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Happy The Man - Crafty Hands CD (album) cover


Happy The Man


Eclectic Prog

3.87 | 217 ratings

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4 stars One of the reasons why I never cared about HAPPY THE MAN is that I tend to ignore bands that take a name that relates them with a great band, because in most cases they are just trying to use the fame of great musicians and lack of imagination.

Being that I'm moving and also obsessive compulsive, started to catalogue my records in perfect order when I found "Crafty Hands", an album that I hadn't heard for years and decided to give the band a chancel, and after listening it, my opinion changed, an excellent release from start to end that could had only been better if PETER GABRIEL had accepted to play with them.

"Crafty Hands begins with the outstanding "Service with a Smile", a track that has nothing in common with GENESIS as the name of the band may suggest, except the obsession of the band with the perfect structures, as the boys from the Charterhouse School did in their first albums, every section leads to the next one in a perfect and logical way, the keyboards are simple but adequate for the song, and interplay with the rest of the band in the only possible way.

"Morning Sun" is a much softer track, like the middle point between GENESIS and CAMEL but with very few similarities to any of the mentioned bands except maybe a certain atmosphere close to "A Trick of the Tail". The star of the song is Stanley Whitaker with his acoustic guitar that blends with the keys perfectly. "Ibby it is" relies in the soft changes and the contrast between the soft guitar sections and the pompous keyboard passages, but as usual the main interest is on the way in which the band manages to unite this contrasting sections with a careful work and elaborate arrangements.

"Steaming Pipes" reminds me of "Larks Tongues in Aspic" but unlike my distaste for the KING CRIMSON album, I find this song interesting because the changes are gradual and based in melody rather than in what I feel as pointless experimentation, yes there are dissonances, but HAPPY THE MAN manages to make them sound coherent and melodic. In "Wind Up Doll Day Wind" the band returns to the four men GENESIS atmosphere, but much more mysterious and dark than in ATOTT, the vocals are in my opinion unnecessary and ruin the sound, the weakest song at this point, well at least until the band takes unexpected energy and makes a powerful and pompous instrumental break, only weak each time they add vocals.

"Open Book" is another song of contrasts, the short intro leads to believe we're in front of a song in the vein of the dreamy CAMEL, but soon the guitar and keys destroy this first impression, the thick almost jazzy atmosphere that supported by a good melody goes "in crescendo" until a radical change takes us several centuries in the past to the Medieval Age with a traveling troubadours style, soft percussion and flute by Frank Wyatt. But that's not all, they suddenly take a more aggressive path with excellent drumming and keyboards without loosing that oneiric mood, excellent track.

"I Forgot to Push it" has one of the best Crimsonian intros in the album, the excellent use of Saxophone with dissonant keyboards and extremely complex drums is just amazing and the change to a jazzy passage is brilliantly elaborated, but they keep changing over and over towards more interesting and complex paths, outstanding material.

"Crafty Hands" is closed with the dreamy "The Moon I Sing", well at least the intro with a nice melodic tune enhances by a chorus that seems like produced by a Mellotron that blends with the atmosphere is delightful, but there's a lot of tension, because the song grows in intensity as announcing an explosive climax that seems never to reach, but after a change in which we expect an explosion, they retake the gentle and mysterious melody with some dissonances.....But again goes in crescendo leading towards.......Nowhere, they just gain force progressively until the song fades.

Now, lets be honest, I like the music, but it's evident they lack of strength in several passages, sometimes when you believe the song is taking us to an explosion of power, just keep going in circles and leading nowhere, but that's their style, nobody criticizes CAMEL for being ultra soft, by the contrary, they are some sort of "B" classics but when the time comes to talk about "HAPPY THE MAN" the criticism starts, maybe because they were born in USA and not in UK.

In my case I find HAPPY THE MAN much more rewarding than many famous bands and believe "Crafty Hands" deserves no less than 3.5 stars,, but being this impossible in Prog Archives system, will have to honor the bolded statement and rate it with 4 stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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