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Thread: FEATURED CD : Happy the Man: Happy the Man

  1. #1
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    FEATURED CD : Happy the Man: Happy the Man

    Credit for this featured CD : jlneudorf

    Based on a CD received from the collection bequeathed to Progressive Ears by the late Chris Buckley (Winkersnuff)

    jlneudorf's comments:


    For many progressive rock fans, Happy the Man is likely not a household name. The band formed in Virginia, circa 1972 and didn’t release their self titled debut until 1977. Everyone knows the heavy hitters at the time; Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Kansas, Yes, Genesis and a few others. However, there were many others that nearly fell through the cracks and although I wouldn’t put HtP in that category, they did not achieve the commercial success of the prog giants. Of course, this has no bearing on the music and this self titled debut is a real gem.

    Like many others I did not here the band until many years later but am I glad to have made their acquaintance. These guys offered something a little different and although you can hear influences from ELP, King Crimson, and Yes, there is something else lurking withing the band’s musical interplay. Maybe it’s the jazz flirtations or the unparalleled chops, but whatever it is makes for one highly enjoyable listen.

    The dreamy opening track “Starborne” has a pretty melody and some dramatic touches as well to keep you fully engaged. The band’s expert musicianship highlights the fusion/classic progressive rock of “Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest” and includes some intricate guitar fills from Whitaker and in “Upon The Rainbow”, more jazzy touches abound with stellar flute and saxophone. This is the first track with vocals and they are quite pleasant. I have read elsewhere the vocals are a problem, but I don’t hear that at all. Sweeping guitar and gentle keyboards are contrasted with urgent rhythmic interplay in the excellent “Mr. Mirror’s Reflection On Dreams”, where changing themes and tempos are commonplace, capturing the essence of ‘70s progressive rock in nine wonderful minutes. The psychedelic-tinged prog of “Carousel” is another great tune with outstanding guitar and synth work.

    The album reveals its intricacies through repeated listens and the players are at the top of their game. Happy the Man is an outstanding debut album and one I would consider a benchmark of late ‘70s prog.


    Track Listing:
    1. Starborne (4:22)
    2. Stumpy Meets The Firecracker In Stencil Forest (4:16)
    3. Upon The Rainbow (Befrost) (4:42)
    4. Mr. Mirror’s Reflection On Dreams (8:54)
    5. Carousel (4:06)
    6. Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo (5:22)
    7. On Time As A helix Of Precious Laughs (5:22)
    8. Hidden Moods (3:41)
    9. New York Dream’s Suite (8:32)
    Regards,

    Duncan

  2. #2
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    Terrific album, I think of it just as highly as I do Crafty Hands. I recently spun the Live disc too which is another fine listen.
    Interviewer of reprobate ne'er-do-well musicians of the long-haired rock n' roll persuasion at: www.velvetthunder.co.uk and former scribe at Classic Rock Society. Only vaguely aware of anything other than music.

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  3. #3
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Stone cold classic, and probably my fave American prog group. This and Crafty Hands are both mandatory parts of any prog fans library.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  4. #4
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    Wonderful album, incredibly crafted work. One of my favorite "progressive" albums released in the second half of the seventies.

  5. #5
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    One of my favorite albums. Pure Prog.
    Any weakness is overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of the rest.
    I was lucky to have seen them several times just after the release of this album until they disbanded.
    Seriously good memories.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
    -- Aristotle
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  6. #6
    Happy The Man is one of my favorite bands; their Nearfest 2000 reunion concert was the reason for my one and only trip across the ocean.
    The first album came to The Netherlands in 1977 as an import and was reviewed back then in the music-journal Muziekkrant OOR.
    A few months after this review I listened to the album and when I wanted to buy it the record-store owner said Crafty Hands was even better.
    Having not that much money I followed his taste and I must admit, yes, Crafty Hands was and still is my favorite, probably because it contains more the kind of progressive jazz-rock elements I love.
    Still, this one is beautiful too and (although not everyone thinks this way) the sound-quality of the Musea/One Way CD's even made it a more joyfull one.
    The LP is quite long, so lacked a bit of dynamics.

