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Happy The Man - 2004 The Muse Awakens

Stanley Whitaker - guitar, vocals
Ricke Kennell - bass
Joe Bergamini - drums
David Rosenthal - keyboards
Frank Wyatt - saxophone, keyboards, woodwind

Upon receiving this CD I admit to having no knowledge of the bands history as a lauded 70's progressive rock act. The only thing that stood out was the name of David Rosenthal who of course played for Rainbow briefly in the 70's, appearing on the classic 'Rising' release from 1976. This is Rosenthal's first appearance with the band, replacing original keyboardist Kit Watkins who declined to participate in the album. Whitaker, Kennell and Wyatt are all survivors from the bands 70's years, while Bergamini is the other newcomer, the drummer having played with Marillion in years past. The bands last official studio affair was 1978's 'Crafty Hands', which saw them accepted as leaders of the US prog rock scene, so a lot of expectations were held for this much belated studio comeback.

The Songs
From what I've read this album picks up where the band left off, lead off track 'Contemporary Insanity' a heavily 70's laden piece, relying on dashing guitar and keyboard duels which recall the likes of Yes, Genesis and Emerson, Lake And Palmer at their peaks. The title track is more restrained to start but breaks off into some fine melodic areas. The gentle tone of 'Maui Sunset' is designed to evoke such imagery and does so through plaintive keyboard use, handled succinctly. 'Lunch At The Psychedelicatessen' is as odd musically as the title, with carnival like keyboards played in jovial circumstances before heading into jazz fusion territory before settling back into its original mood. I prefer the heavier 'Barking Spiders' which returns to the 70's atmosphere, a piece of fusion that could pass for Jeff Beck's 'Wired' or anything from the Mahavishnu Orchestra. 'Adrift' is a sax led, very light composition, more suited for a grocery store perhaps. Whitaker adds rare vocals for 'Shadowlites', adding near AOR dynamics to the mix. The lighter direction again surfaces on 'Kindred Spirits', with horn work at the forefront, which takes us into 'Il Quinto Mare', a seven minute closer which incorporates all shades into the mix, ending on a dream like note with seagulls squawking, enough to make you drift away yourself.

In Summary
For fans of progressive rock this is perhaps a dream come true in the modern age. I feel the band could utilise the heavier direction slightly more as it is only hinted at in two tracks. Obviously the band has eclectic tastes and has opted for a range of shifting moods and directions which appears to be their calling card, even back in the 70's. The band has a host of other projects so HTM is not their main priority, so any product from the band is to be treated like gold from longtime fans. Crucially the sound, although from another era, doesn't sound dated through better production values, but the key elements are there from the 70's that will appeal to even a casual fan like myself which is enough to earn this an easy pass mark.


Track Listing
01 Contemporary Insanity
02 The Muse Awakens
03 Maui Sunset
04 Lunch At The Psychedelicatessen
05 Barking Spiders
06 Adrift
07 Shadowlites
08 Kindred Spirits
09 Il Quinto Mare

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