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National Health

Canterbury Scene

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National Health National Health album cover
4.13 | 465 ratings | 38 reviews | 37% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Tenemos Roads (14:32)
2. Brujo (10:13)
3. Borogoves (excerpt from Part Two) (4:12)
4. Borogoves (Part One) (6:29)
5. Elephants (14:32)

Total Time 49:58

Line-up / Musicians

- Phil Miller / guitars
- Dave Stewart / acoustic & electric pianos, organ, clavinet (3,4)
- Neil Murray / bass
- Pip Pyle / drums, gong, tambourine, glockenspiel (2,5), finger cymbals, shaker, bells, pixiphone (5)

- Amanda Parsons / vocals
- Alan Gowen / Moog, acoustic & electric pianos
- Jimmy Hastings / flute, bass clarinet (1), clarinet (3,4)
- John Mitchell / percussion (1), temple blocks, guava (2), congas (3,4)
- Nick Levitt / effects with EMS Synthi Hi-Fli (5)

Releases information

Recorded Feb.-March 1977, released Feb. 1978

Artwork: Laurie Lewis (photo)

LP Affinity - AFF 6 (1978, UK)
LP Visa Records - IMP 7002 (1978, US)
LP Get Back - GET 568 (2000, Italy)

CD Decal - CD LIK 66 (1997, UK)
CD Arcàngelo ‎- ARC-7040 (2003, Japan)
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC2129 (2009, UK) 24-bit remaster by Paschal Byrne

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy NATIONAL HEALTH National Health Music

NATIONAL HEALTH National Health ratings distribution

(465 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(37%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (15%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

NATIONAL HEALTH National Health reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lor68
4 stars Well the recording is weak, but this album as a debut within the important 70's fusion progressive scene in the UK, regarding of the early school of Canterbury,was the introduction of a new shining star. After them, bands such as the excellent HATFIELD & THE NORTH or the raw but interesting ensemble of MATCHING MOLE, established the direction within the school of Canterbury!!


Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

I bet more than one expecting fans got surprised by this release, promised for two years and never getting close to studios and shop. Indeed quite a lot of water went under the bridge from the formation of NH in late 75 as a sextet. With Bruford now gone and Campbell discouraged, both replaced, the two Gilgamesh members Gowan and Lee were also history, although the former is a guest on all tracks. Among the other guest are the frequent blows of Brother Jimmy Hastings, the percussions of John Mitchell and the vocals of ex-Northette Amanda Parsons. The latter is unfortunately the main flaw of this album (IMHO), because I find her voice particularly irksome especially in the aerial wordless scats that abound in the album. Coming with a typical semi-humoristic late 70's-type of artwork depicting UK healthcare problems, the album holds four tracks over 10 mins+, even if Borogroves is divided in two movements, thus making indeed a fifth one.

Opening o the promising Tenemos Road, the group's musical world clearly takes from where Hatfield (and Gilgamesh to a lesser extent) had left things off and everything is quite excellent until Parsons' voice enters for thankfully-short interventions, but the track jumps hurdles effortlessly and gets back to typical Canterbury soundscapes. The following Brujos starts poorly at first (IMHO) and very slowly, Hastings' delightful flute trading licks with Parsons' almost Chinese-timbred voice, the track slowly gaining momentum until reaching an excellent funk groove where the two keyboards feud with the then-ala mode synth tones that haven't aged that well, until Stewart returns to the fuzzed-out Hammond then Miller's surprisingly (and short) heroic intervention. Then slowing down and returning on Parsons scats and a short rebuff to end the first side.

The flipside starts on the first part of Borogroves, which is part of the original second movement, while the second part was originally the first part?.. you following me?? Doesn't matter I'm not either ;o))), the first (or second, depending) movement is mostly an excuse for an excellent bass movement from Neil Murray where the rest of the band can show their chops. The closing monster track Elephants has some incredibly intense moments, but in general it follows the colour of the rest of the album, first with an ascending riff, then a funky groove and then a haunting piano riff that allows the group to strut their stuff without showing off, before Parsons returning with sung but unintelligible (and irritable) vocals. Elephants is a Gowan piece that he would eventually take with him in Soft Heap

While it was rather clear that this kind of ultra-technical jazz-rock's heydays were long past, NH's debut is still very much an excellent example of the genre, despite the irritating Par(kin)sons vocal effects. Definitely not a flawless albums and certainly no better than the two Hatfield albums despite increased individual virtuoso qualities, NH's debut is the first album of Canterbury's last legendary group (at least of the 70's).

Review by Prognut
4 stars Not a Masterpiece, but definitively essential work!! I guess if your pleasure is strictly Jazz look elsewhere.... These guys played Progressive-Rock with Jazz "oriented" melodies, and have all the complex signatures of the finest Canterbury Bands of all times! I find very difficult to classify their style, since they do not strictly speaking stay on one signature for much time, in each cut.

Now, I agree Parsons singing melodies and harmonies sound irritating in the beginning, but IMHO and to my ears this tend to grow on you and actually after few spins you start sensing that they interplay pretty good with the music (anyways they are not to much...) Intricate, complex, fun and mostly Instrumental...all these describes NH music!Soul? Well, that is open to a more broad discussion and interpretation...Not much improv here, but not to tight either, abundant time changes with a very sophisticated use of interplay between band members. Fantastic work and effort!!.. One of my fav bands and ESSENTIAL; then again is just my opinion.

Review by Alucard
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars More is less : Hatfield and the North was an ideal mixture of musicianship, composition, songwriting and a dose of humour. When the project stoped National Health could have been the follow up...but it wasn't. Hatfield was a group, National Health is (mainly) a vehicle for Dave Stewart's compositions.Now, Dave Stewaert is a great composer, but not a great songwriter. On this record there are some very beautiful and delicate pieces of music,('Tenemos Roads' and 'Borogoves' include my favourite) enough to make tons of good songs, but Dave Stewart puts a hundred ideas in one 'Song' and spoils it.There is not enough room to breeze, a claustrophobic record. It is a frustrating record too: Every time I listen to it I get struck by the beauty and in the next moment I get drowned by too much complexity. One of these days I am going to sample my favourite passages and create my own favourite National Health record.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A Review by Rizal B. Prasetijo (27 Jan 08)

As a teenage grew up in Jakarta in late 70s, I witnessed my buddies split into two camps. Those who listened to Prambors Radio (it was broadcasted at 666KHz AM at that time) and El-Shinta Radio (1432KHz AM). The first normally aired the pop, disco, rock, and new wave, while the latter broadcasted the jazzy tunes. Amidst these two camps, I unintentionally heard an interesting genre played by a number of DKSB's (Harry Roesli's Depot Kreasi Seni Bandung) members, when they met at my friend's house in Kebayoran Baru circa 1980. I couldn't tell exactly what kind of music that these gentlemen put forward. It sounded they played jazz, but inserted many musical interludes, exaggerated dynamics to heighten contrast between sections, expanded the timbral palette of their music by adding flute, used poly tempo as well as poly key signatures. In short, it was a jazz with a progressive rock touch.

