The Muse Awakens
Happy The Man
Happy The Man
Happy the Man is pleased to announce that they are re-releasing The Muse Awakens on their own label, ending a period of the record being out of print. Referred to as the “Grandfathers of American Progressive Rock,” and once highly sought after by Peter Gabriel directly after he left Genesis, Happy the Man released two albums in the 1970s that are considered classics of the art-rock/progressive rock genre: 1977’s Happy the Man (named by Rolling Stone as one of the “50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time”) and 1978’s Crafty Hands. After several years of touring and “unofficial” releases, the group disbanded. Years later, fueled by a fan-demanded reunion concert, the band went back into the studio with original members Frank Wyatt, Stan Whitaker, and Rick Kennell, along with new keyboardist David Rosenthal (Billy Joel, Rainbow, Steve Vai) and drummer Joe Bergamini to release 2004’s The Muse Awakens, the third official studio album of the band’s career.
Having been featured in books such as producer Ken Scott’s Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust, Will Romano’s Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Most Progressive Music, and Douglas Harr’s coffee-table book Rockin’ The City Of Angels, HTM’s place in rock history is secure, and during the out-of-print period copies of The Muse Awakens sold online for upwards of $100. Now their fans will once again have access to the critically acclaimed reunion album that brought the band to the attention of younger progressive audiences.
“Only Happy the Man, Crafty Hands, and The Muse Awakens were recorded in actual studios,” said co-founder and bassist Rick Kennell. “The other five releases were assembled after the fact—from basement tapes, rehearsals and live shows—and while we love them, we were always disappointed with the audio quality. But our fans wanted more and it was the best we could do, since the band was inactive at the time.”
“Playing with Happy the Man was one of the musical highlights of my career,” said keyboardist David Rosenthal. “I’m very proud of the album we made together and I’m thrilled that The Muse Awakens is available again.”
“The Muse Awakens was an incredible new chapter in the life of a legendary band that I am proud to be a part of. I hope fans of all eras of progressive rock—from the early art rock bands all the way up to modern prog metal—will check out The Muse this time around,” said drummer Joe Bergamini.
HAPPY THE MAN - "THE MUSE AWAKENS" The return of Happy the Man makes for a whole lot of happy the prog fans. Way back in 1977, this band signed with Arista Records and released two albums which bombed commercially - remember this was the age of Night Fever, Night Fe-v-er! But later they achieved underground cult status.
The Muse Awakens follows Happy The Man's Crafty Hands almost as if the quarter-century between them didn't even happen. The notable differences, obviously aside from all new compositions, are in the modern production, and in the fact that the drummer and keyboardist are different. Original drummer Ron Riddle, who to my ears had a flair for the dramatic - kind a prog Keith Moon - has been replaced with the more conventional Joe Bergamini Conventional, but extremely accurate and dynamic. As for keys man David Rosenthal who eagerly stepped into the shoes of Kit Watkins, he seems to wear them with joy and ease. Stanley Whitaker's guitar has, unsurprisingly, been stripped of the 70's flange effect (except for one track). Also clear is that, like every mature guitarist who had a hand wrapped around a neck in 1981, he has absorbed some of the Holdsworth influence. Standing-wave-in-a-tube specialist Frank Wyatt pulls out both saxes (tenor and alto) as well as a clarinet and a flute in the first 3 tracks, playing counterpoint to the guitar & synth like the old days. Co-founder Rick Kennel's bass remains in its supporting role - no Jonas or Billy, he. There is even a 'token' vocal track, as there was on Crafty Hands.
Happy The Man has been called 'America's greatest prog band' by some, based on their original recordings. Personally I reserve that title for Kansas. But I will say this: I can only think of one other band that routinely handles odd time signatures with so much fluidity, that they feel like 4/4. (...That would be Gentle Giant.) What I mean by that is, while there are many bands that seem to insert licks into odd time signatures as a means of showing off, Happy The Man writes tracks that emerge as a whole, integrated composition - rhythm, melody and harmony all woven together. As a matter of fact, 4/4 is almost totally absent here. That's neither good nor bad, it just shows uncommon creativity.
