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Eclectic Prog • United States

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Happy The Man biography
One of the finest American prog bands. Completely out of the american standards, HAPPY THE MAN combined lush melodies, great complex interplay and a slightly jazzy touch with occasional vocals. The band claims to be influenced by GENESIS, Yes, and GENTLE GIANT although they really do not sound anything like any of those bands.

Their first two albums, the self titled "Happy the Man" and "Crafty Hands" (almost entirely instrumental) are classic albums of the highest order, and are considered by the band to be the definitive releases in their catalogue. These are must haves. A reference point in the 70's US prog scene!

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HAPPY THE MAN discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

HAPPY THE MAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.85 | 188 ratings
Happy The Man
3.89 | 204 ratings
Crafty Hands
3.49 | 87 ratings
Better Late...
2.97 | 57 ratings
3.51 | 56 ratings
Death's Crown
3.58 | 110 ratings
The Muse Awakens

HAPPY THE MAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.84 | 27 ratings

HAPPY THE MAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HAPPY THE MAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 10 ratings

HAPPY THE MAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Service With A Smile


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Happy The Man by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.85 | 188 ratings

Happy The Man
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Kingsnake

4 stars I only knew Happy the Man by name, because Kit Watkins played in Camel and the biography mentioned Happy the Man.

I always thought it would be really poppy music, because Caravan was pop at the time, and Camel was pop at the time, and Keats was also pop.

I couldn't have been more wrong. This album is a perfect crossover of jazzrock fusion ala Return to Forever/Wheather Report and progrock ala Camel, Caravan, Rick Wakeman (solo), but then even more instrumental.

1977 is an odd year to release such music, maybe the United States didn't have the punkwave we did in Europe. Anyway, this is a treat for my ears, and wow, Kit Watkins is an extremely talented keyboardist and has some really nice sounds in his synths.

Thanks to this album I rate him as high as Rick Wakeman and Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea. This is strongly recommended to any prog/jazzrock enthousiast.

 Death's Crown by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.51 | 56 ratings

Death's Crown
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by poito

3 stars It's being a long time since their last release. Probably the band was waiting favorable winds to the prog, which always blew so week in the band's hometown continent. They still keep great musicianship, but there is less inspiration in the composition, freshness is gone, and they adopted jazzy airs. It is not easy to keep it high when there is so little support. The album contains a long multipart epic, mostly based on organ creations. Some parts are really excellent, like Parts 3,5,7 and 10, but globally it is kind of deja vue. Definitely, one misses the allegro style and brightness of the former two albums.
 Better Late... by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.49 | 87 ratings

Better Late...
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by poito

4 stars Another victim of the music scavengers. Happy the Men were fired after their second wonderful Crafty Hands. This people in the music industry were pretending they could make us listen to what they wanted, they could rise superstars or ruin bands that were unwilling to obey their orders. They got what they deserved: piracy. Who do you think you are, bastards! Now you sit back in you stinky retirement and see how those you squeezed and destroyed are reborn from the ashes you burnt them in to become the Giants they always were. Happy the Men was one of those Giants, the real Prog Heroes that created amazing music while the big names had already worn out or succumbed to dirty money. This Better Late is material from 79 that was released years later, and we have to thank for the effort and the faith of these guys. The style is a bit different, more based on smoother organ tunes, but still with an incredible creativity. Musicianship is at its best, of course. Some pieces for the eternity are The Eye Of The Storm and While Chrome Yellow Shines. I drop one star because there are some weaker themes, but even those are pleasant enough. Don't miss it.
 Crafty Hands by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.89 | 204 ratings

Crafty Hands
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by poito

5 stars Crafty hands those of the band that play so beautifully. This is the second album of a major band that was born a bit late, after Prog music went down when the Prog heroes of the early 70's were giving up or selling their souls by the pound. Some of their heirs kept it high in the backstage of the big business that music had become. They had little air, but many acts as Happy the Men belong to the major leagues by own merits. The first eponymous release is simply a jewel of Prog, and their finesse remains intact in their second Crafty Hands. What a wonder for music lovers. Don't know how else to describe what you`ll get here. A music wonder. Although the guys admitted a strong influence by the early 70's classics, I do not see it, at least not that marked. Sometimes, the genius inside is so powerful that inputs have little influence on outputs, even if the brains do love the inputs. Does it make sense for you?

If you are about my age (you know, too young to die) and never listened to them before, you'll get a nice surprise as I did (and I blame the damned disc-business for ruining it all by promoting only money-makers, they got what they deserved and I thank piracy for that), but if you are newer, don't be impatient, listen to the album 3-4 times before you decide whether it is a 3 or a 5. Those disqualifying old guys don't get quite that we already know old music and Crafty Hands is and will always be new music. You know what that means; just train your taste a little bit. Don't miss it. These guys create!