Fast forward, 27 years later on, my "musical amazing" friend, Gatot W Hidayat, suggested that I might have been hearing the "Canterbury Sound" played by those gentlemen. Eager to understand the genre, I asked Mr. Hidayat to lend me his collections. The first one is the first album of a band founded in 1975 by Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen, the National Health's National Health (Charly Schallplatten GmBH's 1998 CD pressing). The CD sleeve contains useful information. In addition to the band's history and interweaving of its members in the past, John Platt, the sleeve writer, interestingly said that (contrary to what have been written in many literatures), National Health is not a "Canterbury Sound" band, although he mentioned that most of the band's members have played together at various times, along with several other Canterbury related persons. The album consists of five tracks.

The first is the 14:30" "Tenemos Roads". "Tener" in Spanish is a verb with the basic meaning of "to have". It also appears in a number of phrases that show emotion or physical states, expressed by nouns, which in English tend to be expressed by to be and an adjective. Thus, the "Tenemos Roads" in English roughly means "the path or road that National Health has specifically chosen". Indeed the first track shows how the band could arrange a complicated, yet beautiful composition, consisting of a number of interludes. Initiated by 40" dissonance harmony based on Alan Gowen's synthesizer and Dave Stewart's keyboard, the composition gradually took Bill Bruford's drums and Mont Campbell's bass into its liner. Campbell's simple, but appealing crotchet and quaver bass notes in the 4/4 tempo and Stewart's keyboard dominated the beginning of the composition. At 2:36", the band changed its rhythm to jazz rock driven by Campbell's syncopated bass and Bruford's drum for slightly over two minutes. At 4:42", Phil Miller's guitar jazzy tunes painted the composition on the back of Campbell's crotchet and quaver bass notes in the 4/4 tempo. Then, Amanda Parsons' eerie soprano vocal came in at 5:46". Frankly, I was getting lost in the almost seven-minute section as the band played the consonance and dissonance harmony in random, sometimes taking avant garde into its composition. Fortunately, my suffering ended at 12:32" when Campbell's crotchet and quaver bass notes in the 4/4 tempo backed into the scene. The song was ended by an avant garde harmony, a symbolization of National Health's ability in pushing its musical ability to infinity.

The second track is the 10:19" "Brujo", the Spanish's masculine form of "brujería" or "the wizard" in English. Opened up by a soft and peaceful combination of Campbell's bass, Stewart's keyboard, Gowen's synthesizer, Bruford's drum, and Parsons' "la.. la.. la.." soprano vocals for 4:10", I sense the band depicts a wizard is drawing his magic. As he is ready to spell catastrophic mantra, the composition tempo was gradually raised. Then, you could hear beautiful Gowen's legato and glissando synthesizer and Campbell's semiquaver dissonance bass notes. At 6:30", Miller's guitar came in, while Campbell switched into his crotchet and quaver bass notes, but in the 6/8 tempo, describing the wizard spells his disastrous hymn. The composition was ended by poly tempo and the combination of accent and marcato notes, describing how suffering the victim is.

The third and fourth tracks are called "Borogoves (Excerpt from part 2)" and "Borogoves (Part 1). These compositions run at 4:16" and 6:37", respectively. I am not sure why the band put the part 1 after the part 2. I also initially puzzled with these songs' title. Fortunately, the Urban Dictionary ( let me know that the borogoves is slang for a thin, shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round. Using the definition, I use my imagination in interpreting these compositions. The part 2 was initiated by peaceful synthesizer and keyboard, before Campbell's bass and Miller's guitar, played on quarter echo, coming in at 58". I sense this section portrays the borogoves enjoys his quit morning. At 2:30", Miller's guitar turned into rock melodies, symbolizing that the borogoves must leave its nest. Moving to the part 1, by listening to the cheerful consonance harmony composition for the first 3:35", I imagine that the borogoves is flying and cruising happily. Suddenly, Campbell's bass and Stewart's keyboard notes turned dark, depicting the borogoves meets its predator and must slip away. The band smartly describes the intense pursuit by raising tempo and using dissonance harmony. Happily, the borogoves is able to run away, marked by a slowing down in the composition tempo at 6:10".

The last track, the 14:20" "Elephants", is the most difficult composition to be decrypted. It contains at least eight interludes and was initiated by an elephant barking sound generated from Gowen's synthesizer. It was followed by an avant garde dissonance harmony composition, dominated by Gowen's synthesizer. Miller's dissonance rock harmonies came in at 2:05", while Campbell's bass was the background. Stewart's piano and Gowen's glissando synthesizer took over the baton at 3:50" for slightly over three minutes. Then, Campbell's consonance semiquaver bass notes joined Stewart and Gowen at 6:00". The rhythm changed again at 7:18" and, to my surprise, Campbell's crotchet and quaver bass notes in the 4/4 tempo and Parsons' eerie soprano vocal played in the "Tenemos Road" backed into the scene at 7:45". Two more peaceful interludes (9:30"-11:25" and 11:25"-14:20") came in before the song was ended.

Having listened to the National's first album, I really admire Alan Gowen and Dave Stewart's abilities in writing fluid complex compositions (except track #5), although they consisted of many interludes, took both consonance and dissonance harmonies, as well as the usage of variety of key and time signatures. Happy listening!

Best regards, Rizal B. Prasetijo

A Review by Gatot Widayanto Hidayat (6 Aug 2005)

Have you ever enjoyed the music of Hatfield and The North, Egg, Khan, Gong, Steve Hillage? You bet! This album is similar in style with that bands. NATIONAL HEALTH was one of the last of the great "Canterbury-style" progressive rock bands. This band performed the same style of Canterbury Progressive with a heavy influences from jazz, rock, following Hatfield and The North's philosophy, with complex keyboards parts of Dave Stewart combined with the stunning guitar of Phil Miller. The band's eponymous opus is one of the most important albums of the Canterbury scene, containing a unique mixture of rock, jazz and classical music. This is a great collection for Canterbury fans and a rare treat in the spirit of the likes of The Tangent, Spock's Beard, Echolyn or even Gentle Giant.

The Album

"Tenemos Roads" (14:32) opens the album with an ambient keyboard work typical Dave Stewart's style. If you are familiar with KHAN, EGG then you can sense exactly his style of playing. The music moves in crescendo and turns into a more complex arrangement with inventive drum work combined with stunning guitar work by Phil Miller. Amanda Parsons gives her vocal while the music flows wonderfully with excellent passages of electric pianos and guitar. There is a touch of Bill Bruford "Feels Good To Me" music style in this track. "Brujo" (10:13) demonstrates excellent piano solo introduction combined with excellent guitar work. I know that Dave Stewart is from different school with CHICK COREA, but the introduction part of this track is similar with Chick Corea. Again, Amanda Parsons voice gives a music texture of this song especially when she brings in the drum work joining the music. The music moves up into uplifting mood with a shot of electric piano, guitar and inventive bass lines. It's really a very nice composition that blends strong elements of jazz and rock with rapid-fire keyboard punches during rhythm section as well as solo.

"Borogoves (Excerpt from part two)" (4:12) features great bass guitar solo in the middle of the track while electric piano serves as rhythm section. It continues with a stunning guitar solo reminiscent of AL DI MEOLA even though it's not performed is in the same speed like Al Di Meola's "Land of A Midnight Sun" album. "Borogoves (Part one)"(6:29) continues the musical stream of previous track combining keyboard and guitar with more complex improvisation and sudden change to different tempo. The final track "Elephants" (14:32) is at first explorative in nature during the introduction part but it moves into uplifting mood with great guitar and keyboard work. Keyboard work is getting complex and interesting one to enjoy.


