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National Health

Canterbury Scene

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National Health D.S. al Coda album cover
3.43 | 106 ratings | 12 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1982

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Portrait of a Shrinking Man (5:35)
2. TNTFX (3:11)
3. Black Hat (4:52)
4. I Feel a Night Coming On (6:38)
5. Arriving Twice (2:20)
6. Shining Water (8:50)
7. Tales of a Damson Knight (1:55)
8. Flanagans People (7:31)
9. Toad of Toad Hall (5:35)

Total Time 46:27

Line-up / Musicians

- Phil Miller / guitars
- Dave Stewart / organ, pianos, tone generator
- John Greaves / bass, vocals
- Pip Pyle / drums, Simmons electric drums

- Elton Dean / saxello (1,4)
- Ted Emmett / trumpet (1)
- Annie Whitehead / trombone (1)
- Jimmy Hastings / flute (3,6,9)
- Richard Sinclair / vocals (3)
- Amanda Parsons / backing vocals (7)
- Barbara Gaskin / backing vocals (7)

Releases information

All compositions by late Alan Gowen (including 2 Gilgamesh covers), to whom this album is dedicated

LP Lounging Records - LA 02 (1982, UK)
LP Europa Records - JP2008 (1982, France)

CD Voiceprint - VP129CD (1995, UK)

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and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy NATIONAL HEALTH D.S. al Coda Music

NATIONAL HEALTH D.S. al Coda ratings distribution

(106 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(26%)
Good, but non-essential (48%)
Collectors/fans only (8%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

NATIONAL HEALTH D.S. al Coda reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Progbear
3 stars A musical epitaph for founding member Alan Gowen, who died of leukemia in 1983. Appropriately, this is the most jazz-fusion sounding of all the NH albums; Gowen's composing style was much more rooted in jazz than Stewart's was. The very 1983 production values hamper this a bit, mainly Pip Pyle's insistence upon using then-trendy electronic Simmons drum pads. In the interim, Stewart had tasted the fruits of pop music success (via the cover of "It's My Party" he did with musical/life partner Barbara Gaskin, a #1 hit in the UK in 1981), switching over almost entirely to synthesizers in the process. This is actually the album's most intriguing component, as he uses the different synthesizer tones to add various colours to the music. He even plays synth like he played organ at times (i.e.: like an enraged berserker), as on the striking "I Feel A Night Coming On".

A couple of these tunes ("T.N.T.F.X.", "Arriving Twice") had previously turned up on Gilgamesh albums, but most of these make their recorded debut here. One of the album's most eye-popping moments is actually "Shining Water", done in a largo triple meter for most of its length. The musicians show their skill for being able to hold it together and not drag even at such a slow tempo, always maintaining the intensity.

So, should you buy? If you're a serious Canterbury conoisseur, you probably already have this. If not, there's little I can say that will make you want it. For all the dated 1983 production techniques, the intent shines through quite well, and it serves as a fitting tribute for a talent that was taken from us too soon.

Review by Tom Ozric
5 stars National Health were a really intense band performing music with the Canterbury 'Jazz-Prog' sound - indeed all participants of the band are simply stupendous players on their respective instruments. Yet again producing another Canterbury classic with their 3rd album, D.S. al Coda, which is a tribute album to the phenomenal Keyboardist Alan Gowen, who died from Leukaemia in 1981. The band members here, Dave Stewart (keys), Pip Pyle (drums), John Greaves (bass) and Phil Miller (guitars) are performing Alan's compositions which never made it to the final recording stage, save for TNTFX (from the Gilgamesh album 'Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into'), and 'Arriving Twice' (which is a reworking of a track off Gilgamesh S/T). Along with a host of guests (mainly Canterbury oriented - Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, Jimmy Hastings, Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons) the pieces are performed superbly, all incorporating lots of fun, complex, serious and beautiful tones. The only quibble I could point out with the album is that it does sound like it's from the 80's, but that is minor, as the compositions and execution of the tunes is damn near perfect. I could ramble for ages about this LP, so, to keep it simple, Elton Dean's saxello performance is absolutely blowing on 'Portrait of a Shrinking Man' and 'I Feel a Night Coming On', and throughout the 2 part epic of 'Flanagan's People/Toad of Toad Hall' we are treated to Jimmy Hastings' most beautiful flute playing, and Pyle and Stewart put in some really *wild* playing (oh, the synth playing.....), with Greaves complimenting the arrangement no-end with his bass playing and Miller wrenching out some startling sounds from his guitar. I have no hesitation in rating this a 5* masterpiece.
Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This third release from the exceptional Canterbury band is a polished and tightly played homage to keyboardist Alan Gowen, entirely jazzy and mature but with a rock edge maintained by the drums of the brilliant Pip Pyle and always pleasing guitar of Phil Miller. The cover image starkly depicts what appears to be an ailing Gowen and masks the brightly played and flawless blend of progressive jazz-rock. Dotted perfectly throughout is Jimmy Hastings' spirited flute, the crack vocal arrangements of Barbara Gaskin, Amanda Parsons and Richard Sinclair, assorted brass and Dave Stewart's firm leadership on keys. Pyle says of the material; "..the familiarity gained from rehearsing these tunes in their earlier forms lessened the problems of feel and interpretation when dealing with the second draft. It is fortunate that the scores were almost complete and very little except for the odd finishing touch was required to bring these pieces to a workable point".

