Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

We’re closed.

We’ve closed up the HQ for the Fourth of July holiday. While we’re away, why not fire up our free Record Store Locator app and visit one of your local indie record stores, either online, curbside, or with some sound social distancing?

Perhaps there’s an interview, review, or feature you might have missed? Catch up and we’ll see you back here on Monday, 7/6.

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TVD Radar: ‘The Elton John Classic Concert Series’ YouTube stream launching 7/3

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The Elton John Classic Concert Series features some of Elton’s most monumental concerts. Beginning this Friday, July 3 at 9 AM (LA) / 12 PM (NY) / 5 PM (LDN) exclusively on YouTube, the series will premiere with Live at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh from 1976—available digitally for the first time ever only for 72 hours.

The Elton John Classic Concert Series is running in support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund to continue HIV prevention and care for the most vulnerable people around the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can donate on YouTube whilst watching the show.

“My Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund helps frontline partners prepare for and respond to the pandemic and its effects on HIV prevention and care for the most marginalised communities. We cannot jeopardise HIV testing and care during this time or else the results could be disastrous for the 37.5 million people living with HIV. So, I’m really happy to connect this YouTube concert series to benefit our Foundation’s urgent COVID response.” —Elton John

Recorded as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Popular Music on 17th September 1976, Live at the Playhouse Theatre gives fans an exhilarating view of Elton at the height of his ‘70s popularity, having just enjoyed his first UK #1 single with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” This electrifying solo performance kicks off with “Skyline Pigeon” (taken from Empty Sky) before ending with a riotous version of “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).”

The setlist rips through classic after classic, including “Rocket Man,” “Daniel,” and “Bennie and the Jets.” It was also the first time Elton performed “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” solo. Climbing on his piano and stomping his way through this virtuoso performance, Elton leaves every ounce of himself on the stage, in a classic concert that was to be the last time he would perform a full show for another 7 months.

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TVD Premiere: Vanessa Silberman, “Written in the Stars”

PHOTO: MICHELLE LOBIANCO | If you’ve ever wondered what comes next after introducing you to a new band or artist under the umbrella of our First Date feature, quite a number continue to stay in family as it were. Such is the case with Vanessa Silberman who we introduced you to way back in the good old days of September 2016. Today we’re delighted to premiere her fifth single of 2020, “Written in the Stars,” a gem of an earworm which was self-produced, engineered, programmed, performed, mixed and mastered by Vanessa with additional creative input, drum consulting, and backing vocals by Ryan Carnes, and additional gang vocals by Skylar Funk-Boorman.

For us it evokes the perfect backdrop and soundtrack for Fourth of July fireworks, but the track has its origins with another set of fireworks entirely. “The inspiration for ‘Written in the Stars’ came from someone who I fell in love with. I asked them to tell me their favorite songs, Vanessa tells us. “I also got inspiration from pop and hip hop drum sample beats to varied artists like Sia, The Beatles, Muse, the Goo Goo Dolls, Enya, Led Zeppelin, and Nirvana as well as bands my drummer Ryan Carnes suggested. The song lyrically is about having trust and allowing yourself to fall in love.”

“Love can be so absolutely beautiful but it can also be scary to be so vulnerable and let someone in. The message is all about chasing whatever you’re afraid of and really just taking a leap of faith. Now more than ever I feel like we must all take a leap of faith on the heart, especially after everything that has happened the last few months. Anything that’s in your heart is always worth taking a chance on or taking a risk for…”

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Graded on a Curve: Thunderclap Newman, Hollywood Dream

There are One Hit Wonders and One Album Wonders, and occasionally the paths of those two dubious honors intersect. One such instance is UK group Thunderclap Newman, mostly celebrated for their single “Something in the Air” but also noted for their only LP, 1969’s Hollywood Dream. The record contains that superb single, but it also features a surplus of additional charm, and while its profile has increased substantially, it’s sadly plagued by its reputation as the sole document from one of rock’s notable underachievers.

And to be blunt, Thunderclap Newman is a questionable entry into the club of the One Album Wonder anyway. They have the solitary LP down pat, but a passionate bout of quibbling just might break out over the Wonder part of the equation. For Hollywood Dream, released after “Something in the Air” spent three weeks as a UK number one hit, was something of a stiff in terms of sales. It climbed no higher than #161 in the US album chart, and the single was a bit of an American sleeper, making it to only #37. And in an odd twist, apparently the LP was even more coolly received in their home country.