This album casts the spirit of Canterbury music that favors those who like this genre or even for those who like Return To Forever of Chick Corea old albums like "The Mad Hatter", "Touchstone" or Al Di Meola solo. If you do not enjoy jazz influences, at least you can enjoy the virtuosity of keyboard work by Dave Stewart or guitar by Phil Miller or Pip Pyle dynamic drumming. Well, basically if you can open your mind for wider prog music selection, this one is an excellent one for your collection. Recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours, GW

Review by Progbear
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.

Review by Raff
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Born from the ashes of the marvellous, though sadly less than successful Hatfield and the North, National Health were the last of the incestuous Canterbury supergroups. Like its predecessor, it featured the amazing talents of keyboardist extraordinaire Dave Stewart, far too underrated, virtuoso drummer and lyricist Pip Pyle, and guitarist Phil Miller - augmented by former Colosseum II bassist Neil Murray (later to become a hard rock stalwart with Whitesnake, Gary Moore and Black Sabbath), who stepped into the daunting shoes of Canterbury legend Richard Sinclair. Due to the absence of the latter's golden, velvet-smooth voice, this album is largely an instrumental one, with rare vocal duties being handled by one-third of the Northettes, the charming soprano Amanda Parsons.

Like most Canterbury productions,"National Health" is not the easiest album to get into. The jazz influence is here even more pronounced than in the Hatfields' two albums, and sometimes the listener may feel as if it is being a bit too sophisticated for its own good. Moreover, Parsons' voice may come across as an acquired taste - though, at least in my personal case, it grew on me with repeated listens. As it is to be expected, however, the musicianship is stellar, the interplay between Stewart's monumental, trademark fuzz organ and the other instruments flowing along seamlessly. It is true that, after a while, the tracks may sound a bit samey, but a careful listen turns out to be ultimately rewarding for the discerning music lover.

Album opener "Tenemos Roads" must rank among the cornerstones of the Canterbury sound. A 14-minute-plus epic, it opens with an absolutely to-die-for instrumental section led by Stewart's powerful keyboards, then slows down to leave room for Parsons' ethereal, spaced-out vocalising, picking up pace again towards the end. Following track "Brujo" sees Stewart duelling with guest keyboardist Alan Gowen (of Gilgamesh fame), who sadly passed away in 1981. The two-part "Borogoves" (a name taken from the famous "Jabberwocky" nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll) features more intricate, dazzling instrumental prowess from the players, with Phil Miller proving himself one of the most underrated yet proficient guitar players in prog. Lengthy "Elephants" rounds the album off in style with more textbook keyboard pyrotechnics, wtith Parsons reprising "Tenemos Roads" in the final part.

This album is not really likely to convert any unbelievers to the joys of the Canterbury sound, but it offers much of interest to any curious, open-minded prog fans. However, I would recommend you get Hatfield and the North's two albums before you proceed to this one.

Review by NJprogfan
4 stars I don't know if you'd call it ironic or scary that this would be the album I had in my car when Pip Pyle passed away. Either way, Canterbury is a tricky genre to review. The style is hard to get into, but rewarding in the long run and this particular album is that in a nutshell. My favorite track happens to be the first, "Tenemos Roads" which starts out hard and jamming with the God of keyboards Mr. David Stewert's fuzzy organ blasting some dark prog. In fact, it's surprising how dark this songs is for the most part but don't worry, the famous Canterbury whimsy shows up halfway with the super-angelic voice of Northette Amanda Parsons chirping and crooning until the finale, a rousing staccato barrage of darkness courtesy of Stewert's keyboards. From here on out it's a jamming jazz/prog style that takes a few spins to get into but will bring a smile to your face. My only gripe is the lack of any melodies that stick, other than the beginning and end of the first track. It's mostly instrumental with Amanda Parson singing here and there, (although what she's singing I haven't the foggiest idea). It's all about the playing on this disc, and boys and girls it's impressive. If, on the other hand, you're looking for memorable grooves look elsewhere, otherwise for all you Canterbury fans it's a no-brainer 5 star classic. But in all honesty, it boils down to 4....close tho....
Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A pointless album that is going nowhere. No stories, just the ideas for the sake of ideas.

Having that said, it's hard to imagine why should anyone rate this album with more the one or two stars.

Well, I don't know. The only thing that is evident is that this is one mixed bag. What's more it's a magician's bag. It took me A LOT to get into, and when I started to like this one, I realised that I can't count on my common perception of music. Every time I'm listening to this album something else is happening: the familiar passages are here, but that's about it. Every time it is an entirely different album that you have to get into. It's literally overfilled with everything, a multiple spring of ideas. There are not much facts that you can pin down...because this one is slippery as an eel. It is Canterbury, all right. And it's very jazzy, okay. Somewhat symphonic. Add a teaspoon of Celtic music, please.

In my opinion, the highlights of the albums are keyboard solos. They are so furious and expressive. Undoubtedly skilled, with so many pitch bending thrown in that it's almost laughable.

This is mostly an instrumental work, but the vocals are present here and there. Female vocals sounded annoying and out of place at first hearing, but later I realised that they actually fit the overall music nicely. The female vocals are strangle blend of jazzy overtones with some almost Celtic moments. No lyrics here, just vocalisations, creating slightly mystic mood.

I will never be sure did I actually start liking this album a lot or was I so exhausted by trying to digest billions of ideas presented here that I lost any common sense and ground, taste and ability to analyse and compare.

In every person's mind there is a little pervert...therefore, get this album and give it a try. It will be a long rewarding experience after the long torturing experience.

And addition that will become an addiction.

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars I love this one almost as much as the second one, but I'd gave it 3 2/3 stars.Having a marvellous and flawless opener "Tenemos Road", the album seems to be a bit disfocused further. Well, "Brujo" is great with its beginning reminding me of best examples of classical music, but "Borogoves" and "Elephants" are less melodical and ear-friendly to me (except the closing part of "Elephants" taken from the opening track - the best tune of the whole album!!!).This is good album, one of the musts for a Canterbury-fan ,as I understood, but I like the second one A BIT more and recommend you to start with it (though I started from this one and didn't go to hate NH anyway ;-) ...).Thanks NATIONAL HEALTH for their music and a great sense of discovery. Boy, I feel like I have thousands bands to explore!!!
Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars NATIONAL HEALTH was initially the offspring of two bands, namely HATFIELD AND THE NORTH and GILGAMESH.The exception was Bill Bruford on drums. It's hard to believe but they had a difficult time getting a label to record them, and as time went by Bill Bruford, Phil Lee and Mont Campbell went on to other things. Campbell was replaced on bass by Neil Murray who was GILGAMESH's original bass player,and Pip Pyle from HATFIELD AND THE NORTH replaced Bruford. Lee was not replaced as the original lineup featured two lead guitarists, Phil Miller being the other. Confused yet ? Fortunately they have released a record called "Missing Pieces" that features recordings from the original lineup.This debut record is such a treat though with two legendary keyboard men playing on it in Gowen and Stewart.

