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Happy Family


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Happy Family Toscco album cover
3.86 | 130 ratings | 13 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Great Man (3:01)
2. Overdrive Locomotive (6:31)
3. Nord Company Vs. Lead Company (5:19)
4. Filial Piety at the Dawn (4:03)
5. The Sushi Bar (11:42)
6. He Is Coming at Tokyo Station (3:50)
7. The Picture Book - X Rated (6:29)
8. The Three Leaves Insect (12:19)
9. The Great Man (Revisited) (1:25)

Total Time: 55:09

Line-up / Musicians

- Kenichi Morimoto / keyboards
- Tatsuya Myano / bass
- Takahiro Izutani / guitar
- Keiichi Nagase / drums

Releases information

Cuneiforme Rune 93 (CD)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
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HAPPY FAMILY Toscco ratings distribution

(130 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

HAPPY FAMILY Toscco reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Happy Family had existed for quite a while before they actually release proper Cd releases: apparently three self-made cassettes were sold at their concerts. By the time that their eponymous debut album was released, HP was heavily into a weird Crimsonian Zeuhl music (as if Fripp was had cross-pollinated with UZ and Vander's bunch in a metal container), and while fairly different, Toscco is the logical continuation of their first utterances, but it is much more mastered in its own art.

If possible I'd like to override my young reviewing colleagues Miracle/Ansen and IPOF, as maybe they have not fully grasped all the facets of Zeuhl, but Toscco is definitely a full-blown Zeuhl album (and a dynamite one too), even if the metal tendencies of the previous album are again "interfering" (for lack of a better word) with the genre's more recognizable traits. If HP does not sound like Magma much, they certainly sound a lot more like Univers Zero, Present and carry a lot of darkness of Island (the Swiss group), while their hi-energy RIO side of their music is also another dominant facet of their sound.

Starting on the calm clarinet-driven intro of Great Man, the album is mostly based on the longer tracks such as Nord Company, Sushi Bar (with its excellent clunky piano intro before exploding into a wild rrriff series before returning to the clunky piano) and Three Leaves Insect, where the group is most at ease developing Present-like grooves (the piano is so reminiscent of Trigaux's lines >> even if he didn't play them in his group, he still wrote them), while the relentless drumming is cross of Bruford and Daniel Denis, but also Dave Kerman (again Present). The shorter pieces are not to be overlooked, though: Picture Book (with a King Crimson crescendo ala Starless), Locomotive (with its incessant Present groove constantly interrupted by the piano breaks) and Tokyo Station (with its almost macabre middle section) are the legs and arms of the album on which is stands on and offers you what 90's prog has done best: intense power prog music.

Happy Family might just rank as my fave group from Japan along with Stomu Yamashta and the Far East Family Band, even if those two are more into cosmic music. Possibly on of the best mid-90's album, Toscco is for me almost essential (actually it is fully essential, but unfortunately, it is a little lost in the last decade's production of myriad of such album, a good deal of them on their own label, the great Cuneiform) but slightly too derivative of Present: this is maybe its only "flaw" if it can be seen as one.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Toscco" has to be one of the most accomplished masterpieces of today's experimental prog. Coming from Japan, Happy Family delivers an amazing musical vision in which extravagance, agression and dementia combine in a simbiosis solidly founded on the confluence of radical Crimson and a raw version of zheul standards (Dr. Nerve, anyone?). You can also notice similarities with NeBeLNeST and H÷yry-Kone, although, unlike the former, the keyboard parts are not as absorbing (not even in the spacier moments), and unlike both, Happy Family tends to put more emphasis on the jazzier side of experimental prog. Regarding this aforesaid factor, you can notice more similarities with Present, but again, Happy Family manages to create a robist world of their own within the confines of their own avant-garde style. "Toscco" gets started with a very languid piece, which is too far from melancholic, it is actually quite sordid in its mistery: the cadence portrayed in 'The Great Man' bears a freaky vibe that seems to precede a terrible danger that's on the brink. After this peculiar prelude, comes the manifestation of the general rule: pure expression of overwhelming madness delivered with neurotic intelligence and dynamic complexity. The sonic storm with which 'Overdrive Locomotive' is an explosion that marks the theme's inherent tension, a tension that makes its presence palpable even in the least explosive passages: this is what happens when RIO flirts with thrash metal and math-rock. The calculated saturating dirtiness of Myano's bass lines and Izutani's guitar leads create a magnificent triangle with Hagase's intrincate drumming, with Morimoto's keyboards laying harmonies, adonrments and brief solos, all of them cleverly weird. The band creates such a powerful that it seems as if their monster might as well turn against it and possess it. So here comes the next track, 'Nord Company vs. Lead Company', which bears less contrast, equal madness and more frenzy. Tha jazzy drive of this zheul example is properly ornamented by Izutani's semi-frippian solos. 'Filial Piety at the Dawn' brings some humor with its touches of surf rock and what seems to be ska, augmenting the 80s KC influenced overall ambience. 'The Sushi Bar', one of the epics, kicks off with a 3- minute piano bar section, slow, almost romantic albeit dissonant, until things turn dramatically into a Zappa's "Apostrophe"-meets- 90s KC. The multi-sounding keyboards (alternately emulating marimba, organ, spacey tricks and distorted clavinet) proves vital in order to bring some freshness among the overall oppressive feel. A reprise of the opening theme closes down this 11 3/4 minutes of bizarre progressive greatness. 'He is Coming at Tokyo Station' is an excercise in deconstructive orchestrations, wicked and funny at the same time - very akin to Dr. Nerve. Retaking shapes and ambiences from tracks 2 and 3, 'The Picture Book - X Rated' turns aout to be the ˝east difficult track in the album, catchy in a rare manner (although still relying heavily on weird stuff). The album's second epic is 'The Three Leaves Insect', occupying a 12+ span. Starting with an almost post-rock crepuscular atmosphere, things get more playful and explicit from minute 3 onwards. What happens from there is a sort of ecapitulation of the most exciting atmospheres that had already been anticipated in the prior tracks. The Zappa factor remains predominant among the sinister RIO-meets-zheul general trend. The albums is closed down by an acoustic reprise of the first track: it is very serene, an unexpected closure delivered on acoustic guitar and accordion. "Toscco" is quite impressive, a gem for stubborn lovers of avant-garde prog (as well as a nightmare for lovers of more conventional melodic art-rock), and of course, a living proof of zheul genre's ongoing vitality. Happy family are real masters of bizarre progresive rock.
Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Avestin has introduced me to so many albums and I always try to thank him in my reviews(thanks again Assaf). This one though is the best one he has recommended to me so far. This is also my favourite record from Japan right now. There is a darkness and heaviness to this album with drums leading the way. This is an all instrumental record.

