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Happy The Man - The Muse Awakens CD (album) cover


Happy The Man


Eclectic Prog

3.61 | 136 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Their current bookend leaves me scratching my head at times: Unbalanced at worst

The year is 2004 and Kit Watkins is nowhere in sight (forgive my ignorance; I'm a huge fan of their self-titled, but know little else). He just always struck me as intrinsic to the Happy The Man sound. Funny enough, it's after 1978's Crafty Hands that he leaves! Even so, there was definitely a part of ignorant me that was skeptic. Odd, too, as this is the second of only 2 studio albums available for the band on Spotify (since ever). So, a glimpse at their bookends only? I should likely rectify that--another day.

Right off the bat, the keys, since you see that's so important to me: Frank Wyatt takes up the helm in an apparently more primary position and is joined by one of their then newest members David Rosenthal. No harm, no foul. Their ability is notable from the get-go on the excellent "Contemporary Insanity". What an opener! Showing they still truly have it after all these years.

This wild ride is then interestingly juxtaposed with the very quieted title track, "The Muse Awakens". Lovely and soft, with feeling reeds and very bright, modern drums. A shift occurs around 2:40 in rhythm and vibe. Certainly all for the better. And once again, the highlight is synth soloing. Big fan (the track was solid enough).

Soft padding introduces the next, "Stepping Through Time". Spacy and atmospheric synth lead enters to an almost Eastern effect. Things slowly rise around minute 2, light and airy, but with an optimistic sort of flair. The syncopation that follows is very interesting. The feeling continues to rise and it feels as though the beat picks up a hair as lead guitar floats melodically and jazzy. And then just like Happy The Man to pick things up in an unexpected way. Very satisfying. Always with the compositional knack. Certainly worth a listen for that build.

Ocean waves crash along the beach on "Maui Sunset" and a distant horn initiates the music. A very dreamy song.

A song with a title like "Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen" had better be great, right? In this case, yes! Well, it's a damn solid start, firstly. Got that lovely, free and jazzy quirk. Such a great feel! I guess you could say that it's 'psychedelic' similarly to how Hatfield and the North has, as I would put it, Canterbury quirk. It just keeps getting better and better, too.

And then, it's back on that soft, soft ride with "Slipstream". Another track where it felt like I was waiting for the great thing to happen: not an awesome feeling. It is nearing the 3 minute mark that things do in fact pick up. Fun melody and fun performance. I just wish the whole had this sort of feeling... Especially as it seemed to culminate to that moment only to return to the low and slow of the start.

Then, praise the Lord above for the funky and wild "Barking Spiders" (very Happy the Man sort of title, that)! Such a refresher! Sort of guitar fusion meets light RIO vamping. So, I'm all for it! The guitar, the keys and the quirky percussion throughout: oh yes. Fantastic front to back.

The thing is, once again, this album is giving me strangely anticlimactic whiplash (is that a ding?). "Adrift": once again, a pretty number, but... And like I'm grateful, I guess that they separated these tracks, but to what end?! It goes into "Shadowlites", the first title with vocals?! I almost forgot that Happy The Man usually features vocals haha. Similar, here, to Steve Walsh (Kansas)?... Cool rhythm, for sure. The song was... fine, though. It's also just making me feel, unfortunately, that this album is also perhaps a hair too long. Disappointing, I guess. God, this review is longer and more depressing than I was anticipating...

"Kindred Spirits" is another low and slow, pretty and introspective sort of song to start. Lovely ethereal sort of keys. But... once again, did anything happen throughout? Not really. Well performed, of course, but come on! In comparison, from the beginning, "Il quinto mare" does feel like a significantly better option for a closer than the sad weaknesses throughout, at least. The strings are a nice change, I'd say. Drums are strong and optimistic. Another softer track, end of the day, but at least it has something going on for itself.

Ultimately, unsure how I feel, but I found myself here enjoying ExittheLemming's review from 10+ years ago. I dunno, end of the day. Still love the band. This album was just lacking quite a bit of something.

DangHeck | 3/5 |


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