The first track "Tenemos Roads" is by far my favourite and worth the purchase of this album alone. I could play this one over and over again and never tire of it. This is a Stewart composition at almost 15 minutes in length. Hastings and Stewart lead things off with a brief intro before crisp drums, organ, bass and clarinet create a beautiful soundscape. Check out the organ before 3 minutes ! Amanda starts to sing before 6 minutes with percussion and a calm to follow. It gets heavier after 8 minutes as some angular guitar comes in as the vocal melodies continue. It then becomes quite pastoral with flute. A full sound returns after 12 1/2 minutes. Nice heavy ending. "Brujo" is a Gowen composition. It opens with lighter sounds and Amanda's vocal melodies. Flute and percussion follow. The song picks up as bass and drums join in. It gets quite jazzy sounding as the piano becomes prominant. The flute returns followed by an acoustic piano solo. The vocal melodies return 8 1/2 minutes in as the bass becomes prominant.

"Borogoves(Exerts From Part Two)" opens with flute and liquid sounding keys. Bass is good. Excellent guitar / drum melody 2 1/2 minutes in where Miller just plays on and on to the end of the song. "Borogoves(Part One)" opens with some fuzz organ from Stewart as Gowen counters with piano. Guitar sounds great as it comes in followed by vocal melodies. Clarinet followed by some impressive piano melodies. The song becomes very catchy 5 minutes in. "Elephants" is the almost 15 minute closer that Stewart and Gowen composed together. It really does sound like they are trying to make the sound of an elephant in the intro. Cool. The guitar and drums after 2 minutes are great, especially the guitar that goes on and on for almost 2 minutes. Nice. A jazzy ZAO flavour follows. Vocal melodies arrive 8 minutes in. Some excellent organ before a pastoral passage after 10 minutes takes us to the end of the song. Perhaps too long of an ending.

I prefer their next one a more, but they are both incredible and are must-haves.

Review by fuxi
4 stars I completely understand why some listeners have trouble with National Health. Although the band's music is highly sophisticated, it does not rock out sufficiently for true rock fans (and it is definitely not bombastic); although the band use a lot of playful classical (or neo-classical) melodies in the vein of Stravinsky, they sound too electrical for classical music buffs; and although they perform with all the virtuosity of a typical jazzrock band, their solos are never quite jazzy enough for true jazz freaks.

On the other hand, people who enjoy hybrids, or who appreciate the Canterbury Scene's pastoral moods and their typically English sense of humour, will adore this album. What is there not to enjoy?

The opening track, Tenemos Roads, immediately carries you away, with a main theme which is undeniably hummable, but if you're new to the Health, you may then need a little time before you can appreciate Dave Stewart's spiky fuzz-box organ solo, Phil Miller's hermetic guitar solo and Amanda Parsons' angelic vocals. Still, if you have any sense, you'll immediately be seduced by Jimmy Hastings' lovely flute (mainly accompanied by electric piano and bass) in the song's middle section. Brujo, the second track, will probably appeal mainly because of Alan Gowen's delightful moog solo. If you haven't discovered Gowen, well, he's one of the greatest moog virtuosi, easily worth the price of this album on his own. In Borogoves (Excerpt from Part Two) the first thing that will strike you is Neil Murray's superb bass solo, which is followed by some very forceful statements by Phil Miller on lead guitar. The final two tracks, Borogoves (Part One) and Elephants are by far the most varied and ambitious on the album, compositionally speaking: you're led through an amazing variety of moods, melodies and tempo changes; all the players in the band get their chance to shine (I mustn't omit Pip Pyle's superb drumming!), while the special guests (Parsons, Hastings, Gowen) lend the music extra colour.

This debut album is not quite the masterpiece its successor, OF QUEUES AND CURES (even more colourful and varied!) would turn out to be, but you'll undoubtedly enjoy it if you're into intricate, predominantly instrumental prog. For Canterbury freaks it is, of course, essential listening.

Review by Tom Ozric
5 stars This review is not intended to be a lengthy ramble, rather a straight-to-the-point, matter-of-fact statement ; National Health put out 3 fantastic albums during their life-time, all worth checking out. The music is constructed in a very complex fashion, but also includes many humourous quirks, which, whilst the pieces here may generally be 'difficult' for the average listener to penetrate, adds a degree of light-heartedness which shows that the musicians were having a great time playing/recording this stuff. Dave Stewart is 'No.1' when it comes to Prog Keyboardists (his contorted Fuzz-Organ solos stupendously marvellous, and literally a 'buzz' !), Alan Gowen's (always) tasteful Mini-Moog solos, Pip Pyle's effervescent Drumming, Phil Miller's totally unique and distinctive style of guitaring, Neil Murray's incredible Fretless Bass playing (yes, an amazingly versatile Bass-player of incredible talent, later playing for various 'Metal' bands - Whitesnake and Black Sabbath etc.) and the wistful vocals of the lovely Amanda Parsons (whom Neil Murray shared a flat with for several years at the time...). Various guests appear ; Jimmy Hastings - famous Canterburian Flute/Sax player providing a priceless contribution to the compositions, and percussionist John Mitchell to add some interesting dynamics to the entire affair. This is one amazing album that sounds stunningly 'fresh', even when compared to modern day's standards. 5 stars and a 'must have' album.
Review by LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Roaming free in a fuzzy, shape-shifting brightly coloured and mostly carefree world must be exactly like the music on this album. I don't know if it's the dreamy, floating composition of it all or a hard-to-define smoothness and ease that make this the (so far) only Canterbury scene album I can say I love. A jazzy elegance and - to be fair - an air of supremacy and compositional care (which catches me off guard every time the album's been put aside for a week or more) that makes a band like Caravan seem down-to-earth and blunt in comparison, coupled with mind-blowing individual performances and the Canterburian aptitude for at least seemingly spontaneous and warm-hearted sense of humour and quirkiness in music results in.well, probably some sort of puzzled enjoyment.

When jazz and jazz-rock in spite of its musical freedom feels too contrived and overly reliant on technique and brilliance of the performers for me to like it in general, National Health's greatest trick is taking that concept, twisting and turning it, fusing it with other styles and ideals, giving the music time to breath, take chances and venture into unexpected directions - which ultimately leads to a wild melange of music where almost anything is tolerated and (un)expected. Being like that, it also loses identity and just as often - a clear structure. If there is a drawback to the album, that's the one, perhaps also that the overwhelming amount of impressions emanating from it don't fit every situation and state of mind. I actually do find too rich for my tastes on some occasions.

Highlights are many; stand-outs are few, sticking to the consistent flow of the album. Still some things are worth mentioning: Dave Stewarts fuzz organ wanderings, which funnily enough feels more like gateways between sections, thus carrying the music instead of just soloing on top of it, the high quality, jumpy and propulsive bass guitar work of Neil Murray, Amanda Parson's soothing, soulful vocalisations and finally the combined percussion prowess of Pip Pyle and John Mitchell. They add - with the mildest touch - a tingling, fragile, refined set of sounds that broadens the music even more.

Tenemos Road have a sweaty drive to it, making it great as a starter, drawing you in right from the start, but it's still mildly preparing you for Brujo's playful little intro and the plunge into the soft, ethereal flute seduction on the same song. Delightful, and probably my favourite 'song' of the five here. A slightly darker, nervously moving interlude and an inpatient keys solo put things in perspective and continues in a fuzz-organ Canterbury-jazz fest. Borogroves, Pt.2 is noteworthy for being the vehicle of a fantastic, slightly subdued (but intricate) bass solo from Neil Murray. Things are really never dark or sinister except for the closing Elephant. Immediately striking as something extra, with mild atonality and a rumbling tension to it. Making it even more interesting is the fact that it never climaxes, but instead triumphantly returns to familiar sounds heard previously on the album, and then mysteriously drifts off into silence.

