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Happy The Man

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Happy The Man Better Late... album cover
3.49 | 110 ratings | 11 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1983

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Eye of the Storm (3:58)
2. The Falcon (6:09)
3. At the Edge of This Thought (5:16)
4. While Chrome Yellow Shine (6:10)
5. Shadow Shaping (4:25)
6. Run into the Ground (5:02)
7. Footwork (4:19)
8. Labyrinth (7:29)

Total Time 42:48

Bonus tracks on 1990 CD release:
9. Who's in Charge Here? (5:39)
10. Such a Warm Breeze (5:08)

Line-up / Musicians

- Stanley Whitaker / 6- & 12-string guitars, vocals
- Frank Wyatt / electric piano, alto saxophone, flute
- Kit Watkins / keyboards, flute, producer
- Rick Kennell / bass
- Coco Roussel / drums & percussion

Releases information

Demo recordings from 1979; Basic tracks were played live by all members

LP Azimuth Records ‎- AZ-1003 (1983, US)

CD Cuneiform Records ‎- 55001 (1990, US) Remixed by Kit Watkins (tracks 1-3,9,10), new cover art

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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HAPPY THE MAN Better Late... ratings distribution

(110 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

HAPPY THE MAN Better Late... reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lucas
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Probably the best HTM album. Contains a track that appears on 'I can see your house from here' (eye of the storm), album released in 1979 by Camel, the group that Kit Watkins, leader of HTM, joined after HTM disbanded. Better late... also features one of the best prog tracks ever released : While chrome yellow shine, a keyboard tour de force. Stanley Whitaker sings with a very pleasant voice (tracks 2 & 10), the music is very calm and is closer to symph prog than to canterbury. This band consists of very gifted musicians, so check it out if you want some great music in the style of ,say, Genesis and Camel.
Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In the infinte wisdom of the music biz, HTM was dropped from their label whilst recording this, their third (title) album during 1979. Cuneiform picked it up and Kit Watkins remixed the majority of it in 1989 to end an eleven year wait for this music to see the light of day. I've listened to this disc in my car, on my computer, a discman and my home system. The production is good, the extraneous noise doesn't overshadow the tunes and it has a airy quality that I enjoy. You'll not find a bad track.

The songs are evenly split between instrumental and vocal tunes. Stanley Whitaker's vocal tracks remind me of a bit of Greg Lake, with a touch of Jack Bruce. Nice. The highlights, however, are the wonderful instrumental workouts of Frank Wyatt and Kit Watkins magical interplay on keyboards and wind-instruments and Whitaker's understated guitar work. They mesh to create lovely textures and warm tones, nothing harsh here. Gently evolving sounds, lush keyboards (check out the download of "while Chrome Yellow Shine), swirling Holdsworthian slurred guitar lines and creative percussive under-currents.

