TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Alejandro Escovedo with Don Antonio at City Winery, 1/15

“Are you ready for some romantic Italian music?” guitarist Antonio Gramentieri calls out to the audience.

Well, honestly, no.

The crowd at City Winery in DC was actually there for the more Tex-Mex flavored ballads and rockers from longtime songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, who has toured with all kinds of configurations over the years, from bands to duos to solo. But wanting to hire a band to back him on a European tour two years ago, he ran into an outfit from a small town near the Italian alps, Don Antonio.

Not only did they manage to bring a full sound to back Escovedo’s songs, they helped inspire his new album The Crossing. Where once it might have been the story of a Mexican-born kid hitchhiking his way from Mexico to an LA amid the punk boom, now it’s about a trip by young Diego and Salvo, who meet while working at Salvo’s uncle’s Italian restaurant in Galveston. The two share a love of punk rock, beat writers, and filmmakers like Antonioni.

And they go off to LA, “looking for an America they both believe exists,” Escovedo explains. So while it’s not exactly about immigration, he goes on, and more about two kids going after something better. There a number of similarities in the two cultures, as he notes Southern Italy has its own immigration from the African countries south of it.

Escovedo by now has accomplished a lot, produced a lot of great music, and even beaten cancer (he shows a PSA to raise the issue), so concept albums come to him now fully formed. And as a performer who has enjoyed collaboration with others, the international alliance suits him well.

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The TVD Storefront

Demand it on Vinyl:
Taj Mahal, Taj’s Blues
in stores 3/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The remarkable Taj Mahal, for over fifty years an intrepid explorer of arcane musical Americana, is the subject of a twelve track compilation of material culled from his lengthy tenure with the Columbia Records label, entitled Taj’s Blues, to be released on Friday, March 1st 2019, on the Retroworld reissue division of the North London indie label, Floating World.

Taj’s Blues features his distinctive interpretation of classic material such as “Statesboro Blues,” “Frankie & Albert,” “Dust My Broom” and others, and offers a superb point of entry to the recorded works of this thoughtful, dynamic musician. Taj began his career as a member of the US West Coast combo The Rising Sons, alongside Ry Cooder, before setting off on a solo career that has endured through to the present day.

He was one of the guest artists on the infamous Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus movie, filmed late in 1968, and has always enjoyed a substantial following in the UK and mainland Europe ever since. Alongside Ry Cooder, Van Dyke Parks, Leon Redbone, Asleep at the Wheel, and very few others, Taj has blazed a trail drawing attention to the dusty, often forgotten hinterlands of twentieth century music, some of the finest moments of which are featured on Taj’s Blues.

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The TVD Storefront

The TVD First Date

“My mom had a pretty sizable record collection growing up, and I always loved the look of them, and the stories she had for each record—how she found it, when she bought it, who gifted it to her, when she listened to it.”

“I think the special thing about vinyl records is that, while all music no matter the format will carry with it some sort of emotional association and connection, there’s nothing like thumbing through a box of used vinyl at a flea market—the sounds, the smells, the angle of the sun—you don’t get any of that digitally. It sounds super nostalgic and like I’m romanticizing the past, but those experiences really add a tangible extension of emotion.

Plus, as a teenager I became obsessed with putting the album covers on my wall. That’s the best part for me—vinyl records come with built-in visual art! You can’t put a Spotify playlist on your wall. In high school, I had a whole installation on my wall that included Who’s Next, Led Zeppelin II, The Doors, The Joshua Tree, and a bunch of others. I loved it. There’s just a heightened level of self-expression that vinyl gives you.

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UK Artist of the Week: Jackie Venson

A firm favourite here at TVD HQ, this week we are extremely proud to feature the hugely talented Jackie Venson as our latest Artist of the Week.

Jackie’s most recent single, “A Million Moments” is the first to be released alongside Big Indie Records, a label based in London and Austin who are also the masterminds behind Big Indie Big Nights, a recurring event that showcases their brightest talents completely free of charge. Jackie was proudly part of their US debut at Antone’s in Austin last month where she received rave reviews.

Alas, we digress, back to the single. “A Million Moments” is certainly poppier than Jackie’s previous singles, but it nevertheless showcases Jackie’s incredible guitar skills throughout. The guitar solo at the end in particular feeling instantly reminiscent of one of Jackie’s biggest influences, Gary Clark Jr., of course.

The single is an exciting introduction for what jackie has in store for us in 2019 and we cannot wait. Her ability to combine alt-pop sensibilities with elements of blues, rock and soul is undeniably impressive and will hopefully encourage more artists to blur the lines between genres going forward. Expect big things from this one.

