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Happy The Man

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Happy The Man Crafty Hands album cover
3.89 | 260 ratings | 27 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Service with a Smile (2:45)
2. Morning Sun (4:05)
3. Ibby It Is (7:53)
4. Steaming Pipes (5:25)
5. Wind Up Doll Day Wind (7:09)
6. Open Book (4:54)
7. I Forgot to Push It (3:08)
8. The Moon, I Sing (Nossuri) (6:18)

Total Time 41:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Stanley Whitaker / 6- & 12-string guitars, vocals
- Frank Wyatt / piano, harpsichord, saxes, flute, words
- Kit Watkins / piano, harpsichord, Moog, (fake) strings clavinet, Hammond B3, recorder
- Rick Kennell / bass
- Ron Riddle / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Mario Grimaldi

LP Arista ‎- AB 4191 (1978, US)

CD Arista ‎- ERC-32006 (1988, Japan)
CD One Way Records ‎- OW 34547 (1999, US) Remastered by Kit Watkins
CD Musea ‎- FGBG 4314.AR (2000, France)
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC 2355 (2012, UK) Remastered

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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HAPPY THE MAN Crafty Hands ratings distribution

(260 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

HAPPY THE MAN Crafty Hands reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Greger
5 stars HAPPY THE MAN was one of America's premier progressive rock bands in the seventies. They set the standard for truly progressive rock coming from that continent during that time. Unfortunately they only released two official albums. The keyboard player Kit Watkins are also known for his work with CAMEL and drummer Ron Riddle was BLUE OYSTER CULT's drummer from 1986 to 1991. Stanley Whitaker can be found on the guest appearance list on the excellent TEN JINN album "As On A Darkling Plain" (Record Heaven 1999). This album was initially released in 1978 by Arista, and it's a real masterpiece and one of the best albums to have come out in the seventies. The music is mainly instrumental, complex and constantly changing progressive rock. It's guitar dominated even though all the musicians are highly technical skilled virtuosos. If you need a comparison you can imagine a mix between CAMEL, GENESIS, GENTLE GIANT, KING CRIMSON, MIRTHRANDIR and YES. The highlights are the opening masterpiece "Service With A Smile", "Ibby It Is" (who tells the musical story of a surrealistic cartoon character who wanted to become a real person), the only vocal track "Wind Up Doll Day Wind" and "I Forgot To Push It". If you haven't heard this album before you just have to buy it! If you had the slightest idea of how magnificent it is, you would've already had it in your collection.
Review by lor68
3 stars Well this hybrid work (actually it's worth a 2 stars and an half score ), in the middle between GENESIS and YES, is the result of the efforts by Kit Watkins (credited also on CAMEL albums) alone, more than a team work! Nevertheless here you find some memorable breaks through and a few clever lyrics too. Well their progressive jamming is not always conviincing, but for sure this work can be put in evidence within every decent "Progressive Collection".


Review by Proghead
4 stars I have felt that HAPPY THE MAN was one of the more overrated prog rock bands, but at least they're not bad or anything. I actually think "Crafty Hands" is a notch better than their first. Certainly the problem I have here, as with their debut, is they often liked being technical showoffs. Kit Watkins, this time around seems to spend less time soaking the music with atmospheric string synths, but of course, there are plenty of wind instruments, and vocals are only used on one cut (that cut sounding like Phil COLLINS-lead GENESIS, oddly reminding me of "Abacab" although that album wouldn't surface for another three years, although less pop-oriented).