It leaves me wanting more, a continuation, as this strangely feels like a taste of what's still to come more than anything else. After fifty minutes of music, there is no clear end or beginning, just this marvellous wealth of ideas.

Puzzled enjoyment, wasn't it?

4 stars.


Review by friso
3 stars With an all-star Canterbury cast you would expect a lot, and in a way National Health does deliver. This is sophisticated Canterbury jazz-infused instrumental prog music that borders on avant-prog. The execution is flawless, but the music just isn't that lively or imaginative. Canterbury records usely have some charming aspects, but you won't find them here. I owned the vinyl for some time but almost couldn't get myself to even put on the second side, so there's that. This might still be a great record for those focusing on the instrumental side of things. For other's I would recommend going back into Dave Steward's catalogue for records like 'Space Shanty' (Kahn) and 'The Polite Force' (Egg).
Review by The Quiet One
5 stars National(UK) Jazz Rock

While the United States is remembered for their Jazz Rock during the 70's, with artists and bands such as Return to Forever, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Weather Report and the like, in which the majority of them had quite a big success; England will always be remembered for their Prog Rock groups during the 70's. But that's actually inaccurate, since both countries actually had equal quality and quantity of both genres. Having said that and this being a review of British band, National Health, you've probably figured out that this band is one of those Jazz Rock groups from England that while equally great as those U.S. jazz rock bands, they never had equal success nor the recognition they deserved.

National Health's debut was compromised by Hatfield & The North members, organ maestro, Dave Stewart, drummer, Pip Pyle, and guitarist, Phil Miller, Gilgamesh's synth player, Alan Gowen, and Colosseum II's bass player, Neil Murray.

It starts with Tenemos Roads. The elegancy of the wind instruments at the very beginning clearly shows that this band knew what they're doing. Dave Stewart enters with his mean- sounding, yet delicate organ and after that, it's history. The song travels through outstanding show-off's, up-lifting melodies and beauty, the latter being courtesy of Amanda Parsons' magnificent vocals.

Brujo continues with the delicacy in which this time Amanda uses her vocals as an additonal instrument. However, as time goes by, the tune starts to transform gently into a jazz rock fest featuring solos by Alan, Dave and Phil, with Murray and Pyle giving a splendid back-up.

Borogoves (excerpt from part 2) opens with a nice and up-lifting melody, made by the woodwinds instruments, which doesn't last long. Dave starts playing very gently and Neil Murray has the chance to shine with his bass, though it's only a matter of time until Phil abruptly appears and changes the tranquil tempo completely to a groovy one and Phil sets loose with his guitar.

Borogoves (part 1) opens with the same up-lifting melody that opened the previous tune, though in a symphonic manner with synths and organ. However, afterwards the band just seems to ramble, some good ideas here and there, but not concise at all. At times it reminds you of Gentle Giant's quirkiness, but overall Borogoves (part 1) is an aimless tune.

Elephants ends the album quite strongly, with the first half being pretty dark and complex with some great guitar and synth work, while the second half features the opening tune, Tenemos Roads, reprised.

Definitely one of the most complex and sophisticated bands from the Canterbury Scene, and their debut is no doubt a masterpiece of Jazz Rock which I highly recommend to any serious Jazz Rock/Fusion fan alongside their follow-up, Of Queues & Cures. However, if you're not fond of Jazz Rock/Fusion at all and want to check the Canterbury Scene, either Caravan or Khan's sole album are better fits.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Debut album of the last BIG Canterbury scene's name. David Stewart is there , but the year is 1977. Then - the album is enough unusual. Unusual for its time, and unusual for you can expect.

First of all, this sound is Canterbury only in part. If you expect to find there that fantastic mix of jazz-fusion, psychedelic rock, humor lyrics and freedom atmosphere ( I believe all these ingredients are main components of Canterbury scene phenomena), you possibly will be a bit disappointed. Yes, Stewart is a great figure, and his keyboards still are as great as before, but the problem is different: extremely complex musicianship seriously missed its free spirit and fusion elegancy. Instead of aerial atmosphere of early 70-s fusion , you will often hear there "third stream jazz" - complex, static and heavyweight constructions with strong chamber classics influence.

In many places album's music balances on the border with later neo-classic based avant garde. Even vocals are often more chamber, than jazzy ( or - in rare cases - sound as Latin fusion adaptation to classic pieces).So - you can imagine Canterbury sound with amputated soul. New heart is working well and is excellent mechanical device, but soul is gone (ok, body is working perfectly).

I really can enjoy level of musicianship on this album, but not the music itself. Great soulless Canterbury album? Complex heavyweight construction which will attract you by its complexity, but you will never love it? You chose....

Good album - and great sign of the beginning of the end.

Review by Sinusoid
3 stars Out of the ashes of one Cantebury supergroup came the formation of another. I can draw many parallels between National Health through this debut of theirs and the parent Hatfield and the North through THE ROTTER'S CLUB. As far as the sound goes, this group seems to make me think Cantebury-fusion as opposed to the previous group putting Caesar's Palace in my mind.

The absence of singing is missed largely due to Richard Sinclair committing to Camel at this time; otherwise, the group is the same as the last Hatfield album. Actually, I lie; there are scattered vocals throughout the album by one of the Northettes (Amanda Parsons). They can be shrill, but they don't happen often enough to deter what's going on musically. There are some very creative jazzy textures going on, mostly through Dave Stewart's organs and pianos.

The major problem with NATIONAL HEALTH is that while there are plenty of great ideas scattered about, there is some stale, jazzy muck you have to listen through. All songs are either of ten minutes or fourteen minutes in length (counting the two ''Borogroves'' parts as one), and as skilled as the members are, the pieces cannot sustain their lengths for long. I sometimes feel like just skipping ahead only to completely pass up a good theme.

They have the great sound, the great skill without showing off too much (barring an unneeded bass solo in ''Borogroves, Part 2''), and the jazz kudos, but there's a good amount of fluff here that drags the album along too much. Other than the excellent ''Tenemos Roads'', I'm struggling to stay attentive.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hatfield and the North in 1975.Initially they started as an 8-piece offshot,including also Phil Miller and Phil Lee (guitars, ex-Hatfield and Gilgamesh respectively),Mont Campbell (bass, ex- Egg), Bill Bruford (drums, ex-Yes and King Crimson) and Amanda Parsons on vocals.National Health survived from numerous comes and goes,Campbell and Bruford left about a year after,Pip Pyle and Neil Murray jumped in and the basic line-up was actually shortened to a quartet with various guest musicians helping out.Their self-titled debut was out in 1978 on Affinity Records,consisting of Stewart/Gowen compositions.

