HAPPY THE MAN

Jazz Related Rock • United States
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Often compared to Yes for their melodicism and Gentle Giant for the complexity of their compositions, Happy the Man added their own high-caliber musicianship, a sense of symphonic drama, odd time signatures, spacy sound, and occasional whimsy to their brand of progressive rock. Although their largely instrumental oeuvre was rather inconsistent, Happy the Man still carry a devoted following on the prog rock collectors' circuit. The group was formed in 1974, and during the '70s featured keyboardist Kit Watkins, keyboardist/woodwind player Frank Wyatt, guitarist and occasional vocalist Stan Whitaker, and bassist Rick Kennell, plus a rotating succession of drummers. Original vocalist Cliff Fortney left the band before it signed to Arista. Their self-titled 1977 debut was recorded with drummer Mike Beck and introduced each member's compositional style: Watkins possessed the symphonic grandeur, Wyatt gravitated toward songs with lyrics, and Whitaker allowed his sense of humor to come through on pieces read more...
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Happy the ManHappy the Man
Explicit Lyrics
One Way Records
$9.60
$1.49 (used)
Crafty HandsCrafty Hands
Remastered
Esoteric 2012
$24.89
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Death's CrownDeath's Crown
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$38.00
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The Muse AwakensThe Muse Awakens
CD Baby 2018
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3rd3rd
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
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LiveLive
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
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LiveLive
Linden Music
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BeginningsBeginnings
CUNEIFORM RECORDS 2017
$25.00
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RetrospectiveRetrospective
East Side Digital 1989
$5.29 (used)
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HAPPY THE MAN Discography

HAPPY THE MAN albums / top albums

HAPPY THE MAN Happy The Man album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Happy The Man
Jazz Related Rock 1977
HAPPY THE MAN Crafty Hands album cover 4.50 | 2 ratings
Crafty Hands
Jazz Related Rock 1978
HAPPY THE MAN 3rd - 0.00 | 0 ratings
3rd - "Better Late..."
Jazz Related Rock 1983
HAPPY THE MAN Beginnings album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Beginnings
Jazz Related Rock 1990
HAPPY THE MAN Death's Crown album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Death's Crown
Jazz Related Rock 1999
HAPPY THE MAN The Muse Awakens album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
The Muse Awakens
Jazz Related Rock 2004

HAPPY THE MAN EPs & splits

HAPPY THE MAN live albums

HAPPY THE MAN Live album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live
Jazz Related Rock 1994

HAPPY THE MAN demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

HAPPY THE MAN re-issues & compilations

HAPPY THE MAN Retrospective album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Retrospective
Jazz Related Rock 1989

HAPPY THE MAN singles (0)

HAPPY THE MAN movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

HAPPY THE MAN Reviews

HAPPY THE MAN The Muse Awakens

Album · 2004 · Jazz Related Rock
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The late 70s and 80s may have been the greatest test for progressive bands to weather out the storm with some, mostly neo-prog bands holding out and carrying the torch against hurricane force winds but the 90s saw a calm in the storm with bands like Anglagard and Dream Theater unapologetically reviving the complexities of 70s prog traditions and updating their sounds. The second generation of prog was born! and that coupled with digital technology making it infinitely less expensive to produce music and the popularity of the internet to by-pass record company whims was the perfect recipe for old school bands of the 70s to re-emerge from their slumber. HAPPY THE MAN was one of those bands who emerged just a little late in the game in the 70s to really garner a huge following. Their only two studio albums of the 70s came out in 1977 and 78 just when “Saturday Night Fever” and the Sex Pistols were crashing the party and changing the musical soundscape. The band was, frankly, lucky to achieved what they did at that period but it is a testament to the outstanding musicianship that the band engaged in and it’s no wonder they have kept a cult following after all the years that have passed.

Fast forward to the year of 2004 and HAPPY THE MAN finally, at long last, graces the world with a third full-length studio album. Forget all those demo and archival albums (“3rd - Better Late,” “Death’s Crown,” “Beginnings”) which are fine and dandy for collectors but not what i’d call real albums that you can just get lost in. THE MUSE AWAKENS is the real thing that stylistically fits somewhere between the band’s 70s studio releases with an updated sound and production that suits the band sound, oh quite well! THE MUSE AWAKENS features only three original members, those being Stanley Whitaker (guitars and vocals), Frank Wyatt (saxes, keyboards and woodwinds) and Rick Kennell (bass). The newbies are David Rosenthal on keyboards and Joe Bergamini on drums and percussion. HTM had the Spinal Tap complex with all three studio albums having different drummers. As far as i know, there were no bizarre gardening accidents or spontaneous combustible moments! One of the first things i noticed is the use of much more prominent guitar making itself heard above the symphonic touches.

