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


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.26 | 372 ratings

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4 stars The last of the Canterbury supergroups, National Health played the sort of engaging sophisticated jazz-rock that one would expect from a group comprising Dave Stewart, Phil Miller and Pip Pyle (that's three-quarters of Hatfield And The North right there) as well as bassist John Greaves. Although at times it threatens to get a little too pristine for my tastes, and it isn't always easy for a band to hold one's attention throughout the course of a lengthy album of mainly instrumental proggy jazz, I believe Of Queues And Cures to be the last great Canterbury album.

The superb opening piece The Bryden 2-Step For Amphibians (Part 1) has a killer quintessentially Canterbury melody and sees the whole band in great form. The lads don't let up throughout this record. As I'm a fan of keyboardist Dave Stewart, his contributions tend to leap out at me, but guitarist Miller and Greaves (for an excellent closing solo) deserve an honourary mention too. The playing and composition really is top-notch and super-tight.

And really this whole album is strong. The Collapso a formidably quirky, technically demanding piece (with some steel drums thrown in one point) and the initially brooding, ultimately sizzling Squarer For Maud (with half-audible poetry, some fantastic solo-ing from Miller and Stewart and a really jarring last minute) is another standout piece. Dreams Wide Awake boasts both fiery jazz-rock and a funky, almost dance-able groove. I think it may just be my favourite track here, actually. Really teaches Weather Report a thing or two!

Binoculars is the only proper vocal song, and Greaves' crooning really has me wishing for either Richard Sinclair or Robert Wyatt, but the defining moments on this song are a glorious epic flute solo that starts off as all meandering and flighty before leading the band through a storming section, a moody brassy section that would have done King Crimson proud and a soaring Phil Miller solo to round it all off. Phlakaton is a real curiousity, even for a Canterbury band. It lasts all of 8 seconds and sounds like a unused vocal track from the Comus album First Utterance. This brief pagan diversion leads into The Bryden 2-Step For Amphibians (Part 2) which offers some nice menacing organ-led jazz-rock and a restatement of the wonderful melody from Part 1 to round the album off.

Musically, National Health is at least the equal of many of the groups that preceeded it, but I do feel that it does lack a little bit of the warmth that most of them exuded. Perhaps the musicians themselves struggled with the fact that it had all been done before ... primarily by themselves! National Health is an absolute must for Canterbury fans, and perhaps not really a bad introduction to the Canterbury world (especially for fusion afficionados). ... 76% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |


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