To fully and succesfully describe National Health's sound is a total risk.It's basically National Health's personal approach on Canterbury Rock music.Trully progressive music with plenty of Jazz elements and endless interplays.''Tenemos Roads'' is actually one of the best examples of introducing someone into intricate prog.A complete 14-min. masterpiece with fantastic guitar hooks and excellent moog piano performances,not to mention the ethereal vocals of Amanda Parsons.''Brujo'' starts off slowly with keys,vocals and flute before flirting with the free forms of music,featuring excellent drumming,complex bass lines and professional keyboard solos.''Borogoves Part 1'' is more of the same with full bass and guitar soloing close to Jazz Music but with a very rich and adventuruous sound.''Borogoves Part 2'' has a more melodic twist,even a somewhat symphonic sounding intro,but again complex time signatures shine throughout the more harmonic cut of the album.''Elephants'' is definitely the darkest and most complex number in here with the band in full shape offering dramatic interplays and virtuosic solos in 14 minutes of pure progressive orgasm,borrowing also some notes from the opener.

To pass by this work is equivalent of a deadly crime.''National health'' is a great release and a work far beyond the limited ears of Progressive/Jazz Rock.It's a shining pearl of the Canterbury scene,not the absolute masterpiece of Progressive Rock,but certainly an outstanding effort by these English musicians,who back in late-70's tried to keep the spirit of challenging rock music alive.Highly recommended.

Review by Warthur
5 stars The only National Health album (excluding the tracks collected on Missing Pieces) to feature both Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen, the highlight of this piece is definitely the riotous interplay between their keyboards, as showcased on the tremendous Tenemos Roads. Arguably the most important Canterbury group of the punk era, National Health's lineup is as perfect an all- star Canterbury team as you could want to imagine, with every member having played in Canterbury groups ranging from the absolutely central to the maddeningly obscure.

A natural development from Hatfield and the North's albums (the lead vocals are even handled by former Northette Amanda Parsons), National Health also contains hints of Egg (in its driving rhythms and Dave Stewart's keyboard work) and the heavier side of Matching Mole (particularly Phil Miller's compositions from that band). Anyone who enjoys the fusion end of the Canterbury scene will absolutely love National Health, anyone who's at all interested in Canterbury should make a point of getting their albums since they represent the scene's last great flowering in the 1970s, and progressive rock and fusion fans in general will find a lot to love here.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Indisputable Canterbury of a creditable standard.

National Health is a genuine surprise beginning their infamous career in 1977 when prog was beginning to wane. Their unabashed Canterbury style has made them legends in the genre and nothing can be compared to their inimitable style. A very whimsical approach is notable as are the peerless high 5 octave vocal intonations of Amanda Parsons.

Their debut album is a real delight, with some excellent musical interludes and highly memorable melodic flourishes. It begins with the fabulous 14 minute Tenemos Roads. The time sigs are odd, the musical expertise is astonishing and the lovely beauty of Amanda's angelic vocals is perfection. Dave Stewart's keyboard wizardry is a key to the overall uplifting sound. There is a distinct melody that stays with you on this one and it grooves along nicely with enough variation to keep the interest.

Borogoves (part one) is a wondrous journey of musical prowess and those trademark lalala's of that meet the music seamlessly. The track builds along with shifting metrical patterns and some delightful guitar work. The percussion of Pip Pyle is jazzy and off kilter but in perfect time with the structures. The chiming bells at the end generate a magical atmosphere. In fact Pip Pyle has a field day on this album playing all percussion including cowbell, gong, tambourine, glockenspiel, finger cymbals, shaker, bells and Pixiephone.

Elephants is an ear opener, with very weird in places especially the intro, shattered spacey tones and drones, and it builds with estranged fractured beats and time sigs, almost improvised jazz. It reminded me of experimental King Crimson or Soft Machine in places. It builds to a chiming rhythm that finally breaks into a guitar break over the repeated motif. The effect is unsettling but wonderfully experimental. This track exudes a darker soundscape due to the competing musicianship. It powers along for quite some time until a piano motif takes over. The sporadic drumming keeps an atonal rhythm and then we are treated to a keyboard passage of immeasurable quality. This instrumental is simply incontrovertible wonderful Canterbury prog. The rest of the album is Canterbury at its best. The debut for National Health is masterful musicianship with just the right amount of vocals sung beautifully to enhance the soundscapes generated. This one comes highly recommended and is deserving of its immutable reputation.

Review by Negoba
4 stars Digging into DEEP PROG

If you're into prog, you have to enjoy some music that is just a bit out there. You become familiar with aural flavors that are at best confusing and at worst painful to most ears. The typical progression of increasingly difficult music from the 70's may finds one of it's deepest nooks with the band National Health. I came to this band via the earlier, more accessible Canterbury supergroup Khan. Based on that album primarily, of all the massively talented prog keyboard players, Dave Stewart is my favorite. National Health is his baby and though this album has its warts, it is a delight for long time prog lovers such as me.

The style of this music is jazz fusion to be sure. However, the tracks contain an enormous amount of composed lines and instrumental interplay rather than the massive improvisation one normally associates with the genre. There are solo sections, but this is more a prog- fusion than anything really jazzy at heart. At the same time, these tracks are instrumental explorations rather than "songs" as such. I don't hear strong melodic themes or purposeful dramatic staging to create a story. This is music for music sake's alone. A heady music that unlike some of the technical music that came after, still had groove and feel.

Amanda Parsons' vocals are fine but add an aloof and light mood that I'm not sure benefits the ensemble. This style is certainly typical of the more muzak-y realms that jazz fusion was to enter in the following years, and which claimed Stewart as an especially bloody casualty. Phil Miller's guitar blends with Stewart's key ideas perfectally, but he doesn't really add much of his own personality to the band. Neil Murray's bass playing is quite impressive, taking a prominent place in the busy mix with a nice blend of edge and finesse. Pip Pyle, like Miller, plays well, but doesn't inject much of himself. Clearly, this is Stewart's show.

Unlike most Canterbury fans, I prefer National Health to Hatfield, and I like both of Health's records on about equal footing. Both NH albums are must have works for Dave Stewart devotees. A little too meandering and niche for masterpiece status.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars The quintessential high note of the whole Canterbury scene and another one of those touched by God albums that transcends sonic believability into an alternate reality where only heavenly bliss is allowed. Like Hatfield and the North, this was a Canterbury supergroup with a whole bunch of veterans dishing out some delicious jazz fusion and prog frenzied musical madness that takes all the lessons of their previous incarnations and melds them into one outbloodyrageous display of what it sounds like when the best of the best collaborate their talents to make a masterpiece. This was 1977 when prog was on its way out to take a siesta and punk was the new dominate species. Not only was NATIONAL HEALTH totally oblivious to this trend but they took the sound to new roaring heights.

Let's take a roll call as I see so many mistaken claims of who's actually on this debut album.

Original member Dave Stewart handles most keyboards. He obviously played in Hatfield and the North but also with Uriel, Egg, Khan and Bruford (the band for which Bill Bruford was the leader).

Alan Gowen of Gilgamesh who formed National Health also contributes to keyboards to a few tracks on this album but soon left the group thereafter.

Neil Murray handles all bass duties. He played with a bunch of different groups but is most famous for playing with Black Sabbath in the 90s, Whitesnake in the late 70s and with other bands like Gogmagog, Vow Wow, The Company Of Snakes etc.

This group originally began with Bill Bruford from Yes, but he is not on this album. He was replaced by Pip Pyle who worked with both Gong and Hatfield and the North and he alone handles all percussion on this album including drums, gong, tambourine, glockenspiel, cymbals and even a pixiephone! John Mitchell who replaced Bruford was replaced by Pip but he still contributes some percussion on a few tracks.

