FRANK WYATT & FRIENDS – ZEITGEIST – INDEPENDENT
When Frank Wyatt was diagnosed with cancer, it led him to think he ought to release at least one more album, and for the assistance, he turned back to his old friends. This means that on this album we have everyone who played on Happy The Man’s debut from 1977 (plus everyone who was there at the time of their last release ‘The Muse Awakens’ in 2004), every player from Pedal Giant Animals’ 2006 album plus everyone from Oblivion Sun’s 2013 release ‘The High Places’ as well as a few other guests. The album took far longer to come together than was originally expected, as not only did many people live in different states, but Wyatt had to keep undergoing treatments. However, as Wyatt puts it “The album’s concept turned into a sort of ‘goodbye, or one last swing at it’ as I had been diagnosed with the big ‘C’ and told I was short on time. I had no idea the project would take so long! I’m five years out of warranty now and still kicking. Perhaps the project has been what’s kept me going; I’ve been too stubborn to give up on completing it. I plan more work already… music is great medicine.”
Happy The Man was undoubtedly one of the most important progressive bands to come out of America in the late Seventies, mixing influences from the likes of Genesis, Yes and Gentle Giant with more jazzlike tendencies and often producing albums which were mostly instrumental. Needless to say, given how virtually everyone on this recording has been involved with keyboard player Frank Wyatt and guitarist/vocalist Stan Whitaker during their long musical journey together, one would expect this to be somewhat similar, and it is. I still remember hearing Happy The Man’s ‘The Muse Awakens’ where I said “it is hard to believe that this is prog from America as it definitely belongs at home in the UK – with the way that it switches both tempo and melody reminiscent of a style of prog music that virtually no-one plays anymore. Mostly it is relaxing, almost soothing, but at no time it can be said to be simple background music as there is just so much going on.” I could have left it there without the speech marks as all those words apply to this album as well. There are some pieces where we have some wonderful piano and keyboard interplay, others where there is a great deal of complexity, others where there are lush vocals, and others where there is none.
This is a soaring, wonderful, glorious progressive rock that embraces the genre without trying to become anything it is not. This is not neo-prog, or prog metal or any of those sorts of things, but rather American polished progressive rock which looked firmly across the Atlantic for influences more than 40 years ago and is still doing so today. This album is superb in every way and should be in every progressive rock lover’s collection.
8/10 Kev Rowland