3rd: Better Late... came out 11 years after these demo recordings were made, hence the second part of the album's title. As for the first part, these home sessions were conducted to put Happy the Man's third LP into pre-production. In the meantime, punk and disco discouraged record labels to pursue their contracts with progressive rock bands and Arista Records dropped the group. If the tapes are crude at times (some hiss, some distortion), sound quality is maintained at a respectable level. This is not the band's best material, but then again, it might have evolved before reaching the final stage -- a piece or two might even have been dropped. Still, it makes a worthy follow-up to Crafty Hands. The writing remains complex, polyphonic, counterpuntal. There is a bit more fusion than before. Tracks like "The Falcon," "Who's in Charge Here?," and "Shadow Shaping" (the latter very Gentle Giant-esque) are genuine Happy the Man. New drummer Coco Roussel (also featured on the Cuneiform release Live) brings more subtle percussion work, while Kit Watkins and Stanley Whitaker play better than ever. Don't get turned off by the discouraging artwork: this is strong Happy the Man material, even though newcomers should begin with the band's two original albums.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture