible with his, did manage to help secure a contract with Arista for a 5 year multi-album deal but would actually end after only two releases.

HAPPY THE MAN the band released their eponymous debut album in 1977 and as you would might have guessed, failed to make any type of commercial impact at all but did manage to create a unique eclectic symphonic prog meets jazz-fusion type of sound. The album begins innocently enough sounding like something that wouldn't sound out of place on a Weather Report album as the suave jazzy passages slink around like a smooth syncopated caterpillar walk but soon displays the band's tendencies to erupt into serious prog frenzies with keyboards as spastic as Keith Emerson accompanied by extreme musical travails with complex arrangements and instrumental gymnastics. While most tracks on the album are instrumental there are some such as "Upon The Rainbow" that are slowed down and focus on the lyrics. These make me think of what a much more adventurous Steely Dan might sound like if they turned the prog and jazz-fusion up a few notches. I would however say that the vocal parts are my least favorite parts even though they aren't bad or anything. The band just shines so much more brightly when they let loose and erupt into prog outbursts.

This is a symphonic prog lover's dream come true with lush Hammond organs, rhodes pianos, minimoogs and clavinets dishing out dreamy synthesized jazzed up melodies often overlapping and creating complex polyphony accompanied by rocking bass and percussion and frequent slick solos that crank it up and run wild. While guitar is included in both six and twelve string form, it is more subdued and is more than drowned out by the heavy dominance of the symphonic elements swirling around like a wild tornado that can calm to a gentle ocean breeze in the blink of an eye. While the tempo shifts can be abrupt, the music is always allowed to breathe and carry out its intended effect. On the jazz side of things the band includes a sax in various sections and also on board is the use of flute and marimba for the occasional folk and ethnic influences, however for the majority of the album's running time we are simply treated to an all assault on the senses with polyphonic keyboard runs overlapping and creating interesting dynamics. HAPPY THE MAN is one of those band's that reminds you of many others (Genesis, Camel, Weather Report, ELP) but always keeps their sound unique and truly their own. This band is one of my favorites of the 70s to emerge from the US where prog bands were always several steps behind the European scene. Along with Kansas, Zappa, Santana, Yezda Urfa and The Muffins, HAPPY THE MAN were in the upper tier of United Statesian prog.

Latest members reviews

3 stars What else can I say about this emblematic album of symphonic rock... What happens to me with this piece is quite strange, because in some segments I find a very modern (futuristic) and original sound, but in others it sounds exactly the same as other bands. Already the fact that the band has the sam ... (read more)

Report this review (#2599416) | Posted by Argentinfonico | Tuesday, October 5, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars All too often, an obscure band remains so because of some fairly relevant reasons: not original enough, not creative enough, not likeable, not good enough musicians, etc... NONE of that applies to this relatively obscure group. Let's blame their obscurity on bad timing (prog struggling in a world of ... (read more)

Report this review (#2441408) | Posted by Squire Jaco | Wednesday, August 26, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Happy the Man's first album is one of the greatest prog debuts. Every track is superbly sculpted. Simplicity flirts with playful complexity in an environment of limitless sonic detail that threatens to reveal a whole new level if one only had better ears to hear more deeply into it. The music ... (read more)

Report this review (#2417851) | Posted by kurtrongey | Tuesday, July 7, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I only knew Happy the Man by name, because Kit Watkins played in Camel and the biography mentioned Happy the Man. I always thought it would be really poppy music, because Caravan was pop at the time, and Camel was pop at the time, and Keats was also pop. I couldn't have been more wrong. Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1873125) | Posted by Kingsnake | Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I'm not a happy man: 6/10 HAPPY THE MAN's debut perfectly defines complexity and ambition. It features several instruments, almost like an orchestra, and the album has a distinct influence from jazz that is sagaciously blended on rock elements in a way it can't properly be described as jazz ... (read more)

Report this review (#1673194) | Posted by Luqueasaur | Tuesday, December 27, 2016 | Review Permanlink

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 abl ... (read more)

Report this review (#906167) | Posted by Jojowarren | Monday, February 4, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 s ... (read more)

Report this review (#3379) | Posted by beterdedthnred4 | Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 le ... (read more)

Report this review (#3377) | Posted by marktheshark | Sunday, April 3, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 sophisticati ... (read more)

Report this review (#3375) | Posted by EMinkovitch | Monday, January 3, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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 n ... (read more)

Report this review (#3373) | Posted by | Friday, November 12, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#3364) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Sunday, January 25, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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