Happy The Man - Live

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalog Number: 55014
Format: CD
Total Time: 67:18:00

Describing the music of Happy The Man is not an easy task as they combine all kind of elements and mould them into one. So you'll find snippets of jazz-rock, fusion, Canterbury scene and, above all, progressive rock.

Recently, some old live tapes were found that had been recorded way back in '78, in two different locations. Nine tracks were recorded on July 1st '78 at The Cellar Door in Washington DC, whilst the remaining three tracks stem from October 8th '78, recorded at Louie's Rock City at Falls Church, VA. Especially the latter suffers from a lot of noise with people telling their life story right between classic cuts such as "Carousel" and "Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo." It also marks the first tour with drummer Coco Roussel as a permanent member of the band.

What strikes me is the intimate size of both venues, as you can clearly hear how small the clubs are. One wonders if the band had any space at all to move, seeing the size of the drum kit! The band's all instrumental output finds it difficult to shut up the audience during the quiet passages, as the intro for "Open Book" illustrates. However, regardless of the size of the club, all of the Happy the Man details are very well captured here. There's also a fair amount of flute courtesy of Kit Watkins with Frank "Nakahara" Wyatt taking over keyboard duties. The audience certainly included a fair amount of Happy the Man diehards as spontaneous applause and admiration escapes each time a song is introduced. In "Ibby It Is," Stanley Whitaker's guitar really freaks before melting together with Watkins' delightful synth sounds.

When confronting the audience, the band never feels confident, although from a musical point of view they shouldn't feel afraid at all! When the band merges "Carousel" with some other parts, someone in the audience even feels the urge to repeat the occasional title "I Carve The Chariot On The Carousel". Sporting some nice flute, it's a lively song filled with changing atmospheres with even the beer glasses from the local pub playing a guest role! "Steaming Pipes" is an avant-garde collection of sounds ranging from Wyatt's occasional sax outbursts to Watkins' distinctive synth solo ending like the batteries have run out. The crowd favourite "Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo" is played with speed, power and conviction, introducing some fierce organ. The Fender Rhodes kicks off "Mr. Mirror's Reflection On Dreams" as the typical Happy The Man trademark with Whitaker adding guitar arpeggios to spice up the music. The music evolves with an ebb and flow, giving Coco enough space to experiment from a percussive point of view. Hard edged parts and softer passages alternate perfectly, as approved by an enthusiastic crowd.

With five songs from Happy The Man and seven from Crafty Hands, Live is a nice bonus for those who already have all of the band's studio output. Sadly the quality of the recordings isn't topnotch, bearing in mind it was recorded 23 years ago without the intention ever to be released. Just consider it a "legal bootleg," hoping the band will soon release their NEARfest 2000 gig as the ultimate live Happy The Man experience.

Service With A Smile / Starborne / Open Book / Hidden Moods / Morning Sun / I Forgot To Push It / Ibby It Is / Nossuri (The Moon, I Sing) / I Carve The Chariot On The Carousel / Stealing Pipes / Knee Bitten Nymphs In Limbo / Mr. Mirror's Reflection On Dreams

Rick Kennell - bass
Coco Roussel - drums, percussion
Stanley Whitaker - guitars
Kit Watkins - keyboards, flute
Frank Nakahara-Wyatt - saxophone, keyboards

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: August 2nd 2001
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.happytheman.com
Hits: 848
Language: english


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