The album opens up with "Service With a Smile", this cut sounds so much like HAPPY THE MAN wanted to be The ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, it about hurts (in fact, both HAPPY THE MAN and The ALAN ARSONS PROJECT shared the same label, Arista). You can almost imagine Alan PARSONS and Eric Woolfson writing an instrumental song just like that, and having their studio musicians play that. The rest is more like you expect HAPPY THE MAN, some of the pieces have that GENTLE GIANT-like quirkiness. One piece reminds me a little of Mike OLDFIELD. As before, HAPPY THE MAN is a band I don't quite understand the hype, but at least the music is decent enough.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Enter new drummer Ron Riddle into the ranks of Happy the Man to record 'Crafty Hands' (and to record only, since Riddle didn't tour with the band). Riddle's drumming, while coinciding with his predecessor in jazzy oriented styling, tends to be tighter in his rolls and more solid in his pacemaking, hence helping the band to sound more focused on the stronger numbers. The catchy opening number 'Service with a Smile', 'Wind Up, Doll Day Wind' (a special feature that in places gets as rocky as HTM can be), and the effective, easy-going 'I Forgot to Push It' are the clearest examples of the positive influence of the Riddle-factor. 'Wind Up, Doll Day Wind' happens to be the only sung track in the album, and it's also the one with the least complex rhythmic structure (mostly a slow 4/4 with occasional variations toward 7/8): this is the perfect opportunity for the band to reveal their rockier side, which generally remains breathing on a more subtle level, with featured guitar-organ dilaogues and multi-sax layers. The other musicians keeps things "business as usual": fine performances, clever interplays, well crafted solos that never get too overwhelming nor too extended, with an ever increasingly inspired Kit Watkins who can't avoid being the most prominent instrumentalist. From his enlightened pen surfaced the most relaxing 'Morning Sun' and the eerie, introspective closure 'The Moon, I Sing' - the former finds the band exploring the realms of meditation quite delicately, the latter ends the album with a sense of "walking along a lonely beach, at twilight, lost in thought". But let's not forget to mention the exquisite energy instilled in the overtly jazzy numbers 'Ibby It Is' and 'Steamy Pipes', which display HTM's Canterbury leanings with a Gentle Giant-esque twist. The amazing fact is that both pieces are set on a natural flow, making good use of links between the motifs and expanding these without getting boring or becoming repetitive. The proper use of delicate (electric and grand) piano textures pounding under the string synth layers and soaring Moog solos are typical well-ordained sonic amalgams that Wyatt and Whitaker create when sharing keyboard duties. I find this repertoire excellent as a whole, with every single piece shining with a splendour of its own. My fave track is the one I haven't mentioned so far: the stunningly beautiful 'Open Door' (whose existence dates from the band's earlier days) exhibits a delicate fusion of intimate jazzy ambience and Renaissance lyricism - sheer beauty that words can't actually grasp, but merely point out. Special mentions go to tracks 3,4 and 8, which in my opinion also comprise genius compositional ideas. 'Crafty Hands' is my favourite album from my all-time fave American prog act, and also one of my all-time favourite prog records from any time and place - therefore, one of my absolute favourite prog recordings.
Review by Sean Trane
2 stars If it wasn't for the opening number , I would call this album a carbon copy of their debut. Service is one hell of a number full of energy and good happy moods. But that number may point to the actual problem of this album: it points out on how weak and unergetic the rest of the tracks are , although full of delicate ambiances good musicianship, Those two precise items are maybe the reason why they were not able to crack the market open: uneventful (weak/boring might be too harsh a word for them) compositions and lack of energy along with just one song per album that has vocals.... that might have been too much for the public. Still worth a spin , but I never manage to get to the end of the album.
Review by NJprogfan
5 stars What can you say about a band that was asked by Peter Gabriel to be his touring band. The muscianship on this album is extraordinary. Being my first five star album review, (and there won't be many) this one has a soft spot in my heart. Back when it came out, I remember placing it on my turntable and being totally blown away. How can an American band in the late 70's make instrumental music (for the most part) this beautiful and exciting and actually have a record conract with a top-notch label? I was amazed. The album starts out with a bang, "Service With A Smile" is a classic three minute blast of pure prog. "Morning Sun", "Open Book" and "The Moon, I Sing" are sweet lush symphonic beauts. "Ibby It Is" and "I Forgot To Push It" are like city streets, horns blaring, jagged and loud. Incredible!! "Steaming Pipes" has some fantastic horn work. But for me, the one track that has vocals, "Wind Up Doll Day Wind" is THE song on the album. Stanley Whitaker's voice is not for everyone, I'll grant that. But on this song it works. Starts slowly setting you up for the fireworks. The song has my favorite sax work out of any other song I've ever heard, it's just all over the place (Frank Wyatt, you are awesome!) From the first to the last track, the talent of these guys show. Ron Riddle on drums is a monster, Frank Wyatt's horn work kicks booty butt, Kit Watkins keyboards are heaven, Rick Kennell's bass is the backbone, but Stanley Whitaker is what does it for me. Some of the most wonderful guitar work ever. He is, with a doubt, thee most unheralded guitar player this country ever had. If you ever get the chance to see HTM play live, you owe it to yourself just to see the man play that guitar. The passion with which he plays is awe-inspiring and his voice is even better than when this album was recorded. So, folks, you owe it to yourself to go out right now and purchase what is in my estimation the quinessential US prog album of all time. A super solid five star disc!
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Happy the man is probably the best American progressive rock band of the 70's: the band generously incorporates fusion elements. 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, piano, Fender Rhodes and moog, the overall sound is surprisingly modern, mainly because of the 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. 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. There are no weakness on this record! At the listen, it becomes clear that Kit Watkins is one of the best keyboards player ever!!! The band changed the drummer on this record, and the result is another perfect album. The style involved has something to do with Gentle Giant, but it is more romantic and more atmospheric! This music is clinical and nervous, while many times it is smooth and relaxing, and it's extremely well structured. Probably the most structured & synchronized music ever. They seem to play it so easily. This record is certainly among my all-time top 10 albums! I cannot get enough of such albums! There is a bit of quintessence on the second part of "Steaming pipes".


Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Quite a grower this one, but still distinctly over-rated. Some Happy The Man fans will go through great lengths to portray this group as the great American hope ... the US's answer to Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and the like. But frankly, on the basis of this album, Happy The Man is good, but is not even close to being in that league.

