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

HAPPY THE MAN

Happy The Man

 

Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 221 ratings

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BrufordFreak
4 stars A musical project that I've always found completely inaccessible, Happy The Man are well-lauded around these parts but methinks it more for their skills than their memorable and engaging music. Many assume that they must be good because they knew of their live covers of works by Genesis, King Crimson, and Van Der Graaf Generator in their concerts in the early 1970s or are familiar with Kit Watkins' participation on late-1970s CAMEL albums and tours as well as his own solo output.

Line-up / Musicians: - Stanley Whitaker / 6- & 12-string guitars, lead vocals - Kit Watkins / Mini-Moog, piano, Fender Rhodes, ARP String Ensemble, Hammond B3, Hohner clavinet, flute, marimba - Frank Wyatt / saxes, flute, piano, keyboards, vocals, lyricist - Rick Kennell / bass - Mike Beck / drums, percussion

1. "Starborne" (4:22) this orchestra-jazzy opener shows a lot of promise and provokes genuine interest and enthusiasm for what is to follow. (9/10)

2. "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" (4:16) opens well before going country Gentle Giant. Very tight and virtuosic. (9/10)

3. "Upon the Rainbow (Befrost)" (4:42) the first carrier of a vocal displays some of the band's weaknesses: the vocals and lyrics. A little more radio/pop oriented. Nice chordal flow and arrangements. (8.75/10)

4. "Mr. Mirror's Reflection on Dreams" (8:54) opens like a Mike Oldfield melodic weave before side-stepping into a little GENTLE GIANT territory and then going jazz fusion. In the second minute it goes 'smooth jazz Genesis.' Nice bombast like an instrumental overture to a Liza Minelli or Gino Vanelli show in Las Vegas. It finishes in a circus-like GENTLE GIANT fashion. (8.75/20) 5. "Carousel" (4:06) kind of a continuation of the previous song with a darker, almost Zeuhl jazz timbre to it. Swings like GOBLIN soundtrack piece. (8.5/10)

6. "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo" (5:22) an impressive display of instrumental prowess and cohesion as well as compositional skill for a song that lacks melodic or sonic "hooks." (8/10)

7. "On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs" (5:22) opens pensively with Fender Rhodes and bass before vocal and Mini-Moog join in. Again, vocals are not this band's strength (though the lyric is better on this one than "Rainbow [Befrost]") After the first verse of singing, the music shifts for a bit into a heavier realm before drifting back down into more melodic jazz fusion. (Great electric guitar, bass, and dynamic piano play.) Quite a strong GENESIS/UTOPIA/NOVA (Corrado Restuci) crescendo here in the fourth minute! Too bad for the choice to have that vocal section weakening what would otherwise be a very strong song. (9/10)

8. "Hidden Moods" (3:41) a little foray into jazz lite--is a bit too light, like watered down Jean-Luc Ponty or Weather Report. (8/10)

9. "New York Dream's Suite (8:32) opens like a little bit of a mix of CHICK COREA and GENTLE GIANT: playful and using that MiniMoog as Chick would. At 1:45 everything shifts into overdrive with a GINO VANELLI-like keyboard jazz section. Nice! A delicate, soft section ensues at the 4:00 mark entering more of that NOVA/NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN territory. Next section shifts remind me more of some of TODD RUNDGREN's three-keyboardist work on Utopia and Initiation interlaced with some nice Relayer "Soon" sounds. Nice song. (18/20)

Total Time: 49:30

Clean, clear sound throughout with highly proficient performances from all instruments. The guitar sound and afew of the keyboard sound choices are a bit dated (though I do love the sound of both the Mini-Moog and clavinet), the thick bass sound and Bill Bruford-styled drums are solid, too. Solid four star album--more like 4.5--a near masterpiece of progressive rock music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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