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HAPPY THE MAN

Eclectic Prog • United States


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Happy The Man biography
One of the finest American prog bands. Completely out of the american standards, HAPPY THE MAN combined lush melodies, great complex interplay and a slightly jazzy touch with occasional vocals. The band claims to be influenced by GENESIS, Yes, and GENTLE GIANT although they really do not sound anything like any of those bands.

Their first two albums, the self titled "Happy the Man" and "Crafty Hands" (almost entirely instrumental) are classic albums of the highest order, and are considered by the band to be the definitive releases in their catalogue. These are must haves. A reference point in the 70's US prog scene!

Current genre under review.

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HAPPY THE MAN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

HAPPY THE MAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.83 | 134 ratings
Happy the Man
1977
3.79 | 158 ratings
Crafty Hands
1978
3.47 | 71 ratings
Better Late...
1979
2.94 | 44 ratings
Beginnings
1990
3.53 | 44 ratings
Death's Crown
1999
3.56 | 87 ratings
The Muse Awakens
2004

HAPPY THE MAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.82 | 18 ratings
Live
1997

HAPPY THE MAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HAPPY THE MAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.86 | 11 ratings
Retrospective
1989

HAPPY THE MAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Service With A Smile
1978

HAPPY THE MAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Muse Awakens    by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.56 | 87 ratings

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The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Virginia band Happy the Man released only two studio albums before changing tastes pushed them rudely off the map at the end of the 1970s. But they didn't vanish entirely: a sporadic selection of archival music would appear over the next few decades, keeping the memory of a unique band alive and paving the way toward this unexpected reunion project in 2004.

The core of the group, minus only Kit Watkins, was still intact. And the survivors resumed more or less exactly where they left off a quarter-century earlier, when Arista Records pulled the financial plug after the failure of the band's career peak "Crafty Hands" album. The new music was the same quirky, instrumental Prog, freshly energized by all the time off and no less eclectic than before: not Symphonic Rock; not Jazz Fusion; and certainly not the retro-copycat sound favored by too many latter-day proggers.

What's missing of course is the zeitgeist itself. Progressive Rock was mainstream in the middle '70s, but in our tame new millennium the style (actually more an attitude than a formal style) has been reduced to a healthy fringe movement for musical outsiders. Which makes new albums like this one, tied to a shared creative heritage but still completely original, all the more welcome, offering discriminating listeners a double rush of both discovery and recognition. Compare the results here with the half-baked efforts of other Golden Age Progressive refugees to hear the correct method for recharging a long-dormant musical battery.

A few of the song titles speak directly to the change of circumstances: "The Muse Awakens"; "Stepping Through Time"; and of course the tongue-in-cheek "Contemporary Insanity". The latter opens the album on a blast of pure Prog adrenalin comparable to the best of Gentle Giant, but in truth making the Shulman brothers sound like constipated sleepwalkers. Frontloading the strongest track may have cost the album some momentum, because little of what follows can match it (although the perfectly-titled, off-kilter spasm of 'Barking Spiders" comes close). And sometimes the music drifts uncomfortably close to something not unlike smooth jazz, in "Slipstream", "Adrift', and elsewhere.

But never without being redeemed by a typically playful touch of Prog Rock vigor and intricacy. Only truly creative, totally disciplined musicians can think in such odd meters and still write melodies sounding so unforced and natural: an HTM specialty, then and now.

The reunion was brief, however, and the band has since moved on to other projects. But if this was the last we'll ever hear of Happy the Man, at least they quit on their own terms, fulfilling the potential denied them by a narrow-minded music industry once upon an earlier time.

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 Crafty Hands by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 158 ratings

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Crafty Hands
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Crafty Hands by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 158 ratings

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Crafty Hands
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

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.

