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HAPPY THE MAN ‘The Muse Awakens’
Inside Out (2004)

Happy The Man

I was enjoying the company of some good friends the other night, and during one of our usual music-orientated conversations, we all agreed that 2004 should be put down in history as the reunion year for Rock and Metal music. Well, the names of the bands that can help us prove the validation of our argument are too many to mention, but the one that we are going to talk about today, is the progressive Rock outfit Happy the Man.

One very important and quite unusual thing that has to be mentioned about this quintet is that even though they have been around since 1972, they have only just released their third full-length album "The Muse Awakens". "Why is that?" many of you may wonder. Well, the answer to that question is quite simple really - bad timing.

It was the year 1972, when Rick Kennell (bass) and Stanley Whitaker (guitars/vocals) first realised that they shared the same love for bands like Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis. The idea of forming their own band had to be postponed for a while, but in 1973 the two musicians got back together, and with the addition of Bach, Beck and Fortney, Happy the Man were formed. Not many bands were lucky enough to have the support of an artist like Peter Gabriel, who brought them in contact with Arista Records.

Having realised the potential of Happy the Man, Arista gave the band a multiple album contract, the result of which is the band's first two studio releases "Happy the Man" (1977) and "Crafty Hands" (1978). After the release of the latter, many problems started to undermine the future of the band - problems which, combined with the decline of Progressive Rock music by the late 70's, led to the band's break up.

Now the amazing part of the story is that Kennell and Whitaker decided to re-form Happy the Man after the request of their very devoted fans who never gave up on their favourite band and their hope for a new release. Well, Happy the Man are back with their third full-length album "The Muse Awakens", and judging from the result, it feels difficult to believe that this band has not been producing any music for the last twenty-five years. It is true that it took me quite a long time to get used to the eleven tracks that are featured on this album, but on the other hand this is something that you should expect from a progressive Rock outfit.

Happy the Man have decided to explore many different musical roads in this release. As a consequence, there are many progressive/jazz outbreaks like in "Contemporary Insanity", "Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen"(quite a title, don't you agree?) and "Barking Spiders", which is by far the most crazy and daring song of the whole album. On the other hand, these five musicians are quite capable of producing nice melodic songs like "Stepping Through Time" (plenty of similarities with Fates Warning), and "Slipstream" with its beautiful and very emotional piano theme. "The Muse Awakens" is an instrumental album, but songs like "Shadowlites" make me believe that Stanley Whitaker should believe more in his vocal abilities and make sure that we enjoy them more in future releases.

It may have taken them much more than what they originally expected, but Happy the Man are back with a hidden treasure that may require quite a long time in order to be discovered, but is without doubt quite rewarding. If that's the result after a twenty five-year gap, imagine what this band will be able to give us with their following, and hopefully much sooner, release.


Review by John Stefanis

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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