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National Health - Missing Pieces CD (album) cover


National Health

Canterbury Scene

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5 stars Work of astonishment that collects initial album uncollection works. It is valuable material of the Canterbury jazz-rock. Humorous, intellectual music by exact calculation and rich music sense. It is a content to make it actually feel that NATHONAL HEALTH is a group in the top of the Canterbury jazz-rock. Only this album can be called a true masterpiece by NATHONAL HEALTH.
Report this review (#43185)
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Most "rarities and unreleased"-type of releases are pretty appalling; floor-sweepings that should never have been released in the first place. WORKS VOL. 2 springs immediately to mind. This album is something else, though. Since National Health had a lot more output than they were able to record, hearing these tracks, particularly the earliest work, is revelatory.

The music here is better than it has any right to be. Most of the tunes contain the original seven-piece lineup of two keyboards (Stewart, Gowen), two guitars (Phil Miller, Phil Lee), bass (Mont Campbell), drums (Bill Bruford) and vocals (Amanda Parsons). Stewart and Campbell are responsible for the bulk of the material, and it's absolutely outstanding, good enough to have appeared on their "real" albums. The sound quality is a bit on the garage-y side, but isn't bad enough to make it unlistenable.

Some of the later tracks feature the later, John Greaves quartet lineup, and "Starlight On Seaweed" is a "re-creation" by Stewart and Barbara Gaskin. It does peter out a bit towards the end, frankly, but there's enough quality music to make this worth owning. An precious artifact, one I wish had been unearthed a long time ago.

Report this review (#47587)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This issue from one of the shadier label (in terms of questionable sound qualities of their legit issues) Voiceprint is rather unlike what I've been able to hear until now. In other words, this probably one of their better release in their catalogue not always spotless. Having finally agreed to let these pre-debut album recordings (demo sessions from 75 and radio sessions from 76) and some later after last album tidbits (winter 79), this becomes an essential NH would-be album.

Bookended with two sloppy and voluntarily stupid tracks, this collection of add pieces and bits is a very interesting one as we are given a sight of the group's halcyon formative days through unusual line-ups, most notably ex-Egg Mont Campbell's participation on bass (six of the tracks are penned by him) and his early exit due to a constantly delayed debut album. We also get to hear the group with both Miller and Lee on guitars as well as both Stewart and Gowen on keys on the same tracks. And even Steve Hillage dropped by for few string shaking in a radio session.

Vocally speaking, we still get some tracks that are ruined by the debatable voice of Amanda Parsons (she is definitely not my cup of tea, I much prefer Gaskin as far as Northettes are concerned), even though she's pretty good in the scatting of Zabaglione, especially just before the slight guitar string screw-up around the end of the track. Funnily enough, around the end of Clocks And Clouds, you can swear Dave Sinclair was passing by with his distorted Hammond organ from the Grey And Pink era, but this is Stewart in 76. Agrippa is actually probably my fave NH track and The Mind- Your-Backs Tango is not far behind. A little further down Gowen's Towplane & Glider track is also excellent, even if the sound is much perfectible. A bit lost on this album is Stewart and Gaskin's Starlight On Seaweed track, which dates from the 90's.

Even though the vast majority of this disc is nearing excellence (bar the odd glitch), as usual with Voiceprint, there are some flaws: why in the world did they not present the tracks in a chronological order is simply beyond me. And beside the questionable track succession is also the matter of the three tracks that might have been easily left out. But nevertheless, if you are a National Health fan, this album is more than likely indispensable for you,

