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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Happy The Man

Crafty Hands

Review by Steve Alspach

One Way records saw fit to re-release both albums from Happy the Man, an instrumental progressive outfit lying somewhere between Genesis and the Dregs musically. It was a very good call on One Way's part. Happy the Man was a very melodic, yet extremely accomplished ensemble that emphasized a keyboard-based sound. The group took their name from an old Genesis single, and the influence is fairly obvious, capturing the Genesis sound circa 1976. "Crafty Hands," the group's second album, was originally released on Arista in 1978.

The band at the time were: Stanley Whitaker, 6- and 12-string guitars and vocals; Frank Wyatt, pianos, harpsichord, saxes and flute; Kit Watkins, pianos, harpsichord, Moog, fake strings clavinet, Hammond B3, and recorder; Rick Kennell, bass; and Ron Riddle, drums.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Service With a Smile
Co-written by Riddle, the song features his landslide drums descending over an 11/8 signature. The melody tends to hang and linger in places, though. At 2.44, this sounds more like a warm-up and the song could have been developed more in full.
Morning Sun
This is a delicate, dreamy waltz, the band treating it as a song to waken the listener out of a long sleep. The keyboards are predominant in this number, bass and drums not entering until late in the song.
Ibby It Is
Time signature changes abound between threes, sixes, and nines. A keyboard solo and two guitar solos highlight this, one of few songs of the band's to really feature any soloing. The composition ebbs and flows to good effect throughout its almost-eight-minute length.
Steaming Pipes
Here the saxes are prominent in the opening two-note-riff melodic line. The track takes on a Dixie Dregs-like feel of the band keeping in time over rhythmic patterns that seems to stop and start with little rhyme or reason. It ends with the group playing a simple pattern, sounding as though they are trying to catch their breath after the earlier part of the song pushed them to the brink.
Wind Up Doll Day Wind
This is the lone vocal piece with words by Frank Wyatt. Wyatt shows himself to be a very capable lyricist, and it's almost a shame that only one vocal piece should be on the album. The only tune to be rooted in 4/4, the song is still heavily syncopated in places. Stanley Whitaker does a good job with the vocals as well.
Open Book
Rarely does a piece have a gentle flow to a 5/4 time signature, but HTM pulls it off with no problem. The band shifts from this first movement to a Gentle Giant-like medieval feel with recorders, tambourines and finger cymbals. The composition then repeats the first and second movements.
I Forgot to Push It
Similar to "Steaming Pipes," this song is a bit of fusion, and also in a 6/4 time.. I wonder if this band just felt more comfortable in 6/4 than 4/4?. There is a nice keyboard-guitar combo solo, then the saxes join the lead as well.
The Moon I Sing (Nossuri)
Rarely does a piece in 5/4 have a gentle flow to it, but HTM manage to capture a hypnotically soft mood, closing the album (and, unfortunately, the band's catalog).
 
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