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National Health - Missing Pieces CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

3.67 | 67 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars An enormously exciting archival release from National Health, and an excellent complement to the studio albums (or the Complete collection). All but three of the tracks on this album are recordings from when Egg's Mont Campbell was part of the band - before the debut album, which was recorded after Mont decided to quit the group due to being reminded of how much he disliked the touring life. Even more excitingly, most of these tracks include Bill Bruford during his brief stint on the drums - a favour Dave Stewart would later replay by playing keys on Bruford's solo albums from Feels Good to Me to Gradually Going Tornado.

The Mont tracks on here are a real treasure trove of musical pieces, none of which made it onto later albums (aside from a brief extract of Paracelsus that appeared at the start of the Complete compilation). The amount of material here effectively constitutes an entire "great lost National Health album", and whilst I wouldn't rank it quite as highly as their first two studio albums, that's only because the production is sometimes a little ropey (though still very, very good for demo recordings - the songs sound more like proper recordings than demos most of the time).

The three remaining songs consist of two novelty numbers - a spontaneous audience performance of Phlakaton, the "a capella drum solo" from Of Queues and Cures, to which the band react with amazement and delight, and a brief extract of Walking the Dog, a classic R&B number played as an encore at some gigs - and Starlight on Seaweed, a rerecording by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin of a Mont-era song of which no acceptable recording exists. The gag tracks are fun and Starlight on Seaweed is pretty enough, but on the whole these are best regarded as bonus tracks: the real meat of the album is the recordings from Mont's tenure in the band.

This set (coming with more hilarious liner notes from Dave Stewart in the vein of his commentary from the Complete booklet) is a crucial insight into a pivotal moment of the Canterbury scene, since the musical collaborations recorded here not only set National Health on the part to greatness but also led to the formation of Bruford's early solo band. In other words, it represents the roots of not just one but two of the most important Canterbury groups of the late 1970s. Nobody with an interest in the genre should pass up this golden opportunity, though I suppose if you can't stand National Health's major albums (the debut and Of Queues and Cures) this material won't change your mind.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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