    To give an idea of how this kind of music was reviewed in 1977, in a time when Punk and New Wave ruled the magazines, here's a translation of that review I mentioned:

    HAPPY THE MAN
    Happy The Man
    (ARISTA AL 4120 – import)
    It is remarkable that record-tycoon Clive Davis, who usually has an eye for young talent as well as for its commercial possibilities, has got contracted so little representatives from the advancing New Wave for his still flourishing Arista-label. Of course, the New Wave hasn’t stroked in America as hard yet as happened recently in Europe. After all, the American hit-charts are still being ruled by the mainly melodic slanted, sun-drenched sounds from The Eagles and Dan Fogelberg. But it’s still striking that Davis is still clutching himself to bands which music is far from revolutionary or even can be called progressive, even more because he can burn his fingers considerable with this stringent carried through anti-Punk policy. Because, as soon as the New Wave will break through in America on a big scale too, the sales figures from the Arista-products will without any doubt plummet and then there won’t be any interest at all anymore on Arista for a band like for instance Happy The Man.
    You see, Happy The Man, who’s debut-album was found wanting by the Dutch distributor from Arista and therefore won’t be dispersed through the normal channels, makes the kind of music which is being detested by the punks. The band presents cerebral, almost technocratic, smoothly produced music, which shows in certain respects resemblances with the music from the Dutch band Solution, with one difference, namely that with Happy The Man it’s not the saxophone but the synthesizer that’s playing the most important role. Synthesizer-player Kit Watkins uses the so called pitch-bend modulation in a clever way, which is why his play reminds strongly of Jan Hammer’s and Manfred Mann’s play. Once in a while there’s being sung on the record, but instrumentally the band is stronger. The compositions from the group have a well construction and structure, while the production (from Ken Scott) may appear a bit too equable. Happy The Man is a band that doesn’t convince fully yet, but that can be characterize as promising.
    Jan Libbenga
    Last edited by interbellum; 01-19-2022 at 03:08 PM.

  7. #7
    Member Hunchentootz's Avatar
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    Pure awesomeness - one of the few great American prog bands
    Artist formerly known as Phlakaton

  8. #8
    A very special album! "Mr. Mirror's Reflection On Dreams" and "Carousel " is my favorite part of the album, but the entire album is outstanding for sure. It's very magical.

    I only discovered Happy The Man by traveling in bands . It was in the Fall of 78' and a lot of musicians were sitting in dressing rooms flipping out over this band. There were lots of people on the road talking about how great they were.

    At that time people seemed interested in HTM. I was very confused when they broke up. A lot of people were. The band left an impression on people because they were unique. It was instantaneous and their name circulated .

  9. #9
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    I saw the lineup on this album about 10-15 times and they were always really just terrific. The first time I saw them (at a WGTB fundraiser), when I had heard that there was this great band from Harrisonburg, Va that had moved to DC, but that’s ALL I knew, was jaw-dropping amazing.

    After they signed with Arista, they no longer played shows at movie theaters and etc, and graduated to larger clubs like the Cellar Door. Since I was underage, I never saw them again until they reformed in the very late 90s/early 00s.

    The album is very good, but they were SO MUCH BETTER than the album shows….What Mike Beck did when they played was hugely diminished on the album.
    Last edited by Steve F.; 01-19-2022 at 06:01 PM.
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  10. #10
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    In Ken Scott's book he dedicates one chapter to his experience with the group. I love the production on this album, but wonder if what Steve says above regarding their being so much better live is somehow related to Ken's meticulous approach.

  11. #11
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conti View Post
    In Ken Scott's book he dedicates one chapter to his experience with the group. I love the production on this album, but wonder if what Steve says above regarding their being so much better live is somehow related to Ken's meticulous approach.
    Either I am 100% right, or it was just all the weed!

    Seriously, the story that I heard was that the budget was cut in the middle of the recording, and most of Mike Beck’s extra percussion was never recorded….

    True? I dunno. But if you saw them you then and then heard the album, you would tend to believe that it was at least partially true….
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  12. #12
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    ^Interesting. Gotta hear some live recording from the period to get a better idea. I'm only familiar with their first three studio albums, which I own and love.

