National Health — D.S. al Coda
(Blueprint BP129CD, 1982/2001, CD)
by Dan Casey, Published 1996-03-01
After passing away in May of 1981, Alan Gowen's last band National Health went on to record this, their third album, comprised entirely of material Alan had put to paper but never recorded. The remaining band was Phil Miller (guitar), Dave Stewart (keyboards), John Greaves (bass), and Pip Pyle (drums). Several notable guests appear as well, including Amanda Parsons (Hatfield and the North), Barbara Gaskin (who's been working with Stewart ever since), Jimmy Hastings (Caravan), and Richard Sinclair (Caravan). Musically, the album doesn't quite measure up to the previous two National Health releases, but that is largely due to the times and technology and not the songwriting. Although the material is perhaps jazzier than ever before, it is still firmly rooted in the bittersweet Canterbury style. Some of the instrumentation makes certain tracks hard to bear — cheesy early-80s synths, primitive electronic drums, poor horn arrangements, etc., but several standout tracks (like "Toad of Toad Hall," "Portrait of a Shrinking Man," and "Shining Water") make the album worth owning, especially for Canterbury freaks. While this reissue is adeqaute in and of itself, a better choice would be National Health Complete, a 2CD set containing all three albums in their entirety with some bonus tracks.
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more