“A Million Moments” is out now via Big Indie Records.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
David Vassalotti,
Guitar Dream

David Vassalotti is the guitarist in Florida’s 4AD-signees Merchandise. If you’re hip to that band’s amped-up post-punkish pop, you might think you have a rough idea what’s in store on the man’s latest solo LP, but hey, slow down there, partner. Even those who scooped up Vassalotti’s 2016 solo debut should be prepared for fresh developments, as Guitar Dream is a pop auteurist statement recalling the boom in singing and songwriting that sprang forth during the original wave of indie pop while sidestepping mere emulation of those glories. A remarkably assured effort that’s vivid without faltering into the grandiose, it’s out on vinyl, compact disc, and digital January 25 through Wharf Cat.

There’s been a steadily increasing Anglo-ist vibe to the work of David Vassalotti’s main gig that attained a level of refinement with their 2016 effort A Corpse Wired for Sound; had that record served as my introduction to Merchandise, it seems likely I would’ve been, if not shocked, then at least mildly surprised that the band are a byproduct of life in the Sunshine State.

This statement unquestionably reinforces my upbringing in an era where geography’s relation to individual/ group dynamics played a much bigger role than today. Fittingly in the context of the considerably more wide-open and connected nature of our current cultural landscape, it’s worth stressing that Merchandise aren’t indulging in a simultaneously highfalutin and low-stakes brand of mimicry. This is also the case with Guitar Dream.

The major diff is that the ten songs shaping up his latest sharpen the focus onto a decidedly indie pop state of affairs. Well, except for one thing; the original UK indie pop wave was populated by bands. Just peruse the participants on the New Musical Express’ C86 tape for evidence. After a few acquainting spins, Guitar Dream registers as descended from the roughly concurrent ’80s wave of pop auteurs but with attention paid to the impulse’s overlap with indie pop. Most immediately, I heard The Smiths.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 1/22/19

Oakland, CA | Bandcamp is opening some sort of brick-and-mortar “record shop,” whatever that’s supposed to be: Those digital wunderkinds at online music retailer Bandcamp have done it yet again: Combining bricks, mortar, and, presumably, the raw stuff of pure, inspired genius, the site has announced it’ll soon be opening a physical store for music—a sort of recorded music shop, if you will—in California next month. Located in Oakland, the Bandcamp IRL venture will serve as both a music store and an event space, showcasing some of the hundreds of thousands of groups affiliated with the site, and reveling in the organic novelty of experiencing music in the disgusting, fallible, analog-imperfect flesh. The new Bandcamp location will begin playing host to people’s gurgling organ sacks on February 1, allowing fans of the company’s free-for-all publishing vibe to buy music pressed—as if by some dark and mysterious wizardry—onto vinyl, much like our distant ancestors are speculated to have done.

Newark, MD | Record store cafe planned for old Fusion Fitness location: Though Brian Broad only recently signed a lease to open a record store cafe in Market East Plaza, he has spent the last 14 years thinking about what Long Play Cafe could look like. Broad, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., got the inspiration for his vinyl-infused cafe during his more than 10 years living in the Netherlands. “During the time living there, that’s when Long Play kind of came about because I had friends who owned record stores, friends who owned cafes, and we were trying to figure out a way to bring those things together,” he said, adding that a friend had a cafe that was in need of a helping hand. “I said, ‘Look, man, I would be happy to come in on a weekend, clean the place up, make it look good, get it up to Dutch code’ – which is probably more stringent than an American code – ‘and see what happens,’” he said. “When we did this, I said, ‘This is cool, man, I want to do this. I really want to bring this all together.’ So that’s what we what we did.”

John Carpenter’s They Live Soundtrack Reissue Announced: Death Waltz unveils a newly designed vinyl repress of the cult classic 1988 film. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s original score for Carpenter’s cult classic 1988 sci-fi film They Live is getting a new vinyl reissue via Death Waltz, as Forbes notes. A new package designed by Alan Hynes mirrors the film’s truth-revealing sunglasses and subliminal messages. See what it looks like below. The reissue is available on different colors of vinyl on January 30. They Live, starring Roddy Piper and Keith David, is a sci-fi movie where a working class dude fights to reveal the aliens and subliminal messages that hide in plain sight. The film proved influential in popular culture and the world of graphic design. The new reissue follows the just-released book They Live: A Visual and Cultural Awakening, which features contributions from John Carpenter, Shepard Fairey, and others.

