HAPPY THE MAN – Crafty Hands

Although punk was supposed to be a breath of fresh air on the music scene, and blow away overblown prog rock dinosaurs, I am glad to say that there were still some bands who carried on producing intelligent and thought-provoking music. Happy The Man were one such band, and although they came from America their music has a very English feel to it. I have owned their 1977 debut album for many years, and always considered it to be one of the best examples of jazz-rock fusion of the 70’s, but I never knew that they had made a second one. Seeing the re-issue in the GEP catalogue I knew I had to have it, and it turns out to be every bit as good as their first. This 1978 album carries on from where the last left off, with the stunning ‘Service With A Smile’ opening proceedings. ‘Morning Sun’ is a gentle synth piece on which the jazz leanings are played down, but ‘Ibby Is It’ and ‘Steaming Pipes’ bring them back in spades, with intricate time signatures and expressive playing. If there is one criticism of this album, and I hesitate to make it, it is that the vocal track ‘Wind Up Doll Day Wind’ does not really sit well among the rest of the album as the jazz has to be toned down to accommodate the vocal. That said, when the band take over for the solos they are up to the usual high standard. The rest of the album has the band doing what they do best – jazz tinged instrumentals featuring some superb guitar and keyboard interplay. ‘Open Book’ has the instruments layered, gently building up to a climax. ‘I Forgot To Push It’ may be short, but packs plenty into its three minutes, and album closer ‘The Moon, I Sing’ brings the mood down to chill out level for a beautiful keyboard-led piece. Hard to believe that their label dumped them after this release, but luckily Musea have rescued it from obscurity and let’s hope it doesn’t get overlooked again.