So there you have it - If you like this band's old material, you will like this release as it is the same style. For those of you who have never heard Happy The Man, though, think of the Ozric Tentacles without the goofy, spacey vibe, Chick Corea's jazz concept, with a dash of Brand X spice.
--Jeffrey E. Terwilliger - Dutch Progressive Rock Page
HAPPY THE MAN - "THE MUSE AWAKENS"
It is with great happiness that I report to you that the new Happy the Man disc marks a triumphant return for one of the best progressive rock bands ever to exist, a quarter-century after their demise.
Original members Stanley Whitaker (guitars), Frank Wyatt (saxophones, flute & keyboards) and Rick Kennell (bass) welcome into the fold David Rosenthal (keyboards, known for his work with Rainbow and as a sideman with the likes of Billy Joel and Cyndi Lauper, replacing the great Kit Watkins) and Joe Bergamini (drums & percussion, late of the progressive fusion band 4Front and the Rush tribute band Power Windows, replacing Ron Riddle) on The Muse Awakens, and the new lineup sounds remarkably like the original lineup.
Rosenthal is particularly impressive on this disc, writing three excellent pieces and soloing so authoritatively that it's almost as though he's channeling Watkins through his fingers, while Bergamini plays with exactly the blend of power and finesse by which the band's best material has always been driven, navigating tricky time signatures on the livelier numbers with ease and coloring the slower, more atmospheric tracks with subtle percussive accents. For their part, the original band members sound as though the twenty-six years that have passed since the release of the band's last studio album, Crafty Hands, never in fact passed at all: even Whitaker's voice is as pleasant and oddly boyish on "Shadowlites," the disc's only non-instrumental track, as it was back in the old days, and of course his guitar playing is as superb as ever (check out his solo on "Stepping Through Time," or his angular riffing on "Barking Spiders"); Wyatt is still a gifted composer - people forget that he composed a lot of the old HtM material - and multi-instrumentalist, and Kennell's bass playing is still as solid and supple as it always was. Those who worried that the chemistry of the new lineup would fail to match up with the magic of the original are happily proven wrong without a doubt.
The HtM sound is still characterized by strong compositions varying in mood and intensity, from the quirky interplay of rhythms and melodies of the album's opening track, "Contemporary Insanity," and the awe-inspiring "Stepping Through Time," to the lush, dreamlike atmospherics of the beautiful "Maui Sunset" (which features a lovely flute solo by Wyatt preceding an equally lovely guitar solo), and back to the progressive fusion of "Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen" (great title!) and so on throughout the entire disc. "Slipstream" treats us to still more brilliant keyboard work and a melody so achingly majestic that, contrary to its title, it anchors itself in your brain and lingers on after the track ends. The Dregs-meets-Dream Theater-like "Barking Spiders" follows, and is so complex, yet fun to hear, that Dream Theater fans will scramble to add it to their iTunes or WinAmp playlists; Bergamini really shines on this one, getting a great workout behind his drum kit. "Adrift," the next track, again provides contrast with its predecessor, a softer, slower Whitaker composition featuring Wyatt's saxophone and Rosenthal's synthesizers and piano. "Shadowlites," a song about the power of dreams, is reminiscent of Yes with its earnest, hopeful lyrics, passionate vocal and classical piano embellishments. "Kindred Spirits" is very reminiscent of an earlier HtM classic, "Starborne," and could very well be a sequel to that famously moody piece, with all its soaring synthesizers and piano. The album closes with the brilliant "Il Quinto Mare," which to these ears sounds almost like a tribute to the great Italian progressive rock bands of the 70s; it's a magnificent symphonic track with stunning keyboard and percussive work throughout, and a melody that fairly begs to be played by PFM's old violinist Mauro Pagani.
Fans old and new will find much to enjoy in Happy the Man's rich combination of engaging, sophisticated compositions and awesome chops, all presented with the sterling sound of modern studio technology. There's so much love and passion in every note on The Muse Awakens that it's difficult not to be moved, given the fact that it took over 25 years for this reunion to happen. It cannot be recommended highly enough. You can check out sound clips at the band's website or at the InsideOut web site or at Audiophile Imports.
