Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
National Health - Missing Pieces CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

3.67 | 67 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

2 stars When any band builds up an appreciable fan base, there often comes a demand for an archive release like this. An "Odd and Sods" sort will eventually pop up in a group's discography either to combat bootleggers, fulfill the purpose of a metaphorical bone for the hardcore doggies, or simply net the musicians some more royalties to buy them a third yacht. (Even though, I highly doubt that the latter would be applied to a band like National Health who bathe in absolute obscurity and thus, "Missing Pieces" probably pays the group's electric bills.) I vastly enjoy National Health's musical output so I should greatly appreciate an album such as this but I don't. Demos and outtakes often have a clear reason for being a musician's paperweights and not being on their albums. "Missing Pieces" says just that and paints a vivid picture of a fresh-out-of-the-water band scrambling to find a new direction to reach for and not having much luck. Out of the eight main compositions I only can manage to comprehend about two of them and this really shows how completely flustered this young band was.

The band's lack of direction or purpose is often due to the instrumental pieces by their original bassist, Mont Campbell, who writes six pointlessly lengthy, complex, arty farty "compositions" and that's about all I can say about them. They're hardly memorable at all and good lord, so help me if they don't completely bore me for the prolonged time that they're on. "Paracelsus" has a few classical motives thrown deep within it and the lovely and talented, Amanda Parsons gets to exercise her vocal charms in "Zabaglione" but I'd be hard pressed to rack my brain to dig up any more positive Zen for these pieces of work. "Croquette For Electronic Beating Group" and "Agrippa" are even more tedious and drive me completely out of my head, being that they both drag for five and nine minutes respectively and are completely devoid of any interesting musical themes or texture. Alan Gowen, (God, rest his soul) also contributes a number entitled "The Tow Plane & The Glider" which is virtually indistinguishable from the Campbell indulgences but at least has a decently pretty, thirty second intro. Thank God, David Stewart decided to haul in some traditional prog influences (the Baroque themes, the standard but virtuosic soloing, and those heavenly vocals; all missing on "Missing Pieces") for the band's wonderful debut or I would have felt mighty annoyed I bought it... kind of like how I felt when I bought this collection of doodles.

David Stewart redeems a small amount of this rather homely bunch of what Mr. Tony Banks of Genesis would call "Studs and Stetsons" with two much more "normal" songs. "Clocks and Clouds" is beautiful and fully worthy of being on National Health's debut. Stewart tells us in the liner notes that he was attempting to write something in the standard Canterbury vein and he masterfully pulls it off. This is an actual "song" (You know, one of those rarities with lyrics and a chorus!) with more of Parson's vocals. There's something really ethereal and "one with nature" in the way she gently laments about the current weather in the lyrics and the melody and instrumental themes are above average. This is the only song on "Missing Pieces" that actually gives me any kind of resonant feeling. I can relax in a fond contentedness as a happy, real soulful fuzz organ solo closes the song before I'm thrust back into a stagnated trance once the sounds of "Agrippa" rein over my speaker.

"The Lethargy Shuffle & The Mind-Your-Backs Tango" isn't too nasty either. Despite being nine overlong minutes, there is something hilarious about the song. In the only glimpse of the band's jovial sense of humor on here, the song starts as a demented parody of up-tempo 50's big band music played in the wrong time signature (Yesh, playing things like blues and other stuff that prog bands consider "rudimentary" in the wrong complex time signature was a geeky, Trekkie in-joke amongst many a prog band) Despite some superfluous noodling here and there this song, along with the teeny tiny novelty numbers, represent the only other decent entertainment that I'm welcome to enjoy on here,

Well, yeah, the novelties are pretty funny throwaways, at least. "Bourée" is a posh, French horn theme fit for the backing of a squire giving a sentence for the public guillotining, "Walk the Dog" is a twelve second snippet of John Greaves blues wailing, no less, oh and track 9 is simply a display of the dweebish prog passion so many Canadians possess as a group of 'em chant an obviously rehearsed, rendition of the legendary "Phlakaton."

Altogether, I feel really gypped with this National Health release. If I had known the musical quality of Missing Pieces, I probably wouldn't have purchased the thing despite a having a minor OCD completionist mentality when it comes to collecting music of my favorite bands. The only true compensation this album provides are the in-depth liner notes that are a real treat due to David Stewart's reserved but chortlesome British humor and the aforementioned "Clocks and Clouds," a real pretty ditty with lush vocals and a warm atmosphere to die for. I'm afraid that this album will be a perpetual bore, even for the most hardened Health lovers, however. C-

Best Songs: Clocks and Clouds

Worst Songs: Agrippa, Croquette For Electronic Beating Group, Zabaglione, Lethargy Shuffle Part 2, The Tow Plane & The Glider

LionRocker | 2/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this NATIONAL HEALTH review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.