Opening on a commercial note is 'Portrait of a Shrinking Man' with its supermarket horns and pseudo-funk but it quickly becomes a rather progressive number with smooth changes, walls of keys and horns, and good doses of plain old prog rock. 'T.N.T.F.X.' is traditional but quite good fusion, adult contemporary jazz swings in 'Black Hat', Stewart's techno rhythms take over for 'I Feel a Night Coming On' and has plenty of freejazz. And, for 1982, it is all pristinely produced. 'Arriving Twice' becomes a soothing and warm goodbye to a cherished friend and colleague, and 'Shining Water' beeps alive with great rock beats from Pyle and synth phrases much like Stewart's work with Bruford. Considering each track here was penned by Gowen, Stewart's more modern approach gives the compositions an extra spark, and 'Flannagan's People' reminds of Keith Emerson's wacky playfulness with a delicate midsection that shows this band's refreshing childlike but absolutely serious approach to progressive rock, and we finish with the fantastic 'Toad of Toad Hall'.

Relegated to the back of the line as a disappointment, a musically vacant farewell with little of the creative juices of the first two records, this album, though not the best of the original three, proves to be their most organized and focused with a surface that appears dry and cheesy, perhaps, but reveals a great sounding set that has many worthy prog moments for those willing to listen.

Review by fuxi
3 stars After composer and virtuoso keyboardist Alan Gowen died of leukemia in 1981, National Health briefly reformed to record an album of his compositions. D.S. AL CODA is the result, and it's a very pleasant album to listen to, but less idiosyncratic than the Health's earlier studio albums (NATIONAL HEALTH and OF QUEUES AND CURES). In fact, the sound of D.S. AL CODA has more in common with the 'symphonic fusion' of bands like Bruford than with classic Canterbury style(s), which should come as no surprise, since N.H. keyboardist Dave Stewart had just spent several years recording and touring with Bruford himself. Whether you enjoy this particular album will therefore depend, to a large extent, on the way you see Bruford's FEELS GOOD TO ME and ONE OF A KIND. On at least five of D.S. AL CODA's tracks, you'll hear Phil Miller play a clarion-like, almost Holdsworthian kind of lead guitar, on top of Stewart's orchestral synths; furthermore, even drummer Pip Pyle grabs the chance to execute a number of Bruford-style drum rolls.

The main problem with this album is that Alan Gowen's melodies are never quite as catchy as Bruford's - with the exception, perhaps, of 'Toad of Toad Hall', the final track, which sounds exceedingly lovely. At times Gowen's tunes simply get on my nerves: the album's opening track, 'Portrait of a Shrinking Man', for example, is generic jazz-rock; and the chime-like main theme of 'Shining Water' gets repeated a few dozen times too often. But D.S. AL CODA also has its strengths, not the least of which are the angelic voices of Amanda Parsons and Barbara Gaskin, as well as the delightful flute of Jimmy Hastings, which provides many of the album's most lyrical moments. Apart from these, I greatly enjoyed Miller's eloquent guitar solos and the many delightful passages where Dave Stewart's electric piano duets with John Greaves' bass.

Since it is atypical, D.S. AL CODA cannot be a first recommendation for Hatfield and the North/National Health newcomers, but all the musicianship is first-rate, and the album will be of more than passing interest to anyone already familiar with the Canterbury Scene. Three and a half stars.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Just as one of Dave Stewart's previous bands, Egg, regrouped to produce a reunion album a couple of years after they split up, so too did National Heath come together once more - although this time for a much sadder occasion, to commemorate the passing of Alan Gowen by recording a number of his compositions.

