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NATIONAL HEALTH

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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NATIONAL HEALTH was one of the last of the great "Canterbury-style" progressive rock bands. This band performed the same shiny Canterbury Progressive with a touch of jazz-rock, following HATFIELD AND THE NORTH's philosophy, with complex keyboards parts, the saturated guitar of Phil MILLER. Their first 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 find for Canterbury fans and a rare treat in the spirit of the likes of GENTLE GIANT, SPOCK'S BEARD and ECHOLYN.

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Of Queues & CuresOf Queues & Cures
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2009
Audio CD$10.65
$13.99 (used)
National HealthNational Health
Import
Esoteric 2009
Audio CD$10.66
$21.12 (used)
PlaytimePlaytime
Cuneiform 2001
Audio CD$10.08
$8.59 (used)
Ds Al CodaDs Al Coda
Import
Beat Goes Public Bgp 2012
Audio CD$13.99
$10.99 (used)
Dreams Wide AwakeDreams Wide Awake
ATOM 2011
Audio CD$7.69
$5.29 (used)
Dreams Wide Awake by National Health [Music CD]Dreams Wide Awake by National Health [Music CD]
ATOM
Audio CD$19.54
CompleteComplete
East Side Digital 1990
Audio CD$28.99 (used)
National HealthNational Health
Import
Jvc Japan 2009
Audio CD$154.46 (used)
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NATIONAL HEALTH shows & tickets


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NATIONAL HEALTH discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

NATIONAL HEALTH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.12 | 245 ratings
National Health
1977
4.22 | 254 ratings
Of Queues and Cures
1978
3.39 | 63 ratings
D.S. al Coda
1982

NATIONAL HEALTH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.70 | 39 ratings
Playtime
2001

NATIONAL HEALTH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

NATIONAL HEALTH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.11 | 38 ratings
Complete
1990
3.63 | 42 ratings
Missing Pieces
1994
2.14 | 3 ratings
Dreams Wide Awake
2005

NATIONAL HEALTH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

NATIONAL HEALTH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Playtime by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Live, 2001
3.70 | 39 ratings

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Playtime
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The third phase of NATIONAL HEALTH can only be found on this live album (their only live album) for no studio album was ever recorded with this lineup despite this being the most stable one of the band's history. Most of the material can be found nowhere else and doesn't really sound like the previous stuff either but we do get some classics like the two parts of "Squarer For Maude." These two live performances take place in France and the US from 1979 but not released until 2001 thanks to the virtuous mining of the past by Cuneiform Records. This lineup includes Alan Gowen (keyboards), John Greaves (bass / vocals), Pip Pyle (drums) and Alain Eckert (guitars).

Although not as brilliant as the first two studio albums, this is nonetheless an outstandingly memorizing listen that brings the band into full jamming mode with lots of emphasis on the fun factor. Expect lots of complex free jazz meets prog rock interplay in a live setting and you'll get the idea of what's going on here. All instrumental affair with scant vocals to be found. At this point the band's days were number and Gowen would die from leukemia in 1981 essentially ending the band. Not a bad way to end as these are some quality recordings that fans of the first two phases will surely dig. Note the lone clappers on the audience you could count on one hand reminding one of the state of this kind of complex music from that time.

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 Of Queues and Cures  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.22 | 254 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Once again going against the grain of the fading prog scene while punk and disco were usurping the attention of the masses, NATIONAL HEALTH pumped out one more album before calling it quits (ok technically there's a third) and what a magnificent album it is! Their second masterpiece in a row is OF QUEUES AND CURES and it does not disappoint one bit despite having a totally different sound than their debut.

The core line up has changed a bit as Neil Murray abandoned his bass duties and was replaced by John Greaves who is most famous for his work with Henry Cow but also was in Soft Heap as well as releasing several solo albums. His addition gives this album a rougher sound with his more experiment RIO approach. Noticeably missing from this sophomore album is the angelic vocal contributions of Amanda Parsons meaning this 2nd album sounds a lot less Hatfield and the North influenced. This album has more of a complex jam session feel to it with less vocals and more instruments. In addition to the long list from the debut we also get some cello, trumpet, trombone and oboe added to the mix. It is more of a jazz-fusion meets Canterbury sound with all the quirkiness turned up to 11 and bass and fuzz organ boosted up accordingly.

Tracks like "Squarer For Maude" have the perfect recipe for brilliance with their frenetic and sometimes repetitious jazz-fusion template that blends guitar solos and even a brief spoken word excursion inspired by Peter Blegvad of Slapp Happy. The jam continues in a hypnotic continuity until suddenly and unexpectedly changes completely reminding you that this band is always full of surprises and breathes life into everything they touch. This track is no anomaly as each one is brilliant in its own special way.