 Happy The Man by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.85 | 188 ratings

Happy The Man
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Luqueasaur

3 stars I'm not a happy man: 6/10

HAPPY THE MAN's debut perfectly defines complexity and ambition. It features several instruments, almost like an orchestra, and the album has a distinct influence from jazz that is sagaciously blended on rock elements in a way it can't properly be described as jazz fusion . It also features an experimentalism typical of the progressive genre.

Three things are to be noted on this album: the first is that the highlighted instruments are the keyboards and wind instruments and the second is that the keyboards' preponderance brings HAPPY THE MAN on the verge with space rock. The lack of psychedelia and distortion on the instruments, as well aforementioned jazz's characteristics, prevents from it doing so. Oh, the third one, you ask? Man, look at those song names! Now THAT'S how you make someone interesting on lyrics. Seriously, I want to know who's Stumpy and Firecracker and where is that Stencil Forest.

However, those features don't save the album from being overall uninteresting. None of the tracks stuck to my head after listening to it, and I wasn't impressed by the elements featured in pretty any all tracks. Overall, HAPPY THE MAN is an average record. I would recommend it for people that like old prog but have nothing new to listen to, but nothing more.

 Happy The Man by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.85 | 188 ratings

Happy The Man
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by poito

5 stars At first listening I wouldn't suspect that the band is American, except for a slight jazzy air in some of the tracks. Then you go to the literature and learn they grew up musically in Europe. Alas, that's it. If you never heard this band, you'll get a wonderful surprise, it was a major discovery for me. Their music is composed as for an orchestra, clean and precise as a clock, you mau hear the work by all instruments, it is subtle and full of corners treasuring beauty, you have to give it several turns to get it all. The mood in this eponymous album is high spirited, yes, happy, they honor the band's name, but still, it has solemnity wrapping it all. Such a near-impossible combination probably defines this as a major opus, only at the reach of great composers. To give you a hint, it has some resemblance to late 70's Soft Machine, Pat Metheny, Jean Luc Ponty. And for a debut is well above the average releases by those masters. I don't see much of an influence of the Prog Heroes they admitted in interviews. If they say so. Maybe, they just admired them. But that's good news for us because their music is original and fresh, even 40 years later!. There are two tracks with some vocals that can be skipped, and all others are instrumental?and perfect. It is a must have.
 The Muse Awakens by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.58 | 110 ratings

The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

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

 Crafty Hands by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.89 | 204 ratings

Crafty Hands
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

5 stars 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. 4.5 but rounded up. These guys deserve it

 Happy The Man by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.85 | 188 ratings

Happy The Man
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

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.

 The Muse Awakens by HAPPY THE MAN album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.58 | 110 ratings

The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man Eclectic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Virginia band Happy the Man released only two studio albums before changing tastes pushed them rudely off the map at the end of the 1970s. But they didn't vanish entirely: a sporadic selection of archival music would appear over the next few decades, keeping the memory of a unique band alive and paving the way toward this unexpected reunion project in 2004.

The core of the group, minus only Kit Watkins, was still intact. And the survivors resumed more or less exactly where they left off a quarter-century earlier, when Arista Records pulled the financial plug after the failure of the band's career peak "Crafty Hands" album. The new music was the same quirky, instrumental Prog, freshly energized by all the time off and no less eclectic than before: not Symphonic Rock; not Jazz Fusion; and certainly not the retro-copycat sound favored by too many latter-day proggers.

What's missing of course is the zeitgeist itself. Progressive Rock was mainstream in the middle '70s, but in our tame new millennium the style (actually more an attitude than a formal style) has been reduced to a healthy fringe movement for musical outsiders. Which makes new albums like this one, tied to a shared creative heritage but still completely original, all the more welcome, offering discriminating listeners a double rush of both discovery and recognition. Compare the results here with the half-baked efforts of other Golden Age Progressive refugees to hear the correct method for recharging a long-dormant musical battery.

A few of the song titles speak directly to the change of circumstances: "The Muse Awakens"; "Stepping Through Time"; and of course the tongue-in-cheek "Contemporary Insanity". The latter opens the album on a blast of pure Prog adrenalin comparable to the best of Gentle Giant, but in truth making the Shulman brothers sound like constipated sleepwalkers. Frontloading the strongest track may have cost the album some momentum, because little of what follows can match it (although the perfectly-titled, off-kilter spasm of 'Barking Spiders" comes close). And sometimes the music drifts uncomfortably close to something not unlike smooth jazz, in "Slipstream", "Adrift', and elsewhere.

But never without being redeemed by a typically playful touch of Prog Rock vigor and intricacy. Only truly creative, totally disciplined musicians can think in such odd meters and still write melodies sounding so unforced and natural: an HTM specialty, then and now.

The reunion was brief, however, and the band has since moved on to other projects. But if this was the last we'll ever hear of Happy the Man, at least they quit on their own terms, fulfilling the potential denied them by a narrow-minded music industry once upon an earlier time.

Thanks to Ivan Melgar M for the artist addition.

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