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National Health - National Health CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.13 | 388 ratings

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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.

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |


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