"What does it mean to be `progressive?' It means that if you're a musician who has attained a certain level of skill and sophistication on your instrument or `axe,' you refuse to compromise this in order to sell more records to the inevitable millions of cretins more interested in fashions and image and lengths of hair and number of tattoos and nose rings. It also means that if you know that it takes a certain level of complexity to make good music, you also refuse to compromise that. It means if you're Yes you refuse to sound like Foreigner; if you're Sonny Rollins you refuse to `adjust' your style towards Kenny G.; and if you're National Health, you refuse to play things that sound like "Karn evil 9," and "Lucky Man," just to get on the radio-o. Sometime in the not-so-distant mid `70s, keyboard wizard and future Bruford bandmate Dave Stewart, six-string satan Phil Miller, and skin ace Pip Pyle, three fourths of the already fantastic fusion group "Hatfield and the North," decided to not compromise and keep going in a synergistic negentropic (as Buckminster Fuller would say) direction and expand rather than contract their musical horizons. The result: National Health, one of the most brilliant progressive jazz-rock groups to ever grace the face of this earth. What do they play? Instrumentals and more majestic instrumentals, full of invention, wit and sophisticated musicianship, and including even some occasional singing. But whereas the singing on some progressive records (like Annete Peacock's on Bruford's "Feels Good to Me") sounds pretentiouis and annoying, the beautiful, angel-voiced singing on National Health's tunes by Amanda Parsons is as seamlessly integrated into the compositions as you can get. Dave Stewart unleashes more of the Lucifer in him than on any previous record, unfurling solos Keith Emerson could only dream about, and Phil Miller proves, once and for all, that he's the most tasteful, cliche-terrorist to ever plug in a guitar. Pip Pyle handles these odd-metered songs like he was playing them in his diapers anticipating everything Bruford did in his band a couple of years later.What you get on this compilation is all 3 of National Health's records on 2 cds packed to the hilt (almost 80 minutes of amazing music on each CD), and also some additional material the band did in tribute to Alan Gowan and written by him (excellent stuff). If you're a fan of progressive jazz-rock or just plain excellent musicianship and uncompromised artistry, this is the best $30 you will ever spend. A FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC GROUP. Anyone who doesn't appreciate a group this good doesn't know diddley about music and should be sent to a desert island with only Bruce Springsteen records to listen to. These guys are progressive jazz-rock legends and rightfully so."
Meal Fit For A King
El Kabong | 08/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This double-cd collecting all three National Health albums (plus an unreleased early fragment as well as a 'reunion' track recorded in 1990)is like finding a satchel full of money: it's a treasurehouse of brilliant, complex, riveting rock/prog/jazz (or whatever else you care to call it) that does more than stand the test of time, it towers over its contemporaries, then and now. This merry band of musical elitists, led by Dave Stewart (whose wryly funny liner notes are alone worth the price of admission) and aided and abetted by Pip Pyle, Phil Miller, John Greaves, Alan Gowen and Neil (Whitesnake) Murray - no, that's NOT a typo - set their sights suicidally high from the outset. Back in the days when punk and disco ruled the realm, they set out to play rock music by and for grownups, combining Stewart's bent for complex and disciplined composition with Gowen's jazz-tinged improv leanings, and if that sounds a bit dryly clinical, trust me: the music on NATIONAL HEALTH COMPLETE is alive with tension and excitement, and it most assuredly rocks! Especially the first two albums which feature long tracks which keep dazzling the listener with every serpentine twist and turn. Musicianship here is frigging PHENOMENAL - and where's the 1979 back issue of GUITAR PLAYER with the Phil Miller cover? (Because the boy flat-out SMOKES on these two discs...) It's a shame that National Health's image as obsessive avant-garde eggheads has continued to restrict awareness of the band to a select few fans. You who've not heard 'em, or even of 'em - or who've been intimidated into thinking this music is too dense to deliver simple listening pleasure - are being cheated, and cheated badly. These boys craft great music, period, and you don't need an engineering degree to fully enjoy it, either. And if - while you're digging some of the most killer progressive music of ANY decade - you happen to have a little of National Health's elitism rub off on you, relax... you can get that off with a little soap and water. An all-time gem."
The zenith of 'Canterbury' music
P. D. Wiliam | London UK | 06/18/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"National Health were one of the most technically accomplished, musically sophisticated and just plain inventive bands to emerge from the Canterbury scene. From the lyrical passages in 'Borogoves' and 'Tenemos Roads' to the awesome complexity of "The Collapso" and its electronic remake "The Apocalypso", the range is quite astonishing. When bands like Matching Mole, Soft Machine and Caravan settle into a complex time signature like 13/4 or 7/8, you know you're there for the rest of the track. With National Health you'll be lucky if it lasts more than a few bars. Seriously though, if I had to make do with listening to just album for the rest of my life, this would be it."
The best of the best!
miguel hiraldo | miami, FL United States | 12/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ok... your search is over if you are looking for inteligent but nonetheless heart felt music. Of course you already have been through King Crimson, Genesis, Yes and Van Der Graaf Generator and now you are looking for the next step. This is it! These guys have got to be the best english band in that sometimes un-cool nich called 'progressive music'. Forget the labels and just listen to the beauty and raw-ness with your mouth open wide...much the same way you did when you first heard Gentle Giant or Zappa...with the knowledge that you have found something totally new and diferent, and yes, totally ( well, almost ) original. The way music should be. Too bad the music world is headed in some other direction."
Absolutely INTELLIGENT Music
norman a. blardony | Philippines | 04/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two cds of unearthly compositions with each disc nearing the 80 minute limit. What more can you ask for!!! The music is too complex to describe. Ive played this over and over and it seems I discover new sounds. The exploration and discovery is endless. I just hope they keep on manufacturing this cd because its been out of stock lately and quite hard to find. My buddies have been searching for it in futility so I am compelled to hide my copy in a secured vault, so that's how much sought after this set really is.Dont just dip your toe into it, swim totally and be immersed."