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NATIONAL HEALTH

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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National Health biography
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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Ds Al CodaDs Al Coda
Import
Beat Goes Public Bgp 2012
Audio CD$14.99
$80.14 (used)
National HealthNational Health
Import
Esoteric 2009
Audio CD$9.58
$21.12 (used)
Of Queues & CuresOf Queues & Cures
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2009
Audio CD$9.58
$13.99 (used)
Missing PiecesMissing Pieces
East Side Digital 1996
Audio CD$26.82 (used)
CompleteComplete
East Side Digital 1990
Audio CD$29.95 (used)
PlaytimePlaytime
Cuneiform 2001
Audio CD$12.14
$7.99 (used)
Dreams Wide AwakeDreams Wide Awake
ATOM 2011
Audio CD$8.85
$8.87 (used)
D.S Al Coda By National Health (2012-06-11)D.S Al Coda By National Health (2012-06-11)
Floating World Records
Audio CD$76.48
d.s. al coda LPd.s. al coda LP
EUROPA
Vinyl$99.99
$59.99 (used)
Dreams Wide Awake by National Health (2011-07-12)Dreams Wide Awake by National Health (2011-07-12)
ATOM
Audio CD$36.09
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National Health - Self-Titled S/T, 1978 Rock/Prog LP, SEALED!, Visa Records USD $27.95 Buy It Now 2 days
CARAVAN-same JAPAN 1st.Press w/OBI Soft Machine National Health Hatfield North USD $49.99 Buy It Now 2 days
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Private Eye Magazine # 365 12 December 1975 National Health Service NHS cover USD $1.87 [0 bids]
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Playtime by National Health (CD, Feb-2001, Cuneiform Records) USD $16.95 Buy It Now 6 days
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Missing Pieces National Health Audio CD USD $79.99 Buy It Now 6 days
Soft Heap- s/t (soft machine, Elton Dean, soft head, Isotope, National Health) USD $18.99 Buy It Now 6 days
Gong National Health Daevid Allen Soft Machine Yardbirds Record Catalogue 1977 USD $43.45 Buy It Now 6 days
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National Health / Of Queues & Cures Special Promo Edit Version UK LP 1978 Charly USD $59.99 Buy It Now 7 days
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National Health D.S. al Coda LP -NM- Europa Records JP2008 US 1982 USD $24.99 Buy It Now 7 days
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National Health S/T 1978 2000 Import Record Jazz Fusion Prog Get Back GET 568 USD $64.80 Buy It Now 13 days
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NATIONAL HEALTH press clipping 1977 (6/8/77) 22X10cm USD $6.50 Buy It Now 14 days
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National Health D.S. al Coda LP Jazz Europa JP2008 VG VINYL USD $29.00 Buy It Now 14 days
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13/5/78Pgn37 Advert: National Health Album 'healthy Music On The Road' 15x5 USD $5.79 Buy It Now 16 days
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uk jazz LP prog KEN MOULE 1973 caravan soft machine canterbury national health USD $8.68 Buy It Now 18 days
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NATIONAL HEALTH D. S. Coda Europa JP2008 Canterbury EX USD $32.00 Buy It Now 21 days
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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)

4.13 | 279 ratings
National Health
1977
4.24 | 302 ratings
Of Queues and Cures
1978
3.38 | 66 ratings
D.S. al Coda
1982

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

3.71 | 42 ratings
Playtime
2001

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

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

4.18 | 37 ratings
Complete
1990
3.66 | 43 ratings
Missing Pieces
1994
2.22 | 5 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
 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.13 | 279 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Groucho Barks

