Happy the Man — Happy the Man
(One Way OW34546, 1977/1999, CD)
Happy the Man — Crafty Hands
(One Way OW34547, 1978/1999, CD)
by Mike McLatchey, Published 1999-11-01
Readers of Exposé will be more than familiar with this seminal American quintet, as we have given them lavish coverage in these pages. Having been available only intermittently on expensive Japanese editions, it’s about time that we see these domestically. Not only do we get inexpensive American editions, but we also get the Kit Watkins remastering job (as seen previously on Death’s Crown) to add better clarity to the mix. Both of these albums display some of the best, most elaborate and sophisticated symphonic rock ever produced, played by technical geniuses. One of the many reasons is that Kit Watkins was perhaps the most impressive Minimoog player to ever record. While the studio albums don’t quite show the incredibly high levels Kit would reach on the instrument live, they give much more than a hint — witness the fade-out and finale solo on “Carousel” from their debut. It’s true that Happy the Man were influenced by the usual English pioneers, but by this time, beyond music displayed on the posthumous “Beginnings,” the band had created a signature and original statement, one that sounded like no other. The complexity of the music is perhaps the most interesting aspect — Happy the Man incorporated odd timings, counterpoint, polyphony, and polyrhythms, but did so without sacrificing accessibility. The band’s talents are readily apparent in the nimble dexterity of “Stumpy Meets Firecracker in Stencil Forest” and “Knee-Bitten Nymphs in Limbo,” but each and every title is a burst of magic in its own right. In its entirety, one of the best debuts of all time and an essential item.
Crafty Hands seems more polished, yet overall slightly less impressive, due to the more sedate second half. Tracks like the wonderful opener “Service with a Smile” and the brilliant “Steaming Pipes” build on the style they portrayed on the debut, but side 2, starting with “Wind up Doll Day Wind,” has a more refined and lyrical sound that is perhaps less exciting than the first album overall, yet still holding to compositional excellence. Any self-respecting Exposé readers will have these on pre-order, at least in spirit.
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more
Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more