Nonetheless, this is an eminently "dig-able" collection of progressive rock instrumentals. I notice it takes me a little longer to get into instrumental prog albums than ones that have vocals on which I can hang my memory, but now some of the melodies that ingrained themselves in my mind. Morning Sun in particular, has an intoxicating, unforgetable melody and smacks of the kind of work that Genesis and Camel were doing at the same time accross the pond. Like those bands, and even though Kit Watkins and company clearly have a lot of instrumental skills at their disposal, Happy The Man is rarely flashy.

Almost every piece has its moments. The explorative Ibby It Is, twisty Steaming Pipes (with sizzling synth from Watkins over a jarring rhythmic excursion), the organic flute-led segments of Open Book, the welcome energy of I Forgot To Push It and the moody, synthy The Moon I Sing all play their part. I'm not overly enamoured of Stanley Whittaker's guitar sound which sort of predates neo-prog (I have a sneaking suspicion that the neo-prog brigade will enjoy this album, actually) but I can live with it.

Tellingly, the feeling of boredom that occasionally overcame me during my first couple of listens to Crafty Hands seems to be a thing of the past (although this is aided by the fact that at around 34 minutes, the original album is a rather short one). The bonus track really seems unnecessary because it is a live version of the last cut The Moon I Sing and the playing is so clean and clear, that it feels like a spot on duplication of the studio original that preceeds it!

As this is still the only Happy The Man album I've heard, I can't compare it to the other efforts Happy The Man and Better Late, but I have to say that while I'm pleased enough with Crafty Hands, I'm not going to embark on a crusade to get those other albums. ... 63% on the MPV scale

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Crafty Hands" is a good enough prog album, as there is pretty much something for everyone in here. That is also it's weakness, however, in that it comes across as somewhat generic, with flavours of just about every classic UK prog band you can think of - except ELP.

Largely Canterburian in style, there are a few original twists that could have saved this from the "Good but non-essential" pile, but on the whole, these are in the execution rather the composition, which is generally poorly thought out - presumably in order to create music that is more "mood music" than "art music". Generally, it seems like HTM took to prefabricating small chunks of pieces, then tacked them all together, pausing only to dream up some new way of linking these chunks via a fill-in or two. The solos tend to be immaculate, so lose the feeling of any kind of spontaneity, but here and there are some genuine moments of inspiration where it all comes together and something shines out of the generally generic soundscape.

Professionally crafted right the way through, in that the music is flawlessly executed and seamlessly assembled, there is still the nagging feeling that you've heard it all before somewhere. However, this album may appeal to fans of classic prog and prog metal alike - the latter will recognise many decorative styles and motifs that have been adopted by the genre rather than riffola.

"Service With A Smile" has flavours of King Crimson, Genesis, Yes and Focus, with little touches of Vai and Latimer in the guitar style - a highly melodic and clear sound with lightly ostentatious decorations - no Vai-style fireworks or breathtaking Latimer one-note wonders here. However, this is all used texturally - the music doesn't really develop, it's more like a little snapshot of a mood, and finishes rather quickly.

In time-honoured tradition, a slower piece follows the opener, with some great ambience. I find the keyboard sound on the cheesey side, but again, hints of early Genesis float through, and there would be a touch of Gentle Giant if it wasn't quite so repetitive - again, this piece is more about texture building than composition and stucture. The gentle major key mood is possibly a little happy for my taste, but the quasi-flamenco guitar solo is well worked out and nicely melodic. Little bits of Camel seem to waft through... and I need to re-think my wording a bit...

"Ibby It Is" lifts the tempo and has some nice percussive touches that keep it moving well. The basic song structure of the first part gets a little wearying, and the time change around 2:00 suggests that the band were maybe running out of developmental ideas. We get into this "idea follows idea" type routine - which has some great invention behind the basic ideas, but the lack of development is what really turns my attention to the skip button. In order for this style to work, it has to have the listener already embraced in its world, so that the music can take the listener where it wants to. However the opening music is not really sufficiently attention-grabbing enough to achieve this, and the keyboard sounds become naggingly annoying despite the proficient playing... kinda reminds me of Dream Theater in many ways.

"Steaming Pipes" begins with an unusual texture, then concentrates around a couple of chords for a while, shifting these around, focussing on rhythmic invention - you can hear the time signatures being crow-barred in. Again, it's those horrible keyboard sounds that really let this down. This piece really does get unbearably repetitive despite the constant breaks, style changes and solos - there is something utterly homogenous about it that, if it has not captured your mood properly, becomes cloying and makes you feel a little "stuck" in a moment not of your choosing. This is my least favourite piece on the album, principally because nothing stands out and grabs me.

At this point I realise I'm only half way through, and the rest of the album stretches a looong way in front of me, despite its relatively short length in terms of time... it must be time for a break.

