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Happy Rhodes—Rearmament


Release info:

1992—Aural Gratification— AGCD0011 [CD]

Originally released in 1986 on tape


See Auntie Social Music—Happy Rhodes' Official website for current availability

Ecto priority:

Very high. (

Group members:

Happy Rhodes

Produced by:

Pat Tessitore and Happy Rhodes


Perhaps Happy's weakest album, but songs such as "'Til the Dawn Breaks" (as well as several others) makes this album well worth getting. (

Favourite songs: "'Til the dawn breaks", "The issue is", "Baby don't go", "Ally Ally Oxenfree". Hmm, I was getting ready to really trash this album, that seems neither here nor there, but looking at the list of songs that are on it made me change my mind. There is definitely something missing from this effort, but I cannot figure out what. I would most certainly not start from this one. (

My favorite song here is the CD bonus "Be Careful What You Say." Of the original tracks, it took me a lot of thought to come up with a somewhat limp endorsement of "Rhodes Waltz." I feel less enthusiasm about recommending this disc than her others, simply because I'm not turned on by any of its selections to the same degree as I am by selected tracks on the others. "Be Careful" is actually pretty good, but it was only added to the album years after the first edition arrived on Earth. (

Rearmament delves deeper into the realm of synthesized sound, with lyrics similar in subject matter and scope to Rhodes I and II. There are one or two songs here that could better have been left out, but as a whole the album is a meaningful progression from her earlier work. Amidst dark and sometimes suicidal themes are some more optimistic moments. Musically, Rhodes shows some of her influences here (Peter Gabriel and Yes, to name two), and she explores the depths and peaks of her four-octave range, often simultaneously on multiple vocal tracks—Kate Bush and Annie Lennox have never sung a duet, but the world need look no farther to hear how that would sound. (

It's not that this is a bad album, by any means; it's just that I find it to be a little less consistent than the rest. I adore "Perfect Irony"[1], "I Am A Legend"[1] (which mirrors my sentiments about myself exactly :)), and "Be Careful What You Say". "'Til The Dawn Breaks" has some evocative fact, the entire album is fascinating and worthwhile lyrically. It's just that the music seemed a little less memorable and spot-on this time around. I expect the album to grow on me as I listen to it more and more. (

I haven't listened to this much since I got it (I have to be careful of Happy overload), but I noticed that there is more synthesizer and odder melodies, lyrically her twisted sense of humor is emerging in all its glory. (

Count me in as another Rearmament lover. My especial favorite song is "'Til The Dawn Breaks." Ga! indeed! Listen to that late at night with headphones on and the lights down. Chills city!
     Whenever I'm forced upon pain of death to list most to least favorite Happy albums, it always gets put next to last (with Rhodes II always coming in last) only because of the songs "Box H.A.P." and "The Issue Is" which are among my least favorite Happy songs[2]. It's not fair to make me put anything on or near the bottom though, because I dearly dearly love Rearmament and Rhodes II, and both albums have some of my all-time favorite Happy songs on them.
     Rearmament also has my favorite Happy cover (those are Happy's eyes, by the way) and my favorite color scheme because so many of the songs have a very silver and black "quality" to them. I can't explain that :-). I also visualize crystal when I think of that album. Not crystals as in New Age power-stuff, but crystal-clear glass. Partially because of the song "Crystal Orbs" but also because it's an intensely personal album (as are all the others, of course) with a very clear view of her heart and soul.
     Of the 1st 4 CDs, this is the one that I wish she hadn't included a bonus track on. "Dreams Are" is such a very perfect ending to this album, and I still have never gotten used to how jarring "Be Careful What You Say"[2] sounds, tacked on to the end. I'd say the same for "When The Rain Came Down" and "Look For The Child" tacked onto the end of Ecto (yes, newer fans, that album used to end with "To Be E. Mortal"), but I like those songs better. And of course, I'm happy to have all 3 on CD. Still....
     Happy did a lot of synth experimentation on this album and not everything is successful to everyone. To this day, I still hate the glub-glub synth sound of "The Issue Is" and the farty makes-me-want-to-scratch-my-eyeballs-out synth sound of "Box H.A.P." and I almost always skip them when I listen to the album. I think it's those 2 songs that keep Rearmament from being my very favorite Happy album. It's a shame, because I really do love everything else about those particular songs, the voices, the music and the lyrics (especially "Box H.A.P." which I'd *love* to hear done just once with a different arrangement, such as swirly violins and cellos. That's one of Happy's best songs, lyrically, im ny opinion, and it's brilliant how the background voice responds to and questions the foreground voice.)
     Also, "'Til the dawn breaks" really is one of my all-time favorite Happy songs. Have you ever listened to it on headphones? If not, try it a few times. Just concentrate on nothing but the song, the way it slowly builds and progresses, the way Happy uses first her high and then her low voice, alternating between the two, singing enigmatic lyrics which are creepy and comforting at the same time. It's one of those songs that, on casual listenings, seems fairly simple, but then one day out of the blue it just smacks you upside the soul, and you'll never hear it the same way again. To my ears it's one of Happy's most triumphant accomplishments. It's so powerful, it never fails to give me goosebumps or at least a shiver or two.
     Maybe it's just because I love thunderstorms :-).
     yes, Rearmament is a work of wonder, containing many songs I could not imagine ever doing without. (

