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NATIONAL HEALTH

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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National Health picture
National Health biography
Founded in Canterbury, England in 1975 - Disbanded in 1980

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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NATIONAL HEALTH discography


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

4.14 | 441 ratings
National Health
1978
4.28 | 499 ratings
Of Queues and Cures
1978
3.42 | 98 ratings
D.S. al Coda
1982

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

3.72 | 65 ratings
Playtime
2001

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

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

4.17 | 51 ratings
Complete
1990
3.65 | 61 ratings
Missing Pieces
1996
2.41 | 9 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
 D.S. al Coda by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.42 | 98 ratings

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D.S. al Coda
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

5 stars After the release of Of Queues And Cures, National Health was joined by cellist Georgie Born and bassoonist Lindsay Cooper, who had played guest roles on the album and had previously been John Greaves' bandmates in Henry Cow. One can only dream of what sort of material this miniature chamber orchestra would be capable of producing, but it sadly wasn't to be: frustrated with the band's consistent lack of success, Dave Stewart finally decided enough was enough and pulled the plug on his involvement with the project in order to join Bill Bruford's band. The band fell apart after this: Miller, Pyle and Greaves managed to reunite with Alan Gowen for a few more tours in 1979, but there was no more desire to record a new album beyond that.

This changed in 1981, when Gowen died of leukaemia at the age of 33. In order to commemorate him, Stewart, Miller, Pyle and Greaves reunited one more time to record an album featuring a number of Gowen's compositions. The resulting product was released as the final National Health album in 1982.

D.S. Al Coda is much more of a product of its time than its predecessors. The production style is more monotone and definitely shows some 80s influence, with Dave Stewart's synthesizers dominating the sound (rather than his usually wide variety of different keyboards) while the more exotic instruments are far less prominent than on the last album (Elton Dean and Jimmy Hastings show up on saxophone and flute respectively on a few tracks, but that's about it). Even Pip Pyle's drums are electronically enhanced, as was the standard at the time. This move is accentuated by the first track, "Portrait Of A Shrinking Man", which is atypical for National Health, to say the least: a slightly funky yet melancholic groove prominently featuring a fretless bass and a horn section. It's more or less similar to what bands like Weather Report were doing at the time, which for this band's standards isn't too exciting but it's still fun to listen to, and the main melody is really catchy too.

An album full of stuff like that would have probably been a let-down, but thankfully "Portrait Of A Shrinking Man" is actually an anomaly on the album. While all of the material is far more jazz-inspired than on National Health's previous albums, only two other tracks on D.S. Al Coda follow a traditional jazz fusion pattern, but both feel way more loose and grant far more freedom to the musicians than the opening track (just listen to Pyle bashing away on "Black Hat"! Just listen to that synthesizer-guitar duel that kicks off "I Feel A Night Coming On"!).

Most of the songs on this album were written just before and during the 1979 tours and had not been published up until this point, but two songs had previously been released in the 1970s by Gilgamesh, Gowen's original band. In my opinion, the versions presented on this album are superior: National Health's frantic, hard-rocking take on the complex "TNTFX" blows the feeble original out of the water. On the other hand, "Arriving Twice", which was originally just a nice little folky interlude on Gilgamesh's debut album, is here turned into an incredibly sad and mournful tune, like a final salute from the musicians to their deceased comrade. The same feeling exudes from "Shining Water", which is a lot longer and a lot faster, but equally bittersweet. When the final chords of the song start to ring, you almost believe them to be guiding their composer to heaven.

Then (after the totally unremarkable "Tales Of A Damson Knight", which is probably the band's least interesting song) comes the centrepiece of the album, which starts with "Flanagan's People": a high-paced track that starts off resembling "I Feel A Night Coming On", with another synthesized guitar solo from Miller, before it abruptly cuts to a quiet electric piano-based shuffle. This is followed by a more chaotic part, but eventually the quiet comes out on top as the piece segues into "Toad Of Toad Hall", which is a true masterpiece in the National Health style. Over the course of 7,5 minutes, the tension is supremely built up, evolving from a peaceful flute solo to a dissonant prog-rocking beat and finally culminating in an explosive jazz jam, where Dave Stewart plays a final synth solo before bringing the piece to a close.

Overall, the effect of this album is very strange. The production style and the music are clearly disconnected: these are still the same experimental-minded musicians that brought us "Tenemos Roads", but even though the compositions themselves may not suffer from it, it seems the guys finally gave up their wholly uncompromising attitude in order to get this album on the market at all. Maybe it's for the best that they called it quits afterwards then, although it's obvious they weren't in the mood to continue the project anyway. The epic, uplifting themes of the first two albums are gone: while many moments on D.S. Al Coda are still quite rousing, the band's youthful optimism has given way to a gloomy state, which in a certain sense is appropriate seeing as how the album was meant as a threnody. Progressive rock is often accused by critics of insincerity or fake emotionality, but D.S. Al Coda is without a doubt this band's most heartfelt statement.