The album pretty much continues where the last two left off. The beginning track “Contemporary Insanity” humorously lets the listeners know that HTM is quite aware of its current timeline and yet opts to anachronistically take us to that point in time in that imaginary universe where “Crafty Hands” was a huge success and this was the much anticipated followup release. And yes, the energy, the jazz-fusion meets symphonic prog leanings, the syncopated rhythms and time sigs gone wild are all on board dictating to the world that true 70s prog is back and this is no joke. Is this album really good? Well, yes it is! However, it doesn’t take long to prove that this album doesn’t have a really good flow pattern to it. Starting with the second track which is the title track we get the first of some really slow “soft” jazz-fusion tracks that as always bring The Weather Report to mind, however at least this one picks up the energy level after a bit. The track is redeemed by its intensity build-up. The one thing that keeps me from giving this album a higher rating are the smooth jazz moments that are counterproductive to the overall feel of the album.

The band can rock like nobody’s business but there is a deliberate holdback as found on the mellower tracks like the title track, “Maui Sunset,” “Slipstream,” “Adrift.” I should emphatically state that mellow doesn’t mean boring. Tracks like “Stepping Through Time” are mellow yet awesomely effective in carrying out a successful progressive rock inspired fusion that blows the mind utilizing all the members on boards to create an addictive atmosphere. Tracks like “Psychedelicatesson” are magical and i truly wish the album was stuffed with these kinds of tracks and my absolute favorite HTM track of all time “Barking Spiders” which takes their jazz-fusion approach and REALLY marries the rock really make this album worth the price of admission alone including the most guitar oriented track of the band’s existence.

Yes, this sounds like a collection of tracks composed through the track of a couple decades and yes, this doesn’t flow as nicely as a “true” organic album should and yes, this may have more mellow tracks than it should, but i am quite enthralled with not only the diversity of the album but by the compositional skills involved and the fact that a 70s band created a really beautiful album that still resonates into the 21st century. Given all the obstacles placed in their way and the fact that this is not the most perfect album that could ever exist, i’m still very pleased with its achievement. When all is said and done, this album has more than enough to deliver to the hardcore HTM fans who were craving the top notch musical deliveries with a pleasing retro feel and musical repertoire that could transport the listener to the classic days of prog albeit the latter tracings. Perhaps a worked for 4 star appreciative effort but after many listens, one that i have found it to be

HAPPY THE MAN Crafty Hands

Album · 1978 · Jazz Related Rock
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HAPPY THE MAN had a series of serendipity by impressing an exec at Arista Records and then impressing Peter Gabriel after auditioning for his solo band, who helped them secure a music contract. The band was also fortunate to support their debut album as an opening act for various popular bands such as Foreigner, Renaissance and Hot Tuna, but the live touring thing was too much for drummer Mike Beck and he was replaced by Ron Riddle who was in an early lineup of The Cars and would appear on their second album CRAFTY HANDS. While still quite progressive and in some ways even more challenging than the debut, there are signs that the record company was stifling the creative process and lobbying for more commercial music at points molding the band to take on a Styx type of sound such as on the one and only vocal track “Wind Up Doll Day Wind.” Well the rhythmic drive has a Styx feel to it in the keyboards. Vocally Whitaker sounds more akin to Colin Goldring of Gnidrolog at times. Even though the band wanted to make this sophomore release all instrumental, the bigwig at Arista demanded that they include at least one vocal track in hopes of increasing marketability and creating a wider mass appeal. The track is the one and only vocal track on here and while they complied to the boss’ desires, they still managed to jazz it up enshrouded with sophistication and an 11/8 time signature!

CRAFTY HANDS takes all the elements of symphonic prog and jazz-fusion (and the occasional Gryphon-esque folk sounds such as the flute and oboe on “Open Book”) that appeared on the eponymous debut album and tamed them down a bit. The fact that there are less vocal tracks is a plus for me and for the one that does appear, Stanley Whitaker sounds much more accomplished here. The one aspect that is missing from CRAFTY HANDS that the debut flaunted is the sense of recklessness and bold progressive workouts that would appear suddenly in the midst of the dreamy polyphonic synthesized dreamscapes that the band effortlessly conjured up. This album seems a lot more polished and even-keeled, however don’t think for a second that the progressiveness has diminished in any way. These guys still deliver some of the most delicious musical calisthenics that were to be heard in the late 70s. It’s just that they are melded together in a more seamless manner and there are no fast tempo Keith Emerson keyboard moments to be found. This one is much more relaxing, much like the most sedated music of Camel and could possibly qualify as elevator prog if such a thing were to exist!

