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National Health - National Health CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.13 | 395 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars National Health were something of a Canterbury supergroup that came together at a very dark time for progressive music. Curiously, their music is some of the finest, most hard-hitting and entrancing that the Canterbury scene produced. Perhaps its that air of desperation and, well, abject poverty that inspired them.

The original conception of the band had two guitarists, two keyboardists and three female vocalists. By the time they had made their first album, second guitarist Phil Lee and second keyboardist Alan Gowen had jumped ship, and only Amanda Parsons remained from the vocal trio. Gowen, at least, has an extended guest-role on the album, providing some of their sound with the original musical meat. He largely plays Fender-Rhodes and Moog, acting as a foil to the incomparable Dave Stewart and his Hammond and acoustic piano.

The sound, while obviously building on previous developments in Hatfield and the North, also offers something new. The band were attempting a curious blend of 20th Century classical compositional techiques (inspired by Stravinsky and the like), applying them to jazz-rock structures and arriving at a most vital mix that approaches "third stream jazz", albeit minus the orchestrations. There is the tendency to get a bit longwinded at times, but for the most part this is quite fantastic stuff. High point is "Tenemos Roads", which features an enormously propulsive momentum. Stewart's great "fuzz organ" moment occurs in "Borogoves (Part 1)". Some of the band's trickiest time changes crop up in the lengthy "Elephants", which also features a rather disturbing distorto-electric-piano intro from Gowen.

This album is a slow grower, not one that the listener will immediately fall in love with, but is definitely worthwhile to the serious Canterbury fan. Definitely a worthwhile addition to the comprehensive prog-rock collection.

Progbear | 4/5 |


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