Overall an absolutely phenomenal album that pretty much celebrates the end of an era where prog ruled for a brief period which celebrates this crowning achievement with bravado. You could not ask for a better culmination of the Canterbury sound than what you get on this album where Dave Stewart kills it on keyboards, Phil Miller sizzles on guitar, Pip Pyle rocks the house and the entire block on drums and John Greaves adds yet more elements of complexity to an already amazing non-easy listening band. All the extra sounds that are incorporated on this album are just super exciting icing on an already spicy deliciously rich cake. This National Health plan is mandatory for my health and i highly recommend it for yours.

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 National Health  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.12 | 245 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Of Queues and Cures  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.22 | 254 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Heading to the first expanded live tour Neil Murray announced his departure from National Health, surprisingly joining the emerging Hard Rock trend of David Coverdale's Whitesnake.His replacement would be ex-Henry Cow's bassist John Greaves.What followed was an early-78' tour all around Europe as well as on the British Islands, supporting Steve Hillage.Greaves' role would not be limited on bass duties, it would be prooved he would have an energetic role on National Health's upcoming album, both vocally and compositionally, entering the Ridge Farm Studio near Dorking, Surry in summer 78'.A huge guest list appears on the so named ''Of queues and cures'': Art Bears's Peter Blegvad on vocals, Georgie Born (who replaced John Greaves on Henry Cow in 1976) on cello, Jimmy Hastings of Caravan fame on flutes/clarinet and the list goes on.The new National Health work was eventually released in November 78' on Charly Records.

National Health insist on playing a Canterbury-flavored Prog/Fusion with tight, cohesive and impressive instrumental capacity, full of jazzy nuances and even some mid-70's CAMEL-esque vibes.What is quite different from their debut is the limited presence of the fascinating combination between ethereal plays with harmonic tunes and the extraordinary, amazing interplays of the original quartet.Instead, the focus on ''Of queues and cures'' relies on the later ideas, being an absolutely professional work of a bunch of virtuosic musicians who blend their semi-loose jazzy ideas with the tremendous breaks and unusual Progressive Rock structures.No vocals in this album, just all instrumental material, complex and adventurous Prog/Fusion with endless organ moves, technical solos and furious interplays.Hasting's clarinet and flutes add an almost RIO-esque vibe at moments, while there are also bits of Horn Rock in a couple of moments.Speaking of National Health's arrangements, these come up as pretty intricate with stretched instrumental madness in long and very dense compositions, maybe a bit too dense for their own good.You cant do else though but admire this all-star line-up, which produced some of the most complicated Canterbury music at the end of the 70's.Constant changes between piano lines and organ waves, a guitar that starts up slowly and grows into monster, indulgent solos and chaotic instrumental masturbations with abstract and more tighten themes, unleashing the endless talent of the group.

To my ears National Health's sophomore album is not on par with the band's masterful and unforgettable debut, however it remains a fantastic example of passionate, challenging and captivating Progressive Rock of the best Canterbury tradition.Strongly recommended, maybe even more if you are deep into both Progressive Rock and Jazz/Fusion...3.5 stars.

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 Playtime by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Live, 2001
3.70 | 39 ratings

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Playtime
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars The always-excellent Cuneiform label unearthed yet another "archives" gem with these cncert tapes coming from two different gigs in 79, that took place a few months apart and on two different continents. The main difference would be that in the French, .NH appeared as a double-guitar quintet (Eckert being the other string-scratcher), while on the United Statian gig, the group performed with a more standard quartet; While Pyle, Greaves and Miller where the usual members, Alan Gowen replaces the recently-departed Dave Stewart, but alas, some sad event would prevent the new kb-man to continue, thus more or less killing the band's impetus despite the DS Al Coda release in his honour a few years later.

While the French concert went down rather well (with the help of the afore-mentioned Eckert) , starting with the energetic16-mins Flanagan's People; a steaming Canterbury- tinged jazz-rock piece that will set fire to any lake around the place, it held some relatively calmer moments like the almost-boring (by NH standards, of course) Silhouette. Although the Dreams Wide Awake piece opens on Mahavishnu-level energy, it tends to veer later- 70's fusion with a certain Brand X-type of virtuosity, loosing in soul what it gains in notes/seconds. They closed the set with the sleepy (for them) Pleiades, where Miller (I think) plays a few Greek chords.

