The following article was originally published in James Madison College's (month's away from becoming a university) publication The Breeze on Friday, February 11, 1977, SideShow Arts, People section. Some of the song titles appear here in the inaccurate form in which they occurred in the original article. There are other inaccuracies, but the article does bring out the type of exaltation that typically followed the band's concerts at that time.
'Happy' concert is 'one of year's best'
By Tom Callagy
The clean and refreshing music of Happy the Man, brilliantly performed before a large hometown audience in Wilson Hall Sunday night, fulfilled the clams that the group would be one of the best musical events of this year.
Gliding on the confidence of a soon to be released album, Happy delivered 10 delicious works to a pleased and receptive crowd of faithful followers and curious newcomers.
The concert, at times crowded by an insensitive WMAL cameraman ,started with a relaxing set of acoustic music by Steve Durham. The four songs played by Durham, three of which were his own compositions, settled the already anxious crowd into the peaceful and pleasant mood of the evening.
After an unnecessary barker-like introduction from and unintroduced WMAL technician, Happy opened their set with one of their older instrumentals, "Leave that Kitten Alone Armone."
The music, complemented by showers of light, moved the listener through the flowing melodies administered by keyboardists Kit Watkins and Frank Wyatt, guitarist Stanley Whitaker, and punctuated by bass player Rick Kennel and drummer Mike Beck, moving amidst a jungle of percussion.
Next come the rising and falling structure called "Starborne" followed by the uplifting "Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in the Stencil Forest." A collaboration of Watkins synthesizer work and Whitaker's needle-like fingers on guitar exploded into solos that left the listener breathless. As Whitaker put it, "This is one of our rockers."
Vocals were used on two songs. Whitaker's solo voice was heard on "Time is a Helix of Precious Laughs," and again with Frank Wyatt's harmonies on "Upon the Rainbow." The words were mostly incomprehendable. The use of the voice is relatively new for the group but it was effective during "Upon the Rainbow" where the last note of a vocal line went right into a flute solo by Wyatt. [actually it was a saxophone solo by Frank, but then you probably knew that]
One of the higher points was a dazzling composition entitled "Knee-bitten Nymphs in Limbo," which will be released as a 45 for A.M. and F.M. radio. This up-tempo number features racing guitar and keyboard runs by Whitaker and Watkins respectively, dealing out smiles as a response to their outstanding musical abilities.
Beck opened "Mr. Mirror" swinging an instrument looking much like a vacuum cleaner hose, emitting a soft whirling sound. He danced effortlessly from bells to timpani to wind chimes, tickling pieces of glass and metal hanging from scaffolding and then settled behind his drum kit embellishing the core of the song.
A well-deserved standing ovation brought the group back to do a section of a song renamed "Open Book Without Words." Completing the program with this exuberant encore best exemplified the style that crated the name Happy the Man, and it, of course, delighted the audience.
The concert was the beginning of a tour that will take the group to the colleges and arenas in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, playing along side other such musical great[s] as Larry Coryell and Genesis.
The moods of Happy the Man are expressed through music that some have said would never make it because of it's lack of commercial material. The members conveyed the fact that they were afraid success would wear the fine edges from their ideas.
They proved Sunday night, to the rarely satisfied Harrisonburg audience that Happy's music is irresistible.