When the band’s back-story is added into the mix, Hollywood Dream’s landing with a splat of relative indifference becomes something of a persistent head-scratcher. Vocalist/drummer John “Speedy” Keen had previously penned “Armenia City in the Sky” for The Who’s 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Pianist and band namesake Andy Newman looked like a dry run for the likes of Bun E. Carlos and banged on the keys like an auxiliary member of the Bonzo Dog Band. A suitable nickname for their young guitarist would be “The Kid,” or maybe even better “The Face,” for it’d be well nigh impossible to find a more splendiferously Mod figure than the one cut by Jimmy McCulloch on the record’s cover.

Throw in that Pete Townsend played bass on the LP and its lack of performance is indeed a stumper. It’s in essence an album tailor made for Beatles fans, registering at times like a slightly more twee incarnation of Badfinger, though they never cross the line into the precious. Maybe the problem was that at the point of the record’s release The Beatles hadn’t really broken up yet (though the end was certainly near). However, Badfinger’s sales figures in ’70 and ’71 surely benefited from the realization of many that their favorite band was no longer extant.

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TVD Radar: Man, Revelation purple vinyl reissue in stores 7/31

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The Welsh rock band Man made waves with their 1969 debut release Revelation featuring the twin-guitar attack of Roger “Deke” Leonard and Mike Jones that led some to compare Man to Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Like most “concept” albums of the period, Man’s 1969 debut release was a little short on continuity and, well, concept…but who cares when in the space of one wildly psychedelic side Revelation careened from the psychedelic pomp of “And in the Beginning…” to the banned-in-the-UK “Erotica,” which upped the ante on Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s carryings-on with the sounds of a four minute-long female orgasm set to a fuzz-guitar freak-out!? Side two is only a little bit less intense, with the coulda been/shoulda been single “Don’t Just Stand There (Come Out of the Rain)” a worthy successor to the Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park.”

Throughout, this Welsh band displays the twin guitar attack of Roger “Deke” Leonard and Mike Jones that led them to be compared to Quicksilver Messenger Service. But Clive John’s Hammond organ gives Man’s sound an extra texture that pushes them a bit in a prog direction, making Revelation exactly that (headphones highly recommended).

Real Gone Music is proud to give this overlooked late-‘60s gem its first-ever American reissue, in a “flipback” album jacket (flaps outside on back cover) that mimics its original Pye label packaging. Purple vinyl pressing limited to 1000 copies.

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TVD Radar: Harold Alexander, Sunshine Man reissue in stores 8/28

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Harold Alexander was a competent saxophonist and dynamic flutist whose early and mid-’70s albums for Flying Dutchman and Atlantic blended originals, soul/jazz and R&B effectively. Alexander recorded three albums (including a live Montreux Jazz Festival record in 1972) and contributed to various other recordings during his career.

​After a very brief period of recording music, from about 1967 to 1974, Alexander disappeared from the music scene. He is alleged to have commented on the music industry by saying, “Most people don’t know what happened to me… I guess they think I’m gone. They didn’t kill my spirit, but they killed my desire to share.” Before his removal from the scene of recorded music, Harold Alexander provided the world with some incredibly funky jazz fusion tracks with a distinct otherworldly craziness.

His most recognized LP is 1971’s Sunshine Man on Flying Dutchman Records. On that album, the most sought after groove is the straight up banger “Mama Soul,” which features insane scatting over a delicious funky flute and organ driven beat. An immaculate six minutes of mental vocals and Alexander’s flute doing exactly what the vocals are doing. It comes as no surprise that “Mama Soul” was sampled multiple times by artists from Blackalicious to DJ Shadow.

​Another highlight (one of the many on this album) is the adept double beat from iconic drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (husband to Aretha Franklin and known for his work with Isaac Hayes, Cat Stevens, B.B. King, and Joe Cocker) who is delivering some of the most tight and wicked drum-skills known to man.

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Graded on a Curve:
Big Youth,
Natty Cultural Dread

It’s International Reggae Day! Ed.

When it gets hot and muggy, some of the surefire ways to adjust to the severity of climate include shedding all unnecessary clothing, raising the intake on cold beverages, and even submerging oneself in a cool body of water. All no brainers, I know. But along with attempting to beat the heat, a person can also just get into the spirit of the season, and one of the best avenues to that goal is a musical one; simply crank up some prime Jamaican reggae. Natty Cultural Dread, the 1976 LP from the man known as Big Youth, is a particularly fitting soundtrack to sweating it up in the summertime.

