National Health was one of the last of the great "Canterbury-style" progressive rock bands. By late '70's, the personnel had become Alan Gowen [keyboards], Phil Miller [guitar], John Greaves [bass & vocals] and Pip Pyle [drums]. This version strove towards a more stretched-out, free-er approach. As Phil remembers it, "Basically, we did less writing and more playing." Indeed, this version of National Health did more gigging that any other lineup of the band. However, it never released any studio or live recordings. Alan Gowen died of leukemia in May, 1981.
This CD is the first National Health live album to ever be released. It is also the only recorded documentation of the Gowen ,Greaves, Miller, and Pyle version of the band. Recorded at two different shows in 1979 - including one show that features the addition of guest guitarist Alain Eckert [Art Zoyd] - the majority of the compositions on Playtime cannot be found on any other National Health recording. In addition, Playtime includes a 16 page booklet with liner notes by noted Canterbury expert Aymeric Leroy, which tells the story of the last period of National Health with Gowen. Illustrated with rare photos, interviews and comments with all surviving members of the band, this is a fantastic, unexpected, newly unearthed document 20 years later, of a much loved band.
"A more stretched-out, jam-oriented affair than the original studio recordings, Playtime picks up on some of the furious, frenetic energy of the early fusion movement, when bands like Tony Williams Lifetime and the original lineups of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever were going straight for the jugular with raw burn, tempered with intelligent writing, strict ensemble playing and audacious, chops-oriented playing. This is first rate, risk-taking jazz rock created in a bygone era by a greatly under-recognized band." - JazzTimes
Playtime press release