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National Health - D.S. Al Coda CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

3.33 | 77 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars After composer and virtuoso keyboardist Alan Gowen died of leukemia in 1981, National Health briefly reformed to record an album of his compositions. D.S. AL CODA is the result, and it's a very pleasant album to listen to, but less idiosyncratic than the Health's earlier studio albums (NATIONAL HEALTH and OF QUEUES AND CURES). In fact, the sound of D.S. AL CODA has more in common with the 'symphonic fusion' of bands like Bruford than with classic Canterbury style(s), which should come as no surprise, since N.H. keyboardist Dave Stewart had just spent several years recording and touring with Bruford himself. Whether you enjoy this particular album will therefore depend, to a large extent, on the way you see Bruford's FEELS GOOD TO ME and ONE OF A KIND. On at least five of D.S. AL CODA's tracks, you'll hear Phil Miller play a clarion-like, almost Holdsworthian kind of lead guitar, on top of Stewart's orchestral synths; furthermore, even drummer Pip Pyle grabs the chance to execute a number of Bruford-style drum rolls.

The main problem with this album is that Alan Gowen's melodies are never quite as catchy as Bruford's - with the exception, perhaps, of 'Toad of Toad Hall', the final track, which sounds exceedingly lovely. At times Gowen's tunes simply get on my nerves: the album's opening track, 'Portrait of a Shrinking Man', for example, is generic jazz-rock; and the chime-like main theme of 'Shining Water' gets repeated a few dozen times too often. But D.S. AL CODA also has its strengths, not the least of which are the angelic voices of Amanda Parsons and Barbara Gaskin, as well as the delightful flute of Jimmy Hastings, which provides many of the album's most lyrical moments. Apart from these, I greatly enjoyed Miller's eloquent guitar solos and the many delightful passages where Dave Stewart's electric piano duets with John Greaves' bass.

Since it is atypical, D.S. AL CODA cannot be a first recommendation for Hatfield and the North/National Health newcomers, but all the musicianship is first-rate, and the album will be of more than passing interest to anyone already familiar with the Canterbury Scene. Three and a half stars.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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