Happy the Man: The Muse Awakens

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Happy the Man: The Muse Awakens While it never received the acknowledgement it deserved when it existed in the '70s, the reputation of American progressive rock outfit Happy the Man seems to have taken on a life of its own. Like another great American progressive band, the Muffins, which also broke up in frustration at the end of that decade, the fervent prompting of a surprisingly large fan base for progressive music over the past decade has seen it reform. And it's not about nostalgia. Looking at the Muffins' recent release, Double Negative, it's clear that these bands are back with a sound that recalls their past yet remains firmly rooted in the present.

But whereas the Muffins represents a more challenging American outgrowth of the Canterbury Scene and Rock in Opposition groups like Henry Cow, Happy the Man always had a more immediately accessible sound. Influenced in its early days by more pop-oriented progressive bands like Genesis, it avoided the overbearing pomposity and self-indulgence of bands like Yes. Its two releases—Happy the Man and Crafty Hands—were engaging albums that garnered enough notice to keep the group busy on the road, and to be considered as a backup band by singer Peter Gabriel after he left Genesis. Always an instrumental band, it caved in to record label pressure and recorded a couple of vocal tracks on Crafty Hands to try and get more airplay.

But that was not to be, and so, after a few years of slugging it out, the members of Happy the Man parted company. Until at a progressive rock festival in '99, where guitarist/vocalist Stanley Whitaker was swamped by scores of fans and discovered how Happy the Man's celebrity had grown in the ensuing years. And so a seed was sown that would ultimately see three of the original members regroup, along with two newcomers, to record the appropriately titled The Muse Awakens. While the absence of original keyboardist Kit Watkins is noticeable, there's no question that the spirit of Happy the Man remains and has moved into a new century.

What always made Happy the Man stand out was its complete avoidance of musical grandstanding. Like Gabriel-era Genesis, it was more about the song, although Happy the Man goes places Genesis never would; and with a broader instrumental palette to draw from, specifically Frank Wyatt's various woodwinds, the group's riff and arpeggio-based pieces have an entirely different complexion. Irregular meters abound, as do anthem-like themes, evocative lyricism and an approach that, with no piece exceeding seven minutes, leans towards the creation of mini-suites.

The Muse Awakens is a fine comeback for a group that, like many others from its time, could not have continued to exist until recently. With little place for it in the '80s and early '90s, progressive rock has become viable again, thanks to a new and younger fan base for progressive music that augments the old watch, as well as the outreach of the internet. Unassumingly unpretentious, The Muse Awakens is approachable progressive rock stripped of the bombast that so often gives it a bad name.

Visit Happy the Man on the web.

Track Listing: Contemporary Insanity; The Muse Awakens; Stepping Through Time; Maui Sunset; Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen; Slipstream; Barking Spiders; Adrift; Shadowlites; Kindred Spirits; Il Quinto Mare

Personnel: Frank Wyatt (saxophones, keyboards, woodwinds), Stanley Whitaker (guitars, vocals), David Rosenthal (keyboards), Joe Bergamini (drums, percussion), Rick Kennell (bass)

Title: The Muse Awakens | Year Released: 2005


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Such A Sky CD/LP/Track Review Such A Sky
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31 CD/LP/Track Review Buer: Book Of Angels Volume 31
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 25, 2017
Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Parking Lot Symphony" CD/LP/Track Review Parking Lot Symphony
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "Overseas V" CD/LP/Track Review Overseas V
by Troy Collins
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "Dream Delivery" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Delivery
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "Americana" CD/LP/Track Review Americana
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: July 25, 2016
Read "Voyage Home" CD/LP/Track Review Voyage Home
by Edward Blanco
Published: July 8, 2016
Read "Danse" CD/LP/Track Review Danse
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 7, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.