Phil Miller handles all guitar duties. He worked with many bands including Delivery, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, Short Wave and In Cahoots.

Jimmy Hastings handles flute, clarinet and bass clarinet duties. He played in not only Hatfield and the North but also in Caravan, Soft Machine, Trapeze and with Chris Squire and Bryan Ferry amongst others.

That leaves the precious angelic voice of Amanda Parsons who makes the association with Hatfield and the North immediate and tangible. Her contribution to these albums elevates the ingenious musicianship to heavenly and otherworldly.

In my opinion NATIONAL HEALTH was not only the best Canterbury band but one of the best musical groups ever to grace the planet. The pleasant interplay of all the keyboards, the guitar and bass, the drum rolls and the exotic winds and chimes graced by the heavenly siren makes me quite grateful that these musicians were so dedicated to their craft that they paddled against the turning tide to create some of the most magnificent sonic bliss. Luckily we got another album after this.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This much acclaimed album from a virtual all-star band of Canterbury stars with the likes of Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, Dave Stewart, Alan Gowen, Jimmy Hastings, and Amanda Parsons helping out but this album has always left me feeling a bit on the outside, that is, I have problems engaging with (and, thus, enjoying) the music on this album.

1. "Tenemos Roads" (14:32) Chunky rambling bass, a drumming style that seems very imitative of Bill BRUFORD, and the by-now "old"-sounding buzz organ. It's not until 5:50 that anything new or fresh or even Canterburian begins to happen. Even Amanda Parsons' crystalline voice is not enough to bring warmth to this experiment in dissonance. How dissonant, how jazzy can Canterbury get and still be called Canterbury? This is one example. Even Dave Stewart's solo Mr. Rogers electric piano doodling in the tenth and eleventh minutes fails to allow the listener hear consonance. Finally at the end of the twelfth minute Amanda and flute are given permission to use pleasurable Occidental harmonic structures for their melodies. (7/10)

2. "Brujo" (10:13) opens with Amanda's distant high-register vocal scatting interplaying with the dissonant melodies being played by the bass and guitar in the foreground. In the second minute, slow, quiet piano arpeggi and random percussives provide a background for flute and then Amanda, to try to engage the listener with their slightly comforting melodies. At 4:11 the full band kicks into full gear with an uptempo section that puts Pip PYLE's drumming skills on display. Awesome! Then a kind of Chick COREA/RETURN TO FOREVER Latin-flavored section with mini-moog solo and awesome cymbal play and chunky bass lines in the WEATHER REPORT fashion helping out. Dave Stewart's nice buzz organ solo is then followed by a brief Phil Miller guitar solo before the band shifts gears again--signalled by the return of Amanda's high voice scatting. Piano and synth play again sound so much like Chick COREA. Decent song if derivative and imitative. (8/10)

3. "Borogroves (Excerpt from Part Two)" (4:12) does have a kind of Lewis Carroll feel to it in the way the keys, bass, and guitars toy around with their odd sounds in kind of childish experimentalist fashion. Everybody (even flutes) is just messing around seemingly in their own little world of make-believe. Then, around 2:30, the clavinet appears to signal integration and set up a foundation for Phil Miller to use his wah-pedal-effected guitar during an extended solo to the song's end. Not my cup of tea--no matter how deep into the rabbit hole I choose to venture. (7/10)

4. "Borogroves (Part One)" (6:29) Why these two Borogrove songs are ordered "part two" before the arrival of "part one" I can only surmise has everything to do with the Lewis Carroll theme alluded to in the title. Whether or not this was an alternative take on the same musical ideas I do not know. Could be. This version is much more structured in a rock band format with piano chords and steady, forward moving drum and bass lines. Though the music does have a kind of carnival Fun House feel to it, dissonance is still the rule, which continues to leave me feeling left out. (7/10)

5. "Elephants" (14:32) (7/10) opens with more independent masturbatory instrument play from four musicians. For all I know, the four could very well have recorded these tracks in separate studios and then tried to splice them together later--that's how disparate they sound to me. And then at 4:11 they all come together for six brief seconds of cohesive harmony. Heaven! The ensuing RETURN TO FOREVER jazz fusion section laying a steady base for the Moog to solo is at least familiar and coherent to me. Call me a musical retard, but I just don't get the joy and enjoyment of playing/performing the discordant dissonant parts. Is it all mental masturbation? Technical posturing? The softer, dreamy section beginning at the end of the eleventh minute at least lets my nerves relax--which is a change of pace. But to have to go forty minutes into an album to final feel this? This is not the kind of album for me.

I don't think of myself as a musical expert. Nor do I pretend to understand musical theory. But I do know when music fails to bring me into its fold--and this music does that for me. Oddly, there is a LOT of modern music from the jazz and classical realms that use dissonance and odd time signatures and structural formats that I love. This just happens to not be one of them.

A three star album rated up for appreciation of the outstanding musicianship and compositional daring on display.

Review by Mirakaze
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic, JRF/Canterbury, Avant/Zeuhl
5 stars What's better than a band with a keyboard wizard at the centre? A band with two keyboard wizards at the centre, of course! This is National Health, an English band that was around for less than a decade, barely had an audience to speak of and was basically on life support throughout all of its existence, and yet managed to create three of the most wonderful albums I've laid my ears on. They're among my biggest musical influences and it's a darn shame that few people have heard of them, so with your permission I'd like to ramble about them for a while.

As an introduction, let's take a visit to the Canterbury of 1975, the cradle of a musical scene consisting of many small bands and musicians operating on the margins of prog rock, folk rock and jazz rock. National Health was a fusion of two of these bands: Hatfield & The North, a folk- and classical-influenced rock band led by keyboardist Dave Stewart, and Gilgamesh, a more jazzy group led by keyboardist Alan Gowen. National Health, their consolidated form, started off with no less than nine members and included drummer Bill Bruford (from Yes and King Crimson) and guitarist Steve Hillage (from Gong and System 7), but the line-up was constantly shifting and after two years was reduced to a sextet consisting of Amanda Parsons on vocals, Phil Miller on guitar, Neil Murray on bass, Pip Pyle on drums, and the keyboard duo of Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen (with Gowen handling the Moog synthesizer, Stewart handling his trademark distorted organ and both gentlemen sharing duties on electric and acoustic piano). Times were tough for progressive rock in the late seventies, when the genre was generally dismissed as snooty pretentious rubbish. The band was unable to secure themselves a record contract or even a healthy number of gigs, which was the main reason band members kept walking away left and right. Eventually, in 1977, the band managed to enter a studio and record fifty minutes of music but then struggled to find a label that would release such uncompromising and market-unfriendly material. When National Health's self-titled debut album finally saw the light of day in February 1978, two key members, Alan Gowen and Amanda Parsons, had already given up hope and left the group, although their contributions were still captured on the album. So, under these acrimonious circumstances, how did this album turn out?

Pretty damn sweet would be an understatement. This album is a combination of everything great about progressive rock. It encompasses the idealistic and pastoral elements of prog as well as the more ominous and experimental ones, incorporates a wide variety of influences and ends up in my opinion as one of the genre's most concise and most convincing statements.