Cleveland, OH | Shuffle: Cleveland’s Wax Mage Records Cooks Up Custom Vinyl Creations: Heath Gmucs has worked as a press operator at Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records for about nine years. Now, he’s turning the mostly automated process of making vinyl into customized, hand-crafted works of art. ‘We’ve put coffee, shredded money and glitter in records’ Vinyl’s resurgence has led to bands and artists venturing away from the traditional black finish to requesting vibrantly-colored records they can sell as collector’s items. Gmucs has mastered the art of making splatter patterns — sprinkling in vinyl scraps during the pressing process to create stripes and swirls. Now, he’s taking his creations to a new level by experimenting with different materials to create intricate designs. Gmucs has his own work station set up at the back of the noisy pressing plant. “If you see my set up, I sort of feel like a chef over here, cooking up vinyl,” he said.

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The TVD Storefront

We’re closed.

We’ve closed the shop for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday. While we’re away, why not fire up our free Record Store Locator app and visit one of your local indie record stores?

Perhaps there’s an interview, review, or feature you might have missed? Catch up and we’ll see you back here on Tuesday, 1/22.

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD’s The Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Laurel Canyon!

I don’t mind stealin’ bread from the mouths of decadence / But I can’t feed on the powerless when my cup’s already overfilled, yeah / But it’s on the table, the fire’s cookin’ / And they’re farmin’ babies, while the slaves are all workin’ / Blood is on the table and the mouths are all chokin’ / But I’m goin’ hungry, yeah

I hope you enjoy my second mix of 2019—and speaking of mixed, I had quite a few feelings this week. At the top of the week, I heard about this all-star Chris Cornell tribute show. Right from my first glance at the line-up I had an eerie feeling. Not that I was a good friend of Cornell, but I’m an “OG grunge dude” and I did know Chris well enough to imagine the look on the dude’s face seeing teenyboppers playing dress up and singing karaoke on his behalf.

The photos on Instagram and Facebook reminded me of seeing Lorde performing “Kurt songs” with the Nirvana guys at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s likely just me, but these days I’m constantly asking who is “smacked out” of their minds here? Well, props to Alice in Chains for keep Layne Staley’s spirit off the red carpet.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Leo “Bud” Welch, The Angels in Heaven Done Signed My Name in stores 3/8

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The final effort from legendary bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch, The Angels in Heaven Have Done Signed My Name, is due out March 8, 2019 via Dan Auerbach’s label, Easy Eye Sound.

The ten-song posthumous album draws from the 25-30 songs that were recorded at Auerbach’s studio in Nashville with his band The Arcs, and offers a dynamic showcase of Welch’s gifts. “Working with Bud was a true blessing and I’ll never forget it,” Auerbach shares. “Bud taught us the songs that he’d been playing since he was a kid. He was so soulful. When he sang, you listened. And his guitar playing was steady as a rock.” The Angels in Heaven Have Done Signed My Name is available for pre-order on all formats here.

Leo “Bud” Welch was born in Sabougla, Mississippi in 1932, and was taught to play blues guitar on a homemade one-string “wall” guitar. He began playing gospel music at Sabougla Missionary Baptist Church services when he was 13; six years later, he moved two dozen miles away to Bruce, a tiny town about 50 miles southwest of Tupelo. He would live and work in Bruce while playing at churches, earning a reputation for performing for hours, even through weeklong revivals, without repeating a song.

The gospel-and-blues dynamic would eventually define him, both in terms of music and his life. Beginning in the ’50s he often sat in with blues acts at Bruce’s renowned juke joint, the Blue Angel Ballroom, opening for legends like B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, and John Lee Hooker. At one point King invited Welch to come to Memphis and audition to play in his band. Welch, however, didn’t have the money to get a hotel room so he never went because King refused to pay for the trip.

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TVD Washington, DC

Save the Date: The
10th Anniversary of the DC Record Fair at Penn Social, Sunday 1/27!

Where does the time go? The DC Record Fair turns 10 and sets up shop to celebrate at DC’s Penn Social on Sunday, January 27, 2019!

As with each fair for a decade now, we’ll have 40+ vinyl vendors from up and down the East Coast, the special DJ line up, the drinks, the food, and special book signings all designed to put a welcome hurt on your wallet or pocketbook. You’ve been warned.

Our friends at the Fillmore Silver Spring put together the above feature a while back that outshines any descriptive copy we could devise—hit play.

11:00-12:00: DJ Aisha Karimah
12:00-1:00: Cynthia Connolly (Banned in DC)
1:00-2:00: Danny Ingram (Dot Dash)
2:00-3:00: John Foster (Superior Viaduct Records)
3:00-4:00: Geologist (Animal Collective)
4:00-5:00: Nitekrawler (DC Soul Recordings)

Mark your calendars! 

