Happy The Man - Happy The Man (1977)

Official debut album by my all-time prog act from the U.S.A., and what a debut! Happy the Man's namesake recording is one of the most relevant and peculiar in the history of prog. Brilliant compositions, incredible arrangements, top-notch musicianship, fluid collective functioning: the best ingredients you can ask for in a prog meal. The diversity of musical ideas that appear on the album is no small degree based on its influences: Canterbury's pleasant freshness, Gentle Giant's harmonized dissonances, 76-77 Camel's melodic taste, accademical stuff (Gershwin, Grieg), even some hints of Zappa-esque bizarreness and Retrun to Forever's colourful fusion. Yet, the overall result isn't derivative at all, but an original one. Kit Watkins' keyboard playing combines Emerson's fire and Bardens's texturial sensibility in a unique style, and IMHO, he's the most prominent masters in this band of talents. The rhythm section deals with all these complex time signatures with incredible ease and precise energy; meanwhile, Whitaker's guitars and Wyatt's wind instruments exhibit absolute finesse in their solos and harmonic parts. Many times it happens that Wyatt plays keyboards too (grand and electric pianos), and so he and Watkins interplay cleverly for the benefit of melodic lines and the enhancement of ambiences. The repertoire comprises reflective pieces ('Starborne', 'Hidden Moods') as well as explicitly energetic ones ('Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest', 'Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo') and evocative ones (the sung tracks, 3 and 7): some tracks lay somewhere in the middle, like the longest ones (tracks 4 and 9, which are the most amazing ones), and we can even find an exquisite excercise in mysterious crescendo ('Carrousel'). There's always room for pyrotechnics in the hands of Watkins, Whitaker and Wyatt, but the impressive solos are never too long, always making sense as part of each track as a whole: somehow, these five guys manage to show their skills unabashedly without betraying the integrity of each piece. What else can I say? 5 stars!! - Review by Cesar Inca (César Inca Mendoza Loyola)

Track Listings

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 Suite (8:32)

Total Time: 49:30

- Stanley Whitaker / six and twelve string guitars, vocals
- Kit Watkins / mini-moog, acoustic piano, Fender rhodes, A.R.P., Hammond organ, Hohner clavinet, flute, marimba
- Frank Wyatt / sax, flute, piano, keyboards, vocals
- Rick Kennell / bass
- Mike Beck / drums


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