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Happy Family


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Happy Family Happy Family album cover
3.77 | 58 ratings | 8 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1995

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Rock & Young (6:40)
2. Shige Et Osanna (4:53)
3. Partei (7:06)
4. Rolling the Law Court (4:55)
5. Kaiten (Ningen Gyorai) (8:24)
6. Naked King (19:04)
7. Drums Whisper Spacy (1:33)

Total Time 64:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Kenichi Morimoto / keyboards
- Tatsuya Myano / bass
- Shigeru Makino / guitar
- Keiichi Nagase / drums

Releases information

Cuneiforme Rune 73 (CD)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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HAPPY FAMILY Happy Family ratings distribution

(58 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

HAPPY FAMILY Happy Family reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Having had a fairly long career before the release of their debut album, Happy Family were a well-oiled machine that left no space for one more single note to be introduced in the 200 MPH fusion of RIO, Metal and Zeuhl influences. This Japanese standard prog quartet (lead by main composer Morimoto) was of course anything but standard of course, as they extremely complex and instrumental music could almost be called Zeuhlmetal if it was not for some real different moments (notably Rolling The Law Court), which could qualify as Crimsonian Zero.

In spite of their misleading joyous name, Happy Family's music is not an easy one to get into, almost bringing the obtuse epithet to a "summum" (apex) value, if it was not for these new "brutal prog" ala Hella or Flying Luttenbacher groups, which make obtuse sound like agreeable and easily accessible. But getting back to HP, while the crunchy metallic riffy guitar is certainly a big f the full-frontal aggression of the group, the real motor of the group is the drummer's relentless hammering of his skins. Another source of aggressive sounds is the repetitive motifs that bring an almost minimalist quality in an otherwise incredibly full complex music, is the Present influence. Clearly tracks like Partei and Kaiten are full-blown Zeuhl, where metal guitars and Trigaux-inspired devilish rhythms are prime features;

Another highlight is the awesome frightful complexity of Law Court where the group nears Eastern European chaotic mayhem. The lengthy Naked King is a slow starter with a Mk2-Crimson crescendo in its intro, but soon enough it starts its incessant hammering of constantly changing tempos until returning to a Cimson-like Starless crescendo before ending in an unbearable infernal sustain the finally plunging to a stop. The least almost meaningless track is a piano piece even if drums are announced in the track title, and there are some almost unbearably irritating air whistling noises. Definitely a difficult to get into debut album, Happy Family is not really that essential compared to Tossco (their second album) because of its sometimes unbearable aggressiveness, but there are some "really-must-hear" passages on it that will make it indispensable if you are a follower of Zeuhl-metal ;-).

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars I'm of the opinion that if you liked "Tossco" you need to get their debut. Get them both and be happy.

"Rock & Young" has a frantic intro of pounding drums and bass.The bass work is killer ! The background synths with the relentless drums create an interesting sound. Guitar arrives 2 minutes in and a couple of minutes later it sounds a little dissonant. The guitar is amazing ! The song ends in the same chaotic way as it began. "Shige Et Osanna" is dominated by drums and bass as organ and guitar come and go. This is another great song with a couple of different themes taking their turn in the spotlight. "Partei" is mellow to start out with keys and guitar. It starts to pick up though and we get a nice guitar melody as drums pound. It's even faster now as the song starts to change to more of a fusion sound. We're back to the original melody but with more bottom end and we're only half way through the song ! Some dissonant sounds 6 minutes in as the song continues to unfold.

"Rolling The Law Court" has a Zappa- like intro before the guitar comes in and grinds out some raw melodies. We get some good bass and drum lines as the Zappa-like horns come in as the guitar solos over top. This is great ! Very Zappa flavoured. "Kaiten(Ningen Gyorai)" is a heavy uptempo track with an amzing sound. More great bass, thunder from Japan ! "Naked King" is over 19 minutes long and begins with symphonic keys. I like it. A pounding beat follows and the song picks up the pace after 4 minutes. The bass rumbles 8 minutes in as we get a pulsating rhythm. The beat ends as various sounds crash in and out. A darker mood follows. 14 1/2 minutes in it's speeding up. The song brightens 17 minutes in to the end as the night is over. "Drums Whisper Spacey" is slowly played piano and what sounds like my dog (Dexter) making his squeeky squeek (a lot).