I may finish this review another time, I may not. This is the third time I've listened to this album, and it doesn't grow on me - in fact, the keyboards sound more naff each time and the music more and more homogenous. The best thing I can say about it is that there are those little "moments" where something shines out, which keep some interest. A good album for padding out your prog collection, but nothing outstanding.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars This is the first album i heard by this band. very good album, they play so easy, very technical. You have to have courage to relesed an almost instrumental album in the late '70, when punk was allover the place, heavy metal burst out with the lengendary current NWOBHM in Europe, but in the end that not was a comercial virtue. After all i find this album very enjoyble, outstanding musicians, i like specilly Kit Watkins. Not like many of the reviewers from this one, to me is super, and tracks like Steaming pipes, Open book, are majetic in every way. A must for prog listners. 4 stars fore sure.
Review by ClemofNazareth
2 stars Yeah, I don't get it. These guys get far more hype than they deserve in my opinion. This is another Arista seventies slicked-up 'artsy' offering like so much that was coming from that label around the time of this release: Alan Parsons, Barry Manilow, Eric Carmen, Al Stewart, Mike Masser - bleah! Pretty much all of what came from Arista around then was watered and neutered work from musicians that should have known better. There were a few exceptions; for one, I don't think Iggy Pop or Patti Smith had been chased away yet, but that's about it.

The only song on this album I remember from back then is "Morning Sun", which did get some FM radio airtime in between Hall & Oates retrospectives in Saturday mornings. And I'd guess most people thought it was Mike Oldfield, not Happy the Man doing the playing.

The rest is a lot of grandstanding by some pretty darn good musicians, but the tracks lack any real soul or substance. Yes, Wyatt and Watkins can both play pretty much any instrument in a music store, but if I want to listen to that I'll go sit in a music store and listen to people try out instruments. It's no surprise to me that Arista canned these guys before 1980 rolled around. There was some pretty decent instrumental techno/virtuoso music in the late seventies and early eighties coming out of America. Group 87 comes to mind, or Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic or maybe even Art of Noise (oops, I guess they weren't American. Too bad.). In any case these guys didn't produce anything new or more interesting than any of those bands. In some ways it's worse because they are clearly great musicians, but they don't demonstrate any kind of passion in their music - it's all posturing.

The opening "Service With a Smile" is as close as the album comes to a real lively, animated and engaging tune. The twin harpsichords especially are very good, and hey - who doesn't love a good harpsichord riff? The aforementioned "Morning Sun" is almost as good but pretty subdued, and after that things start to go down hill quickly.

"Ibby it Is" isn't. The concept is solid enough, but the progressions are slow, the playing seems perfunctory, and this thing ends up dragging on far too long, clocking in at nearly eight minutes. "Steaming Pipes" could have been called steaming pile, as far as I'm concerned. Decent horns, but I think this is the weakest track, with no spark whatsoever.

"Wind Up Doll Day Wind" has a very good guitar solo midway through, and the keyboards are more up-front and controlling than on most of the rest of the album, but the vocals make this end up sounding like a Saga tune to me. Unfortunately, I don't like Saga much.

The languid "Open Book" is well-played, but also very boring. Virginia Astley did a thing called "Melt the Snow" around the same time, and that's what this sounds like. Only her records get filed under the New-Age section at Borders.

I'm not quite sure what "I Forgot to Push It" is all about, but for a few moments it gives hints of being interesting with some edgy keyboard and saxophone work, but after three minutes the song comes to an end without really doing anything much to develop the opening sequence.

Finally "The Moon, I Sing (Nossuri)", which like "Ibby it Is" drags on far too long and fails to engage the listener. Sorry, I just don't get it.

The skill of the individual musicians here is excellent. The music is probably appealing to people who like to listen to their music in a sterile environment and expect their music to somehow set their 'mood' for the day. But I doubt this would appeal to most symphonic or post-rock (and definitely not many metal) fans. Me, I like music that tears off a chunk of life and lets you know the guys playing it are living what they're playing. With these guys, I'm not convinced. Two stars.


Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars It's interesting seeing the wide range of opinions and ratings for this album. Some feel this is the greatest Symphonic band ever to come out of the U.S.A. while others call it generic and overrated. I guess i'm in the middle somewhere. It kind of bothers me that I don't like this record more, I mean the instrumental work is incredible but I could take this album or leave it.

"Service With A Smile" is one of the highlights on this album for me. I like the guitar work here in contrast with the synths. It's too bad that it's the shortest song on the album though. "Morning Sun" is a mellow track with keys, synths and acoustic guitar that does get fuller as drums come in around 3 minutes. "Ibby" It" Is is an uptempo tune with so many sounds meshing together perfectly. I like this one.The uptempo sections are contrasted with the synth led mellow passages that follow. Synths dominate after 6 1/2 minutes. It does seem to go on too long. "Steaming Pipes" features almost a GENTLE GIANT-like melody with all these intricate sounds. Like the previous song though they don't keep it up as it changes unfortunately. The guitar becomes prominant after 3 1/2 minutes.