I'm less annoyed by the cheesy synths than some people are. I guess it's because I spent the better part of the '80s listening to all sorts of even cheesier synth sounds and actively liking them. Now, some of the songs on Rearmament are a little too unnatural sounding even for me, but for the most part Happy's early dabblings with synthesizers don't bother me too much. (

There are still a bunch of us who don't consider "Be Careful What You Say" to be part of Rearmament. In fact, it *really* doesn't fit in with the rest of the album. Mind you, I don't want to sound like I'm kvetching *too* much. I'm grateful for any tidbit that Happy's willing to throw our way, and I'm further grateful, 6.5 years down the line, that she was willing to put bonus tracks on the CDs we fought so hard for in the first place!
     I used to speak of Rearmament as my fave of the 1st4. "Baby Don't Go," I still think, is one of Happy's most powerful pieces, both musically and lyrically. It just doesn't got too much better than that. Well, unless it's "Given In." Or "Possessed". Or...oh, never mind.
     The point is that I absolutely love Rearmament, and have since the day I got it in January of '91.
     Yes, "'Til the Dawn Breaks" was one of my early favorites, and remains so.(

I have ALL her CDs and the bottom of the pile for me has always been Rearmament which is considered by a number of folks here to be the apex of Happy's work. Like you understated, tastes vary. (

my favourite is definitely Rearmament.
     However it seems that most people consider this to be the least accomplished album from Happy, and I just can't understand why. Perhaps it's because to me Happy's strongest songs are those where she lets her vocals shine, while others prefer the studio polish of later albums. My fave Happy tracks on Rearmament are "I Am A Legend", "Friend You'll Be", "The Issue Is", "Dreams Are", "I Have A Heart", "Because I Learn", "Baby Don't Go" and "Be Careful What You Say". These are all among my favourite Happy songs period, and as far as I can see they don't suffer at all in comparison—they are rhythmic yet melodic, deep yet buoyant, and all overlaid with Happy's fantastic vocals. Am I the only one who feels that Rearmament is *clearly* the highlight of Happy's early (pre-Warpaint) career?
     If you like Happy's acoustic side, I would suggest that Rearmament would be an excellent choice for your next purchase, because despite its mostly electronic nature, I feel it is spiritually the closest to The Keep, in that the songs exist more as single entities than as step-by-step creations (what I'm guessing you might have disliked in Many Worlds are Born Tonight). Rearmament is also her most emotional album, which is highlighted by her best vocals—an aspect that has become less distinct recently because of studio wizardry.
     I'm saying this as someone who also felt absolute awe on first hearing the acoustic "Temporary And Eternal", because I find the most similar moments occur on Rearmament—the emotive power-balladry (as it should be) of "'Til The Dawn", the nervous wail of "The Issue Is", the gauzy atmosphere of "Dreams Are", the sheer beauty of "I Have A Heart", the embittered yet wondrous harmonies of "Because I Learn", and the haunting pull of "Baby Don't Go". There are a few mistakes ("Box H.A.P." perhaps), but the highs are so amazingly high that it doesn't even matter.
     Note that I am largely biased.... (

Though I have to admit that until now I never really could get into Rearmament; it was my least favourite Happy album and I didn't play it that often. But I just started listening to it again this week, putting it on repeat, and now it's rapidly growing on me. I'm especially surprised at how well Happy's voice in its total range is featured on this album and how beautiful some of the vocal arrangements are. I never really noticed that before. :-)
     So Rearmament is still growing on me. I think the reason why I didn't like it is the sound of the keyboards. I don't know how to explain that in English, but for me there is something irritating about that sound which distracts me from the music. Also, "'Til the dawn breaks" somehow got on my nerves—still does a little bit, but it's getting less. Now, after repeated listening to it I seem to get used to it or get past it, and I'm discovering the beauty of the songs more and more... :-)
     I wouldn't think of Rearmament as a good place for the more acoustic Happy sound. Maybe I should add that for me 'acoustic' is like, 'unplugged'... as in songs with an acoustic guitar or piano. And while for me "For we believe" is one of the most beautiful acoustic Happy songs, the other songs on Rearmament are much more keyboard oriented, even though the arrangements are quite sparse and it's not as fully instrumented as for example on Warpaint. (Marion)