Essential Japanese heavy Zeuhl.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Happy Family's debut album is an accurate example of the way that the Japanese contemporary progressive scene recaptured and revitalized the Zeuhl monster in order to keep it breathing all the way through the 90s and 00s: "Happy Family" is not only a catalogue, but it is also a paradigm of how you can maintain and nurture the spirit of avant- garde in the present times by providing it with an extraordinary use of abundant doses of stamina and electricity. Of course, the talent at writing material, the skill at playing in interaction with your partners and the passion to make it work beyond the inherent intellectual drive are also items of great importance when it comes to making good experimental rock, and the foursome of Happy Family are pretty much gifted on these three departments. It is a pity that this one and "Toscco" would eventually be their only inputs to the international prog scenario, but it is also true that the spectacular greatness of both items amply compensates for their brevity. Well, it now our time to review their debut album, originally released in 1995. The aptly titled 'Rock & Young' kicks off the album in a delightful mixture of trepidation and frenzy that is robustly designed around the implacable rhythmic scheme. These HP guys really anticipated the sort of avant-prog for the 00s that acts like Guapo and Nebelnest would later grace our ears with, but yet the HP guys seemed to have drunk 2-3 Redbull bottles and spent a couple of hours under "Clockwork Orange"-style torture. Those who got acquainted with this band in proper time must have had a trauma or a revelation, no in between. 'Shige Et Osanna' follows on a similarly intense note, but this time the urgency is less prominent and the rhythm duo's swing is more elaborated. The guitar parts are more Crimsonian, indeed, and so are the bass lines (Wetton would have loved to come up with them during his glorious 72-74 tenure in the band of Fripp & co.). This piece is, to say it in one word, jazz-oriented, and so the next one 'Partei' is more deeply jazzy. This one might as well be described as a hybrid of Present and Kenso, with an extra touch of the frenetic dynamics that HP is so well known for. 'Rolling the Law Court' takes the recurrent neurosis to a more playful level, somehow emulating the Dadaistic cynicism of Zappa, plus refined flavors of standard 90s jazz-rock. By now, you can tell that these guys are not only about progressive madness, but they are also capable of instilling passages and arrangements where control is the key among the overall extroverted framework. For the elaboration of 'Kaiten (Ningen Gyorai)', the band decides to take one step back from the stylish refinement present in the preceding 2 tracks and goes for an approach closer to heavy prog, partially leaning toward the Crimsonian standard and adding raw jazz-friendly textures a-la Xaal. The magnificent guitar lead provided by Shigeru Makino rounds liek a simultaneosu homage to Messrs. Fripp and Vai, while the synth solo that follows sounds like a creepy reconstruction of vintage Jan Hammer. Now that I think about it, this track is also very refined, only with a more abundant muscular element set as the nucleus for the instrumental developments. With its 19 minute span, 'Naked King' works as the album's definitive climax. Its slow, majestic intro theme soon leads us to the main body, properly syncopated through a creepy atmosphere ? very much a Francophone RIO thing (Univers Zero, Vortex, Present, you know?). On the other hand, it is also fair not to forget that HP adds its own colorfulness to this progressive thread, and this is particularly true concerning the dynamics utilized for this piece's development. Images of solemnity and decadence are conjured by the integral sonic framework as the first climax shifts toward an explorative improvisational section that enhances the running creepiness. Once the climax returns in a proactive manner, the neurosis returns to its original intensity until the grayish intro theme returns for the coda. After this incredible journey of magnificence and darkness, the brief piano solo entitled 'Drums Whisper Spacy' closes down the album with an aura of crepuscular quietness. What a way to build up an explosion and then a calm closure as the album's finalization! What an album! Enough said, 5 stars, Happy Family has to be dearly missed, please tell all new prog fans about them.
Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wow! Japanese usual psychedelic attack on your ears, but this time in very hard core form.

Debut (?) album of this Japanese band contains very explosive mix of angular King Crimsonian guitars, cold militaristic Magma drumming, some chamber RIO elements and freaky Zappa's atmosphere all mixed in one aural attack. Excellent musicianship technique, very calculated compositions. Dark, cold and totalitaristic sound, guitar soloing in this dark place and hammer-like drumming on the front of the sound mix. If you are familiar with less radical Japanese zeuhl bands, just add hard core (big doze) to their sound and you can imagine what is Happy Family.

