Wednesday, 2 December 2009

National Health - National Health

Emerging from the embers of key Canterbury band Hatfield And The North, augmented by remnants of the original Gilgamesh line-up, National Health released two albums on Charly Records in the second half of the 1970s, starting with this eponymous LP, and a further album in 1982 following the untimely death of keyboardist Alan Gowen. (Though their second, Of Queues And Cures, is released concurrently, it wasn’t available for the review deadline here).

A true ensemble creation, National Health reflects the multitude of contributors that came, played and move on during a three-year gestation period, so that although the overall vision is that of Hatfield (via Egg) keyboard player Dave Stewart, the compositions had plenty of room for not just the core line-up but returning ‘guests’ to add their embellishments. It’s that breadth of range that makes National Health such an intricate listen with acoustic and electric guitars and pianos contrasting with layers of competing moog, clarinet and bells, over which ex-Hatfield singer Amanda Parsons emerges from the melee to add her understated vocals. Completely at odds with the time of its creation but a curiously involving and representative slice of Canterbury sounds.

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