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 Happy the Man by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.83 | 134 ratings

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Happy the Man
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars By mid-70's Cliff Fortney had left Happy The Man because of his stagefright and technical inability and he was replaced by singer Dan Owen, while flute parts were handled by Kit Watkins.Owen spent about 8 months with the band and during his time the ''Death's Crown'' suite was recorded in the band's rehearsal room.After Owen quit in 1975, the rest of the crew decided to move on as a quintet.Happy The Man attracted the interest of Peter Gabriel, who was searching for a backing group after his departure from Genesis and, although this collaboration did not work, this was enough to increase Happy The Man's popularity.They were eventually signed by Arista in a 5-year recording deal and recorded their debut at A&M Studios towards the end of 1976, supported by the production value of Ken Scott, who had worked with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Supertramp and David Bowie.In 1977 the official debut of Happy The Man sees the light.

''Happy the Man'' was there to unite two different worlds.The one was the complex and intricate Progressive Rock of early 70's with GENTLE GIANT and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR references, a style totally out of fashion around the time.The other was a style by a Prog band heading to the next decade, smoother, more melodic and atmospheric, with pronounced use of synthesizers and elegant passages, which however contained lots of adventurous themes.The most surprising thing about the group was their ability to follow dense, virtuosic interplays with more delicate, harmonic passages in a very tight combination, revealing tons of composing talent.Their style included influences from Jazz and Fusion, dominated by Frank Wyatt's incredible sax work, the quirky keyboard parts of both Wyatt and Watkins and the consistent rhythm section of Beck and Kennell.They did have also a strong Classical character at moments with piano interludes and symphonic keyboards in the forefront, building structures for the upcoming rich instrumental lines.Happy The Man's introduction was music with unexpected twists, amazing interactions between the instrumentalists, powerful breaks and romantic soundscapes with mellow keyboards.The result is often astonishing with GENTLE GIANT being the main influence minus the Medieval vibes, a beautiful surprise in a scene that was fading around the time.

The early rehearsals of Happy The Man eventually developed into a fascinating, bombastic listening experience with a fresh attitude.Consistent Symphonic/Jazz Rock with both fiery and calm instrumental material, really a pure delight.Absolutely recommended.

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 The Muse Awakens    by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.56 | 87 ratings

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The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Happy the Man last testament is The muse awakens from 2004, after this release they will disbaned in 2005, sadly. Kit Watkins is not present on this relelase but the music is elegant and inventive as on the glory days, at least to my ears. David Rosenthal on keyboards is a very eminent keyboard player with good pedigree in rock music, with collaboarations with Rainbow among others. As I said the music is elegant, intelligent arrangements all over with some spectacular moments like opening track Contemporary Insanity, some blistering musicinaship here, awesome. The title track is a smooth spacey airy with superb interplays between instruments. Not much to say if you love this unique band, that this album must be into your collection. Inspired album, top notch musicinaship. A winner to me and because of that 4 stars easy.

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 The Muse Awakens    by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.56 | 87 ratings

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The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by sinslice

4 stars Good music guided primarily by keyboards of David Rosenthal and Frank Wyatt, with good participation of sax and guitar. The pace is mostly slow and placid. The Muse Awakes and Slipstream contain beautiful melodies, well developed through its peaceful course. Kindred Spirits also flows through the same paths. While the music is entirely instrumental, sometimes there is excessive synthesizer solos. Barking Spiders displayed more energy in a jazzy style, with rock sections. Adrift on the other hand, is led by sax and gentler. Shadowlites is the only song sung by Stanley Whitaker, quiet, no big deal. The last mention is for the piece that closes the work, and the largest, Il Quinto Mare. It spans a very good landscape mode described above, with good job of piano, keyboards and guitar, with good arrangements. As always write; depends on the music you want to hear, is a good choice for anyone who enjoys this type of music sometimes. I do.

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 Crafty Hands by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.79 | 158 ratings

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Crafty Hands
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Jojowarren

4 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 that the tracks are more repetitive and less wild with the musicianship, speaking of course about tracks like Knee-Bitten Nymphs In Limbo, the likes of which are absent here.

Still, Happy the Man succeeds in bringing back the sound of the first album while exploring enough new ground on Service With a Smile, Wind Up Doll Day Wind, and Open Book. There aren't any truly weak tracks; it just lacks one that's completely off the charts. Shorter, softer, and less ambitious than before, but still an album that's worthwhile for any prog collection.

