Happy The Man - The Muse Awakens

Year of Release: 2004
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMA CD 2097
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:05:00

Finally??. The thrill of the 2000 reunion has long since faded, but the wait has been worth it. New keyboardist David Rosenthal (Rainbow, Billy Joel) fits like a glove; his playing and composing skills are top notch. After some Spinal Tapish drummer issues that had Ron Riddle out and then in and out again, with Jonathon Mover (GTR, Marillion) in there somewhere, the band has settled on Joe Bergamini, and he is a great catch.

The minute "Contemporary Insanity" came out of the speakers, I knew we were getting some classic stuff. This falls right in line with the band's 70s output. Composed by Rosenthal, it is upbeat, with plenty of interplay between keyboards and guitar, and the quirky background rhythm is great. Wyatt's horns are often subtle, yet I can't imagine HTM without his contribution. He really stands out in some of the softer songs ("Adrift"). As complex and intricate as the music can get, there is always a melody to latch onto. Each song is well crafted and structured, and for instrumental music, it always finds a way to stick in your head.

The band has always had an atmospheric side to their music, but has blended enough instrumentation as to avoid the background or elevator tag. There is a surprising spark even to the laidback material. "Stepping Through Time" slowly evolves into an excellent showcase for Whitaker and Rosenthal's leads. Dare I say pretty when describing "Maui Sunset"? I find it is a really moving piece that Rosenthal dedicates to his wife. The mellow stuff still seems to have some bite to the arrangements.

I guess what is so amazing is that most of the material on The Muse Awakens seems right in place with the band's heyday, but is not a dated sound. "Lunch At The Psychedelicatessen" (great title) opens with a Whitaker riff and seems to build off the guitar lines. It has some jazzy moments with Wyatt's playing, and is just a fun track. "Barking Spiders" is probably my second favorite track, with a lot of keyboard and guitar interplay; this one should have fans of the complex tracks licking their chops. Stan's vocals on "Shadowlites" are surprisingly good, as this was always considered the weak point of the band. The closing "Il Quinto Mare" is a strong closer, featuring the heavy and light side of the band.

This has not left the CD player since I got it, and I have a feeling it will be there for some time to come. The guys now have other projects going on, so giving full attention to Happy The Man is impossibility, and yet this sounds like a band in its prime. I hate to be greedy since this is fresh off the presses, but how about getting to work on a follow up guys, or at least a promise that we won't have to wait so long for the next one!

Released in Europe by InsideOut Music (IOMCD 187/SPV 085-40542)

Contemporary Insanity (3:25) / The Muse Awakens (5:34) / Stepping Through Time (6:12) / Maui Sunset (5:35) / Lunch at the Psychedelicatessen (4:58) / Slipstream (4:43) / Barking Spiders (4:12) / Adrift (4:03) / Shadowlites (3:53) / Kindred Spirits (5:26) / Il Quinto Mare (7:22)

Frank Wyatt - saxes, keyboards, woodwinds
Stanley Whitaker - guitars,vocals
David Rosenthal - keyboards
Joe Bergamini - drums, percussion
Rick Kennell - bass

Happy The Man (1977)
Crafty Hands (1978)
Better Late... (1983)
Beginnings (1990)
Live (1997)
Death's Crown (1999)
The Muse Awakens (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 21st 2004
Reviewer: Eric Porter

Artist website: www.happytheman.com
Hits: 825
Language: english


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