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.
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more