The Pennsylvania concert is more exciting, opening on two short tracks, including the short but sung (courtesy of John Greaves) Rose Sob before plunging in a fuzzed-bass extravaganza at the start of the 10-mins Playtime (a Gowen piece). The closing two-parts (roughly 13-mins) Squarer For Maud is the cloud u spectacle, with some demented playing from all concerned, but again, it seems that Greaves was the louder and crazier dude that night. The last ten minutes are pure bliss and chaos, where Phil Miller pulls some wild solos. In both concerts, it's clear that they focused more on the Queues & Cures album than the debut.

If only for the lengthy booklet, filled with extesive liner notes from Mr Pyle, Playtime is an essential release to own if you're a NH fan, and you enjoy the "jammier" side of the band. One of the joys I had once I'd bought the present album upon release time, was to rediscover Miller's fiery guitar sound, which contrast fairly heavily with his In Cahoots stuff or even his Hatfield reformation days during the 00's. On the downside, by 79, NH sounded much more like a later-70's band ala Brand X or Return To Forever, rather its more Canterburyan earlier incarnations, but we'll not nitpick too much and just enjoy this little gem, courtesy of Feigelbaum and Aymeric.

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 Of Queues and Cures  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.22 | 254 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak

5 stars A band of serious, mature musicians who desire to make challenging, sophisticated music. Though all coming from Canterbury roots, I consider this album more akin to good jazz fusion than spacey, psychedelic experimentalist fun and silliness that some of the Canterbury stuff was. (Though by this time, as we all know, the Canterbury flower-power era was all but over.)

1. The Bryden 2-step (for Amphibians)" (8:55) begins with some floating instruments, finally gelling into a tightly woven, fast-paced collaborative piece. The recording quality is far superior to most of the Canterbury sounds coming before it, which is a big plus. Also, the instrumental mix is quite balanced with no one really going off to become the central show- person. The use of brass and woodwinds are effective. (8/10)

2. "The Collapso" (6:19) is fun experiment with Carribbean 'callypso' instrumentation and styles--more of a parody or play on them, really. Not any really memorable melodies or soli (maybe the fuzzed bass solo in the last minute?), it is another fairly tight group collaboration. (8/10)

3. "Squarer for Maud" (11:50) begins like 1960s European murder-mystery soundtrack: bass, piano, symbol play, cello, sustained electric guitar chords. With the rhythm-cum-melody established, Phil Miller takes the first lead with his electric guitar. At 2:15 arrives a little bridge to re-direct. The tones get heavier, more aggressive, as the sound effects on the stringed instruments get rougher around the edges. 4:07 another shift, this time into a more avant-jazz horn-led rhythm. Pip Pyle's drumming here is very tight, the glue that holds it all together--and continues to do so, along with Dave Stewart's wizardry at maintaining "controlled chaos"--Break! "Numinousness!" Quelle surprise! Slowed down piano chord progression but more frantic drum playing! The guitarist, too, brings his playing under control. The shift at 8:30 plays out into a frenetic, MAGMA-like frenzy of reckless abandon-- speed like that of a runaway train! Everybody's on board, now, they can't be stopped! Stewart and Miller are shining! the background accompanying brass is awesome! Then, spurt and sputter, it's a UNIVERS ZERO ending! Incredible song! (10/10)

4. "Dreams Wide Awake" (8:50) begins on the heavier side, like a MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA piece. The first soloist, Phil MIller, is awesome and ear-catching while his accompanists groove gets a little stale (this is jazz!) A rapid succession of key changes at 2:20 shift the music into Dave's World--organ and keyboard sounds we have all become quite used to associating with his work. The soloing is okay, but it's interesting to listen to Phil Miller's (too far up in the mix) accompanying rhythm guitar work. At 4:55 the band comes back together to give Phil and a couple of different guitar sounds another chance. At this point I'm realizing that the song is really just a basic jazz song trying to provide solid set ups for the two principle soloists to do their thing. Unfortunately, neither of the soloists is quite as captivating or mind-blowing as, say, a Lester Brown or John Coltrane. Good song. (7/10)

5. "Binoculars" (11:46) begins with multiple layered organs and horns(?) going through a beautiful progression of chords. At 1:08 Pip Pyle establishes a drum backbeat over which the others organize their chord progression (Those horns were Phil Miller's guitar!) over which some male voice sings a typically unforgettable flow-of-consciousness lyric. Nice delicate keyboard, bass, cymbol and flute work in the fourth minute lull section--and nice transition (by Pip Pyle) at the 3:53 mark taking the same melodic "pretty' part onto the expressway. 4:50 begins Dave's brief solo, before everything comes to a slowly rolling stop. (Very prettily, I might add--like a full orchestra! Is this a variation on that opening chord progression?) Horns and cacaphony until 7:55's return to bare-bones organ, cymbols and the singers tribute to John Wayne and Rip Torn. Very well recorded, this song! Excellent mix, balance and blend. Love the bass, drum and keyboard interplay in the tenth minute. Woodwinds and, later, Phil's screeching distorted guitar round out this final section of this beautiful song. Listen to John Greaves' bass work! Sublime. (9/10)

6. "Phlakaton" at 0:09, is this really a 'song?'

