Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy The Man - 1990 - Beginnings

Happy The Man

01. Leave That Kitten Alone, Armone (9:16)
02. Passion's Passing (8:40)
03. Don't Look To The Running Sun (9:52)
04. Gretchen's Garden (11:04)
05. Partly The State (9:20)
06. Broken Waves (5:49)
07. Portrait Of A Waterfall (6:45)

- Mike Beck / drums, percussion
- Cliff Fortney / lead vocals, flute, Rhodes (2-5)
- Rick Kennell / electric bass
- Kit Watkins / multi-keyboards, vocals
- Stanley Whitaker / electric guitar, vocals
- Frank Wyatt / keyboards, alto sax, flute, vocals

The history of this legendary US group started in 1972, when guitarist Stanley Whitaker and bassist Rick Kennell met in Germany and shared the same admiration for British Progressive Rock.Whitaker was back in USA by the next year and Kennell, who remained in German grounds for a while, introduced him two of his former bandmates, drummer Mike Beck and singer/flautist Cliff Fortney.The original keyboardists were David Bach and Frank Wyatt, the first was soon to be replaced by Kit Watkins.So Happy The Man were born and in 1974 Kennell was back to USA as well with the band starting full rehearsals.Material from this early 1974-1975 period was released in 1990 under the title ''Beginnings'' by Cuneiform.
The love of HAPPY THE MAN for early British Prog is apparent in every track and actually Whitaker and Kennell were both great fans of KING CRIMSON, GENESIS and VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR.Noy surprisingy at all these are the main influences dominating the band's early sound with original singer Cliff Fortney sounding a lot like PETER HAMMILL and, to lesser extent, like PETER GABRIEL.The tracks are quite long with plenty of space for nice psychedelic instrumentals, elaborate symphonic arrangements along with a light jazzy breeze.Happy The Man's early sound lacks any kind of full-blown musicianship and the band was focusing on creating dreamy and atmospheric soundscapes, both in vocal and instrumental parts, with nice use of organ, sax and electric piano in the vein of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR along with floating synth parts, delicate flute passages and melodic guitar solos in the vein of GENESIS.But a ton of a talent could not been that easily hidden, so there are also plenty of moments, where the sound becomes trully rich with some cool complex themes, highlighted by a VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR/KING CRIMSON-ian atmosphere with bombastic sax and organ interplays next to demanding keyboard flights and more adventurous guitar hooks.The result was a band with numerous interesting ideas but far from creating their unique personality.

It can get more Classic Prog-styled than this.Of course it is not HAPPY THE MAN's greatest release or, even more, very far from original, but is it a beautiful archival release with a full hour of previously unreleased material of the band's early days and fans of Classic Prog in the vein of the aforementioned legends should track this down.Warmly recommended.

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