Comparatively, Camel (Watkins was a mamber) is closest regarding similarities to this album, but Gentle Giant and softer fusionoids may find some worth here. If your interested in expanding your musical knowledge, you can't go wrong.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Happy the Man's third album is, more accurately speaking, a 1990 release of the remastered demo tapes that registered the band's material for what was supposed to become their '79 recording . before Watkins joined Camel and HTM irremediably broke up. Having said that, let me add that the sound is pretty good, and the material is incredible, showing off all the artistic qualities and musical dexterity that had already been present in their previous two albums. The fact that new drummer Coco Roussel instilled his high-caliber touch of subtlety and delicate precision helped to keep the band's flame of exquisiteness burning on with the usual level of brightness, if only with a more pronounced inclination toward the jazz-fusion facet of their prog style. All throughout the entire repertoire the jazz thing plays the starring role: both the up-tempo numbers ('Shadow Shaping', 'Run Into the Ground', the gem 'Labyrinth') and the melancholy ones ('The Falcon', the captivating 'At the Edge of This Thought') are spectacularly molded into the patterns of eerie magic and soft sensuality that are so essential to jazz, and given some extra symphonic colours when conveyed into HTM's prog territories. The aforementioned pieces are my fave tracks from the album, but still I feel that some of the remaining tracks are worth mentioning. 'Eye of the Storm' - soon to become part of Camel's '79 repertoire - kicks off the album with a sense of majestic splendour that feels restrained when compared to the more pompous, refurbished 'I Can See Your House from Here' version, yet I wouldn't dare label this original version as weak: it is just more focused on the counterpointed melodies played by sax and flute while the other musicians build a well structured harmonic foundation. 'Who's In Charge Here?' and the closure 'Such a Warm Breeze' are both penned by Whitaker, who takes the chance to show his (until then unsuspected) skills as a songwriter: these ballads are successful at evocating feelings and thoughts with a sense of intimacy and genuine introspectiveness, mostly due to the lyrics and the melodic lines being intertwined in perfect fluidity. Well, after all this praise, I must add that I find a minus point in this album: the level of energy and colourfulness that is comprised here is not as amazing as in the band's previous efforts, which may be due to the fact that the band was perhaps experimenting with the most melancholic side of their music, or maybe the energy that was lacking in these pieces was to be gained in following arrangements in the context of a proper recording session,.or maybe the band was simply coming to a certain point of exhaustion regarding the energy factor. But indeed, no exhaustion was taking place regarding neither the writing nor the skillful musicianship: as a matter of fact, the musical ideas were still tremendously good, and the ensemble was still in great shape. To cut the long story short: not as much energy, but still keeping a high standard at creating and performing - therefore, not a masterpiece, but still fairly worth of the grade "excellent" in Prog Archives terms.
Review by Hangedman
4 stars For a relative youngster in the prog world its always a mystery that Happy The Man remains relatively unknown compared to bands like Genesis, Camel, and Focus. Instrumentation is smooth, jazzy, un-showy but pleasing and interesting compositions. Every member is a gifted musician, and work together very well. They remind me more of early Focus on this album then anyone else in style, sort of a laid back yet mesmerizing sound which is especially pleasant when reading. Happy The Man did a very good job of the album, and I'm probably right in assuming all fans were very pleased with the release. It truly is better to be late then never.

On this album Happy The Man sounds similar to many early prog giants. "Eye of The Storm" is jazz fusiony, and sounds like it could be on "Focus 3" . "At The Edge Of This Thought" is very similar to post-mirage camel symphonic and very pretty. "Footwork" reminds me of Genesis, pomp and almost silly yet engaging. Happy The Man even reminds me of "Gentle Giant" with "Run into the ground" which is a very aggressive and complex prog rock song.

For an album that was originally a home recording, the production is excellent. The instruments are all very clear, and what little hiss there is does not drown out any of it. It also has the advantage of not being overproduced to the point where the song looses much of its character and originality, which was the fate of many other prog recordings of that time. The album has an amazing uplifting attitude and is pleasant to listen to at any time, if your in a good mood it will complement it perfectly, and if your stricken with depression you will probably come out of the album with a smile on your face. Every song is well written, and have a nice level of complexity and there is a good variety of sounds.

The biggest problem with the album is that the songs don't seem to fit with one another. I feel like I'm listening to a compellation of unreleased material more than an album. The sheer level of quality of the songs bring it up to standard however. I found the vocals took a little getting used to, the lyrics are good (with the exception of "The Falcon" which ends up coming off as childish, it seems to me these were written in a period of maybe 15 minutes and tacked on). Stanley Whitaker has a pretty voice and a good tone, but he's completely devoid of any range. His most impressive pitch changes (which fail to impress completely) are on "Shadow Shaping" where he almost sounds like he isn't some sort of synthesizer with only one note.

The high points of the album are "While Chrome Yellow Shine" which at the moment is among my most listened to songs. Which has a very good build up and excellent synth washes. Another height is "Labyrinth" which proves that even the gentlest of prog bands can play something hard hitting enough to raise the hairs on your arm. The worst song would have to be "The Falcon" which is a above average song, just the lyrics are silly to the point where it may ruin your perception of the song.

Overall the album is an excellent collection of songs, I would normally rate it 3.5 stars and round it down to three. This is a progressive rock site however, and this album encompasses all the most engaging aspects of early symphonic rock and touches on the more mellow aspects of jazz fusion. If your a serious prog collector, your bound to enjoy it. A must for fans of Focus' "Focus 3".

Review by NJprogfan
4 stars Compared to their first two masterpieces, "Better Late..." is a tad less in quality, but still an excellent disc to own. The main reason for owning this album is "While Chrome Yellow Shine", and "Labyrinth". They're both as good as anything they've ever done, blazing fast keyboard runs, outstanding guitar work, Wyatt's flourishes of horn and flute work and new drummer CoCo's lightning quick drumming; just plain incredible! The rest of the album compares to their latest work and is excellent, just not jaw- droppingly good as the other two tracks I mentioned. The quality is there. It compares favorably to the first two albums. It's a fine album to own, especially if you're a fan, but for starters, I'd buy the first or second album before this one.
Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars This album is very difficult to digest.