The collecting of Jamaican music, especially on LP, can be a rather daunting endeavor. I’ve mentioned this before in relation to other forms/styles, but it bears repeating here; there’s just so much Jamaican material of quality and in so many different, equally enticing subgenres, that getting a handle on the whole heap is at this late date basically beyond anyone not slinging a slush-fund of downright spectacular proportions, to say nothing of the deluxe hutch needed to house all those records once they’ve been acquired.

To continue retracing a theme, it’s situations like this one that expose the completist urge, at least when it’s combined with a diverse musical interest, as sheer folly. But hey, there’s no need to get into a funk about it; just shoot for the essentials, and after that, let the chips fall where they may. In terms of personal collecting (in contrast to extensive libraries, which have their own allure), it’s the uniqueness of those fallen chips that makes checking out the contents of specific collections so enlightening; a person’s record stash, whether large with experience or small but growing with budding enthusiasm, is as individual as a thumbprint and yet (hopefully) in a state of perpetual growth.

And just as interesting will be the varying responses to the nature of the “essential.” Writers and gabbers on music (and art in general) often employ the term as an objective truth that’s in accord with the dictionary definition of the word, but no matter how much writing and gabbing gets done, there’s no denying the inherent subjectivity of art. Everybody responds to music differently, which is why so much ink and breath accompanies its creation.

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Graded on a Curve: Blondie,
Parallel Lines

Happy 75th birthday to Debbie Harry!Ed.

A bit of history: When Blondie signed on with Australian producer Mike Chapman (of Chapman and Nicky Chinn glam rock fame) to record their 1978 breakthrough LP Parallel Lines, little did they know what they were in for. Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, and the rest of the band had a rather punk attitude towards the studio, and everything else for that matter; as Chapman noted later, “They were really, really juvenile in their approach to life—a classic New York underground rock band—and they didn’t give a fuck about anything. They just wanted to have fun and they didn’t want to work too hard getting it.”

Chapman the perfectionist called Blondie “hopelessly horrible” and explained his attitude towards the sessions in frankly dictatorial terms: “I basically went in there like Adolf Hitler and said, ‘You are going to make a great record, and that means you are going to start playing better.’” And they did. The result was a landmark record that everybody should own but you know what? I really kind of miss the hopelessly horrible band that gave us Parallel Lines’ predecessor, Plastic Letters.

Sure, Plastic Letters lacks the gloss of Parallel Lines’ disco-inflected “Heart of Glass” and a song quite as catchy as “Hanging on the Telephone,” but it possesses the same gritty and off-kilter NYC charm as the first recordings by the Dictators and the Ramones. Spies, strange happenings in the Bermuda Triangle, and cheating at poker by means of telepathy—Plastic Letters may be an imperfect recording, but boring it ain’t.

That said, Parallel Lines is still loads of fun, and retains that good old punk spirit on such numbers as “Hanging on the Telephone” (love Harry’s New Yawk squawk), “One Way or Another” (great chainsaw riff meets manhunt disguised as love song), and the belligerent closing track, “Just Go Away,” which boasts wonderful shouted backing vocals and really snotty vocals by Harry. And then there’s the pneumatic “I Know But I Don’t Know,” which features some great vocals by an unnamed member of the band, who accompanies Harry and sounds about as New York, New York as they come.

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Graded on a Curve:
Unwed Sailor,
Look Alive

Led by bassist Johnathon Ford, Tulsa, OK’s Unwed Sailor have been active since the late 1990s, honing a largely non-vocal approach that has been occasionally described as post-rock but with stylistic affinities that span back to the ’80s and are often appealingly Anglocentric in nature. With the release of Look Alive, Unwed Sailor’s discography now totals six full-length records plus a slew of singles and EPs. The latest holds up strong and encourages repeated spins through consistent depth of feeling. It’s out now on vinyl, CD and cassette through Old Bear Recordings, with the wax distributed by Light in the Attic.

The achievements detailed above are considerable; to keep a band not only active for over 20 years but producing worthwhile material throughout the duration is a rarity, but Jonathan Ford has also been a part of Roadside Monument and Pedro the Lion (in both cases prior to the formation of Unwed Sailor) plus he’s collaborated with Damien Jurado, Early Day Miners and more.