HAPPY THE MAN - "THE MUSE AWAKENS"
After Happy The Man’s smashing show at the NEARfest 2000 the waiting for the proclaimed comeback-record The Muse Awakens began. This waiting is being rewarded now, because the 11 new tracks are full of the trademarks which typified the band so much: repetitive, slowly shifting patterns on divers instruments, lovely slurring Moog-solo’s with that characteristic tone-bending and the long lasting string-chords. It’s clear Happy The Man is going back to the intense progressive jazz-rock from Crafty Hands (1978), although the dreamlike spheres from the eponymous debut (1977) also gets a lot of space.
The opening-track Contemporary Insanity is revealing in that matter; complex rhythms, with bumping baritone-saxophone swipes and screeching guitar- and synthesizer-solo’s. Lunch At The Psychedelicatessen, in which Frank Wyatt lets himself go in a lovely way on saxophones and other woodwinds, is also dominated by this kind of Gentle Giant-like riotousness. And Barking Spider is based on breaks in such a way, that the new drummer Joe Bergamini (from 4Front) can exhibit himself perfectly. The sphere-full side gets a chance in amongst others the title-track with Spyro Gyra-tinted, melodic clarinet-parts. Kindred Spirits is a beautiful piece, in which the echoing electric piano evokes exactly that kind of sphere which made The Moon, I Sing (from Crafty Hands) and the Twin Peaks-soundtrack so sensitive. But in these sensitive tracks there’s also a lot of progression and dynamic-difference, like the bombastic burp in Adrift, which is mostly dominated by a sultry saxophone. In the epic tracks complexity and serenity flow together constantly.
For instance, Stepping Through Time combines a Camel-like flute in the intro with a splitting guitar-solo in the climax, which is being followed by a virtuoso keyboard-duel, one of the many passages in which David Rosenthal turns Kit Watkins into a very good memory effortlessly. This combination is also present in the closing couple Maui Sunset and Il Quinto Mare, which are being surrounded by see-sounds. They lead to the most sparkling part of the album, after which the band works musing (sic) and slowly toward the end in that typical Happy The Man-way. Finally, the vocal aspect in the key as the demo-LP 3rd : Better Late (recorded 1979, released 1983), comes to the front in Shadowlites only; in that track Stanley Whitaker’s slightly distorted voice colors the refrain in an almost commercial way. In the press-information Whitaker tells that there are already three new vocal compositions. This means that The Muse Awakens is not only a very strong return to the top of the progressive rock-front, but also a start of many more beautiful things.
--Rene Yedema - I/O Pages
HAPPY THE MAN - "THE MUSE AWAKENS"
Happy the Man fans have been clamoring for this new CD since the band regrouped a few years back at the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARfest), and the wait is now over. Long-time members Stanley Whitaker (guitars & vocals), Frank Wyatt (sax, keyboards, & woodwinds) and Rick Kennell (bass) are joined here on The Muse Awakens by former Rainbow keyboard player David Rosenthal and drummer Joe Bergamini, and the results are simply astounding, as if the band never went away in the first place.
Things kick off in typical Happy the Man fashion with "Contemporary Insanity", a blistering yet quirky piece that will instantly remind you of the style of the bands debut and sophomore release Crafty Hands (both from the 1970's), as well as vintage Gentle Giant, with its complex and weaving sax, keyboards, and guitar interplay. The title track, as well as "Stepping Through Time", have more atmospheric and jazzier moments (reminding me a little of early Spyro Gyra) thanks to the classy keyboard work of Rosenthal and Wyatt's melodic reed stylings.
More intricate fusion with a Canterbury twist is evident on "Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen", a symphonic piece that sees Wyatt and Rosenthal once again complementing each other perfectly, until Whitaker joins the party with some wild finger picking that signals the whole band to move into complex prog-rock mode. The majestic "Slipstream" is a gorgeous piece that really shows what Rosenthal brings to the table, as he teams with Wyatt to create sumptuous soundscapes on piano and synths that help propel this song one of the most emotional instrumental prog tunes you will hear all year.
