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National Health - Missing Pieces CD (album) cover

MISSING PIECES

National Health

 

Canterbury Scene

3.67 | 68 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
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.

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |

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