Just would like to add my vote for Rearmament as fave Happy album, always has been. Didn't get a chance to respond to that thread earlier. (

Rearmament is growing on me; I love the hook of "Perfect Irony," and "'Til the Dawn Breaks" is very sad and moving. I like the sinister outlook of the character singing "Come Here." Can you imagine singing this as a lullaby to your kid?! ;-) Parental abuse, that... I find the hook of "The Issue Is" *way* too similar to the hook of "Not for Me."
     Happy abandons her monsters. Happy arms herself to face more personal and realistic issues. Happy discovers a drum machine. These are some of the ideas that pop into my head now when I think of Rearmament, but none of them are really quite true and definitely none of them summarize this album. Just like Rhodes I & II, I *seriously* underestimated this album on all levels when I first heard it. It's been pointed out before the many differences between the first four albums and those that followed, but the more I listen to Happy's catalogue, the more I'm realizing there's another difference to add: the first four albums, while perhaps not revealing the intricacies in arrangements as Many Worlds Are Born Tonight, are immensely more rewarding to the persistent listener. Melodies that seemed simple and/or redundant take their time to wrap themselves around your brain; once familiar, it's hard to believe they were once so easily dismissed. And while I once regarded Rhodes I & II and Rearmament as simple building-blocks to the music that Happy produces now, I now understand how solid they are in their own right.
     "Perfect Irony" must've been, at its time, the most intricately-arranged song of Happy's short career. Aside from the introduction of the obvious drum machine (which even today doesn't sound dated to me), and the up-front vocals and keyboard sounds, there are probably two other layers of keyboards (including a constant organ hum in the background) as well as a guitar line hidden here and there. It's thick but roomy, and this is one of Happy's first catchy tunes; and although I miss exactly what is ironic in the lyrics (except in the first verse), I like how darkly humorous this song is. And anyone who loves the odd drum arrangement and twangy guitar of this song should be encouraged to check out Sam Phillips' 1987 The Turning, recently re-released on CD, which features several excellent songs having this arrangement approach.
     Happy affects a new self-confidence in "For We Believe" ("On the edge is where we play / Where we run, others delay") and "I Am Legend" ("Make me a legend in all your minds"). It's a nice contrast to the mournfulness that was abundant on her first two discs. Musically, though, "For We Believe" sounds lifted from the Rhodes I&II sessions (not a bad thing!). "I Am a Legend" first put me off a bit, especially the "poo on you" line, but I'm beginning to realize there's a subtle anger behind that sweet voice. And I can't hear this song without thinking of Annie Lennox's "Legend in My Living Room," which is thematically similar.
     "'Til the Dawn Breaks" is simply beautiful and haunting; I love the waltzy 6/8 timing and pretty melody (minuses for the low-fi thunderstorm, though). "The Issue Is" is so good on so many levels to me, and yet it is consistently hindered (to me) by the fact that Happy used the same hook and echo approach previously on "Not for Me." Otherwise, this song is beautiful and haunting. I like the heartbeat-like keyboard sound, and the lyrics are intriguing: Happy's references to steel remind me both of someone being armed for battle ("He lives by steel..."), which would also seem to echo the title and cover of the album; conversely, the references to steel could be alluding to someone dying, lying with a bullet inside them ("He lies with steel pieces in his arm") or being kept alive by hospital machinery ("They breathe by steel"). Obviously, this song has struck a chord with my imagination. ;-)
     "Friend You'll Be" sounds like it would be at home on Warpaint or even Equipoise. It shows Happy progressing slightly from her simple A/B arrangements on past songs. But the album falters a bit for me beginning with "Dreams Are," which seems melodically lacking and uninteresting for the most part; it might not be so unbearable if it wasn't so long, and I'm beginning to notice a tendency in myself to dislike any of Happy's songs that feature her speaking or whispering. Guess it's a personal issue. "Box H.A.P." doesn't make up for the lackluster "Dreams Are," especially with its (as one Ectophile described it) farty keyboards. Lyrically it picks up the thread from "I Am a Legend," and also seems to be somewhat of a precursor to "Collective Heart." The call-and-response technique is interesting.
     "I Have a Heart" is simple and pleasantly Rhodes-esque, while ultimately tender and heart-breaking. "Why do you love, weak little thing?" is one of those simple yet striking lyrical lines that I admire Happy for. The album picks up even more with "Crystal Orbs" (which, to my ear, is perhaps one of Happy's first uses of a vocoder for the warped-vocal lines like "I am here and will be addressing you only"). And "Because I Learn" has been a favorite of mine since Rhodesongs, and like "I Am a Legend," a sweet voice and melody mask a certain lyrical anger and defiance.
     Right now one of the greatest highlights for me on this album is "Baby Don't Go." I love the back-and-forth lead vocal arrangement; the melody is quite beautiful. And my theory is that this song is picking up on the self-awareness and inner strength of previous songs to the point that Happy is actually singing this to herself: "Wake and arise, defiant one, time for you to be who you are."
     I don't have anything noteworthy to say about "Rhodes Waltz" or "Ally Ally Oxenfree," although I love the hide-and-go seek metaphor of the latter, as well as the breathy voice which I haven't heard Happy use before or since.
     There are pluses and minuses to the presence of "Be Careful What You Say" on this album. It's an excellent song; it's catchy and infinitely superior in arrangement to anything else on the album. So, basically, good as it is, it sticks out like a sore thumb and casts a shadow over what has come before. Whenever I hear it, I equate it as more of a Warpaint bonus track (albeit more upbeat than most of the songs on that album), and would rather consider "Ally Ally Oxenfree" as a better and more fitting closing to Rearmament. Still, I love the song.
     As a whole, Rearmament is a good album, and displays more consistency than Happy's first two albums. Its only drawbacks are the fact that, while the album has several great cuts, it doesn't have that one "killer" track (like Rhodes I's "Wretches" and Rhodes II's "Not for Me") that reaches out and grabs me. On the other hand, it's nice to have an album where several songs are vying for creative superiority; it creates a nice melodic plateau that is maintained throughout most of this album.
     Grade: B+. Best cuts: 1. "Perfect Irony"; 2. "Be Careful What You Say"; 3. "Baby Don't Go"; 4. "'Til the Dawn Breaks"; 5. "The Issue Is". Least favorite cut: "Dreams Are". (Patrick)

