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

HAPPY THE MAN

Happy The Man

 

Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 167 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars 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.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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