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National Health - Of Queues And Cures CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.26 | 377 ratings

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4 stars By the late 1970s, Progressive Rock had become high art, some say to its detriment. Though I can't agree with that sardonic view, Canterbury fellows National Health were an excellent example of that ambition and high-mindedness, and the timing could not have been worse. Founder/organist Dave Stewart says in his notes; " the exact point when the British rock business and media were beginning to turn their backs on decent music and gearing themselves up to promote instead some of the most crass, simplistic, brutal, ugly and stupid music imaginable, in an atmosphere where an admitted inability to play one's instrument was hailed as a sign of genius, my friend/fellow keyboardist Alan Gowen and I decided to form a large scale rock ensemble playing intricate, mainly instrumental music. You can be sure we weren't doing it to be fashionable". You tell 'em, Dave.

After a luke-warm tour supporting Steve Hillage in the spring of 1978, the group had developed new material and began recording. Though this band's first self-titled album is considered more important, 'Of Queues and Cures' is superior in composition. Not truly a concept album but musical themes appear throughout this perfectly recorded set of seven originals beginning with 'The Bryden 2-Step' and Stewart's gooey keyboard sounds, picked-up by Phil Miller's cutting guitar, and the crack rhythms of legendary drummer Pip Pyle and bassist John Greaves. Georgie Born's cello, Paul Neiman and Phil Minton's horns add some class to this 9-minute pumper that re-articulates themes with grace, shifting from the softness of Dave's electric piano to some hard-edged jazz rock. 'The Collapso', though amusing, is a quite serious arrangement of guitar harmonies, military marches, nu-jazz and classical lines. Georgie Born's rich, brooding cello opens 'Squarer For Maude' (a performance that cemented her place in the band), eleven minutes of fantastic progressive rock filled with inspired patterns, ingenious constructions, intricate layers, the occasional freak-out, and peppered with great jams and group dynamics. 'Dreams Wide Awake' rocks and features some tasty angles from Dave Stewart's keys as well as the lighter, adult fusion sound the band played with. Also their taste for improvisation with restraint starts to come out here. Twelve-minute epic 'The Binoculars' starts mellow with John Greaves' funny moaning, pastoral sections highlighted by Jimmy Hasting's airy flute, and some dark, symphonic dirge. Part Two of 'Bryden 2-Step' wraps it all up by reprising the original motif, allowing the players one last hurrah.

For music that came out of the Canterbury scene, it didn't get any more sophisticated than National Health and if you're ready for something a bit less in your face than Yes, Tull or Pink Floyd, these fellas might really fit the bill. Nearly gave it five stars, wonderful record.

Atavachron | 4/5 |


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