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National Health - National Health CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.12 | 383 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

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.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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