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(53:18 / 'Crafty Hands Music')
TRACK LIST: 1. Pink Sky 4:07 2. Chapter Seven 3:38 3. Love 4:59 4. Whole 4:43 5. Mists of Babylon 4:27 6. The Leaf Clings: Quivers 3:06 7. Turning My Head 7:18 8. Blue Sun 4:22 9. Stumpy Shuffle 4:49 10. Everything 2:41 11. Pedal Giant Animals 9:03 LINEUP: Stan Whitaker - guitars, bass; vocals; percussion Frank Wyatt - keyboards; saxophones, flute; b/v With: Chris Mack - drums Peter Princiotto - bass
Prolusion. Backed up by bassist Peter Princiotto (However) and drummer Chris Mack (Iluvatar), Stan WHITAKER and Frank WYATT present their new creation, "Pedal Giant Animals", the CD coming under their own names, although as the founders of Happy The Man (HTM from here on) and the keepers of the band's name, I believe they had all juridical and moral rights to release it with using the legendary moniker. More reasons? Go on reading.
Analysis. I can't say this recording has a typical HTM sound, but only as long as it's taken overall, since quite a few of the disc's eleven tracks would have fitted splendidly at least on any of the outfit's classic three albums. In any event, the spirit of the musicians' primary band is felt almost everywhere on "Pedal Giant Animals", Frank and Stan's specific compositional approach being instantly recognizable. Nonetheless four of the five songs present, namely Pink Sky, Love, Whole and Everything, all belong exclusively to the art-rock genre, each resembling not only HTM, but also Genesis. Although most of these aren't ballads, all are overall pastoral in nature; Stan's singing has a strong Peter Gabriel / Phil Collins vibe; Frank's piano work isn't very different from that of Tony Banks; the emphasis is generally put on keyboards, specifically on piano, Stan only playing acoustic guitar, by fingering. Snowbound, Undertow, Burning Rope and Many Too Many from "And Then There Were Three" all can to a certain extent serve as points of comparison - for greater efficacy as a collective reference than, well, respectively. No, there is no even a hint of criticism in what has just been said; it's all just merely remarked on, since the influence never obscures the musicians' signature style, besides which (perhaps unlike most of you, dear readers) I sincerely consider the said Genesis album to be a masterpiece: just click here in the event you'd like to make certain of that. The title track is the only vocal piece that exceeds the bounds of Symphonic Progressive, from time to time entering the realm of Jazz-Fusion, but anyway it would have not been a serious corruption if I had listed it along with the other songs. Apprehend? Now it's the turn of the instrumentals. A follow-up to the opening track, Chapter Seven is to my way of thinking the only cut here that doesn't blend with the HTM sound at all. While still rather measured in pace, it passes through many complex rhythmic changes during the three and a half-minutes of its length. The music is unique and is at once dark and anxious, bringing to mind the concept of progressive Doom Metal, the lush string pads just accentuating its heaviness. The sax- and guitar-driven jazz-rockers Mists of Babylon and Stumpy Shuffle are in many ways kindred compositions and are both outstanding, but if the oriental music-inflected former track is an absolute killer, having no flaws, the standard jazz approach, coupled with really 'square' Rock 'n' Roll (in its embryonic form), which is used in the first and the third section of the latter, is something, okay, unexpected, compared to the rest of the piece, let alone the entire material. The second longest track, Turning My Head, would be another standout from a viewpoint of intricate progressive music. While never really bombastic or fast, this piece is pure magic to my taste, combining such seemingly incompatible directions as Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion one on the hand and Avant-garde and Classical academic music on the other, though of course, the first and the latter genres are both based on the same, symphonic harmony. Finally Blue Sun comes across as a little concerto for (both direct and quasi) flute improvisations to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar, which in turn is carefully composed throughout.
Conclusion. The tracks with a melody laid on top and those more challenging ones usually strictly alternate with each other, but all without exception (yes, save the two episodes on Stumpy Shuffle) possess some wonderful charm, regardless of their complexity level. Very highly recommended, with no reservations.
VM: July 27, 2007
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