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The Guggenheim Grotto - Happy the Man

Happy the Man

The Guggenheim Grotto

Available from

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I reviewed this tremendously refined trio's last CD here and was greatly relieved to find them still around for a new release. With the kill rate in this industry, one never knows how briefly such truly great combos will last, and there was just no way Guggenheim Grotto was going to produce anything less than a marvelous follow-up. That, deliriously, is exactly what happened. Happy the Man is another wonder from three master craftsmen.

True pop, not as a vague generality for chart music but as a legitimate genre with defined perimeters and cognizable attributes, is difficult to find in a zenith statement, but no sooner does the brief intro flow into Fee Da Da Dee than you know you're in for a treat. These guys have a sense of arrangement that stands with the best the mode can offer—smooth, lush, joyous, and completely captivating. With minimal session players, they've issued a collection that stands in its own way with The Buggles, Talk Talk, Barnaby Bye, McCartney's best, and a scad of other luminaries.

There's also a stateliness to Happy the Man that makes it subtly progressive, sometimes overtly so, as in Sunshine Makes Me High, a kind of prime Beatles / Move cut that builds into grand crescendos. In fact, GG crafts many sections and songs in much the fashion the high-period Beatles (Sgt Pepper*s, etc.) did, as in elements of Just Not Just, exquisitely subordinating them into new manifestations within a completely different context. That switches over, however, to their own insightful idiosyncracies in Oh Nikita with its calmly wrenching "Oh Nikita / come and get me / I'm almost 30", mindful of an aging post-Gen X looking at the oncoming prospect of being the new Baby Boomers.

The more I hear of these guys, the more I'm convinced they're imbued with that rare genius which strikes only just so often, as in the excellences of, as I mentioned, Talk Talk type ensembles…only these cats don't need a Tim Friese-Greene as a bolster because they are that influence. It's going to be very very difficult to find a CD to match or top this one on its own grounds.

Track List:

  • Intro
  • Fee Da Da Dee
  • Her Beautiful Ideas
  • Everyman
  • Sunshine Makes Me High (Kevin May)
  • The Girl with the Cards
  • Just Not Just (Kevin May)
  • Oh Nikita
  • From the Attic
  • Lost Forever And
  • The Dragon
  • Heaven Has a Heart (Kevin May)
All songs written by Kevin May and Mick Lynch except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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