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Happy The Man - The Muse Awakens CD (album) cover

THE MUSE AWAKENS

Happy The Man

 

Eclectic Prog

3.58 | 102 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

siLLy puPPy
4 stars 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

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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