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National Health - National Health CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.12 | 383 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Born from the ashes of the marvellous, though sadly less than successful Hatfield and the North, National Health were the last of the incestuous Canterbury supergroups. Like its predecessor, it featured the amazing talents of keyboardist extraordinaire Dave Stewart, far too underrated, virtuoso drummer and lyricist Pip Pyle, and guitarist Phil Miller - augmented by former Colosseum II bassist Neil Murray (later to become a hard rock stalwart with Whitesnake, Gary Moore and Black Sabbath), who stepped into the daunting shoes of Canterbury legend Richard Sinclair. Due to the absence of the latter's golden, velvet-smooth voice, this album is largely an instrumental one, with rare vocal duties being handled by one-third of the Northettes, the charming soprano Amanda Parsons.

Like most Canterbury productions,"National Health" is not the easiest album to get into. The jazz influence is here even more pronounced than in the Hatfields' two albums, and sometimes the listener may feel as if it is being a bit too sophisticated for its own good. Moreover, Parsons' voice may come across as an acquired taste - though, at least in my personal case, it grew on me with repeated listens. As it is to be expected, however, the musicianship is stellar, the interplay between Stewart's monumental, trademark fuzz organ and the other instruments flowing along seamlessly. It is true that, after a while, the tracks may sound a bit samey, but a careful listen turns out to be ultimately rewarding for the discerning music lover.

Album opener "Tenemos Roads" must rank among the cornerstones of the Canterbury sound. A 14-minute-plus epic, it opens with an absolutely to-die-for instrumental section led by Stewart's powerful keyboards, then slows down to leave room for Parsons' ethereal, spaced-out vocalising, picking up pace again towards the end. Following track "Brujo" sees Stewart duelling with guest keyboardist Alan Gowen (of Gilgamesh fame), who sadly passed away in 1981. The two-part "Borogoves" (a name taken from the famous "Jabberwocky" nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll) features more intricate, dazzling instrumental prowess from the players, with Phil Miller proving himself one of the most underrated yet proficient guitar players in prog. Lengthy "Elephants" rounds the album off in style with more textbook keyboard pyrotechnics, wtith Parsons reprising "Tenemos Roads" in the final part.

This album is not really likely to convert any unbelievers to the joys of the Canterbury sound, but it offers much of interest to any curious, open-minded prog fans. However, I would recommend you get Hatfield and the North's two albums before you proceed to this one.

Raff | 4/5 |


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