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Happy The Man - 1977 Happy The Man



ARTIST: Happy The Man
ALBUM: Happy The Man
LABEL: Arista
SERIAL: 4120
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1999, One Way 34546

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Stanley Whitaker - six & twelve string guitars, lead vocals * Kit Watkins - mini moog, acoustic piano, rhodes piano, arp string ensemble, hammond B3, hohner clavinet, flute, marimba * Frank Wyatt - saxes, flute, piano, keyboards, vocals * Rick Kennell - electric bass * Mike Beck - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Starborne * 02 Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest * 03 Upon The Rainbow (Befrost) * 04 Mr Mirror's Reflection On Dreams * 05 Carousel * 06 Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo * 07 On Time As A Helix Of Precious Laughs * 08 Hidden Moods * 09 New York Dream's Suite

WEBLINKS: www.happytheman.com


Background
Nestled in the historic Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia is the hamlet of Harrisonburg and James Madison University. It was here in the early 1970's that an embryonic Happy The Man, one of America's most highly praised progressive bands took shape. Paying their dues on the Eastern college circuit and the nearby Washington, DC clubs, Happy The Man signed with Arista in 1977 releasing two albums on the label that received very little attention at the time, but are now widely considered classics of the genre.


The Songs
I've gone on record on more than one progressive forum/message board that I just don't understand what the fuss is all about. Happy The Man was comprised of outstanding musicians and a few of the groups membership went on to bigger bands including Kit Watkins to Camel, but musically in my mind this is nothing more than synthesized fusion. Not that there's anything wrong with that as Happy The Man deliver some impressive material here including the wonderfully playful 'Starborne' and 'Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest', the latter one of the many too clever for their own good song titles that dot the album. I really can't compare Happy The Man to one band although Gentle Giant is a distant cousin and the Canterbury scene of Caravan and Hatfield & The North obviously had an impact on the group's formative years, yet for some reason most of this album never comes close to the red zone on my wow-o-meter. Some of my issues with the band's sound are the vocals which are in a word - dreadful. A problem that's no stranger to the world of prog rock, but most of the material here just floats by me with little for the gray matter to latch on to and Stanley Whitaker's croaking doesn't help. Happy The Man were about complexity for complexity's sake it seems and as professionally executed as it is, there's not much here that's memorable or all that unique.


In Summary
After touring with Foreigner, The Outlaws and Renaissance, Happy The Man went back into the studio with French drummer Coco Roussel. The second album 'Crafty Hands' moved further into hi-tech fusion and is even less interesting than the debut, filling cut-out bins far and wide. Before Arista understandably gave the band the old heave-ho, they recorded a demo for their third album. These tapes were finally released in 1984 as '3 rd- Better Late..' on the Azimuth label, but unfortunately it was far from a revelation featuring more of the same prog fusion and questionable vocals of the first two releases. Since then, we've had a compilation, previously unreleased material and live discs as well as Happy The Man reunion, none of which has convinced me this was the greatest progressive band America produced which flies in the face of many of my prog rock brethren. Sorry guys.


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Comments
#1 | trillion1999 on October 08 2011 20:47:39
I have loved Starborne ever since hearing it on the radio many years ago.I had to have the LP just because of it.Even later it is the only reason I have kept the CD.To my ears it is a dead ringer for something that could have been found on a Björn J:son Lindh-album what a gem.Do not remember anything else by them.I kept the LP for that same reason and the cover which beautifully illustrate that soft fusion-masterpiece.in love
 
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