Not only is this a somewhat jazzier album than previous National Health elements, but it is also a bit more diverse in terms of style and arrangement, possibly because some of these tunes had originally been devised for Gowan's own band, Gilgamesh (Arriving Twice and TNTFX), some had debuted on National Health's 1979 US tour, which had occurred after Dave Stewart had left and Gowan had rejoined (another, longer version of Flanagan's People can be found on the Playtime archival release from Cuneiform), and some were solo compositions; furthermore, some work had to be done finishing arrangements on those tunes which Gowan himself hadn't fully completed.

As a result, D.S. al Coda is slightly inconsistent in terms of style; some tracks, like the opening Portrait of a Shrinking Man, display a very 80s, up-to-date arrangement, which unfortunately has dated poorly (especially the keyboards and drums). Others, such as Toad of Toad Hall, could have appeared on any classic Gilgamesh or National Health album of the previous decade. I assume that this was at least somewhat intentional on the part of the musicians involved; this album, after all, was meant to provide a broad overview of Alan as a composer. It does, however, mean that the album seems a little disjointed, although many of the individual tracks are excellent. Most National Health or Gilgamesh fans will want to get this sooner or later, but those new to either band may want to wait a while before picking this up. (Then again, one of the best introductions to National Health is the Complete compilation of all three studio albums, including this one.) Do give it a try sooner or later, though, and don't let yourself be put off by the 80s tone and production values of the first track.

Review by Moogtron III
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.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars I guess you could call this a controversial album based on the ratings for it compared to the first two NATIONAL HEALTH albums that are legendary. What changed? Not the lineup although this record was put out the year after Alan Gowen passed in 1981 as a tribute to him. So it's all Gowen compositions including a couple of covers from his band GILGAMESH. We also get some special guests who wanted to honour Gowen including Richard Sinclair on vocals for one track, Amanda Parsons and Barbara Gaskins add vocals on one track, Elton Dean on sax for two songs, Jimmy Hastings on flute for three tunes along with a trombone and trumpet player on the opener from two musicians I don't know. The core of the band is outstanding with Dave Stewart on keyboards, John Greaves on bass, Phil Miller on guitar and Pip Pyle on drums.

This isn't nearly as bad as I was expecting in fact it's quite good. The opener though that sets the tone really gets the record off on the wrong foot. I mean leave it out or bury it in the middle. I was just surprising the first time I heard it because of those 80's plastic sounding synths but there's other issues too. Just not into blasting horns either. But then we get "Black Hat" with Sinclair and his vocal melodies sounding amazing. Hastings shines on the flute along with Pip on drums. "I Feel A Night Coming On" is a top three and it starts uptempo and loud before a calm arrives. I like Dean and Miller trading off later on. The closer rounds out my top three and it's called "Toad Of Toad Hall". So a pretty good album but not very consistent to be honest.

Review by Mirakaze
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars After the release of Of Queues And Cures, National Health was joined by cellist Georgie Born and bassoonist Lindsay Cooper, who had played guest roles on the album and had previously been John Greaves' bandmates in Henry Cow. One can only dream of what sort of material this miniature chamber orchestra would be capable of producing, but it sadly wasn't to be: frustrated with the band's consistent lack of success, Dave Stewart finally decided enough was enough and pulled the plug on his involvement with the project in order to join Bill Bruford's band. The band fell apart after this: Miller, Pyle and Greaves managed to reunite with Alan Gowen for a few more tours in 1979, but there was no more desire to record a new album beyond that.

This changed in 1981, when Gowen died of leukaemia at the age of 33. In order to commemorate him, Stewart, Miller, Pyle and Greaves reunited one more time to record an album featuring a number of Gowen's compositions. The resulting product was released as the final National Health album in 1982.

D.S. Al Coda is much more of a product of its time than its predecessors. The production style is more monotone and definitely shows some 80s influence, with Dave Stewart's synthesizers dominating the sound (rather than his usually wide variety of different keyboards) while the more exotic instruments are far less prominent than on the last album (Elton Dean and Jimmy Hastings show up on saxophone and flute respectively on a few tracks, but that's about it). Even Pip Pyle's drums are electronically enhanced, as was the standard at the time. This move is accentuated by the first track, "Portrait Of A Shrinking Man", which is atypical for National Health, to say the least: a slightly funky yet melancholic groove prominently featuring a fretless bass and a horn section. It's more or less similar to what bands like Weather Report were doing at the time, which for this band's standards isn't too exciting but it's still fun to listen to, and the main melody is really catchy too.