We get started with "The Great Man" and I love this song ! The flute and organ create a gloomy atmosphere, and there is some heaviness to this song as well. "Overdrive Locomotive" has a fantastic intro like a heavy metal train travelling with great force down the tracks. We get some chaotic sounds and drums before an enjoyable section 5 minutes in when the tempo speeds up. "Nord Company Vs. Lead Company" is led by the drums as synths are being fired off all over the place. Guitar comes in as the song changes. I really like the breif guitar here and later after 4 minutes. "Filial Piety At The Dawn" has a catchy melody as heavy guitar comes and goes. There is some weird keyboard sounds in this one as the drums continue to dominate.

"The Sushi Bar (With Bad Face, Bad Manners, And Bad Times)" is a relaxed song with piano for the first 3 minutes. The guitar melodies then come in and they sound incredible as the song is no longer relaxed as it changes to an uptempo and catchy beat. What sounds like xylophone and synths come in and the guitar 8 1/2 minutes in is amazing. "He Is Coming At Tokyo Station" is different from the others with piano and drums dominating and some good guitar as well. "The Picture Book-X Rated" is uptempo with an incredible heavy duty soundscape 4 minutes in. The ending is both heavy and hypnotic. "The Three Leaves Insect" reminds me of NOEKK in the beginning. This is very dark and heavy. There is a blistering guitar solo 4 1/2 minutes in as drums pound away. Nice. There is some more dark and heavy music late led by some great bass work. "The Great Man (Revisited)" is an acoustic version of the opening track.

Some of my favourite music is dark and heavy, and with this release you can add creative and complex. This is truly a masterpiece !

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Happy Family is definitely one of the best Avant-Prog/Zeuhl bands that I know of the last decade. They're often considered as a Zeuhl band, but I rather think this is more in the Avant-Prog territory and they surely know how the give the listener a ride they'll never forget. The music is hyperactive, complex and manages to sound very original and is never boring. It reminds me of a cross of Koenjihyakkei's second album, minus the frantic vocals, mixed with Mr Bungle's "Disco Volante" only tighter and less varied, but still equally as good! I think their Zeuhl tag is because their comparisons with bands like Koenjihyakkei and Ruins, and I can definitely heard the tendencies and is an excellent alternative if you want to get into the genre but really can't. They sound really fresh and overall more experienced here than on they're more metal oriented debut (which is also excellent, but more chaotic) but the metal tendencies are still here, only more wisely used and adds a very diverse mood the their sound. The overall result is undeniably creative, refreshing and diverse but still very frantic, Zeuhl oriented and avant-gardistic.