I *love* Rearmament! "Because I Learn" is one of my very fave Happy trax. I love Rearmament more than Warpaint. (

This is MY favorite Happy album! I love them all, but I agree as well that Rearmament is the BEST of the early Happy material. All the songs are just to DIE for! "Til the Dawn Breaks", "The Issue Is", "Baby Don't Go", "Be Careful What you Say", "Crystal Orbs", the WHOLE ALBUM! I agree that this album DID indeed showcase her AMAZING voice much better than some of her other albums. I LOVE the early electronic material, as well as the acoustic. Rearmament gave the perfect blend of both. And in past Rhodeways [former Happy Rhodes fan magazine] reader surveys, Rearmament was always voted for in the top 3 favorite albums. (

I meant to mention "'Til the dawn breaks" recently when someone listed their favourite Rearmament tracks and managed to cover half the album, but leave "'Til the dawn breaks" out... I was dumbstruck, 'cause it's SOOO wonderful and I couldn't imagine it not being on peoples' lists...I guess it goes to show how many different ways Happy's music appeals.
     "'Til the dawn breaks" is definitely one of my favourite Happy songs (of any album); one of those that makes it just about impossible to do anything but stop and listen, whenever it plays. (

I just Love "'Til the dawn breaks", one of my all-time faves. Much has been said about its emotional/musical merits already, so I have one more facet to point out.
     Those of us fortunate to have Dolby Pro Logic should be aware that the first three Happy Rhodes discs actually decode. I know Pat didn't plan it, and it's kind of a random phase anomaly, but listening to this track in surround mode is awesome! The thunder peals from all around.... (

Rearmament's always been my favorite of Happy's earlier work. For me, she hadn't yet found her songwriting legs (there's an image) in the first two, and there's something about Ecto that mostly doesn't grab me. Ecto's probably the album I return to least, next to Building The Colossus. Rearmament, II, and Warpaint are the ones I get the most use out of. (

"'TIl The Dawn Breaks" brings tears of joy to my eyes.
     Yes, the canned synth "keyboards" and "claps" do get in the way.
     But, if I had to throw away all of my CDs, and could only keep a few songs, "'TIl The Dawn Breaks" would most definitely be one of them. (

Happy Rhodes' recordings:

The main Happy Rhodes page


1Singing along with Happy on these tracks is pure ecstasy. (

2 I do love the lyrics and Happy's voice on these songs. (

Thanks to Philip Sainty for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2008-07-13 17:51:20.
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