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 Parsons ur-scat vocals giving it a then contemporary Kate Bush edge. There is nothing concise or danceable here....well, it depends on how you dance I guess! There is a lot in common with Pierre Moerlens Gong and mid to late 70's Soft Machine and while you get a hint of Caravan (not in the sustained melodic passages sense) and the compositional twists and turns of Egg, I do feel it is the extended use of Parsons vox that gives this an anchor and also something to differentiate from the rest of the bands in the Cant. scene. 5 tracks and a near 50 mins, although it is a 50 mins that is utilised to the full. Very little noodling for the sake of ......even allowing for the adept musicianship on show. They are not afraid to utilise a heavier King Crimson groove at the start of 'Tenemos Roads' (which later on has echos of ELP)and any band with 2 keyboard players are going to go through the whole prog gamut of sound although mellotron is absent and while being firmly based in a prog/classical style, I can hear a sound not dissimilar to Herbie Hancock post Headhunters especially at the start of 'Elephants.' You also get a feel of Hamburger Concerto Focus (marvellous!) but the album is more than a sum total of these parts and influences. It is mood music, providing you can change moods several times over the 50 mins, but it keeps coming back to the oft ignored contributions of Amanda Parsons superb voice. As mentioned earlier....but Parsons is a far superior singer....you do get the Kate Bush colour wash but without the strained piping screech. Phil Miller provides both cutting and smooth jagged scale interludes on guitar without falling for McLaughlin speed freakery and Neil Murray (yes he who went on to Whitesnake err fame!) gives us non- blues/rock bass figures from jazz rock slides to a rolling punching foundation for the heavier passages. It's an album I can always lose myself in and it has grown on me (I confess over 35 years!) to be at the top of the sub genre. Although it isnt perfect it is certainly at least a 4.75 stars so rounded up to 5.

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 Of Queues and Cures by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.24 | 302 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Suedevanshoe

5 stars John Greaves comes in to play bass replacing Neil Murray on Of Queues and Cures. The result is National Health's Magnum Opus, a culmination of absurd creativity, absurd humor, absurd musicianship, absurd dynamism....absurd as in good.

Incredible riffs intertwine with melodic, pastoral passages and a vocal lament on television addicts, "Binoculars". In addition, this album is the last great feature for the fuzz organ that made the Canterbury sound so recognizable. Dave Stewart belongs at the head of the Progressive keyboardist hall of fame. Check out the beginning of "Dreams Wide Awake"

A must have for all serious progressive collectors, and a possible bridge album for those with no prog experience.

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 Of Queues and Cures by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.24 | 302 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by The Frontal Cortex

4 stars National Health is one of those bands I had no idea existed until now. First album of theirs I'm listening and I was really impressed.

The first track "The Bryden 2-Step (for Amphibians) Part 1" is really good and it opens up the album in a way that makes you wanting more which is always important. I just loved the way the keys sounded from the very start and the rhythm which was constantly changing though complicated and hard to follow if you're not used to these kinds of brilliant composition, was in the end more than rewarding.

"The Collapso" was next and it makes me feel like it's continuing a story with the music being similarly confusing. The synths really made a difference but the drums were also exceptional with a very progressive sound. It's one of those tracks I don't enjoy as much but it's still one heck of piece.

The almost 12-minute "Squarer for Maud" has a nice progression from a soft starting sound to the strong and complex one of the previous tracks. The alternation between the guitar and the keys as the lead is really well placed and I especially liked the solo after the spoken words which btw weren't random. Apparently "Maud" is a computer programmed to measure the "numinosity" mentioned. The cello is just excellent choice of a lead for this particular piece. It fitted perfectly and the last one and a half minutes or so were an especially well crafted closing. This one just grows on you.

"Dreams Wide Awake" just captures you from the title alone. Ofcourse the keys here are amazing and the first time I heard it with my eyes closed I was almost certain it would be my favorite track of the album (it turned out it wasn't though). The different sounds created by the keys were incredibly rhythmic and it helped a lot because of the fact that it wasn't as difficult to follow as the previous pieces. The guitar sound here was good too.

"Binoculars" is my favorite one of this album, and it's not only 'cause I always like my tracks with some lyrics in them. It's got a nice little orchestra playing with all the wind instruments after the lyrics. The flute and the trombone were a great choice for the theme of the song. The drumming and particularly the closing guitar were something else and they convinced me that this one was the best in the album. "Phlakaton" is probably the shortest separate track I've ever seen in an album, the only thing I have to say is that it brings back the absurdity of the previous pieces and it leads to the last one.

Finally "The Bryden 2-Step (For Amphibians) Part 2" is kind of a reprise of the first one (also, kind of obvious). I enjoyed it as much as the first one. The keys sound fantastic and the drums are once again showing off. A great way to end the album, with a reprise of the one that started it.