Report this review (#110373)
Posted Friday, February 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite some differences, National Health is often regarded as the logical successor of Hatfield and the North, allthough Hatfield ceased to be in 1975 and National Health only released their self-titled debut album two years later, after having had several changes in their line-up. 'Missing Pieces' consists of twelve tracks with studio demos and radio recordings, almost all of which are from the period before the release of the much-delayed debut album: most of them are studio demos from autumn 1975 and recordings from radio sessions in 1976. All of whom were previously unreleased, for by the time National Health recorded their first album, these songs had been superceded by new material. Illustrative: six of the songs were written by bassist Mont Campbell, who had left the band before the first album recordings without leaving traces. Theoretically, that makes this cd fill a gap, and actually: it sure does! Actually, the songs on this cd remind me more of Hatfield and the North than of the National Health we know from their two studio albums. The keyboards sound more heavy than with Hatfield (and not only because National Health had two keyboard players: Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen!), but over all the atmosphere of most of the songs is more like the wayward experimental relaxed humorous chamber-rock style of Hatfield, than like the more symphonic rock-swinging style of 'National Health' and (especially:) 'Of Queues And Cures'. If it had been an album, it would have been a great album, comparible in quality with the two masterpieces of Hatfield! The only minus is the 1995 re-recording of 'Starlight On Seaweed' by Stewart and Barbara Gaskin at the end of the cd, which is completely out of place. 4.5 stars; only because it sounds funny to give a 'rarities-and-unrelaesed'-cd a 5-stars rating. But nevertheless: historically and qualitatively a must for all fans of Hatfield and the North. (I mean: National Health. No; I díd mean Hatfield. Sorry for the confusion.)
Report this review (#152859)
Posted Monday, November 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm a massive Health fan, and OF QUEUES AND CURES is one of my all-time favourite albums, but I'd lie to you if I pretended I got a lot out of MISSING PIECES. I've owned the album for about eight years, and each time I play it, I get annoyed because it's really nothing but a collection of bits that don't add up. Instead of proper compositions, you get a lot of passages where the band seem to be modulating between one (absent) track and another. I tend to despise the usual cloth-eared nincompoops' complaints that progressive rock is nothing but 'noodling', but for once such remarks might seem appropriate. Of course you could look at the music in a positive light and admit none of this music was meant to be released... This is an album of chippings from the artists' work desk... Proper songs that are still under development. With a little goodwill, you might even admit that 'Paracelsus' and 'Lethargy Shuffle 2' are admirable and adventurous tunes indeed. On some of the other tracks ('Zabaglione' for example) Phil Miller's occasional guitar interventions do sound powerful. Moreover, Amanda Parsons' singing on 'Clocks and Clouds' is a delight, and none other than Bill Bruford provides razor- sharp drumming on most of this music. And if all this weren't enough, you'll even get to hear one amazing Canadian audience give a 30- second performance of the immortal 'Phlakaton'. Hey, I'm feeling better about the album already! So let's just sum up: undeniable historical importance; perfectly clear sound; a lot of unfinished pieces; and a few enchanting moments.
Report this review (#156490)
Posted Monday, December 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars All of these tracks were played live in front of an audience at some point by the early incarnation of NATIONAL HEALTH. Or as Dave Stewart says it "All were played live in front of the bearded and great-coated audiences of the day(and that was just the women)". These guys have such a great sense of humour. I love the picture of the band they put up here at Prog Archives next to their bio. Priceless. Anyway NATIONAL HEALTH's original lineup consisted of 2 lead guitarists', 2 keyboardists',1 bass player,1 vocalist and 1 drummer. They were very much a coming together of two bands, namely GILGAMESH and HATFIELD AND THE NORTH. The band had a hard time getting a record deal, because by this time in the seventies progressive music had become unfashionable. So some of the members who started out with the band left to do other things. Mont Campbell who was with Dave Stewart and Steve Hillage in the late sixties with the psychedelic band ARZACHEL wrote some of the key songs that are found here on this record. He also wrote most of the compositions for the band EGG. Talented man. Bill Bruford couldn't wait any longer and so left before the first official NATIONAL HEALTH album was recorded. The same with Steve Hillage and Phil Lee. I feel like a proud father when I talk about each of the members here, and Dave Stewart and the late Alan Gowen are the two that make me the proudest. Of course we have Phil Miller, Amanda Parsons, Pip Pyle, Neil Murray and John Greaves here as well. The songs here are either demos or from radio sessions. They were never properly mastered for album release, although i found the sound to be fine.

