Happy the Man — Live
(Linden Music LM 2021, 1978/1994, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-05-01
Although this live set would have been much more meaningful had it been released closer to when it was recorded in 1978, it stands today as evidence that this DC area quintet was as tight on-stage as their studio recordings might led one to believe: the performance here is gripping, spirited, and cohesive, drawing on material from their two Arista albums. Happy the Man's music could be described as a keyboard oriented synthesis of rock styles with a jazz sensibility leaning in the Canterbury direction, mostly instrumental (all instrumental on this set), with a penchant for the complex, highly melodic, occasionally quirky and musically humorous. With two keyboardists (Kit Watkins and Frank Wyatt, doubling on flute and saxes respectively), they were capable of a rich sound full of dramatics and emotion, tension and release. In short, light-years ahead of their time. The material here is taken from two performances: Most were recorded at the Cellar Door, Washington DC, with the balance taken from a show at Louie's Rock City in Falls Church, Virginia — although exact dates are not given. The recording quality is quite good, I think most would be surprised, especially given the wide dynamic range and overall low noise. Opening with "Service with a Smile," here the track gets added punch from guitarist Stanley Whitaker, they move on to "Starborne" and ten more tunes, some with an almost identical arrangement to their studio counterparts ("Morning Sun," "Hidden Moods") and some that are significantly different ("Knee Bitten Nymphs..." is given a whole new feel by drummer Coco Roussel, "I Carve the Chariot on the Carousel" is the full piece which was brutally edited in order to fit on the first album). Two outstanding tunes that missed the Retrospective (Best of) CD are here in glorified live versions: "Ibby It Is" and the ten-minute "Mr. Mirror's Reflection on Dreams." But by far, the standout here is the brilliant "Open Book," where all of the band's strongest instincts come together to assert their unique vision. Rarely can I say that a live album is as good an introduction to a band's music as their original studio recordings, but here it can be said without any uncertainty; for the longtime fan, this one's a must-have.
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
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more
Bill Bruford Ventures into Uncharted Territory – Drum master Bill Bruford, veteran of some of the most creative bands in history (King Crimson, Yes, Genese, etc.), is sharing some of what he's learned about being a drummer and a musician in his new book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, out on University of Michigan Press. » Read more
Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites - Friesengeist Part π - Ascendances – For the third installment of his Friesengeist series, Julien Ash has pared things down, utilizing only four musicians to augment his own keyboards and effects; previous releases featured eight or... (2008) » Read more