"Wind Up Doll Day Wind" is the only song with vocals. It opens with a pastoral soundscape, then vocals come in.The tempo picks up 2 1/2 minutes in and a GENESIS flavour comes and goes starting at the 3 minute mark. Sax 4 1/2 minutes in with some great guitar a minute later. My second favourite song after the opener. "Open Book" becomes a classical sounding tune 1 1/2 minutes in. Flute leads the way for a while. A nice drum, key and synth melody follows. Nothing too earth shattering here. "I Forgot To Push It" has some good energy with some clapping as well. I like the drumming. "The Moon, I Sing(Nossuri)" opens with liquid keys as synths join in with light drums. A pleasant song but again too long.

I really do not enjoy this much at all, and if not for the excellent playing I would be hard pressed to give this even 3 stars.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Crafty Hands which is almost all instrumental (like "Happy The Man") features some very good songs of which "Service With A smile" which is a powerful opener very much Genesis oriented. In those days, when one went to a record store to buy an album, most of the time the first track was played for about twenty seconds and the judgment had to be done. Either buy it or leave it. Well done guys.

Some Trespass-esque flavour with Morning Sun is of course welcome but it lacks in originality. At times, the music is somewhat repetitive ("Ibby It Is") but some pieces do stand out like "Steaming Pipes" which is one of my fave out here. When "Yes" meets "King Crimson". Maybe not the most original either, but the offering from this band has never been my most beloved one, so I just take the pleasure where it sits. And it doesn't sit at every corner of their work as far as I'm concerned.

There is no real masterpieces on this album. Average ("Open Book") to good songs ("Wind Up Doll Day Wind", the only track with vocals). I have still to fight while listening to "I Forgot To Push It". Its jazz mood is not very welcome to my ears, I can't help. It is very noisy and dull. The kind of "press next" song IMO.

The closing track offers some more emotion. Ambient and sweet, it contrasts beautifully with the previous song. Not that it blows me away because its structure is pretty basic; but it offers at least some hope for better things to come.

This album is not crafted enough. Three stars.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the reasons why I never cared about HAPPY THE MAN is that I tend to ignore bands that take a name that relates them with a great band, because in most cases they are just trying to use the fame of great musicians and lack of imagination.

Being that I'm moving and also obsessive compulsive, started to catalogue my records in perfect order when I found "Crafty Hands", an album that I hadn't heard for years and decided to give the band a chancel, and after listening it, my opinion changed, an excellent release from start to end that could had only been better if PETER GABRIEL had accepted to play with them.

"Crafty Hands begins with the outstanding "Service with a Smile", a track that has nothing in common with GENESIS as the name of the band may suggest, except the obsession of the band with the perfect structures, as the boys from the Charterhouse School did in their first albums, every section leads to the next one in a perfect and logical way, the keyboards are simple but adequate for the song, and interplay with the rest of the band in the only possible way.

"Morning Sun" is a much softer track, like the middle point between GENESIS and CAMEL but with very few similarities to any of the mentioned bands except maybe a certain atmosphere close to "A Trick of the Tail". The star of the song is Stanley Whitaker with his acoustic guitar that blends with the keys perfectly. "Ibby it is" relies in the soft changes and the contrast between the soft guitar sections and the pompous keyboard passages, but as usual the main interest is on the way in which the band manages to unite this contrasting sections with a careful work and elaborate arrangements.

"Steaming Pipes" reminds me of "Larks Tongues in Aspic" but unlike my distaste for the KING CRIMSON album, I find this song interesting because the changes are gradual and based in melody rather than in what I feel as pointless experimentation, yes there are dissonances, but HAPPY THE MAN manages to make them sound coherent and melodic. In "Wind Up Doll Day Wind" the band returns to the four men GENESIS atmosphere, but much more mysterious and dark than in ATOTT, the vocals are in my opinion unnecessary and ruin the sound, the weakest song at this point, well at least until the band takes unexpected energy and makes a powerful and pompous instrumental break, only weak each time they add vocals.

"Open Book" is another song of contrasts, the short intro leads to believe we're in front of a song in the vein of the dreamy CAMEL, but soon the guitar and keys destroy this first impression, the thick almost jazzy atmosphere that supported by a good melody goes "in crescendo"· until a radical change takes us several centuries in the past to the Medieval Age with a traveling troubadours style, soft percussion and flute by Frank Wyatt. But that's not all, they suddenly take a more aggressive path with excellent drumming and keyboards without loosing that oneiric mood, excellent track.

"I Forgot to Push it" has one of the best Crimsonian intros in the album, the excellent use of Saxophone with dissonant keyboards and extremely complex drums is just amazing and the change to a jazzy passage is brilliantly elaborated, but they keep changing over and over towards more interesting and complex paths, outstanding material.

