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Happy The Man

Often compared to Yes for their melodicism and Gentle Giant for the complexity of their compositions, Happy the Man added their own high-caliber musicianship, a sense of symphonic drama, odd time signatures, spacy sound, and occasional whimsy to their brand of progressive rock. Although their largely instrumental oeuvre was rather inconsistent, Happy the Man still carry a devoted following on the prog rock collectors' circuit. The group was formed in 1974, and during the '70s featured keyboardist Kit Watkins, keyboardist/woodwind player Frank Wyatt, guitarist and occasional vocalist Stan Whitaker, and bassist Rick Kennell, plus a rotating succession of drummers. Original vocalist Cliff Fortney left the band before it signed to Arista. Their self-titled 1977 debut was recorded with drummer Mike Beck and introduced each member's compositional style: Watkins possessed the symphonic grandeur, Wyatt gravitated toward songs with lyrics, and Whitaker allowed his sense of humor to come through on pieces such as "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest" and "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo." The follow-up, Crafty Hands, featured drummer Ron Riddle and was released a year later.

While Crafty Hands in particular garnered Happy the Man favorable reviews among the prog-inclined, the group's musically accomplished style was increasingly out of favor in the marketplace, and Arista dropped the band from its roster. Nevertheless, Happy the Man continued on with French drummer Coco Roussel now in the lineup, rehearsing and recording new material for a planned third album and performing live dates. The challenges faced by the group remained daunting, however, and Kit Watkins left the band to join Camel (appearing on two Camel albums); following his departure in 1979, Happy the Man broke up. Watkins would later found his own independent label, Azimuth, and in 1980 the label issued the Watkins solo effort Labyrinth, also featuring Roussel on drums/percussion. Labyrinth was actually the original planned title for Happy the Man's unrealized third album, and Watkins' album of that name included some of the material that would have premiered on that Happy the Man LP -- in 1983, under the title Better Late..., Azimuth would in fact issue demo material recorded four years previously by the full group for the third album which heretofore had not seen the light of day. Watkins and Roussel also released the duo album In Time in 1984, and Watkins would continue recording new age-tinged solo efforts into the 21st century.

Meanwhile, additional Happy the Man material was made available through independent labels. The Retrospective collection was released by East Side Digital in 1989, and during the 1990s Cuneiform issued several worthwhile archival recordings from Happy the Man's '70s heydays: in 1990 the label kept the Azimuth-issued Better Late... in circulation by re-releasing the album (including two previously unreleased tracks), and subsequent Happy the Man collections on Cuneiform included 1994's Live (recordings from a pair of 1978 club dates in Washington, D.C., and Falls Church, VA), 1995's Beginnings (a series of early two-track studio recordings with Fortney), and 1999's Death's Crown (mid-'70s recordings from the group's rehearsal space). The band re-formed (minus Watkins) to release the Muse Awakens CD in 2004. ~ Steve Huey & Dave Lynch, Rovi
full bio

Comments

When I first heard the 'Happy The Man' album in late '77 I thought it was perfect. As musicians and composers they certainly created a sound that felt like home to me. I think Stan's (rare) vocals were not quite up to what we expect from lead vocalists, but maybe if they put the same care into the production of the vocals that went into the rest of the instrumentat i o n it would have worked better. He showed signs of brilliance on 'Upon the Rainbow (Befrost)'. HTM is/was top tier prog act.
romanferrer
This was interesting! Had not heard them before. Good detail in the bio, esp. about the personalitie s coming through in the music--thoug h , I would have to listen to all of it to really know if it's true for myself. I just like to hear that kind of insight. Also liked knowing the connection to Camel.
Good PROG Stuff ... though the music still seems a little fussy to me ... maybe a little overthought ... apologies to ALL those HTM fans... I'm from ELP camp and have heard same type comments directed at them...
These guys are terrific! While I pride myself on my knowledge of prog, I wasn't familiar with this band until recently. Likening them to a blend of yes and gentle giant is quite suitable. Superb musicianship . Wow.
Great Stuff!
pure progressive rock from the 70s
Superb stuff!!
flyingscots
I hear Gentle Giant, and Yes without Bruford and Wakeman

htm has been apersonal fave since 78 and still are! GREAT STUFF!
stiemkes
These guys are one of my all time favs. Great musicianship ! I don't know why so many people are comparing them to Yes (also one of my all time favs). Like Yes, they are very strong in what they do, but their style is quite the opposite. I had a chance to see H.T.M. live back in the day and missed it...very sad.
Go to kit watkins web site the guy is amazing - his music is beautiful- night night.
I think they played at Princeton University, but I can't rememember.I ' v e lost way too many brain cells since the late 70's! Ah, the good ole' days!
Pith helmet musical exploration.
nationstates u s e r
Yes is much better than this band, but I like this band as well. Would anyone like to start educating me more about the lesser-known s of prog? I already know, obviously, about Yes (and they are my favorite band), Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Asia and some Genesis, but other than that the small-time and modern bands elude me.
14739578
I like the BAND because they tried something Different
interesting stuff...must hear more for informed decision!?
not better than Yes - but first 2 are unique mostly instumentals .
I would avoid the live one. They seemed very clumsy/unreh e a r s e d and the drums sounded like they were recorded by amateurs.
Better than Yes? Are all of your jokes that funny?
geman
Hi All, It seems there are great muscians that I have never heard after all these years of Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, Camel, Dream Theater, ETC
geman
Anyone else out there who listens to this band?
geman
This band can be mentioned with Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, WOW is all I can say! Better than Yes!
Now a couple of the guys are getting together with one of Genesis, sorry I forget which, to put down a few new tracks. I was happy to hear that. I thought they were incredible.
I totally fell in love with them hanging out in their studio for the better part of a day while I was visiting my best friend from home who happens to be married to Rick Kennel. Another friend, the "Happy" groupie was only too happy to take me on the long trip to hang out and learn a few awesome guitar licks. (chuckle) He'd gotten to know them well enough to be "invited to come and jam sometime" but when he discovered how close of friends Leah and I were that just made it feel a lot less awkwar
These guys are awesome!
Watkins has a number of solo albums - more in the new age vain.
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