"Happy The Man" were hardly a catchy or interesting band during their first two albums. To imagine that they would release a masterpiece out of the blue, is probably far beyond expectations.

Actually, this one is somewhat shy in comparison with their debut as well as "Crafty Hand". To cope with the raving reviews about this band is something I can't live with. IMHHO, this album is just a collection of self-indulgent music.

Tasteless, without inspiration nor feeling. This is what is going to hurt you for over than fifty minutes. And believe me : it is quite a long and painful exercise. "Who's in Charge Here" is such a poor moment. Press next, the best option. For sure.

Weird and passionless music all the way through. "Shadow Shaping" being only one out of many examples. The jazzy beat of "Run into the Ground" is not a great experience either. "Footwork" being a repeated and useless effort. "Press Next"T.

Frankly the only partial good song featured here, is "Such a Warm Breeze". The closing number FYI.

At least during the instrumental intro because once the vocals enter the scene, it is as boring as the rest. Pastoral fluting for a while.. But don't expect any great stuff because you won't find it here. Mental masturbation. Maybe. No more.

Two stars.

Review by debrewguy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars First, let me say that this is the only HTM that I have. And frankly, after giving it repeated listens, I have no interest in their other releases. Second, again, I can only comment on this one album, but the Gentle Giant comparison is tenuous at best. Echolyn sound like GG copycats next to HTM. Third, while the playing is competent, the arrangements well ordered, and the songwriting O.K. , there is really nothing here that will grab most prog listeners' fancy. Fourth, the vocalist ... it took me a while to clue in on a comparison, but here it goes - the Simpsons' Comic Book guy with intellectual pretensions. Fifth, I played it for a few friends ... no mention was made of the music, other than a comment that it sounded like background music. Now, there are many rave reviews here from folks who have a better prog pedigree than I. But before you put down any money, listen to any & all samples or mp3s you can. You may just find other more deserving musical acts.
Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Like the album Beginnings, this is made up of self recorded demos. Unlike the other album, this was recorded after the band had some studio experience. And it shows. The sound quality here is much better. Almost flawless. And the songs themselves are as good as any on Happy The Man's major label releases. It's too bad for Arista that they followed the disco/punk train into the wasteland of mediocity.

This album's highlights are the set of tracks Shadow Shaping, Run Into The Ground, Footwork and Labyrinth. Honestly, if the entire album was as good as there four tracks, it would easily rate five stars. The above mentioned songs are excellent prog, using beautiful melodies over compound time signatures. Pure prog bliss if you ask me. The remainder of the songs are good, but often I find the vocal songs by HTM are just too pastoral for my tastes.

Review by Warthur
2 stars It's my understanding that this is, strictly speaking, another Cuneiform archival release from Happy the Man rather than a finished product. The band had produced some demo tapes for their third album - of rather finer quality than those collected on the other archival releases, presumably thanks to their increased studio experience - when their record label unceremoniously dumped them, and then Kit Watkins quit to join Camel and the band dissolved. What is presented here, then, is a cleaned up version of those demo tapes, though they're of a sufficient standard to help work out how the followup to Crafty Hands might have sounded.

And it's also enough to tell that the band were in a severe creative rut at the time. Even accounting for the fact that these are demos, these are some of the most lifeless and apathetic tracks I've heard from the group - a major step down from the preceding classic album. Worst song of the lot has to be The Falcon, mainly because it's another example of the band refusing to admit that they just don't do vocals that well. Perhaps it would have been better had this stayed in the vaults. Perhaps it's best to be glad we had Crafty Hands from these guys and let their less distinguished works fade into obscurity.

Latest members reviews

4 stars It's hard to find albums like this where every song seems to sound better than the previous. Between fusion and prog "Better Late" is maybe one of the most interesting albums of the late 70's, full of delicated and beautiful melodies and superb instrumental songs such as "While Chrome Yellow S ... (read more)

Report this review (#77686) | Posted by progadicto | Tuesday, May 9, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Now this is more like it! Finally Kit produces the missing release after all these years. This is the HTM album I've been waiting for. I saw them perform with this lineup and let me tell you having Coco behind the skins was a big improvement. All the songs (and not a weak one in the lot) just ... (read more)

Report this review (#3397) | Posted by marktheshark | Friday, April 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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