"Crafty Hands" is closed with the dreamy "The Moon I Sing", well at least the intro with a nice melodic tune enhances by a chorus that seems like produced by a Mellotron that blends with the atmosphere is delightful, but there's a lot of tension, because the song grows in intensity as announcing an explosive climax that seems never to reach, but after a change in which we expect an explosion, they retake the gentle and mysterious melody with some dissonances.....But again goes in crescendo leading towards.......Nowhere, they just gain force progressively until the song fades.

Now, lets be honest, I like the music, but it's evident they lack of strength in several passages, sometimes when you believe the song is taking us to an explosion of power, just keep going in circles and leading nowhere, but that's their style, nobody criticizes CAMEL for being ultra soft, by the contrary, they are some sort of "B" classics but when the time comes to talk about "HAPPY THE MAN" the criticism starts, maybe because they were born in USA and not in UK.

In my case I find HAPPY THE MAN much more rewarding than many famous bands and believe "Crafty Hands" deserves no less than 3.5 stars,, but being this impossible in Prog Archives system, will have to honor the bolded statement and rate it with 4 stars.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I was not aware at all that Happy The Man was the band of the 70s. I only knew the band around the year 2000 when I was involved in local classic rock radio station where I met many friends who know better music than me. Then I knew the name without tasting the music until a friend of mine lent his CD to me. I then understood why I was not aware this band in the 70s because the music is somewhat that I could digest right away. Nope! It's not that the music is quite complicated but it's more to how I can understand it. And then my friend told me that music is not necessary being understood ...just enjoy whatever it flows. It was kind of quite hard for me at first. But finally I could enjoy it in another way, using different context and different mindset. And you know which track that hooked me first? It's "Ibby It Is" the third track even though I can enjoy well "Morning Sun" which moves is spacey style. And then it moves nicely to "Steaming Pipes" with stunning guitar work and nice musical flow.

"Wind Up Doll Day Wind" is a track with vocal that starts mellow that somewhat reminds me to the classic era of Genesis. The song is basically driven by the keyboard as main beat keeper followed wonderfully with guitar solo. Even though it has repetition of chords but the song is quite unique in terms of style and composition. It continues with "Open Book" (4:54) that starts mellow in ambient keyboard work and slow tempo beats produced by the drums. There are interesting breaks throughout the music where drums stop to play its role. The music sounds like a traditional one and it gives good nuance to the track. "I Forgot To Push It" is really unique in style and it reminds me to the Canterbury scene. The album concludes nicely with "The Moon, I Sing (Nossuri)" that runs nicely in ambient and spacey mode.

Overall, this is a very good album that someone with knowledge of Camel, Genesis and some Canterbury music would enjoy it very much. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I still recall that day in the late seventies, when I ran into a high school friend who recommended that I look for albums by an american group called Happy The Man. I soon took a trip to my favorite used record store and found a DJ copy of this record. What an experience. The music is a blend of prog fusion, with a nod toward Gentle Giant's arrangements.

The best tracks, to my ears, are the more energetic. I especially like Service With A Smile, Steaming Pipes and I Forgot To Push It. These tracks are all top notch fusion, with (as I mentioned above) Gentle Giant-like interplay between the instruments. Wind Up Doll Day Wind also deserves mention. It has something of a classic Genesis sound, and builds marvelously to it's climax.

A wonderful album by a band with too few recordings.

Review by Warthur
5 stars Happy the Man's masterpiece takes their unique style to new levels of achievement, at points reminiscent of a blend between the complexity and occasional medieval embellishments of Gentle Giant and the soothing, melodic beauty of Camel circa The Snow Goose. On each of the album's instrumentals (and on the sole vocal track of the release, Wind Up Doll Day Wind) the band's capacity to evoke an atmosphere and remain accessible and catchy even when presenting their most challenging material constantly impresses me. A superb album from a band who came too late to the scene to get widespread attention at the time of release; it's one of those albums for which I'm heavily indebted to the Internet for bringing to my attention.
Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 1977 was the year for live performances for Happy The Man.While not often the first name on stage, they were lucky enough to support bands such as Foreigner, Renaissance and Hot Tuna, bringing them in front of large crowds and helping their popularity.At the end of the year drummer Mick Beck left the band and was replaced by Ron Riddle.By the spring of 1978 material for a new album was prepared and they visited the Chateau Recorders in North Hollywood, California, again with Ken Scott on the producer chair.The new work ''Crafty hands'' was released later in the year.

The material of Happy The Man could be split in two styles throughout the album.First come the structures around a slight mid-70's GENESIS influence and, while the music is largely instrumental (only one track contains vocals), they appear to share the same taste for elaborate and refined arrangements with electroacoustic changes and dreamy, symphonic keyboards on tracks containing plenty of variations.Very smooth, but always competetive and intricate stuff, led by some nice Moog synth moves.The other side of the band explores the more complex nature of Progressive Rock with the GENTLE GIANT and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR influences dominating the arrangements.However they did have a character of their own, because it was not very common at the time to place some powerful sax lines next to an emerging synth-based enviroment.Sounds strange for a combination, but these guys were talented enough to deliver extremely well-crafted music with symphonic and Fusion vibes, based on shifting tempos and changing climates, while the atmosphere of the album ranges from romantic soundscapes to dramatic and dark textures.Some good interplays and a fair instrumental richness would eventually carry the album on the top of 78' Prog releases.

