(INSIDEOUT MUSIC IOMCD187)
After Happy The Manís smashing show at the NEARfest 2000 the waiting for the proclaimed comeback-record The Muse Awakens began. This waiting is being rewarded now, because the 11 new tracks are full of the trademarks which typified the band so much: repetitive, slowly shifting patterns on divers instruments, lovely slurring Moog-soloís with that characteristic tone-bending and the long lasting string-chords. Itís clear Happy The Man is going back to the intense progressive jazz-rock from Crafty Hands (1978), although the dreamlike spheres from the eponymous debut (1977) also gets a lot of space. The opening-track Contemporary Insanity is revealing in that matter; complex rhythms, with bumping baritone-saxophone swipes and screeching guitar- and synthesizer-soloís. Lunch At The Psychedelicatessen, in which Frank Wyatt lets himself go in a lovely way on saxophones and other woodwinds, is also dominated by this kind of Gentle Giant-like riotousness. And Barking Spider is based on breaks in such a way, that the new drummer Joe Bergamini (from 4Front) can exhibit himself perfectly. The sphere-full side gets a chance in amongst others the title-track with Spyro Gyra-tinted, melodic clarinet-parts. Kindred Spirits is a beautiful piece, in which the echoing electric piano evokes exactly that kind of sphere which made The Moon, I Sing (from Crafty Hands) and the Twin Peaks-soundtrack so sensitive. But in these sensitive tracks thereís also a lot of progression and dynamic-difference, like the bombastic burp in Adrift, which is mostly dominated by a sultry saxophone. In the epic tracks complexity and serenity flow together constantly. For instance, Stepping Through Time combines a Camel-like flute in the intro with a splitting guitar-solo in the climax, which is being followed by a virtuoso keyboard-duel, one of the many passages in which David Rosenthal turns Kit Watkins into a very good memory effortlessly. This combination is also present in the closing couple Maui Sunset and Il Quinto Mare, which are being surrounded by see-sounds. They lead to the most sparkling part of the album, after which the band works musing (sic) and slowly toward the end in that typical Happy The Man-way. Finally, the vocal aspect in the key as the demo-LP 3rd : Better Late (recorded 1979, released 1983), comes to the front in Shadowlites only; in that track Stanley Whitakerís slightly distorted voice colours the refrain in an almost commercial way. In the press-information Whitaker tells that there are already three new vocal compositions. This means that The Muse Awakens is not only a very strong return to the top of the progressive rock-front, but also a start of many more beautiful things.