7. "The Bryden 2-step (for Amphibians) Part 2" opens with 'Jaws' rolling bass line, around which drums, organ, and fuzz guitar weave aggressively. By the end of the third minute the song has developed into a tight combo presenting with the same clarity and unity as they did on the opening number. Npt sure I'd end the album with the same spacey 'random' instrument play as they started, but, there you have it. They've come around full circle. (8/10)

As an example of the twilight evolution of the Canterbury bands, this is a positve note: maturity, (relative) sobriety, music to be taken serious, to be admired, not just to be amused by. If everything was quite at the level of the two masterpieces, "Squarer for Maud" and "Binoculars" we'd have an uncontested masterpiece. As it is, I appreciate Dave Stewart's reserve on this one, love the work of Pip Pyle, am duly impressed with that of bassist John Greaves, but, unfortunately, don't see that Phil Miller's work did anything to make him rise up with the cream. He's good but lacks that je ne sais quoi that makes one great.

4.5 stars, marked up for its quality at a time when quality was lacking (in production) or waning (in progressive rock).

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 D.S. al Coda  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.39 | 63 ratings

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D.S. al Coda
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Moogtron III

3 stars Strange to think that Alan Gowen was the keyboard player of National Health for a longer time than Dave Stewart. You wouldn't expect that, given the fact that the two regular National Health albums feature Dave Stewart as a keyboard player. But Dave Stewart left the band, and Alan Gowen stepped in his shoes for quite a long time.

So it's no more than justice that this record was made. Of course, the reason was that Alan Gowen died of leukemia, and Dave Stewart joined the band National Health again to make a tribute album.

It's even more logical because the original blueprint for National Health was a band with two keyboards. Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen were soul mates (or prog mates if you like), dreaming and scheming together at Alan's place, envisioning this thing called National Health. It all turned out differently, and National Health became something like a different incarnation of Hatfield, with the only difference being the absence of Richard Sinclair and the presence of other bass players. The band would be led by Dave Stewart, who penned down most compositions in the beginning, though Gowens heritage would still be visible, and later on other band members would put their mark on the band compositionwise.

After Alan Gowen died of leukemia, D.S. Al Coda was made as a tribute album, consisting solely of Alan Gowen compositions.

Your question might be: is the album interesting for Canterbury lovers, an album that stands of its own, regardless of the fact that it was meant as a tribute? Well, it is. The album consists of good compositions, and excellent playing of all the band members.

What does the album sound like? Simple said, as a mix between National Health and Gilgamesh, but with a much more modern eighties sound. I must say, I was a bit suspicious after I heard the first drum bashes of Pip Pyle. It sounded a bit hollow, in a tasteless '80's style. Luckily, I was wrong. Pyle's drums are modern sounding, but still tasteful. Also Stewart's synths are modern sounding, but they sound very well. John Greaves sounds a bit like Jeff Berlin on Bruford's One Of A Kind, which is definitely a good thing, and Phil Miller plays quite good, electric as well as acoustic.

The compositions sound more dense than those of earlier National Health, but that's because of the writing style of Alan Gowen. So the compositions are more like Gilgamesh, but they get a lively National Health treatment. There is much less variety in the compositions than with, let's say, Of Queues And Cures, but the reason is obvious: the record consists of Gowen's compositions alone. But the playing is excellent, up to the point of pretty sensational. Much more crystalline and open than earlier Health albums.

The icing on the cake is the wide range of guest musicians. I must say I was a bit disappointed in the beginning. I was hoping that, for instance, The Northettes could be heard throughout most of the album, but they only are heard in just one track. The same goes with Richard Sinclair. The guest musicians only seem to add some soundbites to the album. Still, after a few listens, I'd say that even while their participation degree is low, it's still very valuable. Yes, the moments where for instance Richard Sinclair, the Northettes and Jimmy Hastings can be heard (also Elton Dean and some others can be heard), the music really shines.

So, is this just some sort of souvenir, a tribute and nothing more? No, this is a mature album that stands on its own. Not the best album for those who are not familiar with Canterbury, but I can recommend this album to any Canterbury lover who likes to hear another album in the vein of bands like National Health and Gilgamesh. Not a masterpiece, but a fine album nevertheless.