''Crafty hands'' is exactly what its title refers to.A set of hands with tricky, progressive ideas around music, somewhat unappreciated by the period of their appearance, but coming up with an intricate Symphonic Fusion affair.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Review by FragileKings
4 stars Happy the Man was a band name that cropped up from time to time, and I became curious. After having familiarized myself with the primary and many of the secondary big name bands of 70's prog, I turned toward the tertiary ranks: the bands that struggled to find a little success and then disappeared until the age of the Internet.

As with other 70's American prog bands that I have heard, Happy the Man sound deeply inspired by their British seniors, and in this case I feel it is as though Alan Parsons and Bill Bruford worked together to create much of the music on this album. The production on the reissue I have is very clean and all instruments can be heard clearly. The sound, whether light and pretty or bold and assertive, is as beautifully mixed as on an Alan Parsons Project album, and much better than the mixing of UK's debut and louder than the mixing of Bruford's "One of a Kind". So you can expect a remarkably clear mix with music that combines the drama of Alan Parsons Project with the jazz/rock fusion of Bruford or UK.

The album opens with a rather stunning instrumental in a strong Alan Parsons likeness, "Service with a Smile". There's an iterated synthesizer over which dramatic guitar and percussion create a dynamic piece of music. Perhaps here it would be good to mention that all but one of the tracks are instrumentals. Also, though synthesizers comprise much of the bedrock of the musical landscape, the soft string synth sound is rarely used and instead these almost plucked sounds that emulate guitars, and other piano/organ type instruments are employed, giving the music more texture.

The music of "Crafty Hands" can be divided into two basic categories from here on: soft and dramatic. The softer tracks include "Morning Sun", which does indeed encourage images of dawn to appear in one's mind, the opening of "Wind Up Doll Day", "Open Book", which includes a beautiful acoustic guitar and woodwind passage reminiscent of Gryphon, and the closing track "The Moon, I Sing (Nossuri)". These are often very soothing and serene pieces and depend largely on subtle percussion, very little electric guitar, and two or three synthesizers with soft and chime-like sounds.

The more dramatic tracks on the album after "Service with a Smile" are "Steaming Pipes" and "I Forgot to Push It" which both have a very Canterbury-like jaunty and off-kilter jazz rock approach. "Ibby It Is" also includes more adventurous jazz rock. In these tracks you can find some aggressive guitar solos and some spectacular percussion that works to accentuate the drama of the music and not just provide a rhythm with fills. I personally prefer the upbeat pieces, though "Open Book" is one of my top three picks.

"Wind Up Doll day", being the only actual song here, deserves mention. Honestly, the vocals are not quite to my taste though they are not bad. The lyric "Splashing across the street into the box / My box, your box" somehow irks me by its delivery. But the music and the rest of the song are very good, actually getting a little heavy with distorted guitar chords and a steady, heavy rhythm. At times I am reminded of late 70's Genesis when they could become a little heavy, too.

This is not the style of music I usually choose but this album is very well done and it is a welcome addition to my collection. If I have any criticism at all it would be that the music is so well executed and recorded and mixed that it seems flawless. And this might be the flaw. Everything is rehearsed to polished perfection, so much that it could almost be called sterile if it were not for the allure of the music itself. Also, the music for the most part follows two formats. The only real break we have is the opening track, the heavier Genesis-like part of "Wind Up Doll Day" and the Gryphon-esque part of "Open Book". For just over 40 minutes of music this might not be too bad; however, I find that by the time the last track comes on, I feel I've already heard everything there is to offer on this record.

I give it a solid four stars for the remarkable compositions, playing, and overall recording quality and listening experience.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars HAPPY THE MAN had a series of serendipity by impressing an exec at Arista Records and then impressing Peter Gabriel after auditioning for his solo band, who helped them secure a music contract. The band was also fortunate to support their debut album as an opening act for various popular bands such as Foreigner, Renaissance and Hot Tuna, but the live touring thing was too much for drummer Mike Beck and he was replaced by Ron Riddle who was in an early lineup of The Cars and would appear on their second album CRAFTY HANDS. While still quite progressive and in some ways even more challenging than the debut, there are signs that the record company was stifling the creative process and lobbying for more commercial music at points molding the band to take on a Styx type of sound such as on the one and only vocal track 'Wind Up Doll Day Wind.' Well the rhythmic drive has a Styx feel to it in the keyboards. Vocally Whitaker sounds more akin to Colin Goldring of Gnidrolog at times. Even though the band wanted to make this sophomore release all instrumental, the bigwig at Arista demanded that they include at least one vocal track in hopes of increasing marketability and creating a wider mass appeal. The track is the one and only vocal track on here and while they complied to the boss' desires, they still managed to jazz it up enshrouded with sophistication and an 11/8 time signature!