This album is is very impressive. All the compositions are exquisitely done. The musicianship is impeccable and the atmosphere and mood of the entire works show the band named itself well as the music is cheerful and upbeat even when tamed down to dreamland. Perhaps a few listens may be required for these complex rhythms and polyphonic assaults to sink in, but once they do, they find a firm foundation in your soul. Unbeknownst to the band, this was a make or break album and when the album failed to result in even the slightest commercial interest Arista records dropped the band like a hot potato on a restaurant floor and the band was forced to seek out a new label, but in the late 70s, none came to the rescue. HAPPY THE MAN sallied forth determined to continue and recorded material for a third album, but the pressures of a prog fish swimming upstream in the currents of a punk and disco torrent proved to be too much and the band ultimately called it a day. CRAFTY HANDS, and the debut, for that matter gained many fans as time went on for the clever use of polyphony, brilliant integrative musical styles and highly complex musical runs that still managed to remain somewhat catchy and have even been cited as the influence of many bands like Dream Theater and beyond. Personally i love this album as much as the first although i miss the spontaneity and reckless abandon of the debut. CRAFTY HANDS is a more calculated beast that has lost its youthful innocence but gained in sheer sophistication and remains a steadfast cornerstone of American symphonic prog.

HAPPY THE MAN Happy The Man

Album · 1977 · Jazz Related Rock
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Of all the progressive rock bands from the USA that made the grade in the prog rich decade of the 70s, none were so eclectic and far reaching as HAPPY THE MAN which began its days as far back as 1973 in Harrisonburg, Virgina when guitarist Stanley Whitaker and bassist Rick Kennell met in Germany and once they returned back to the US decided to share their passion for progressive rock and form a band. The band actually took their odd name from a quote from Goethe’s “Faust.” (“Oh happy the man who can still hope”) After several lineups along the way, the band spent some years as a cover band glorifying the bigwigs of the day such as Genesis, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. On one fortuitous day playing in Washington DC, the band caught the attention of an exec from Arista records who was so impressed that he showed interest in signing the band which was quite surprising considering the year of 1976 was seeing the major decline of prog and more interest building towards punk and arena rock. In that very same year, none other than Peter Gabriel was scouting out musicians for his solo career and although after hearing them play decided their sound wasn’t compatible with his, did manage to help secure a contract with Arista for a 5 year multi-album deal but would actually end after only two releases.

HAPPY THE MAN the band released their eponymous debut album in 1977 and as you would might have guessed, failed to make any type of commercial impact at all but did manage to create a unique eclectic symphonic prog meets jazz-fusion type of sound. The album begins innocently enough sounding like something that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Weather Report album as the suave jazzy passages slink around like a smooth syncopated caterpillar walk but soon displays the band’s tendencies to erupt into serious prog frenzies with keyboards as spastic as Keith Emerson accompanied by extreme musical travails with complex arrangements and instrumental gymnastics. While most tracks on the album are instrumental there are some such as “Upon The Rainbow” that are slowed down and focus on the lyrics. These make me think of what a much more adventurous Steely Dan might sound like if they turned the prog and jazz-fusion up a few notches. I would however say that the vocal parts are my least favorite parts even though they aren’t bad or anything. The band just shines so much more brightly when they let loose and erupt into prog outbursts.

This is a symphonic prog lover’s dream come true with lush Hammond organs, rhodes pianos, minimoogs and clavinets dishing out dreamy synthesized jazzed up melodies often overlapping and creating complex polyphony accompanied by rocking bass and percussion and frequent slick solos that crank it up and run wild. While guitar is included in both six and twelve string form, it is more subdued and is more than drowned out by the heavy dominance of the symphonic elements swirling around like a wild tornado that can calm to a gentle ocean breeze in the blink of an eye. While the tempo shifts can be abrupt, the music is always allowed to breathe and carry out its intended effect. On the jazz side of things the band includes a sax in various sections and also on board is the use of flute and marimba for the occasional folk and ethnic influences, however for the majority of the album’s running time we are simply treated to an all assault on the senses with polyphonic keyboard runs overlapping and creating interesting dynamics. HAPPY THE MAN is one of those band’s that reminds you of many others (Genesis, Camel, Weather Report, ELP) but always keeps their sound unique and truly their own. This band is one of my favorites of the 70s to emerge from the US where prog bands were always several steps behind the European scene. Along with Kansas, Zappa, Santana, Yezda Urfa and The Muffins, HAPPY THE MAN were in the upper tier of United Statesian prog.

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