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Happy The Man - Happy the Man CD (album) cover


Happy The Man


Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 228 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Official debut album by my all-time prog act from the U.S.A., and what a debut! Happy the Man's namesake recording is one of the most relevant and peculiar in the history of prog. Brilliant compositions, incredible arrangements, top-notch musicianship, fluid collective functioning: the best ingredients you can ask for in a prog meal. The diversity of musical ideas that appear on the album is no small degree based on its influences: Canterbury's pleasant freshness, Gentle Giant's harmonized dissonances, 76-77 Camel's melodic taste, accademical stuff (Gershwin, Grieg), even some hints of Zappa-esque bizarreness and Retrun to Forever's colourful fusion. Yet, the overall result isn't derivative at all, but an original one. Kit Watkins' keyboard playing combines Emerson's fire and Bardens's texturial sensibility in a unique style, and IMHO, he's the most prominent masters in this band of talents. The rhythm section deals with all these complex time signatures with incredible ease and precise energy; meanwhile, Whitaker's guitars and Wyatt's wind instruments exhibit absolute finesse in their solos and harmonic parts. Many times it happens that Wyatt plays keyboards too (grand and electric pianos), and so he and Watkins interplay cleverly for the benefit of melodic lines and the enhancement of ambiences. The repertoire comprises reflective pieces ('Starborne', 'Hidden Moods') as well as explicitly energetic ones ('Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest', 'Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo') and evocative ones (the sung tracks, 3 and 7): some tracks lay somewhere in the middle, like the longest ones (tracks 4 and 9, which are the most amazing ones), and we can even find an exquisite excercise in mysterious crescendo ('Carrousel'). Tracks 4 and 9 take full advantage of their respective timespans in order to generate a sense of complexity through the linkage of its various sections, but it is always a controlled complexity. There's always room for pyrotechnics in the hands of Watkins, Whitaker and Wyatt, but the impressive solos are never too long, always making sense as part of each track as a whole: somehow, these five guys manage to show their skills unabashedly without betraying the integrity of each piece. This feels particularly true about the two sung tracks, which are evidently rich in melodic terms (track 7 even includes an unexpected twist into Latin-jazz inspired moods for its coda), yet bearing enough constrain as to keep the overall ambience solid. What else can I say about this album as a whole? 5 stars!!
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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