One of excellent examples of Japanese psychedelic zeuhl with strong RIO flavour. Before listening just be sure you're ready this dark attack will destroy your mind though!

Review by Warthur
3 stars Happy Family's first album finds the four man set of Morimoto, Myano, Makino and Nagase jamming their little zeuhlish hearts out to produce intricate instrumentals of tangled-up RIO- flavoured music. The technical accomplishment and the sheer complexity on show is impressive, although personally I find that the album begins to suffer from a lack of variation in emotional tone or atmosphere - at plenty of points the band seem to be playing for playing's sake. There are, of course, plenty of people who find that to be more than enough - and such folk will probably dig this album a lot - but for me music needs some context, whether it's an emotion or a mood or a tone or an atmosphere or an idea or a story it wants to convey, in order to avoid degenerating into aimless noodling.
Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars While the classic prog world of the 70s has been an infinite well-spring of inspiration for generations to come, it is always interesting when the newer bands latch onto the greats of the past and take their sounds somewhere nobody ever expected. Far away in an island country called Japan, far from the initial English scene that spread to the continent, prog admirers were taking a more extreme approach to the 70s scene. HAPPY FAMILY was one of many Japanese bands to take different strains of European prog and sew them together in unthinkable ways. This band formed all the way back in 1987 with the consistent lineup of Kenichi Morimoto (keyboards), Tatsuya Miyano (bass), Shige Makino (guitar) and Keiichi Nagase on drums after they met at the University of Tokyo. The band released two albums in the 90s and then out of the blue reunited for a third in 2014.

Their self-titled debut album shows the common love of Magma's zeuhl rhythmic drive similar to other Japanese bands such as Ruins and Bondage Fruit, however while those bands tended to embellish the zeuhl with their own zany antics, HAPPY FAMILY wasn't happy with the zeuhl influences alone. On their eponymous debut they decorate the zeuhl rhythms with the avant-prog Rock In Opposition sophistication of Univers Zero with outlandish complex time signature frenzies, the harshness of "Red" era (well other eras too actually) King Crimson guitar and bass bombast along with the jazz-fusion and funk influences of early Area that even includes a touch of the Balkan gypsy folk that made them sound so unique. While some influences dominate such as the Area ones on "Rock & Young" and the Crimson-esque approach on "Kalten (Ningen Gyorai)," often all of these elements play side by side in interlocking units of sonic complexity.

Musically HAPPY FAMILY churn out seven tracks that all stand out. Some are dark, some are cheery and some such as "Rolling The Law Court" have a cartoonish feel sometimes conjuring up a Danny Elfman "Simpsons" theme song type of vibe. The tracks are all instrumental and basically extended jams bloated with extreme physical workouts. The most ambitious track is the nineteen minute "Naked King" which perfectly demonstrates the Japanese stylistic fusion in full force. It is laced with eerily dark atmospheres, Crimsonian stomps of guitar power with zeuhl rhythms, jazz-fusion sensibilities and avant-prog jittery counterpoints that add a unique sense of Area's "Arbeit Macht Frei" idiosyncrasies to the mix. The track is off the charts heavy and unnerving but proceeds in a logical manner that delivers some of the coolest instrumental prog there is to be heard. Perhaps it dwells on a wee bit too long in full Crimsonian glory but i actually dig the ballsy gusto on display. The album ends with a macabre piano piece that quickly adds another layer of weirdness to the mix. HAPPY FAMILY put out an adventurous debut of complex prog. If that's your thang, do check this out.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Really good!! "Rock and Young" and "Kaiten" are two spectacular pieces of the strange style of this band. I insist: japanese prog music (or zeuhl) sounds very different than occidental but that's refreshing. I really don't know if Happy Family is zeuhl or fusion or whatever. They sound like an ... (read more)

Report this review (#39823) | Posted by progadicto | Tuesday, July 19, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A train wreck followed by an explosion, that is how I consider this bands music. This is probably the most insane and eccentric metal I have ever heard. Very complex and dynamic playing, this is TRUE PROG METAL that even I would reccomend( Espeicially to my misguided brothers). The sound value ... (read more)

Report this review (#36542) | Posted by | Wednesday, June 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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