The musicianship is brilliant and tight; the musicians here are masters of their instruments and it really shows on some of the tracks. I agree with fellow reviewer The Miracle (Ansen) that they play is such a way that they never display technical wankery even though the music is incredibly fast and complex. Drummer Keiichi Nagase especially is one of the best drummers I've heard recently and his playing here is just amazingly creative and he surely knows how to use his entire kit without repeating himself. Kenichi Morimoto, the keyboardist, composes most of the material and uses the keyboard not only as a lead instrument, but also effectively in the background and handles the quirkiest melodies with great fun and skill. The guitarist, Takahiro Izutani, shows some really creative playing here with heavy and complex riffing that slides inbetween the other instruments. His guitar solos are very noisy at times but he manages to make them fit into the music perfectly while the other musicians' plays their parts. Finally, bassist Tatsuya Myano completes the soundscape with his deep and complex bass lines, and like the other guys in this band stand out as a great musician. His bass fills the parts that other musicians cannot manage to at times effectively as well. Together as a band, all four works wonderfully together and plays with great control and effective styles.

So there you have it, one of the best Japanese Zeuhl/Avant albums created over the last decade. Rapid, complex, fast and well- made music supported with excellent musicianship and clean and fine production. Heavy at times, but also well-composed melodies without a single boring moment or anything like that. Highlights include "Overdrive Locomotive", "Nord-Company vs. Lead Company", "The Sushi Bar" and "The Picture Book - X-Rated", but the whole album really is fantastic as a whole. This quickly became one of my favorite albums with good reason. 5 stars. Highly recommended to Zeuhl and Avant-Prog fans who likes their music complex with a metal twist!

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars Sorry HAPPY FAMILY but I've been impressed in depth and width of this album and made sure that they would be one of Japanese prides. But as honestly I say, in Japan very few people can find such a terrific Japanese progressive rock band...I'm so angry and hungry! :-)

An impression should come first off. The Great Man can move us with gentle flute solo and following heavy and thick sounds. Invited into a trip to Tosccorld by familial HAPPY FAMILY...we are ready. I cannot go to the next door without their refined sounds - not only the flute here but the rhythm section. A bit trailed drum and bass shots - these are some of the characteristics of this song I wanna say. This heavy rhythm section should be taken to the next step continuously, hear please. Suddenly your sound mind should be broken in pieces by speedy and improvised drumming and keyboard noises in Overdrive Locomotive . The title of this song is, I feel, well-expressed. The sounds can tell a steam locomotive with much smoke and steam go into overdrive and be close to an explosion. Effective electronic noises also smell terribly dangerous. They should seem never to do something difficult - on the contrary they can play, naturally and easily, such a complex tune. We should be all amazed. In the last part repetitive, psychedelic and spacey noises can make us full-stomach. Cannot help feeling their activity and aggression. I suggest this track strike our brain definitively. And impressive percussive kicks pulls a tab of a canned soda named Nord Company Vs. Lead Company - exploded gas should surge upon our bilateral ears and make terrible earache! Frozen outer sounds attack and take us to another dimension. Should our goal be the space (Nord) or the deep sea (Lead)? Really absorbing rhythm and air - into the tune itself we should go and be stretched. Can the height be lengthened hahhaha...? Next track Filial Piety At The Dawn has a funny synth sounds with heavy guitars. The musical style, most of Japanese basically are not good with, is their identity and very attractive to Japanese minority, of course including ME. :-) Various noises they can shoot like colourful arrows and all of them should hit us completely. The Sushi Bar is, as HAPPY FAMILY should be, one of Japanese prides but sadly in lots of nations it's not always good. Smelly fish, dry and hard rice, and high-handed atmosphere...a Japanese gentleman is upset and breaking, throwing all sushi in front of him! I always feel this song should say so. (No, wait, I wanna say that not all sushi bar out of Japan are disgusting. There are lots of great sushi bar all over the world.) Sorry back to the album discussion... also here are many, many dynamic sounds and noises. I'm sure such a heavy style (not only Kobaic one) should be their natural taste. Why is He Is Coming At Tokyo Station so unstable? Whether is unstable stuff, he or Tokyo? Indeed Tokyo is a large city and there are lots of monsters, but really is he a terrible monster? I feel as a Godzilla heavily steps on the ground of Tokyo, listening to the track. Following The Picture Book - X Rated has the same atmosphere - heavily striking rhythms and melodies. Even though everyone says the keyboardist or the guitarist should be terrific, I do say the drummer should be the most important! Takahiro Izutani's drumming is not only speedy and powerful but also strict and especially passionate. Furthermore, as I've mentioned above, he can play much naturally such a complex rhythm. Beyond expression! The Three Leaves Insect is absolutely the collection of all of HAPPY FAMILY, their wonderful ensemble. There are floating, streaming, waving, twisting, and attacking "TEMPUS FUGIT". I guess they can tell themselves all with the song. And the air flows slowly to the end... We can be very comfortable with such a polished play, can't we?

Again I say, why can't we find easily such a masterpiece?

P.S. This album was recommended to me by Mike Sharkey aka King By-Tor, in my PA newbie era. Thanks Mike!