Service With a Smile: 9/10 Morning Sun: 7/10 Ibby It Is: 8/10 Steaming Pipes: 7/10 Wind Up Doll Day Wind: 8/10 Open Book: 9/10 I Forgot To Push It: 8/10 The Moon, I Sing (Nossuri): 7/10

Total: 8/10

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 Happy the Man by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.83 | 134 ratings

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Happy the Man
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Jojowarren

5 stars Colorful, Camel-esque space-prog with lots of character.

This is a totally underrated album, as a band's debut this is simply astounding and I wish more people were aware of it! I'm glad to have discovered this rare gem. This is probably the only space-rock (if we must call it that) I've been able to appreciate, as it fills its passages with plenty of time changes, colorful keyboards, and beautiful melodies. Vocals only appear on two tracks, and are actually quite good. I would most compare this album to Camel's Moonmadness.

Starborne: 7/10 Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest: 9/10 Upon The Rainbow (Befrost): 9/10 Mr. Mirror's Reflections On Dreams: 8/10 Carousel: 6/10 Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo: 9/10 On Time As A Helox Of Precious Laughs: 6/10 Hidden Moods: 7/10 New York Dream's Suite: 8/10 Total: 8/10, a great debut.

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 Beginnings by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.94 | 44 ratings

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Beginnings
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The history of this legendary US group started in 1972, when guitarist Stanley Whitaker and bassist Rick Kennell met in Germany and shared the same admiration for British Progressive Rock.Whitaker was back in USA by the next year and Kennell, who remained in German grounds for a while, introduced him two of his former bandmates, drummer Mike Beck and singer/flautist Cliff Fortney.The original keyboardists were David Bach and Frank Wyatt, the first was soon to be replaced by Kit Watkins.So Happy The Man were born and in 1974 Kennell was back to USA as well with the band starting full rehearsals.Material from this early 1974-1975 period was released in 1990 under the title ''Beginnings'' by Cuneiform.

The love of HAPPY THE MAN for early British Prog is apparent in every track and actually Whitaker and Kennell were both great fans of KING CRIMSON, GENESIS and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR.Noy surprisingy at all these are the main influences dominating the band's early sound with original singer Cliff Fortney sounding a lot like PETER HAMMILL and, to lesser extent, like PETER GABRIEL.The tracks are quite long with plenty of space for nice psychedelic instrumentals, elaborate symphonic arrangements along with a light jazzy breeze.Happy The Man's early sound lacks any kind of full-blown musicianship and the band was focusing on creating dreamy and atmospheric soundscapes, both in vocal and instrumental parts, with nice use of organ, sax and electric piano in the vein of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR along with floating synth parts, delicate flute passages and melodic guitar solos in the vein of GENESIS.But a ton of a talent could not been that easily hidden, so there are also plenty of moments, where the sound becomes trully rich with some cool complex themes, highlighted by a VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR/KING CRIMSON-ian atmosphere with bombastic sax and organ interplays next to demanding keyboard flights and more adventurous guitar hooks.The result was a band with numerous interesting ideas but far from creating their unique personality.

It can get more Classic Prog-styled than this.Of course it is not HAPPY THE MAN's greatest release or, even more, very far from original, but is it a beautiful archival release with a full hour of previously unreleased material of the band's early days and fans of Classic Prog in the vein of the aforementioned legends should track this down.Warmly recommended.

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 The Muse Awakens    by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.56 | 87 ratings

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The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Happy the Man without Kit Watkins is a prospect some fans of the band may feel some trepidation about, and whilst I don't think David Rosenthal does a bad job replacing Kit when it comes to the actual performances, I think the band's compositions on The Muse Awakens suffer a bit from the lack of Kit's contributions. The album is a collection of pleasant enough symphonic prog pieces which don't quite hit the standards of the band's self-titled debut or the classic Crafty Hands, seeming a little airy and insubstantial compared to them. There's lots of technically adept playing, but I'm not seeing where the album's heart is.

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Thanks to Ivan Melgar M for the artist addition.

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