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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Happy The Man

Beginnings

Review by G. W. Hill

This disc, actually a compilation of previous unreleased early recordings by the band, has some very good compositions, but does suffer in places from poor recording conditions. For that reason, while this would certainly be a great addition to the collections of HTM fans, I would not recommend it for first time listeners. Happy the Man, on this recording is Mike Beck, Cliff Fortney, Rick Kennell, Kit Watkins, Stanley Whitaker and Frank Wyatt.

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
Leave that Kitten Alone, Armone
Keys that are almost playful sounding begin this cut, and as they build the tone gets a bit Yesish at times. As the guitar joins, and the song is transformed, the Yes leanings are even more evident. The number gets rather jazzy as it carries on. Then, as it keeps reforming in organic modes, it becomes a great prog groove, getting quite dramatic at times. After a crescendo and drop out, the cut begins rebuilding in a playful, bouncy, near symphonic manner with some inventive and fun percussion.
Passion’s Passing
Sedate tones start this cut and slowly, gradually build. The mode is in a slow prog balladic form as the composition begins to ascend to higher planes. A great sax solo causes one to think of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album for time. After this solo, the piece takes on a new percussive texture, becoming much more complex in its rhythmic modes. It begins to stretch out after a verse in that mode, suddenly erupting into a faster paced prog jam that seems a bit Genesisish. The song gets quite dramatic for a time on the next chorus, then drops down to a very quieting and peaceful tone to end.
Don’t Look At the Running Sun
Ambient sounds start the cut, then a slow building in a mellow, but creative prog style ensues. After expanding on this mode for a time, the intensity increases for a short while, then a fast paced prog section dominates the composition for a time. This one comes across a lot like a cross between Genesis and Traffic. It alternates between the previous modes for a time, then jumps into an awesome instrumental break that feels like a jazzy combination of King Crimson and Genesis. The guitar solo section of this break has a Howeish texture and is considerably strong. As the song comes out of the break, it is into a sparsely arranged verse, then it jumps back to the Genesisish stylings.
Gretchen’s Garden
Starting in a mode much like the emotional and powerful mellow Genesis modes of old, this one starts gradually building from there. The productions on the vocals here is fairly weak and a bit distracting, but the track is an evocative one. It drops to an instrumental break that seems to call to mind the mellower modes of King Crimson’s In The Court of the Crimson King album. The composition shifts gear dramatically to a fast paced, hard-edged section, but alas this movement is very short lived. We drop straight back into the section that preceded it, but it seems to have a new emotional intensity and sense of urgency at this point. After a short instrumental break based in this style, the cut erupts with fast paced harder prog fury for a time, then drops back into the previous mode in the form of an instrumental break that builds both in complexity and intensity. Next it evolves back into a mellow verse, but eventually explodes back out in a rather noisy and fast moving instrumental break that really smokes. This section finishes the piece off with an abrupt stop.
Partly The State
Ambient tones begin this one, and a quirky and rather weird buildup starts. After a time, this feels like more mainstream prog and then erupts into an awesome groove based jam. This section stops after a time, and slower, but quite powerful, prog stylings make up the basis of the verse. Vocal interplay is a big part of the texture of this cut, but unfortunately the recording of those vocals leaves quite a bit to be desired at times. Still, this is an awesome track in its song writing and execution. It is just a shame that a better recording doesn’t exist. After a time an off kilter and rather humorous fast paced bouncy prog jam erupts,. The cut drops to a textural and low volume segment, then transforms into a a pretty and slowly building balladic state. This section becomes a bit playful, then explodes out into prog fury with a new sense of urgency. A hard edged and triumphant sounding segment ends the piece.
Broken Waves
Ambient, textural woodwind sounds begin this one. The cut evolves into a great jazzy sort of groove. It keeps growing and building on that basic format to make for a nice relaxing, but exhilarating ride. The cut features an awesome guitar solo, and a powerful crescendo ends the number.
Portrait of a Waterfall
Sedate jazz influenced tones make up the early segments here. It evolves into a prog ballad that still contains those same jazz elements. The cut becomes faster paced and harder-edged, rocking out quite well after a time. This instrumental then drops back to a very jazzy section after a time, then evolves into a very Crimsonesque mode. It settles back down to sedate tones to end.
 
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