Happy The Man - Better Late

Year of Release: 1990
Label: Cuneiform Records
Catalog Number: 55001
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:39:00

Knowing that this album contains the demos, which were recorded at home with the intention to use them as a guide during the "proper" recording of their never-to-be third album, we nevertheless can speak of a truly fabulous sound. The important thing is, however, that due to the wonders of technology we can now listen to ten brand new Happy The Man compositions. Once again these are well crafted songs that sound very much like vintage Camel. Sometimes the voice of Stanley Whitaker gets close to the timbre of Greg Lake, which we can certainly call very positive here. The main role however still is reserved for Kit Watkins who delivers some divine flute playing during "At The Edge Of This Thought." To discover and re-discover, again and again and ?

[In December 2000, Bobo revisited this title and wrote a revised review. -ed.]

Named after a rare Genesis song from 1972 this band in fact only released two studio albums in the beginning of their career: Happy The Man and Crafty Hands which were both released on Arista. The album here contains the material which was intended for the band?s third studio album, an idea which never happened. Knowing that this album contains only demos recorded at home we can certainly state that the quality is rather good even if it has only been recorded on 4-track way back in February 1979. It?s mainly important that, thanks to the wonders of technology, we can in fact listen to a brand new Happy The Man album containing ten compositions never heard before!

Once again the band delivers superior songs, which often get close to early Camel. Just marvel at the sheer beauty of "Eye Of The Storm" which holds the middle between Rain Dances era Camel and the later Focus generation. In "The Falcon" the music reminds us of the best Italian tradition, rubbing shoulders with PFM. Sometimes guitarist Stanley Whitaker?s voice gets close to that of Greg Lake (another Manticore artist just like PFM!), which can only be a positive thing here. The main role however still is reserved for keyboard player Kit Watkins who really shines in "At The Edge Of This Thought" by means of divine flute playing.

A lot of the Happy The Man material is built around repetitive patterns that are mainly manned by great electric piano. It?s this element which has the term "Canterbury scene" pop up on more than one occasion. There?s also a fair amount of jazz influences to be heard. One of the main examples here has to be "Run Into The Ground" which has ground breaking sax all over, ranging from a classical introduction to a more laidback structure and then back towards a more rhythmic pattern. "Footwork" is a playful little thing, especially due to Kit?s keyboard playing. Guitar and synth then kind of overdub each other to give it a fuller sound. The album closes with "Such A Warm Breeze," once again highlighting divine flute playing and a true resting point for the unique Happy the Man music.

Certainly an album to discover and to re-discover, again and again and ?

Notes: Contains the final demo tape as recorded in February 1979 at the band?s house in Reston, Virginia

Eye Of The Storm (3:56) / The Falcon (6:09) / At The Edge Of This Thought (5:16) / While Crome Yellow Shine (6:10) / Who's In Charge Here? (5:39) / Shadow Shaping (4:25) / Run Into The Ground (5:02) / Footwork (4:19) / Labyrinth (7:29) / Such A Warm Breeze (5:08)

Kit Watkins - keyboards, flute
Stanley Whitaker - guitars, vocals
Coco Roussel - drums, percussion
Rick Kennell - bass
Frank Wyatt - electric piano, alto sax, flute

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: July 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.happytheman.com
Hits: 962
Language: english


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