Ford has been the only constant member of Unwed Sailor, though Matthew Putman has played drums and added percussion since the outfit’s sophomore long-player from 2003, The Marionette and the Music Box. David Swatzell is the relative newbie of the group, though he was the guitarist on 2019’s Heavy Age, a self-released double-album that has been described as the byproduct of a “dark period” for Ford.

Conversely, Look Alive is said to derive from “a place of strength and inspiration.” After time spent with both records, there are a few passages on each where the specific circumstances and mindsets surrounding their making can be pinpointed, but it’s frankly much easier to discern the unity of style across the two releases as Unwed Sailor deliver a focused sound that’s energetic but also textured.

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TVD Radar: that dog., Totally Crushed Out and Retreat From The Sun reissues in stores 7/24

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Third Man Records is excited to announce vinyl reissues of that dog.’s seminal LPs Totally Crushed Out and Retreat From The Sun, to be released on July 24, 2020. These reissues arrive just in time for the 25th anniversary of the original release of Totally Crushed Out and mark the first vinyl pressing of either album. Pre-order Totally Crushed Out here, and pre-order Retreat From The Sun here.

Totally Crushed Out | Conceived as a loosely-based concept album around the idea of crushes and young love, that dog.’s sophomore album Totally Crushed Out is a touchstone underrated classic in line with of-the-era releases like the Breeders’ Last Splash and Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. From the Sweet Valley High-reminiscent illustrated album cover, to the A minus rating given by the dean Robert Christgau, to the Jenni Konner songwriting credit (long before she was the showrunner for HBO’s Girls) this album is quirky, smart, well-written and most of all… enjoyable.

that dog.’s touring behind Totally Crushed Out found them sharing stages with Foo Fighters, Weezer, and Teenage Fanclub, their songs being covered live by Pearl Jam, collaborating with Beck, and the vid for “He’s Kissing Christian” achieving sub-Buzz Bin status on MTV.

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TVD Radar: Blue Öyster Cult, 45th Anniversary–Live In London 2LP in stores 8/7

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Blue Öyster Cult have announced another special live release from their archives. 45th Anniversary–Live In London will be released on August 7, 2020 on CD/DVD, Blu-ray, and 2xLP. The performance, captured in London at the O2 Indigo at the Stone Free Festival, includes a full performance of their legendary debut album, plus more cuts from their storied catalog. The band is also nearing completion of their new studio album, The Symbol Remains, which will be released in October via Frontiers Music.

In 2017, the mighty Blue Öyster Cult celebrated their 45th Anniversary with a run of festival and headline dates across the UK and Europe. The band’s appearance in London at the O2 INDIGO at the Stone Free Festival on June 17th started with a performance of BÖC’s first album in its entirety, a celebration of the 45th anniversary of its release. In addition, the band added special select cuts from their catalog to the set. The full show was filmed in 4K UHD and is another one of a kind archival release which fans of the band cannot miss.

Hailing from New York, Blue Öyster Cult have garnered huge critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase built on their studio albums, tracks like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla,” and “Burning For You,” and their awesome live shows.

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Maria Rae,
The TVD First Date

“Having grown up on CDs with no family records to inherit, my love for vinyl sparked in my late teens, when I moved to London from Greece. I found myself digging through record stores in Soho, in awe of the amount of different music available to purchase, and so I was hooked on discovery. I spent my early years exploring my parents’ CD collection, creating my own amalgamations of what I considered to be the best mixtapes ever made… ignorance is bliss!”

“I grew up with a love for the likes of Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone, Toni Braxton, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Ms Lauryn Hill, and Mary J. Blige who would blare out of my parents’ speakers on a daily basis. The common denominator for a lot of my favourite childhood music was clearly female singers playing the piano. I learned the piano from the age of 7, leading me into a career of songwriting and singing—and I can only thank all the amazing female voices I heard everyday, giving me the confidence to pursue writing and performing music myself.

When I first arrived in London, I remember going to see James Blake live one night and needing to buy something at the end of the gig as a memento. The way the sound traveled through the venue, especially that of the piano, gave me chills and I needed something to remember that feeling with. I distinctly recall looking at the vinyl at the merch stand and the excitement of taking it home for its first spin—this purchase marked the beginning of my vinyl journey.