"Bouree" is a short french horn piece that Dave Stewart says deliberately sets out to ridicule classical harmony, the performers and the audience. Funny. "Paracelsus" was recorded for radio in 1976. Hillage and Miller on lead guitars.This is an excellent track that opens with liquid sounding keys, light drums from Bruford and guitar. Lots of intricate sounds fill the air until a calm falls before 2 minutes. It lasts for a minute when some great drumming and guitar follows. Just a beautiful track. "Clocks And Clouds" is my favourite song on here. Amanda's ethereal vocals along with the gorgeous keyboard play that is so tasteful is beyond words. Some guitar before 2 minutes, and check out Neil Murray's bass lines on his only appearance on this album. He played with early GILGAMESH and later with BLACK SABBATH. More guitar 5 1/2 minutes in. Just a wondrous Dave Stewart song. "Agrippa" is a restrained song with little in the way of melody really. I like it a lot though. It does have an underlying power about it. Campell said "it was difficult to get him(Bruford) to play randomly-he always wanted to play in time". "The Lethargy Shuffle & The Mind- Your-Backs Tango" is an uptempo keyboard led tune. The two Phils' are on guitars and make their presence known a minute in. A calm follows. Nice. The song slowly picks back up. The keys and organ get quite loud 6 1/2 minutes in. Nice beat 2 minutes later. Another great Stewart track. "Zabaglione" is a Campell composition, and as Stewart says it was almost a competition between him and Campbell to see who could write the most complex songs. Stewart says Mont won hands down with this track. A nice rhythm to this one. Pulsating keys before it starts to get intense. A keyboard flury follows. Amanda chips in with some vocal melodies 3 1/2 minutes in. Check out the incredible melody after 4 minutes. Amazing stuff. Some excellent guitar work from Lee & Miller. Vocal melodies are back. Nice. Great song.

"Lethargy Shuffle Part 2" is a jazzy little number as keys, bass, guitar and cymbals come and go. "Croquette For Electronic Beating Group" was NATIONAL HEALTH's first ever recording. A Campbell song. Pip's on drums here. Lots of keys, guitar and light drums. "Phlakaton" is a Pip song that ended up on "Of Queues & Cures". Here it is performed by the audience in Toronto, when they finish one of the band members tells them "You know it took us 3 weeks to record that"'. "The Towplane & The Glider" is the only Gowen song on here, and it is not surprising that it is filled with a collage of intricate sounds. One of my favourites. The guitar and keys are fantastic. The guitar even gets a little aggressive 3 minutes in. Not sure if it's Miller or Lee. "Starlight On Seaweed" is a Campbell tune performed by Stewart and his partner on vocals Barbara Gaskin. Lots of synths. This is actually quite dark and atmospheric. "Walking The Dog(extract)" was added by Stewart really in honour of Gowen. It's a very short live(New York) song with Alan saying "It's free with National Health". Greaves is on bass here.

I wouldn't be without this excellent compilation. To have recordings of NATIONAL HEALTH with Bruford and Hillage is very cool.This surpassed my expectations. This is a piece of history really.

Report this review (#157600)
Posted Friday, January 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#291336)
Posted Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#551797)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The second curios collection with National Health.

National Health's first two album is classics and pillars in the Canterbury scene and the British prog rock scene. Unfortunate, the band only released three studio albums and the third one after their demise. So we have to feed of scraps and left overs, then. Those of us who are fans of this band.

There are a lot of good stuff on this album. The list of musicians here is very impressive. Even Bill Bruford is playing on a couple of tracks here. The list is almost like the who's who of Canterbury musicians. Alan Gowen included and his passing is still a big loss to the scene. His contributions to this collection is great. But the best song is Clocks And Clouds with the excellent vocals by Amanda Parsons.

The quality of the songs are not the usual National Health standard and I do get the feeling that the barrell has been scraped empty. This album is merely a hint about how good National Health really was and nothing more. I still like it and rate it highly. But a great addition to a record collection ? Nope.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#581359)
Posted Saturday, December 3, 2011 | Review Permalink

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