 Of Queues and Cures by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.28 | 499 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

5 stars Of Queues And Cures is close in style to National Health's first album, which I am happy about. The line-up consists of only four people instead of six, but the band makes up for it by recruiting a fairly large number of guest musicians on various eccentric instruments, including oboes, cellos and even steel drums. The most significant difference is the absence of vocals on all tracks except "Binoculars", which I'll come back to later. Another difference is that the songwriting is more democratic: on the previous album, the only composers were the two keyboard players; this time around, all members get to contribute at least one composition of their own.

The first two tracks are once again composed by keyboardist Dave Stewart. Both follow more or less the same pattern as "Tenemos Roads": both are bookended by a mighty majestic melody, with a wild sequence of different musical events in between. The main difference is that the songs are a lot shorter than their predecessor on the last album. Oh, and the main theme of "The Bryden Two-Step (For Amphibians)" (man, what a title) doesn't actually recur until its second part at the end of the album. In any case, "The Bryden Two-Step" is an excellent album opener. The absence of Alan Gowen means there are less synthesizers on this album, and guitarist Phil Miller now has to play the song's main theme by himself, but he makes up for it by applying loads of effects to his instrument in order to make it sound like a guitar-synth hybrid, which is a delight.

Stewart's other contribution is "The Collapso", which puts the old Igor Stravinsky quote "Lesser artists imitate; great artists steal" into practice: The main melody of the song is taken straight from George Martin's "Theme One" and another part of it comes from Stravinsky's own Ebony Concerto, but Stewart manages to combine these bits into an entirely new and far more menacing whole, creating probably the most aggressive track in the band's repertoire. Also pay attention to John Greaves's bass solo near the end, where he fuzzes up his instrument so heavily that it almost sounds like a regular guitar.

Greaves' own "Squarer For Maud" is the longest track on the album, clocking in at (only) 11 minutes and 50 seconds, and is also probably the most diverse track on the album despite being based mainly on but a few musical motifs. It goes through a lot of different moods and styles, ranging from hard rock to avant-garde classical music. It also makes liberal use of the string and wind players the band had at their disposal for the time being.

Phil Miller's "Dreams Wide Awake" and drummer Pip Pyle's "Binoculars" bear a strong resemblance to the more folk-influenced music of Hatfield & The North, which isn't surprising because they had both played in that band before it merged into National Health (also, National Health's line-up at this point was almost identical to that of Hatfield). "Dreams Wide Awake" is good: Stewart kicks it off with one of the most breath-taking organ solos of his career, and for the rest of the tune creates a warm and gentle atmosphere with the help of Miller strumming away on his clean electric guitar. I'm a little less positive about "Binoculars", though. It starts off as a simple folkish shuffle that tries to mimic something in the Hatfield style, but it sadly doesn't work all that well: the only thing that distinguished this National Health line-up from Hatfield is the absence of singer Richard Sinclair, and his singing duties are on this track assumed by bassist John Greaves, whose vocal skills are less than stellar. Furthermore, a lot of the song is dedicated to long-winded chord sequences that aren't especially interesting. I won't deny that it has its prettier moments though, with Jimmy Hastings's flute solo sticking out in particular.

After that comes "Phlâkatön", which is just 10 seconds of distorted gibberish, followed by the aforementioned reprise of "The Bryden Two-Step" because just like last time, the album finishes at the same place it started. Overall, it's slightly less consistent but still a really great listen. I originally discovered this band after reading a very scathing review of this particular album, so it won't do any harm to spread some nicer words about it, methinks.

 D.S. al Coda by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.42 | 98 ratings

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D.S. al Coda
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I guess you could call this a controversial album based on the ratings for it compared to the first two NATIONAL HEALTH albums that are legendary. What changed? Not the lineup although this record was put out the year after Alan Gowen passed in 1981 as a tribute to him. So it's all Gowen compositions including a couple of covers from his band GILGAMESH. We also get some special guests who wanted to honour Gowen including Richard Sinclair on vocals for one track, Amanda Parsons and Barbara Gaskins add vocals on one track, Elton Dean on sax for two songs, Jimmy Hastings on flute for three tunes along with a trombone and trumpet player on the opener from two musicians I don't know. The core of the band is outstanding with Dave Stewart on keyboards, John Greaves on bass, Phil Miller on guitar and Pip Pyle on drums.