CRAFTY HANDS takes all the elements of symphonic prog and jazz-fusion (and the occasional Gryphon-esque folk sounds such as the flute and oboe on 'Open Book') that appeared on the eponymous debut album and tamed them down a bit. The fact that there are less vocal tracks is a plus for me and for the one that does appear, Stanley Whitaker sounds much more accomplished here. The one aspect that is missing from CRAFTY HANDS that the debut flaunted is the sense of recklessness and bold progressive workouts that would appear suddenly in the midst of the dreamy polyphonic synthesized dreamscapes that the band effortlessly conjured up. This album seems a lot more polished and even-keeled, however don't think for a second that the progressiveness has diminished in any way. These guys still deliver some of the most delicious musical calisthenics that were to be heard in the late 70s. It's just that they are melded together in a more seamless manner and there are no fast tempo Keith Emerson keyboard moments to be found. This one is much more relaxing, much like the most sedated music of Camel and could possibly qualify as elevator prog if such a thing were to exist!

This album is is very impressive. All the compositions are exquisitely done. The musicianship is impeccable and the atmosphere and mood of the entire works show the band named itself well as the music is cheerful and upbeat even when tamed down to dreamland. Perhaps a few listens may be required for these complex rhythms and polyphonic assaults to sink in, but once they do, they find a firm foundation in your soul. Unbeknownst to the band, this was a make or break album and when the album failed to result in even the slightest commercial interest Arista records dropped the band like a hot potato on a restaurant floor and the band was forced to seek out a new label, but in the late 70s, none came to the rescue. HAPPY THE MAN sallied forth determined to continue and recorded material for a third album, but the pressures of a prog fish swimming upstream in the currents of a punk and disco torrent proved to be too much and the band ultimately called it a day. CRAFTY HANDS, and the debut, for that matter gained many fans as time went on for the clever use of polyphony, brilliant integrative musical styles and highly complex musical runs that still managed to remain somewhat catchy and have even been cited as the influence of many bands like Dream Theater and beyond. Personally i love this album as much as the first although i miss the spontaneity and reckless abandon of the debut. CRAFTY HANDS is a more calculated beast that has lost its youthful innocence but gained in sheer sophistication and remains a steadfast cornerstone of American symphonic prog. 4.5 but rounded up. These guys deserve it

Latest members reviews

5 stars A solid follow-up to Happy the Man's masterpiece debut. While this album only has one track with vocals, compared to the previous album's two, it doesn't feel tiresome to listen to as one would expect from an almost entirely instrumental album. Crafty Hands only falls short of its predecessor in tha ... (read more)

Report this review (#931804) | Posted by Jojowarren | Sunday, March 17, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It is hard to write 100 words about an album that is almost completly instrumental but here it goes.I normally dont like albums without vocals(wind up doll day wind is the exception) because in so many cases it becomes like a sporting event with musicians seeing who can outdo the other until i ... (read more)

Report this review (#523424) | Posted by Big Jim | Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An essential Work of Art still sounding very contemporary I remember how I was totally pleased and mystified the first time I heard "Service with a Smile" from the album "Crafty Hands" back in 78 and how fast I ran to the record store to buy their first self titled album. I've listen to "C ... (read more)

Report this review (#216399) | Posted by danielfortin | Sunday, May 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars To me, it sounds like they are taking a certain Gentle Giant approach to songwriting and changing up the instrumentation; heavy on the synths. Yet, Happy the Man are certainly their own and not simply a clone. The music is lush and full of headspinning counterpoint. I would recommend it to anyon ... (read more)

Report this review (#170387) | Posted by kabright | Friday, May 9, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Delicate ambiances, fast and softly rhythms mark this manīs album. the members are certainly good musicians, they know their work but..something is missing...maybe more tracks like open book or the first two openers could vary this. maybe they felt like the jesus child, wich appears in this albu ... (read more)

Report this review (#127127) | Posted by luisman | Friday, June 29, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars From the dynamic opening track "Service With A Smile", which in my opinion has to be one of the best instrumental tracks ever recorded under three minutes, to the beautiful "Morning Sun" and right on through, this album has everything a progressive rock fan could wish for. However, you should ... (read more)

Report this review (#3386) | Posted by | Wednesday, August 25, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Great electronic prog and the only tune with vocals Wind up toys is great also.Why was American rock so pre-occupied with being cool and being lady killers like Ted Nugent,Sammy Hagar and Van Halen.If they used half the care of Happy the Man we wouldnt have got our musical ass's kicked in the 70's. ... (read more)

Report this review (#3384) | Posted by James Hill | Monday, February 9, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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