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National Health - National Health CD (album) cover

NATIONAL HEALTH

National Health

 

Canterbury Scene

4.12 | 383 ratings

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Groucho Barks
5 stars Being a closet Canterbury scene fan for more years than I care to recall, I am more and more drawn to National Health and this their first album. 1978 was never going to be a great year to release such an eclectic set....very Canterbury, very prog/fusion and even an ethereal feel with Amanda Parsons ur-scat vocals giving it a then contemporary Kate Bush edge. There is nothing concise or danceable here....well, it depends on how you dance I guess! There is a lot in common with Pierre Moerlens Gong and mid to late 70's Soft Machine and while you get a hint of Caravan (not in the sustained melodic passages sense) and the compositional twists and turns of Egg, I do feel it is the extended use of Parsons vox that gives this an anchor and also something to differentiate from the rest of the bands in the Cant. scene. 5 tracks and a near 50 mins, although it is a 50 mins that is utilised to the full. Very little noodling for the sake of ......even allowing for the adept musicianship on show. They are not afraid to utilise a heavier King Crimson groove at the start of 'Tenemos Roads' (which later on has echos of ELP)and any band with 2 keyboard players are going to go through the whole prog gamut of sound although mellotron is absent and while being firmly based in a prog/classical style, I can hear a sound not dissimilar to Herbie Hancock post Headhunters especially at the start of 'Elephants.' You also get a feel of Hamburger Concerto Focus (marvellous!) but the album is more than a sum total of these parts and influences. It is mood music, providing you can change moods several times over the 50 mins, but it keeps coming back to the oft ignored contributions of Amanda Parsons superb voice. As mentioned earlier....but Parsons is a far superior singer....you do get the Kate Bush colour wash but without the strained piping screech. Phil Miller provides both cutting and smooth jagged scale interludes on guitar without falling for McLaughlin speed freakery and Neil Murray (yes he who went on to Whitesnake err fame!) gives us non- blues/rock bass figures from jazz rock slides to a rolling punching foundation for the heavier passages. It's an album I can always lose myself in and it has grown on me (I confess over 35 years!) to be at the top of the sub genre. Although it isnt perfect it is certainly at least a 4.75 stars so rounded up to 5.
Groucho Barks | 5/5 |

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