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 Dreams Wide Awake by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
2.14 | 3 ratings

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Dreams Wide Awake
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by raggleman

2 stars There are two main points to make about this 2 CD collection.

The first is to remind people what a valuable 'link' National Health provide in the Canterbury family tree. This package features members of Matching Mole, Soft Machine, Gilgamesh, Gong, Hatfield & The North. Caravan Of Dreams, Whitesnake and Caravan......along with countless others.

The second is that NH only released two albums in their lifetime, with a third issued posthumously. This collection features tracks from the original two albums only. So why the hell not just package the two albums together and release them as a 2 x CD package !!!!!!

So, if you're a fan of cerebral jazz rock with a smattering (but not much) of whimsy and some phenomenal organ and guitar playing then this will be your bag.....but I'd recommend tracking down the original albums so you can enjoy the artwork and the correct track order. Incidentally, this collection features some dreadful sleevenotes by Chris White (?) which certainly don't add to it's value.

Personally I find National Health's music too chaotic. I tend to enjoy the shorter, whimsical songs of Caravan and Matching Mole, rather than the jazz infused lengthy instrumental epics, but hey, that's just me. Highlight for me would be 'Binoculars' which features (unusually) lyrics but even here, with Canterbury music so full of masters like Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt and Richard Sinclair, we have the vocals of Neil Murray who I'm sure would be the first to admit he's not the greatest or most original singer in the world.

Treat with caution folks but track down the originals as valuable historical wibblings.

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 Of Queues and Cures  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.22 | 254 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Canterbury darlings of jazz rock National Health followed up their debut with a delightful musical triumph "Of Queues and Cures". One would hope, having enjoyed the debut, that there would be more of the same, including Amanda Parsons beauteous vocals, and a lot of inventive jazz fusion. It is missing the vocals this time round but still delivers, perhaps even moreso than the debut musically speaking. The guitar melodies of Phil Miller, and Dave Stewart's keyboard wizardry along with the sporadic jazz drumming of Pip Pyle, return on this followup and bassist John Greaves inventive rhythms replace those of Neil Murray, and he even has a stint at crooning on 'Binoculars'.

The album cover features a jar full of ears and perhaps this symbolises that to enjoy this album you need to put on a new set of ears. This will appeal to those who like fractured time sigs and extreme jazz and I am certainly one who enjoys prog with broken time sigs and innovative experimentation. It begins with sweet whistling birds and Stewart's lulling keyboards and suddenly breaks into jazz figures to tantalise even the most disconcerted music listener.

'The Callapso' certainly moves into many competing musical shapes, with strong textures of bright colourful rhythms and dynamic soloing on guitar. This is followed by a positive experimental string dominated moody piece called 'Squarer for Maud' clocking 11 and a half minutes. It sounds like a cat stalking in a dark alley in the intro. The atmosphere is darker and the fuzz on the guitar is very appropriate. The jazz outbreak works well, along with the percussion finesse. It even has odd time sig changes that unsettle and are hard to pin down in places. This is a triumphant instrumental with huge variations in pace and rhythmical structure. I gave up counting the time sigs as it becomes highly complex in the mid section with a massive time shift and then it suddenly breaks into a weird narrative. The narration reminded me of King Crimson's Indiscipline. After this the guitars soar in again and there is a strange time sig that never sounds quite right yet works against the keyboard motif. It is great to hear so many instruments competing against each other. This is the best track from the band and well worth a listen to see how genius music can be played if one is versatile enough. The ending is masterful with scratching violins answering a jaunty beat that never stays on one bar for long. At the end of it I am exhausted and can't wait to play it again.

'Binoculars' is another lengthy track to savour the musical palette. Stewart's keyboards are spacey and emotional, and then we hear the vocals of Neil Murray. It is a pleasant break from all the instrumental work and sounds decidedly like Robert Wyatt with quite a bit of humour in the lyrics; "mule kicks, nerves twitch, legs kick, it's a shame to say you're such a bore today, your expression has gone away, If you just sit on your arse, the whole world won't pass, it's such a farce, it was quite insane?" All in all this is quite a nice song with a whimsical Canterbury flavour. The majestic flourishes in the mid section are wonderful. A classic song by any standards.

The album does not disappoint, as it is replete with full blown experimental jazz shapes and innovative musicianship. This album is a more mature approach though I missed Amanda's vocals. There is a great deal of brass on this album and it shines as a great example of Canterbury prog in the same vein as Matching Mole or Hatfield and the North. It is another album that cements National Health's reputation as one of the best Canterbury or jazz fusion acts in the business.

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 National Health  by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.12 | 245 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Negoba
Prog Reviewer

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.

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