Sunday, January 27, 2019 at Penn Social, 801 E Street, NW
11:00–12:00, Early Bird Admission $5.00
12:00–5:00, Regular Admission $2.00

RSVP and follow via the Facebook invite and watch this space for updates!


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The TVD Storefront

Demand it on Vinyl: Gordon Lightfoot,
The Complete Singles 1970-1980 in stores 3/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Gordon Lightfoot is a genre unto himself. Neither pop nor folk nor country nor rock, his music is unvarnished, direct, a statement from one heart to another (as Lightfoot has stated, “I like to keep things simple. I don’t like to make them complicated”). And this uncompromising stance has not only made him a legend (particularly in his native Canada, where he is a full-fledged icon), but also, somewhat paradoxically, brought him huge commercial success (which, ironically, has in turn caused some to discount his prodigious songwriting talent).

For Gordon Lightfoot never set out to be a “popular” singer-songwriter. When he signed with Warner Bros. and began working with producer Lenny Waronker, Lightfoot thought of himself as an album artist, and, indeed, the Lightfoot-Waronker songwriter-producer partnership (with a brief period with Joe Wissert as producer) yielded nine charting albums—and that’s not even counting the compilations—highlighted by a #1 slot for 1974’s Sundown. But, starting with 1970’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” Lightfoot also reeled off 13 Pop chart singles including 4 Top Tenners during the ‘70s, as well as a host of Adult Contemporary and Country chart appearances, which is again testimony to his ability to transcend musical styles.

Now, Real Gone Music has for the first time ever compiled the A and B-sides of ALL the singles Lightfoot recorded with Waronker and Wissert for the Reprise and Warner Bros. labels, 34 sides in all featuring all the hits and hard-to-find B-sides.

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The TVD Storefront

Roman Lewis,
The TVD First Date

“My first memory of records was opening up this big cupboard my grandma has and finding a hundred of them packed on top of one another. I looked through it and didn’t recognise much so discarded them and forgot about it pretty quickly.”

“A couple of years later I got a record player for my 14th birthday. To make the most out of it I bought a record I had been listening to on repeat on Spotify called I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning by Bright Eyes. When the postman brought it to the door in its Amazon packaging, I couldn’t imagine the importance of the moment.

I went upstairs and placed the needle on the outer edge of side A and 45 minutes later I honestly felt like a different person. To that point I had never listened to an album in order. My listening ways were governed by that blasphemous shuffle button, but after finally listening to the songs I knew so well in the order they were meant to be heard, music for me was given a whole new meaning.

A song is a great medium for storytelling, but there’s only so much you can say in 5 minutes, whereas if you look at the song as the chapter and the album as the story, you can do a whole lot more.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Works, Volume 1

It’s impossible to interpret that Volume 1 as anything other than a threat. And it was. Shortly after the release of Works, Volume 1, the United Nations received a letter from the law firm of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, threatening to release a Works, Volume 2 unless the band received 100 million dollars in small, unmarked bills. Despite the risk of a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions, the U.N. refused to bend.

Let’s start over.

Way back in 1977, rock’s premiere triumvirate of colossal dildos took their elephantine self-regard to pompous new heights by releasing this prog-rock twofer on which, God save us all, each dildo got his own side. Talk about your hubris. Not even the bloated egos in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ever dared to go so far.

You get a Keith Emerson side (he wrote a real live concerto!), a Greg Lake side (mushy acoustic balladry of the squishy candlelit sort), a Carl Palmer side (a so-so hodgepodge but better than the other guys’ sides), and finally a “group” side (on which the trio molests Aaron Copeland and performs theme music for a Deaf Olympics.)

Emerson’s side is the worst by leagues; in fact, I can say without hesitation that it’s the worst side of music in the history of modern music. His three-movement “Piano Concerto No. 1” (another threat!) is a case study in self-puffery and a complete wash; Lord knows your average ELP fan is a masochist prepared to eat any old kind of shit so long as it allows him to feel superior to the kinds of people who are too dumb to know that rock can only be improved by dressing it up in classical finery, but on this one Emerson leaves the rock out of the equation altogether. What you get instead are 18 interminable minutes of second-rate classical wankery, and what I want to know is who’d they hire to clean the bullshit off the piano bench afterwards?