The tone is set by the 15-minute long opening track, "Tenemos Roads", composed by Dave Stewart. It's a coup de maître from start to finish. After a dreamy synthesizer introduction, the organs kickstart the tune and lead into its unforgettable main melody, played simultaneously on synth and guitar and inspiring the most positive of emotions. It's wonder of wonders, gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh, but the beauty doesn't stop there: after some solos on organ and guitar, Amanda Parsons steps in near the 6-minute mark to show off her extraordinarily high and yet incredibly soothing soprano voice, which adds even more to the song's optimistic nature. This section serves as an interlude to bring the song back from its soaring heights and down to earth. Afterwards, the song settles down even more, turning into an almost ambient piece featuring a flute solo from guest musician Jimmy Hastings (who shows up a number of times throughout the album). But in the end, the tension gets raised once again until the song finally closes with a reprise of the main theme, this time accompanied by Parsons' angelic singing.

The next track, "Brujo" (Spanish for "wizard"), was written by Alan Gowen, whose composing style is far less extravagant than Stewart's, but no less interesting. Trying to analyse the first minute alone drives me insane: It's a peaceful but very intricate knitting of notes that constantly leaps from one rhythm or key to the next in a subtle manner. Parsons has a prominent role on this song, but she has no lyrics to sing outside of "la la la". Instead, her voice takes the role of a lead instrument, used in the same way as the guitar and the synthesizer. Kudos to her for her amazing vocal range and equally amazing precision. The song gradually grows faster and more ferocious over the span of its 10 minutes. As a jazzman, Gowen was known to intentionally leave prolonged open spaces in his compositions as a means of encouraging the musicians to improvise. "Brujo" is no exception to this and dedicates a lot of time to blistering solos from Gowen, Stewart and Miller.

Next up is Stewart's "Borogoves", which is divided into two parts: "Excerpt From Part 2", followed by "Part 1". I'm a little confused by this too, but thankfully "Excerpt From Part 2" is the least confusing song on the album. It starts as quiet little bass guitar solo with electric piano backing and then turns into a slightly louder guitar solo before it ends rather abruptly. A little pointless, but not bad. "Part 1" doesn't bear too much resemblance to it, but it's a lot better. It's a nutty piece that mixes Stravinskian motifs, military march rhythms and circus music influences, and effectively switches on and off between a playful and a sinister mood.

The final track, "Elephants", lives up to its title and starts with a bunch of distorted electric piano noises imitating (or rather attempting to imitate) the titular animal. The track is once again written by Gowen, and it's probably the most free-form composition on the album. The elephant trumpeting is followed by a bit of free improvisation that was taken from a live recording, and then by a couple of dissonant solos on guitar and synthesizer. After that, it sounds like the guys finally start playing a good old-fashioned straight forward rock 'n roll tune, except they add one extra beat to the rhythm, thus rendering it completely undanceable, as if to say "Yeah yeah, you may have made it through 90% of this album, but we're not gonna give up and make it more accessible and marketable for you now!" It's a musical symbolism for the band's trend-defying attitude. True enough, even by progressive rock standards this album is a tough cookie, and the band makes it as challenging as they can for its audience to soak in the music. But once you manage to dig through and embrace the complex song structures, unusual harmonies and unintuitive rhythms, they will never again leave your memory.

And hey, if you make it to the end of the album, you're rewarded with a final reprise of the theme from "Tenemos Roads". It's as if that song is an allegory of the album itself: It starts you off in nirvana, then takes you on a fascinating musical journey to all the corners of the earth before leaving you back where it picked you up, with tons of new experiences.

Latest members reviews

3 stars 3* I first gave this album a rating of 4* based on a one time listen. I was like yea it's great not as good as Hatfield but sure 4*. Then it dawned on me that I never listen to this album. I wondered why so I gave it some listening. Ah that's why. This album is rather boring (opinion). Basical ... (read more)

Report this review (#2522165) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Monday, March 8, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars NATIONAL HEALTH were a Canterbury Scene outfit formed from the remnants of Hatfield & the North and Gilgamesh. The band featured Dave Stewart on keyboards (who later went on to form a duo with Barbara Gaskin in the 1980's), Phil Miller on electric guitar, Neil Murray on fretless bass, Pip Pyle ... (read more)

Report this review (#2307954) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Sunday, January 19, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Very Modern, not always warm. The first National Health album is the only one that is close to the vision for the band that Dave Stewart, the founder and leader, originated. His original idea was for the band to feature two keyboardists - himself and Alan Gowan (one in each ear/stereo channel) - ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697055) | Posted by Walkscore | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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 Par ... (read more)

Report this review (#1519584) | Posted by Groucho Barks | Monday, January 25, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars National Health is one of the later names in the Canterbury movement. This first record out of 1977 is an abstract fusion musical piece with characteristic Canterbury sounding keybords and guitars. With a female vocalist National Health broke with the general stream, but it fitts well by the soun ... (read more)

Report this review (#485691) | Posted by the philosopher | Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Welcome to the debut album from National Health, one of Canterbury's treasures. This band evolved out of Hatfield & The North. But National Health staked out their own path. A more jazzy path than Hatfield & The North. Phil Miller's quirky guitars married Dave Stewart's quirky keyboards and t ... (read more)

Report this review (#248951) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, November 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Late Canterbury scene music that picks up on some of the best ideas of earlier Canterbury bands, mixes it with some jazz, and in the end, comes off a little dry. I've heard other reviewers say that this album is somewhat cold and distant, and I would have to agree. It is still an essential work ... (read more)

Report this review (#171639) | Posted by kabright | Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The first work of announcement for 78 years "National Health". Work that consists of four jazz-rock masterpieces. The jazz-rock masterpiece of the instrumental subject to which composition person's characteristic often appears queues up. The humour with the groove put in an electric sound ... (read more)

Report this review (#43184) | Posted by braindamage | Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Canterbury, for a lot of peolpe, it's only the avant garde jazz of soft machine and the british pop of caravan, but you've to never forget the fantastic national health. hatfield is also a very interesting band but N.H is, in my opinion, the most impressive. my favorite hatfield track was alway ... (read more)

Report this review (#5044) | Posted by anesthésie | Sunday, May 15, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars If you like keyboard dominated prog you will surely love this album. Much of the album's focal point is the intricate interplay between keyboard players Dave Stewart and Allen Gowen. The music is highly structured, with an inventive use of constantly shifting time signatures à la Stravinsky. ... (read more)

Report this review (#5041) | Posted by The Mentalist | Wednesday, July 14, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This, their first album, is easily their best outing (excepting some of the early pre-album tracks they recorded with Bruford). Although this album was recorded much later than many of the best stuff, it does not appear tainted at all by the direction that rock was taking at the time (unlike the ban ... (read more)

Report this review (#5035) | Posted by | Saturday, February 7, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Fantastic, not as well developed as their sophomore effort: " Of Queues & Cures." But a fantastic, enlightening album. "Tenemos Roads" is the best track feeatured on this album, incredible vocals by Amanda Parsons, she adds an incredible atmosphere to the track. Borogroves is the only track that "Ro ... (read more)

Report this review (#5034) | Posted by | Monday, December 22, 2003 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Although slightly hung up about possible allusions to Jazz/Fusion. National Helath's first album strides into Soft Machine/Colliseum country in big Baffling but intoxicating. The aural equivalent of getting drunk with Einstein, Robert Fripp and Scooby Doo on a bleak Saturday night. (E ... (read more)

Report this review (#5033) | Posted by rjlwomble | Thursday, November 20, 2003 | Review Permanlink

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