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11.9.10

Happy The Man


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Happy The Man - Death's Crown - 1999 - Cuneiform Records

Throughout the 1990s, Cuneiform Records has released essential Happy the Man material that had been overlooked by the band's label Arista in the mid-'70s. Death's Crown presents three archival recordings made in 1974 and 1976 in Happy the Man's rehearsal room. The sound quality is rather poor (the voice is particularly lost in the background), but it is still enjoyable and the beauty of the music makes up for the inconvenience. The record opens with the title track, "Death's Crown," an 11-part suite of 38 minutes. Composed in 1974, "Death's Crown" was originally a multimedia performance including dancers, actors, and a light and slide show. The piece has been performed on numerous occasions, and the band later integrated some parts into its live show (as an example, part five appears on the Live CD as the track "Open Book"). It is the tale of a man's journey into the other side of life, sung in the most emotional way by Frank Wyatt. The main musical theme, which pops up here and there in different forms, is of astonishing strength, even for Happy the Man. The parts segue into each other seamlessly and the listener comes back on the ground after an amazingly short 38-minute experience. The whole piece conveys the lyricism, finesse, and instrumental richness unique to Happy the Man. The CD is completed by two other tracks, a pre-album version of "New York Dreams Suite" (nine minutes) and the unreleased "Merlin of the High Places" (seven minutes). Death's Crown is more than an archival document: It represents the crucial creative stage of one of America's best progressive rock bands. © François Couture © 2010 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:0nfyxqujldhe

Considering the origin of these recordings (rehearsal tapes at the band's house), Cuneiform have done a good job in having this material remastered, and making the sound quality tolerable. "Death's Crown" is a great symphonic, spacey, progressive rock opus, with many complex but beautiful instrumental passages, and wonderful jazz touches. HTM is considered by many to be the best US symphonic/progressive band of all time. The music on this album is definitely ahead of it's time. HTM's music is often reminiscent of Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis, and "Death's Crown" is as good as any of the aforementioned bands' releases. They preserved an individualistic style with wonderful songwriting, unusual chord structures, and shifting meters. The album is VHR by A.O.O.F.C. Listen to HTM's wonderful "The Muse Awakens" album. Their album "Crafty Hands" is also full of highly original, progressive rock compositions. Happy The Man's - 3rd "Better Late" album can be found @ HTM/3rdBL For music in the same vein, listen to Camel's classic "The Snow Goose". Search this blog for other HTM releases

TRACKS

1 Death's Crown (11 Parts) 38:00 [recorded in the rehearsal room at the band house on New York Ave., Harrisonburg, VA during the last half of 1974]
2 New York Dreams' Suite 8:45 [recorded in the rehearsal room at the band house on New York Ave., Harrisonburg, VA during the last half of 1974]
3 Merlin Of The High Places 7:10 [recorded in the rehearsal room at the band house on Kenmore St., Arlington, VA in early 1976]

Track 1 composed by Dan Owen & Frank Wyatt: Tracks 2-3 composed by Frank Wyatt

MUSICIANS

Kit Watkins - Organ, Flute, Recorder, Sound Effects, Clavinet, String Ensemble
Stanley Whitaker - Guitar, Recorder
Dan Owen - Bass, Percussion, Vocals, Guitar (Classical)
Rick Kennell - Bass
Frank Wyatt - Piano (Electric), Vocals
Mike Beck - Percussion

BIO

Often compared to Yes for their melodicism and Gentle Giant for the complexity of their compositions, Happy the Man added their own high-caliber musicianship, a sense of symphonic drama, odd time signatures, spacy sound, and occasional whimsy to their brand of progressive rock. Although their largely instrumental oeuvre was rather inconsistent, Happy the Man still carry a devoted following on the prog rock collectors' circuit. The group was formed in 1974, and during the '70s featured keyboardist Kit Watkins, keyboardist/woodwind player Frank Wyatt, guitarist and occasional vocalist Stan Whitaker, and bassist Rick Kennell, plus a rotating succession of drummers. Original vocalist Cliff Fortney left the band before it signed to Arista. Their self-titled 1977 debut was recorded with drummer Mike Beck and introduced each member's compositional style: Watkins possessed the symphonic grandeur, Wyatt gravitated toward songs with lyrics, and Whitaker allowed his sense of humor to come through on pieces such as "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" and "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo." The follow-up, Crafty Hands, featured drummer Ron Riddle and was released a year later. While Crafty Hands in particular garnered Happy the Man favorable reviews among the prog-inclined, the group's musically accomplished style was increasingly out of favor in the marketplace, and Arista dropped the band from its roster. Nevertheless, Happy the Man continued on with French drummer Coco Roussel now in the lineup, rehearsing and recording new material for a planned third album and performing live dates. The challenges faced by the group remained daunting, however, and Kit Watkins left the band to join Camel (appearing on two Camel albums); following his departure in 1979, Happy the Man broke up. Watkins would later found his own independent label, Azimuth, and in 1980 the label issued the Watkins solo effort Labyrinth, also featuring Roussel on drums/percussion. Labyrinth was actually the original planned title for Happy the Man's unrealized third album, and Watkins' album of that name included some of the material that would have premiered on that Happy the Man LP — in 1983, under the title Better Late..., Azimuth would in fact issue demo material recorded four years previously by the full group for the third album which heretofore had not seen the light of day. Watkins and Roussel also released the duo album In Time in 1984, and Watkins would continue recording new age-tinged solo efforts into the 21st century. Meanwhile, additional Happy the Man material was made available through independent labels. The Retrospective collection was released by East Side Digital in 1989, and during the 1990s Cuneiform issued several worthwhile archival recordings from Happy the Man's '70s heydays: in 1990 the label kept the Azimuth-issued Better Late... in circulation by re-releasing the album (including two previously unreleased tracks), and subsequent Happy the Man collections on Cuneiform included 1994's Live (recordings from a pair of 1978 club dates in Washington, D.C., and Falls Church, VA), 1995's Beginnings (a series of early two-track studio recordings with Fortney), and 1999's Death's Crown (mid-'70s recordings from the group's rehearsal space). The band re-formed (minus Watkins) to release the Muse Awakens CD in 2004. © Steve Huey & Dave Lynch © 2010 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved

BIO (Wikipedia)

Happy The Man are an American progressive rock band primarily from the 1970s specializing in virtuoso instrumental tracks within complex time signatures. The group formed in 1972 in Harrisonburg, VA, and recorded two albums, after which keyboardist Kit Watkins decided to leave the band to join Camel. The group put together their unreleased material and released a "final" album in 1983. The band continued to be a cult favorite in progressive rock circles even after they broke up. In 2000, the group reformed for NEARfest joined by David Rosenthal on keyboards, and they released a new album in 2004: The Muse Awakens. Whitaker and Wyatt have released another album, Pedal Giant Animals since, and have formed a new band, Oblivion Sun.

3 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

LINK

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roger said...

thank you for sharing such wonderful music, i love your blog. thanx for all your work. this is treasure.

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,roger.Many thanks.You have good taste in music.TTU soon