My closing thought is that it's a very difficult album to listen to and although I might need to update this review in the future I'm giving this a 4/5 star rating because it kind of grows on you and I wouldn't call that essential but DEFINITELY Excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

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 Of Queues and Cures by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.24 | 302 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by Thai Divone

5 stars I don't remember exactly when I first heard them, but to this day they are still with me. It's a band that is so unique, and so magnificent, that I don' really have the words to describe what I feel for them. Hearing their melodies make my smile uncontrollably, and for ages I hummed their melodies (and it ain't easy, mind ya). And yet, I don't think that I can leave them outside of my reviews list, even though the rating is clear from the first sentence.

"The Bryden 2-steps (for amphibians) part 1" opens the album, with some birds and a synth, with some soft organ sounds. Some keyboards-bass noes follow, and for the first 2 minutes nothing really happens. And then the song explodes, with a great guitar motive that just screams perfection. The rhythm in here is just magical, and the organs just complement the guitar beautifully. The song continues through a series of metamorphoses, before a little bit after the 4 minutes mark it changes again, and then again. At the 5 minutes mark begins a new short section that sounds like its coming from a fifties jazz show, before we get back to our variations on the motive, with a great solo guitar beginning at the 6 minutes mark. The keyboards-guitar duet in the closing section is no less than pure minimalist genius.

"The Collapso" is a different beast, with a great rhythm and a nice play on this unique style. The overdrive guitar is magnificent, and actually- every line, every instrument role in here, is just so demanding and complex that one can just listen to every instrument on its own and still be amazed, not to mention the combination. And even so, the percussions in here just steal the show for me.

"Squarer for Maud" opens with a great bass line, with some very dark and claustrophobic overtones. Over this repetitive line layers are added and instruments just try to top each other, without really breaking free or seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. After 2 and a half minutes the Henry Cow influence is finally taking the lead, with some avant-garde sounds and textures, joined by an amazing guitar solo. The saxophone answers greatly to the call, before the song changes back and the tempo is rising slowly but steadily. As we come closer to the 6 minutes mark layers are taken out, but the avant-garde factor rises at the speed of light. And then, a short silence before some spoken poetry takes center stage, and the guitar goes soloing a few seconds later. It still sounds dark and morbid, even though it is now carrying some more weight. Clarinet is added next, after the tempo rises again, and the keyboards do their usual magic. As we come towards the end, the piano, the drums and the cello take the stage, leading us closer and closer towards the unavoidable end. The entire song has a Henry Cow vibe to it, which is only fitting and a huge win for me.

Dreams Wide Awake opens with some of the craziest organ lines ever put on a vinyl, with the added beauty of a great bass and drums combination to complement it. Stewart here sounds like he took way too many drugs, 2 and a half minutes and the song changes completely, and the entire band just do some magic tricks in the recording studio. The mood and tempo change regularly and continuously, and the meter doesn't stay the same for more than a few seconds. The guitar starts soloing at the 6 minutes mark, before a change of pace and mood takes place. So the guitar just goes dueting with Stewart.

Binoculars opens with a Hammond, creating an atmosphere of loneliness. After a minute the bass joins in, and vocals kick in 20 seconds later. The drumming is quite, yet outstanding, and the short bridges are beautiful. A strange lament on the addiction to television, way to relevant to our days. The flute solo, beginning around the 3 minutes mark adds another layer of genius, and then the rest of the band join back in, slowly, really slowly, making them sound even more like a jazz ensemble than they sometimes sound. The drumming grows much more prevalent, and a nice keyboards solo comes next. Then we slow down for a dramatic interval, and then we get a little avant-garde bridge utilizing a few saxes and other wind instruments. Vocals come back at around the 8th minute mark. We get another wonderful guitar solo to close the song, with the bass and the drums playing melodies that are just as wonderful if not even more.

Phlakhaton is a quick change of pace before we get back to The Bryden Part 2, beginning with a great keyboards line with some great drumming and bass lines underneath, and then the guitar kicks in. the atmosphere here takes the center stage, with the variations on the first part taking the second, smaller one. What a great way to close a perfect album?

I guess that by now it is pretty clear- for me it a solid 5 stars. I can't imagine a collection without it.

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 Playtime by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Live, 2001
3.71 | 42 ratings

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Playtime
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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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 National Health by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.13 | 279 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team

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.

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 Of Queues and Cures by NATIONAL HEALTH album cover Studio Album, 1978
4.24 | 302 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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
4.13 | 279 ratings

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National Health
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

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
4.24 | 302 ratings

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Of Queues and Cures
National Health Canterbury Scene

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

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
3.71 | 42 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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Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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