Review by Dobermensch
1 stars I was seriously disappointed with this album. It has a raw ugly sound to it and there are no vocals at all. I guess I was expecting something in the vein of the wonderful 'Koenjihyakkei'. Alas, the two bands are poles apart. Even the childish font on the front and back cover annoys me along with the 'baby' doodlings inside. You'd think that the addition of keyboards would smooth things out a little but they sound like a really cheap Yamaha I had in 1986 that played annoying artificial brass and trumpet sounds.

The appearance of a xylophone on 'The Sushi Bar' momentarily lifts my spirits but a few seconds later the frown appears on my forehead again. Grrr! I'm three quarters of way through this album and I can't wait for it to end. I'm just surprised to see that it has such a high score in the 'Archives' so I guess I must be the square peg in the round hole.

A very irritating experience and an album that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I'm just surprised so many people like it. Oh - and another thing - it doesn't sound like Zeuhl either - just an un-coordinated din.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars The opener alone should be an indication as to how wonderful of an album you let yourself into. ''The Great Man'' has to be one of the best ideas laid to tape as the spectacular oboe-like melodies float over your head while the guitars go for the heavy. The rest of TOSCCO doesn't quite live up to the reputation of ''The Great Man'', but Happy Family tries.

Even if the whole of TOSCCO is very avant-garde, mushy and brutal, there always one little melody or line that will stick in your head for some time. The start-stop feel of ''He Is Coming at Tokyo Station'' lets you know the Zeuhl train has arrived and in brutal form. Follow that with ''Picture Book'' and it's funky synths and crashing, trashing metal later on, and you've got a winner. ''Overdrive Locomotive'' is as brutal as it implies, and the metal continues on ''Nord Company'' and ''Filial Piety'' with the latter opening on a memorable wah-guitar line.

Shame that the two longer tracks leave a lot to be desired. ''The Sushi Bar'' may not have bad manners or a bad face, but the taste of nearly twelve minutes isn't exactly pleasing even if the first notable melody is soothing. ''The Three Leaves Insect'' is very epic in nature, but it takes so long to get going that by the time we have gotten somewhere, I've lost interest. Thankfully, a reprise of ''The Great Man'' caps the album on a high note.

This is intense, brutal Zeuhl metal with the occasional foray into RIO, jazz and prog structures. Best yet, TOSCCO isn't a diarrhea mess of complexity even if the sounds make that implication. The description of the ''Toscco'' is quite interesting (see liner notes) even if I can't make heads or tails of it.

Review by Warthur
3 stars The second album by Happy Family finds the band honing their Zeuhl style, and adding to their repertoire a substantial influence from the mid-1970s King Crimson circa Larks' Tongues In Aspic. This is, of course, not a combination which lacks precedent; back in the 1970s, Heldon produced albums which showed a very strong King Crimson influence and which at points leaned in a zeuhlish direction, and of course Happy Family's fellow Japanese zeuhl practitioners Bondage Fruit combined the two styles very successfully.

Too successfully for Happy Family's good, in fact - whilst this is an intriguing listen, I keep finding myself wanting to relisten to Bondage Fruit's second album when I listen to it, because that tended to be much more original and modern in its approach to melding the two styles. Still, this one's worth a go if you like this particular mashup.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The opening three minutes long opening track The Great Man gives the listener a forewarning of what to come. Then Happy Family fasten the grip and never let's go until the end of this album....... and long after the last tone has rung out. Coming in somewhere in the Present landscape, me too ... (read more)

Report this review (#300063) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, September 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Toscco is an extravagant display of ferocious complexity, oppressive power, and addictive motifs. It is complete with the brief splashes of beauty, worn in The Great Man, and scattered conservatively throughout the rest. These moments stand in stark contrast to the chief hyperactive and violently ... (read more)

Report this review (#169678) | Posted by Shakespeare | Saturday, May 3, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is one of those select few that simply want to make you say, "wow!" for the duration of the listening experience. Every note here is simply perfect, placed in the right place at the right time, inviting you to enjoy every second of it. Before I delve further into the content of the ... (read more)

Report this review (#114026) | Posted by Pnoom! | Friday, March 2, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Excellent! This group really keeps you interested through out the entire cd with their combination of Zeuhl styled fusion. Some heavy rock is injected in the formula, along with some UZ-type atmosphere (dark). Overall an entertaining and quite original (despite all the comparisons) japanese grou ... (read more)

Report this review (#75944) | Posted by | Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Happy Family caught my attention while trying to expand my prog horizons, since I've read that Zeuhl is a complicated genre, I found myself listening this album in no time My first impression was is that a Heavy Metal band crossed with RIO and a dash of good ol' fusion. Upon further hearing, th ... (read more)

Report this review (#56234) | Posted by RavenDarkmoon | Sunday, November 13, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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