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National Health - D.S. Al Coda CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

3.33 | 82 ratings

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Moogtron III
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Strange to think that Alan Gowen was the keyboard player of National Health for a longer time than Dave Stewart. You wouldn't expect that, given the fact that the two regular National Health albums feature Dave Stewart as a keyboard player. But Dave Stewart left the band, and Alan Gowen stepped in his shoes for quite a long time.

So it's no more than justice that this record was made. Of course, the reason was that Alan Gowen died of leukemia, and Dave Stewart joined the band National Health again to make a tribute album.

It's even more logical because the original blueprint for National Health was a band with two keyboards. Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen were soul mates (or prog mates if you like), dreaming and scheming together at Alan's place, envisioning this thing called National Health. It all turned out differently, and National Health became something like a different incarnation of Hatfield, with the only difference being the absence of Richard Sinclair and the presence of other bass players. The band would be led by Dave Stewart, who penned down most compositions in the beginning, though Gowens heritage would still be visible, and later on other band members would put their mark on the band compositionwise.

After Alan Gowen died of leukemia, D.S. Al Coda was made as a tribute album, consisting solely of Alan Gowen compositions.

Your question might be: is the album interesting for Canterbury lovers, an album that stands of its own, regardless of the fact that it was meant as a tribute? Well, it is. The album consists of good compositions, and excellent playing of all the band members.

What does the album sound like? Simple said, as a mix between National Health and Gilgamesh, but with a much more modern eighties sound. I must say, I was a bit suspicious after I heard the first drum bashes of Pip Pyle. It sounded a bit hollow, in a tasteless '80's style. Luckily, I was wrong. Pyle's drums are modern sounding, but still tasteful. Also Stewart's synths are modern sounding, but they sound very well. John Greaves sounds a bit like Jeff Berlin on Bruford's One Of A Kind, which is definitely a good thing, and Phil Miller plays quite good, electric as well as acoustic.

The compositions sound more dense than those of earlier National Health, but that's because of the writing style of Alan Gowen. So the compositions are more like Gilgamesh, but they get a lively National Health treatment. There is much less variety in the compositions than with, let's say, Of Queues And Cures, but the reason is obvious: the record consists of Gowen's compositions alone. But the playing is excellent, up to the point of pretty sensational. Much more crystalline and open than earlier Health albums.

The icing on the cake is the wide range of guest musicians. I must say I was a bit disappointed in the beginning. I was hoping that, for instance, The Northettes could be heard throughout most of the album, but they only are heard in just one track. The same goes with Richard Sinclair. The guest musicians only seem to add some soundbites to the album. Still, after a few listens, I'd say that even while their participation degree is low, it's still very valuable. Yes, the moments where for instance Richard Sinclair, the Northettes and Jimmy Hastings can be heard (also Elton Dean and some others can be heard), the music really shines.

So, is this just some sort of souvenir, a tribute and nothing more? No, this is a mature album that stands on its own. Not the best album for those who are not familiar with Canterbury, but I can recommend this album to any Canterbury lover who likes to hear another album in the vein of bands like National Health and Gilgamesh. Not a masterpiece, but a fine album nevertheless.

Moogtron III | 3/5 |


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