An album full of stuff like that would have probably been a let-down, but thankfully "Portrait Of A Shrinking Man" is actually an anomaly on the album. While all of the material is far more jazz-inspired than on National Health's previous albums, only two other tracks on D.S. Al Coda follow a traditional jazz fusion pattern, but both feel way more loose and grant far more freedom to the musicians than the opening track (just listen to Pyle bashing away on "Black Hat"! Just listen to that synthesizer-guitar duel that kicks off "I Feel A Night Coming On"!).

Most of the songs on this album were written just before and during the 1979 tours and had not been published up until this point, but two songs had previously been released in the 1970s by Gilgamesh, Gowen's original band. In my opinion, the versions presented on this album are superior: National Health's frantic, hard-rocking take on the complex "TNTFX" blows the feeble original out of the water. On the other hand, "Arriving Twice", which was originally just a nice little folky interlude on Gilgamesh's debut album, is here turned into an incredibly sad and mournful tune, like a final salute from the musicians to their deceased comrade. The same feeling exudes from "Shining Water", which is a lot longer and a lot faster, but equally bittersweet. When the final chords of the song start to ring, you almost believe them to be guiding their composer to heaven.

Then (after the totally unremarkable "Tales Of A Damson Knight", which is probably the band's least interesting song) comes the centrepiece of the album, which starts with "Flanagan's People": a high-paced track that starts off resembling "I Feel A Night Coming On", with another synthesized guitar solo from Miller, before it abruptly cuts to a quiet electric piano-based shuffle. This is followed by a more chaotic part, but eventually the quiet comes out on top as the piece segues into "Toad Of Toad Hall", which is a true masterpiece in the National Health style. Over the course of 7,5 minutes, the tension is supremely built up, evolving from a peaceful flute solo to a dissonant prog-rocking beat and finally culminating in an explosive jazz jam, where Dave Stewart plays a final synth solo before bringing the piece to a close.

Overall, the effect of this album is very strange. The production style and the music are clearly disconnected: these are still the same experimental-minded musicians that brought us "Tenemos Roads", but even though the compositions themselves may not suffer from it, it seems the guys finally gave up their wholly uncompromising attitude in order to get this album on the market at all. Maybe it's for the best that they called it quits afterwards then, although it's obvious they weren't in the mood to continue the project anyway. The epic, uplifting themes of the first two albums are gone: while many moments on D.S. Al Coda are still quite rousing, the band's youthful optimism has given way to a gloomy state, which in a certain sense is appropriate seeing as how the album was meant as a threnody. Progressive rock is often accused by critics of insincerity or fake emotionality, but D.S. Al Coda is without a doubt this band's most heartfelt statement.

Latest members reviews

2 stars Unfortunately... Another complete change of sound. Dave Stewart left the band after Of Queus and Cures and the tour, and Alan Gowan took up the offer to replace him. That version toured the US in 1979, and Europe in 1980. However, Alan Gowan died of leukaemia in 1981. So, Dave Stewart decided to ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697057) | Posted by Walkscore | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Work of NATIONAL HEALTH released in 1982 "DS al Coda". Album that forms group again for mourning for Alan Gowen and is released. Works are all Alan Gowen. The work of GILGAMESH and the tune that includes many things to the work not announced is officially collected.I think this is Good, but no ... (read more)

Report this review (#54467) | Posted by braindamage | Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first opening notes of Dave Stewart's synthesizer tells you this album is going to be different from the other two. One of the founding members, Alan Gowen, had died in May of 1981 from Leukemia. So the members got back together in October to begin recording this final tribute album to h ... (read more)

Report this review (#40723) | Posted by | Thursday, July 28, 2005 | Review Permanlink

3 stars National Health's final album is a tribute to keyboardist: Alan Gowan who dies of lukemia in 1981. So the year after, National Health decided to make a tribute album to him performing all his compositions that he wrote for National Health. Most of these tracks were rehersed & performed live, but nev ... (read more)

Report this review (#5058) | Posted by | Monday, January 19, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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