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 1/18/19

UK | Bankrupt HMV Has Received ‘A Number of Offers’ — But Is This Chain a Goner? HMV Group fell into bankruptcy again last December. Now, there are ‘a number of offers’ to purchase the down-and-out chain. But then what? The past few years have witnessed a resurgence in music retail, particularly among mom-and-pops selling vinyl in trendy neighborhoods. Record Store Day (RSD), once judged to be a prayer, has lifted hundreds of smaller record stores. Even diversified retailers like Urban Outfitters and Barnes & Noble have expanded their vinyl record sections to profit from the bump. HMV Group, once a proud record chain based in the UK, hasn’t been so uplifted. In December, the chain plunged once again into bankruptcy — or in British speak, ‘administration’. That pre-Christmas lump of coal put thousands of jobs in jeopardy, while raising serious questions about the chain’s future. Over in Hong Kong, the future was definitively bleak. Instead of riding it out, HMV shuttered its entire Hong Kong business. But for now, stores in the UK are holding on.

Athens, OH | Coffeehouse exhibit explores glorious fringes of album art. Tescher to play music from displayed albums at reception Jan. 24. In a world of downloadable MP3 music files and streaming audio, what accounts for the lasting allure of the vinyl record? Part of it really is the sound – do not get your hardcore vinyl man started on the ineffable, broad-spectrum warmth of the analog recording. But any list of selling points for the old-school LP should also include its cover art. For decades the album cover was, like the comic book, a vital popular art form; for every American able to correctly identify Caravaggio’s “Basket of Fruit,” probably 10,000 can name that banana from “The Velvet Underground and Nico.” And if an album you love can bookmark a chapter of your life, its branding image can conjure the moment you first heard the music. To your humble reviewer, circa 1976 will always look like Mapplethorpe’s black-and-white portrait of Patti Smith on “Horses,” the poet staring evenly into the camera with her jacket slung over her shoulder. Someone could put together a trendy gallery show of “Iconic Rock ‘n’ Roll Album Art,” and no doubt someone has.

Dundalk, IE | Record fair comes to The Spirit Store, Dundalk on March 3: If you are a lover of vinyl records you might want to mark Sunday, March 3, down in your diary. The Pop Up Record And CD Fair will be rolling into Dundalk venue The Spirit Store from 10.30am to 5pm. At the record fair there will be thousands of LP’s, singles, 7 inch, 12-inch records and CD’s all in one place with several stalls from all over Ireland. At the fair, you can chose to come along as a customer and buy records, or sell some of your own or even trade some records with another attendee. Come along and browse the collections on show on March 3 and you might come away with some gems for your collection. Entry to this event is free of charge.

Bristol, UK | Discover Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 at Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2019: Expect the unexpected as Yamaha showcases the MusicCast VINYL 500 turntable as part of a wireless Music system at The Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2019. If you’re looking to dust off an old record collection, or excited to discover a new one, the MusicCast VINYL 500 has it covered, whether it’s through streaming content from popular streaming services, or by playing your favourite vinyl records. Listen to your records around the house, wirelessly – experience True Sound without being tied down by cables. Naturally, there’s an app for this. The MusicCast app enables you to take control of all your listening needs with intuitive access to all your playlists in different rooms through the sophisticated yet user-friendly design. Furthermore, you can even hook up an Alexa device to give your system voice-command skills. The Bristol Hi-Fi shows runs from Friday 22nd February through Sunday 24th February 2019 at the Marriott City Centre Hotel, Bristol

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Jon Spencer
& the HITmakers at the Black Cat, 1/12

When Jon Spencer took the stage arranging his amps before his latest band started playing Saturday night at the Black Cat in DC, nobody much responded. Maybe they didn’t recognize him with glasses. But when he doffed the glasses, Clark Kent-like, suddenly he was the mercurial rocker, with an Elvis Presley voice, a rock ’n’ roll soul and manic psychobilly punk style.

Once part of such bands as Pussy Galore, Boss Hog, Heavy Trash and the epic Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, he now fronts a trio modestly called The HITmakers. As such, the bulk of his set came from playing all 12 tracks on the recent Spencer Sings the Hits he recorded in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

“Ready for more hits?” he’d say mid-set, with no little irony. As influential as he’s been on rock’s underground, he’s never come close to having a hit—even if his sounds helped power a recent Hollywood hit, Baby Driver. But what he did was hard-hitting, that’s for sure. The tight circle of the band had Sam Coomes, of Quasi and Heatmiser, on keyboards, and the young M. Sord on drums, augmented by the unusual percussion by onetime Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, who spent time in Pussy Galore with Spencer.

People talk about the gritty, piston-beats of industrial Michigan coming through its home-grown rock, but here was Bert wailing away on what looked to be an old Chevy gas tank with a pair of hammers. (On the album, the equipment is identified as “gas tank, strut spring, brake rotor, metal table, ventilation duct, unistrut, 2” EMT conduit, ball peen hammer”). Its distinct ping plays off Sord’s cellar-floor boom but helped conjure the heavy beat that’s always been a part of Spencer’s innate swagger.

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