  13. #13
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conti View Post
    ^Interesting. Gotta hear some live recording from the period to get a better idea. I'm only familiar with their first three studio albums, which I own and love.
    Listen to the live WGTB / Take One broadcast. Live (no audience, but live) and good sound.
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  14. #14
    Gave this a fresh spin tonight. Obviously an album that is at the top of the heap of American Prog Rock. I have a slight preference for Crafty Hands, but still love this one.

    HtM is a band that seemed to fully digest their influences and create something fresh and exciting within the general parameters established by the big name Prog bands that preceded them. They had excellent composers, and as musicians, these guys were top-notch. Happy I saw them several times after reuniting, including NF 2000, and a great show in Lowell, MA.

    Bill

  15. #15
    It was weird, I used to see this album all the time for ridiculously cheap prices but I kept passing on it. I finally picked up a copy of Crafty Hands when I saw one and it became my favorite thing ever (Well, second favorite, since I picked up National Health’s Of Queues and Cures during that same record store jaunt). Of course, that first album would suddenly seem to disappear off the face of the Earth the second I discovered they were something special.

    I was a mite disappointed with this album when I finally did hear it, but it grew on me. Really, anything HTM is a precious jewel, but “Mr. Mirror’s Reflection on Dreams,” “Carousel” and “New York Dreams Suite” in particular really flick my Bic™.
    Confirmed Bachelors: the dramedy hit of 1883...

  16. #16
    Outraged bystander markwoll's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    Either I am 100% right, or it was just all the weed!

    Seriously, the story that I heard was that the budget was cut in the middle of the recording, and most of Mike Beck’s extra percussion was never recorded….

    True? I dunno. But if you saw them you then and then heard the album, you would tend to believe that it was at least partially true….
    Seeing Mike Beck while he played was a big part of the experience. Eyes blinking, miming and moving through the forrest of percussion objects. Magical performance art.
    Later drummers could hit the drums just fine, but some of the magic was gone from the stage.
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
    -- Aristotle
    Nostalgia, you know, ain't what it used to be. Furthermore, they tells me, it never was.
    “A Man Who Does Not Read Has No Appreciable Advantage Over the Man Who Cannot Read” - Unknown

  17. #17
    Member Firth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwoll View Post
    Seeing Mike Beck while he played was a big part of the experience. Eyes blinking, miming and moving through the forrest of percussion objects. Magical performance art.
    Later drummers could hit the drums just fine, but some of the magic was gone from the stage.
    OK, when I saw HTM at the Warner in DC in 77-78, the drummer’s percussion set included what you could call a forest of shiny metallic things that made a beautiful sound. This confirmation that it was Mike Beck, thanks.
    On the verge of indecision
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  18. #18
    Member Boceephus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve F. View Post
    Listen to the live WGTB / Take One broadcast. Live (no audience, but live) and good sound.
    Was this ever released on CD?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  19. #19
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    No. Very easily found online or on YouTube
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  20. #20
    Member Boceephus's Avatar
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    Yeah, I found it. Just wondered about a physical release. Thanks.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  21. #21
    Casanova TCC's Avatar
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    A "fan" here!.
    Love HtM!


    Last edited by TCC; 01-19-2022 at 11:23 PM.
    Pura Vida!.

    There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind. ∞
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  22. #22
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    Ken Scott almost walked out of the studio when HTM showed up to record Crafty Hands without Mike Beck. That's how important he was to the band - at least in their producer's mind.

    His genius was not really given wings on the debut but live he was an absolute beast!!!

    I love both albums equally.
    The Prog Corner

  23. #23
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwoll View Post
    Magical performance art.
    Later drummers could hit the drums just fine, but some of the magic was gone from the stage.
    nicely said, Mark
    Steve F.

    www.waysidemusic.com
    www.cuneiformrecords.com

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  24. #24
    Member Kcrimso's Avatar
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    I have never really warmed to this one. It is not bad but on the other hand I don't find it very interesting either.
    My progressive music site: https://pienemmatpurot.com/

  25. #25
    Member Hunchentootz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kcrimso View Post
    I have never really warmed to this one. It is not bad but on the other hand I don't find it very interesting either.
    I respect people have their likes and dislikes - but not interesting? I find that a head scratcher to be honest. Shrug
    Artist formerly known as Phlakaton

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