This isn't nearly as bad as I was expecting in fact it's quite good. The opener though that sets the tone really gets the record off on the wrong foot. I mean leave it out or bury it in the middle. I was just surprising the first time I heard it because of those 80's plastic sounding synths but there's other issues too. Just not into blasting horns either. But then we get "Black Hat" with Sinclair and his vocal melodies sounding amazing. Hastings shines on the flute along with Pip on drums. "I Feel A Night Coming On" is a top three and it starts uptempo and loud before a calm arrives. I like Dean and Miller trading off later on. The closer rounds out my top three and it's called "Toad Of Toad Hall". So a pretty good album but not very consistent to be honest.

 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.14 | 441 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

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). Basically the music is a lot like Hatfield and the North but more intense, less singing.

Track one gives you a bombardment of keyboards and moods, quiet parts harrowing actual female singing. By all means this song should be fantastic. I think the song never builds to anything though it simply exists and the music found is not memorable enough for me to desire it. Additionally there is an ambient section which I am very cautious about as it's easy for me to be unimpressed which is what happens. I think ambient parts can be good if this song has earned it. I don't think this song does so when it comes back I'm left cold

Track two is a Gowen song that's actually nice. Very calm and pretty. It has opens with keyboard and maintains a sparse vibe for some time, during which flute rein supreme. Additionally the scat melody is clear and distinct which stands as a marked improvement over the previous track. I like this one, the staccato block chords, developing composition and general sound it evokes.

Track three is split into two parts, likely due to vinyl restrictions. This, like track one is a Stewart song but unlike it is good (no song on here is bad, the song is just not at the level I know he can reach). The track develops slowly and one can really hear the neat muddy eighties bass tone, nice. Like the closing part of track two there is some screaming guitar and then boom the song changes. This part is neat you get this abrupt stately March over which fuzzed out organ pierces. As the song develops it keeps some quirky rhythms, quite good.

Track four is what brings this to 3*. It starts alright with dark atmospheric sounds. Then it proceeds to become a sprawling fourteen minute song. Most of it is just fine mediocre Canterbury Scene stuff y'know. However, it ends with some ambience then done. So unsatisfactory.

Overall this is an album that just doesn't click for me. It isn't bad but is overall to much of a background listening experience, hence 3/5 because it still is good. Canterbury Sound Score 5/5

 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.14 | 441 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Psychedelic Paul

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 on drums and percussion and Amanda Parsons on vocals. National Health recorded three albums during their brief time in the spotlight:- "National Health" (1977); Of Queues and Cures (1978); and "D.S. Al Coda" (1982). It's time now to take out a prescription for National Health's first album and find out if music really is the best medicine.

The album opens with the bright and sparkling "Tenemos Roads". Running at over fourteen minutes long, it's a complex improvisational and uplifting piece of music with some truly dynamic keyboard virtuosity from Dave Stewart, with Amanda Parsons' lovely soprano vocals soaring up up and away into the wild blue yonder like a high-flying bird. It may be hard to discern the lyrics to discover what "Tenemos Roads" is all about, so here's a brief taster:- "From the cradle to the grave, There are roads for us all, That we'll find, and follow to the end, Leading upwards to a place in the stars, Ten million miles away, There's a path called Tenemos Roads" ..... This warm and inviting opening number is like a radiant sunburst of glowing rainbow colours that's guaranteed to brighten up the the dullest of days. It's All That Jazz and a lot more besides and just what the doctor ordered.

Next up is the 10-minute-long "Brujo" which transports us to calmer climes with a gorgeous pastoral woodwind opening, conjuring up images of gently rolling green pastures bathed in warm golden sunshine. This serves as a prelude to another sunburst session of wild improvisational Jazz-Rock with some ethereal vocalese ad-libbing from Amanda Parsons. The music is positively aglow with complex time signatures, dynamic changes of tempo and some delightful keyboard flights of fancy from Dave Stewart. In other words, it's everything we've come to expect in the best Canterbury Scene music. Apparently, "Brujo" is Spanish for sorcerer, so just lie back and let this music weave its magical spell on you.

The first two pieces of music on Side Two "Borogoves (Excerpt from Part Two)" followed by "Borogoves (Part One)" seem strangely back to front, but putting that minor detail aside, "Borogoves" is a complex and compelling 10-minute piece of music where the listener never quite knows what's coming next upon first hearing. To try and put such a dynamic improvisational piece of music into words would do it a disservice, other than to say it's intricate and invigorating Jazzy music with more than enough unexpected twists and turns to keep any Canterbury Scene fan happy, and just in case anyone's wondering what a "Borogove" is, it's a silly mythical bird invented by Lewis Carroll for his nonsense poem, "Jabberwocky".

There are "Elephants" in the room for the final piece of music, which turns out to be a 14-minute-long free-flight instrumental jam session. It's another complex Jazz-Rock composition containing undecipherable lyrics, with the music sounding as marvellously wild and unpredictable as a stampede of "Elephants". It's an endlessly entertaining combination of gentle pastoral flute and keyboard passages and wild uninhibited outbursts of unrestrained Canterbury Scene music.