"Barking Spiders" is another beast altogether, as Stanley Whitaker unleashes some raunchy guitar riffs that are backed by some insane rhythm work from Kennell and Bergamini. Whitaker and Rosenthal get into some crazy exchanges here on this one! Wyatt's sax is featured on the smooth and jazzy "Adrift", while "Shadowlites" is a moody and atmospheric piece that also is the only track on the CD with vocals, courtesy of Whitaker. Stan's emotional and fluid guitar work tugs at your heart on the tender "Maui Sunset", a tune that also contains a tasty & melodic synth solo from Rosenthal. This song however is the calm before the storm, as they break out the big guns for the grand finale, the symphonic "Il Quinto Mare." At over 7-minutes in length, it is the longest piece on the album, and shifts through many changes of mood and tempo as only Happy the Man can muster. The band manages to squeeze classical, jazz, hard rock, and prog all into one tune here, and it really works, showcasing what a roster of talent lies in this ensemble.
The progressive rock world has just been put on notice...Happy the Man is back folks, and they are here to stay. The world is also a better place because of it!
--Pete Pardo for Sea of Tranquility
HAPPY THE MAN - "THE MUSE AWAKENS" AT LONG LAST! The new studio album by America's legendary Happy the Man! Featuring three original members Frank Wyatt (saxes, keyboards, woodwinds), Rick Kennel (bass) and Stanley Whitaker (guitars and vocals) plus two newcomers - Dave Rosenthal (keyboards) and Joe Bergamini (drums). There are 11 tracks. Frank Wyatt wrote "Stepping Through Time", "Slipstream", and "Il Quinto Mare". Stanley Whitaker contributed "The Muse Awakens", "Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen", "Barking Spiders" , "Adrift", and "Shadowlites". The remaining three tracks are by new keyboardist Rosenthal. They are "Contemporary Insanity", "Maui Sunset" and "Kindred Spirits". For those who might say that Happy The Man just won't be Happy The Man without Kit Watkins (I was one of them) - let me assure you that David Rosenthal is more than up to the challenge. Not only is he an amazing player in his own right, he has SO closely copied both Watkins' compositional and distinctive playing styles that if I didn't know otherwise I would have sworn that it WAS Kit! New drummer Bergamini is also a good fit for the band and is an able replacement for departing Ron Riddle. The writing is great throughout and is purely & completely Happy The Man. It is as though they never left. It is as though it were 1979 and they were just continuing on as they should! A fantastic and highly recommended album!!
--ZNR Progressive Music
HAPPY THE MAN - "THE MUSE AWAKENS"
After a really really long break, and then after another long break, Happy The Man is finally back - and they're as fresh and as vibrant as they were at their formation in 1972.
Often compared favorably with classic-prog goliaths Gentle Giant, Happy The Man's music is complex and intricate yet it never loses sight of its strong melodic themes, and it is always either upbeat and pleasant or dreamy and reflective. Many of the songs on The Muse Awakens are pure symphonic prog a la Happy The Man of old, but others are more jazzy than before causing this record to comfortably span the intersection of classical arrangements, jazz chords and progressive music's symphonic melodies. Despite the jazzy overtones, every track is tight and composed and there isn't a hint of jamming. It is purely instrumental except for one song with relaxed mid-quality vocals - and besides the obvious guitar / bass / drums / keyboards lineup there are significant contributions from tenor and alto saxes, clarinet and flute.
The music shifts restlessly and constantly - from one time signature to the next, from key to key, from upbeat to contemplative to dramatic to spacey, and from the 1970s to the present day and all the way back again. It's hard to pick a standout track, but mini-epic “Il Quinto Mare” may be the best piece by a close margin, followed by the humorous and quirky "Barking Spiders" and "Lunch At The Psychedelicatessen". Several sax passages are reminiscent of the long, melodic Kenny G solos, but Kenny G never had the same complicated interplays between keyboards, guitars and this variety of wind instruments.
New keyboardist David Rosenthal (Ex-Berklee student, Rainbow, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper, Whitesnake, Robert Palmer, and long-time Happy The Man fan) fits in wonderfully and his musicianship and compositional skills make an interesting impact. Listen to the piano and keyboard leads on "Slipstream", probably the most moving piece on the album, and his composition "Kindred Spirits".
The Muse Awakens was included in many critics' top-of-2004 lists - and that wasn’t because the writers were among the HtM cultists or the welcome-back crowd. It won those laurels purely on its musical merits.
--By Duncan Glenday