National Health

Complete

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If it never serves any other purpose, this two-disc collection of National Health's complete official output will at least always work as an effective refutation of the belief that all 1970s British prog-rock was overblown, self-indulgent, Mahlerian twaddle. Of course, most British prog-rock was just that, so it would be easy to understand anyone's reluctance to spend much time with it. Also, National Health has to be the least inviting band name in the history of British rock. But if you make the effort, you'll be richly rewarded. Yes, the compositions are long and they have titles like "Borogoves" and "Tales of a Damson Knight." Yes, there are lots and lots of solos. But there's also lots of structure and self-discipline undergirding those compositions and guiding those solos, and the band never seems to lose sight of the fact that they're playing for people other than themselves. That means there are melodies (sometimes even jazzy ones) and rhythmic hooks (sometimes even funky ones...okay, very slightly funky) as well as interesting textures and impressive fretwork. Highly recommended. (This isn't actually a "complete" collection of National Health's recorded output -- see Missing Pieces, also on East Side Digital, for a good compilation of outtakes.)

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