"National Health" is a playful and passionate avant-garde demonstration of evergreen Canterbury Scene music at its best, featuring an accomplished and experienced group of musicians who are really in their element with this eclectic and endlessly diverse album. Sometimes the Jazzy music is manic and unrestrained, and sometimes it's pleasant and pastoral, but it's always energetic and exhilarating. National Health is just the prescription you need for some lively Canterbury Scene Jazz.

 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.14 | 441 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

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.

 Complete by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
4.17 | 51 ratings

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Complete
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is a pretty solid collection of the original three National Health albums, though it's worth raising some caveats. Firstly, the bonus tracks are highly pointless: Paracelsus offers only a small snippet of the track in question, and the Missing Pieces collection is where you will want to go if you want to hear the material the band cooked up before their debut. The other bonus is The Apocalypso, a Dave Stewart solo synth remake of The Collapso... er, which was already provided on disc 1. What was the point?

Another quibble is that the split of three albums into 2 CDs means that Of Queues and Cures, arguably the band's masterpiece, gets cut in half. At least the split is where the end of side 1 of the vinyl will be - but half the convenience of CDs is not having to turn the disc over!

Still, it's a good collection, though it has to be said that only two of the three albums here are truly essential - D.S. al Coda suffers from a badly dated synth sound - and both of those got nice rereleases on Esoteric more recently, rendering this set redundant unless you absolutely, truly must own D.S. al Coda. (...why?)

 Complete by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1990
4.17 | 51 ratings

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Complete
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

4 stars The extra tracks, and Dave Stewart's liner notes, are worth it.

This box-set contains all three National Health albums in their entirety, which is already good value for the price. You also get Dave Stewart's hilarious liner notes, in which he lays out the entire history of the band and tells a number of very funny stories (funny often in the 'tragedy+time' sense). Stewart is a gifted writer and (now we know) comedian. This would be enough, but the compilation also contains two extra tracks. The opening track "Paracelsus" is written by Mont Campbell (who was the bass player in the band for the first year), and pre-dates the first album. Bill Bruford is on drums, and Steve Hillage is on guitar. While only one minute and 41 seconds, it is a killer track, worth getting just for this. The second extra track is a 1990 remake of "The Collapso", originally released on 'Of Queues and Cures', but here remade as "The Apocalypso". This is also worth having, although not nearly as important as Paracelsus. But all together a great compilation. I would recommend getting this version of their catalogue.

 D.S. al Coda by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.42 | 98 ratings

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D.S. al Coda
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

2 stars Unfortunately...

Another complete change of sound. Dave Stewart left the band after Of Queus and Cures and the tour, and Alan Gowan took up the offer to replace him. That version toured the US in 1979, and Europe in 1980. However, Alan Gowan died of leukaemia in 1981. So, Dave Stewart decided to take the band back to the recording studio for one last album, this time an album of Alan Gowan's music, hence the title (D.S. al Coda). Unfortunately, the music is just not up to par. There is a commercial-jazz sheen to the compositions here, and this now ventures into the kind of forgettable jazz fusion that neither celebrates jazz nor rock (nor original fusion). Furthermore, this was recorded in 1982, and the production values here now reflect the 80s sound. While the other two National Health albums were exciting, innovative and musical, if a bit cold, this album just sounds cold. So, not the most fitting tribute to the late Alan Gowan, although I am not fully sure how much of the issue is a result of the band's interpretation, the production values, or Gowan's compositions themselves. But this is not something that draws multiple listens from me, and there is much better jazz fusion out there. Saying this, I am sure there are some people who will like this music, but my guess is it will be a very small pool. I give this album 5.1 out of 10, which translates to (high) 2 PA stars. Really, only for true fans and collectors.

 Of Queues and Cures by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.28 | 499 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Excellent follow-up.

The second National Health album no longer has Alan Gowan guesting on keyboards, nor Amanda Parsons on vocals. But they now John Greaves from Henry Cow on bass, and also guests Georgie Born (also from Henry Cow) on cello, Paul Nieman on Trombones and Phil Minton on Trumpets, and Keith Thompson on Oboe, as well as Jimmy Hastings on flutes and clarinets (Hastings is the only one here who also guested on the first album). So, the music here is virtually all instrumental, with an even more classical (and less jazzy) feel than the first album. Saying this, the music here is really top notch, often better than on the first album. Songs like the two versions of the 'Bryden 2-Step', 'Squarer for Maud' and 'The Collapso' are very musical, sounding a lot like the best moments from Rotter's Club. The only drawback on this album is Pip Pyle's 'Binoculars', mainly because of Pyle's lyrics, and the poor way they are sung (one listen and you will know what I mean). But overall, this album has a great feel, and contains some of the highlights of the band's catalogue. I give this album 8.8 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is 0.1 more than their debut. So, again, 4 PA stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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