NATIONAL HEALTH — Missing Pieces

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NATIONAL HEALTH - Missing Pieces cover
3.95 | 4 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1996

Tracklist

1. Bourée (0:53)
2. Paracelsus (inc. Bourée reprise) (5:36)
3. Clocks and Clouds (6:47)
4. Agrippa (8:22)
5. The Lethargy Shuffle & The Mind-Your-Backs Tango (9:19)
6. Zabaglione (7:47)
7. Lethargy Shuffle, Part 2 (4:36)
8. Croquette for Electronic Beating Group (3:51)
9. Phlâkatön (0:25)
10. The Towplane & The Glider (5:12)
11. Starlight on Seaweed (3:07)
12. Walking the Dog (extract) (0:25)

Total Time: 56:25

Line-up/Musicians

Bass – Mont Campbell (tracks: 2, 4 to 8, 10), Neil Murray (tracks: 3)
Bass, Vocals – John Greaves (tracks: 12)
Drums – Bill Bruford (tracks: 3 to 7, 10), Pip Pyle (tracks: 8, 12)
French Horn – Mont Campbell (tracks: 1)
Guitar – Phil Lee (tracks: 5, 6, 8, 10), Phil Miller (tracks: 2 to 8, 10, 12), Steve Hillage (tracks: 2 to 4, 7)
Keyboards – Alan Gowen (tracks: 2 to 8, 10, 12), Dave Stewart (tracks: 2 to 8, 10, 11)
Vocals – Amanda Parsons (tracks: 3, 6), Barbara Gaskin (tracks: 11)
Vocals [R&b Howling] – Peter Blegvad (tracks: 12)

About this release

Voiceprint – VP-113-CD (UK)/East Side Digital ESD 81172 (US)

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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NATIONAL HEALTH MISSING PIECES reviews

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Warthur
An enormously exciting archival release from National Health, and an excellent complement to the studio albums (or the Complete collection). All but three of the tracks on this album are recordings from when Egg's Mont Campbell was part of the band - before the debut album, which was recorded after Mont decided to quit the group due to being reminded of how much he disliked the touring life. Even more excitingly, most of these tracks include Bill Bruford during his brief stint on the drums - a favour Dave Stewart would later replay by playing keys on Bruford's solo albums from Feels Good to Me to Gradually Going Tornado.

The Mont tracks on here are a real treasure trove of musical pieces, none of which made it onto later albums (aside from a brief extract of Paracelsus that appeared at the start of the Complete compilation). The amount of material here effectively constitutes an entire "great lost National Health album", and whilst I wouldn't rank it quite as highly as their first two studio albums, that's only because the production is sometimes a little ropey (though still very, very good for demo recordings - the songs sound more like proper recordings than demos most of the time).

The three remaining songs consist of two novelty numbers - a spontaneous audience performance of Phlakaton, the "a capella drum solo" from Of Queues and Cures, to which the band react with amazement and delight, and a brief extract of Walking the Dog, a classic R&B number played as an encore at some gigs - and Starlight on Seaweed, a rerecording by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin of a Mont-era song of which no acceptable recording exists. The gag tracks are fun and Starlight on Seaweed is pretty enough, but on the whole these are best regarded as bonus tracks: the real meat of the album is the recordings from Mont's tenure in the band.

This set (coming with more hilarious liner notes from Dave Stewart in the vein of his commentary from the Complete booklet) is a crucial insight into a pivotal moment of the Canterbury scene, since the musical collaborations recorded here not only set National Health on the part to greatness but also led to the formation of Bruford's early solo band. In other words, it represents the roots of not just one but two of the most important Canterbury groups of the late 1970s. Nobody with an interest in the genre should pass up this golden opportunity, though I suppose if you can't stand National Health's major albums (the debut and Of Queues and Cures) this material won't change your mind.
Sean Trane
This issue from one of the shadier label (in terms of questionable sound qualities of their legit issues) Voiceprint is rather unlike what I’ve been able to hear until now. In other words, this probably one of their better release in their catalogue not always spotless. Having finally agreed to let these pre-debut album recordings (demo sessions from 75 and radio sessions from 76) and some later after last album tidbits (winter 79), this becomes an essential NH would-be album.

Bookended with two sloppy and voluntarily stupid tracks, this collection of odd pieces and bits is a very interesting one as we are given a sight of the group’s halcyon formative days through unusual line-ups, most notably ex-Egg Mont Campbell’s participation on bass (six of the tracks are penned by him) and his early exit due to a constantly delayed debut album. We also get to hear the group with both Miller and Lee on guitars as well as both Stewart and Gowen on keys on the same tracks. And even Steve Hillage dropped by for few string-shaking in a radio session. If listening to Agrippa and Zabaglione, you should detect some of the Campbell/Stewart‘s rubbing ideas together and it coming out as Tenemos Roads on the NH debut.

Vocally speaking, we still get some tracks that are ruined by the debatable voice of Amanda Parsons (she is definitely not my cup of tea, I much prefer Gaskin as far as Northettes are concerned), even though she’s pretty good in the scatting of Zabaglione, especially just before the slight guitar string screw-up around the end of the track. Funnily enough, around the end of Clocks And Clouds, you can swear Dave Sinclair was passing by with his distorted Hammond organ from the Grey And Pink era, but this is Stewart in 76. Agrippa is actually probably my fave NH track and The Mind-Your-Backs Tango is not far behind. A little further down Gowen’s Towplane & Glider track is also excellent, even if the sound is much perfectible. A bit lost on this album is Stewart and Gaskin’s Starlight On Seaweed track, which dates from the 90’s.

Even though the vast majority of this disc is nearing excellence (bar the odd glitch), as usual with Voiceprint, there are some flaws: why in the world did they not present the tracks in a chronological order is simply beyond me. And beside the questionable track succession is also the matter of the three tracks that might have been easily left out. But nevertheless, if you are a National Health fan, this album is more than likely indispensable for you,

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