My record player came shortly after, and I immediately became obsessed with the way the mechanism works, going back and forth to Soho, adding a new record or two each time I got paid. The needle fascinated me and to this day, I sit in awe of the way the sound is created, the way it travels through the air, and the texture of the sound we hear. Whenever I come back from a gig, it’s with vinyl in hand. I will stick it on as soon as I’m home and relive the magic.

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Graded on a Curve:
Albert Ayler,
New Grass

Although some have managed to expand upon his groundbreaking intensity and flights of abstraction, Albert Ayler is one of the few sui generis figures in the history of jazz. An uncompromising player with only a small following in his lifetime in music, he cut a record in 1968 that initially seemed to satisfy nobody except for (perhaps) Ayler himself. That LP was New Grass, lambasted as a sell-out by those who favored his prior work, while less adventurous listeners weren’t buying. The album has been reevaluated since however, and Third Man has given it a vinyl reissue that’s available now. In the label’s storefronts and select indie shops it can even be found on coke bottle clear 180-gram wax with opaque green wisps.

I’ve been contributing to this column for over eight years, but until this piece, I haven’t delivered a full review of a record by Albert Ayler, who’s one of my favorite jazzmen, though I have included him in this site’s New In Stores column and in at least one group review. As this omission is remedied, I feel it should be immediately qualified that the term jazzman isn’t necessarily a tidy fit for Ayler’s brilliance.

Albert Ayler was certainly a man whose work falls inside the boundaries of jazz, so calling him a jazzman isn’t in error, but it still might give those unfamiliar with his work the false impression of a figure, sharply decked-out in a classic tailored suit maybe, who excelled at extending, through live gigs and studio sessions, the core tenets of Modern Jazz.

While innovators are surely jazzmen and vice versa, Ayler remains one of the ever-evolving form’s major freedom-seeking iconoclasts. In short, he’s best placed in the avant-jazz category, which means that for long stretches after his death in November 1970 (presumably by suicide, as his body was discovered in the East River of NYC) his music was difficult to obtain. This was especially true at the end of the 1980s, which is when I first learnt of his existence.

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TVD Radar: Joe Bonamassa, A New Day Now 20th anniversary 2LP reissue in stores 8/7

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Twenty years ago, Joe Bonamassa took the music world by storm when he released his debut solo album A New Day Yesterday, though he’d already been on the scene for years as a child prodigy and even opened for B.B. King at the age of 12.

The album launched a career that, two decades later, has seen Bonamassa rise to the top of his field with most recently being named Guitar World’s #1 blues guitarist in the world. Today, the blues-rock titan announces a revamped version to be released on August 7th via J&R Adventures. It has been completely re-sung by Bonamassa and remixed and remastered by long-time producer Kevin Shirley. The first single “Cradle Rock” is out today as part of the celebration. Fans can pre-order the album now.

In custom Bonamassa fashion, Joe has shared a personal message to fans, straight from his “Nerdville” home. “The reason we went back and remixed it, and re-sang it, and pulled from the original masters was because I never felt like I deserved a guy like Tom Dowd to produce my first album,” he confesses. “I was an infant as far as being an artist. Tom saw a little pebble in a stream, that could travel down and eventually become this nugget of gold, if you want to call it that, and he had a vision for me that I didn’t see. I appreciate that and I wanted to pay tribute to him as a man who mentored me through that time. I hope you enjoy it.”

He continues, “Tom Dowd was a master of everything he endeavored on. There was no second rate, there was no compromise on quality of absolutions and results. I wasn’t developed enough as a musician myself to rise to his level. I certainly gave it my all and rose to the occasion grading on the curve of the musician I am today, the musician Tom always knew was inside my soul. I decided to enlist the help of another producer and mentor that has significantly impacted my life both on a personal basis and professionally, Mr. Kevin Shirley to help re-mix, re-sing and finally pay tribute to Tom as I tried to so hard to when he was alive.

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Suzi Quatro,
The TVD Interview

Suzi Quatro knows exactly who she is and what she wants. That’s the impression she gives, even on a crackling Skype call across the Atlantic. I spoke to her in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, before either of us had any idea just how crazy the next six months would be. “It’s pretty scary,” she said, when I asked her how she was staying sane back in those early days. “I’m trying to be creative, I’m working on the next album with my son right now… and taking a six mile walk [with him] every day.” As she and the people who know her best readily attest, she’s always raced through life at a breakneck pace, and at 70, she shows no signs of slowing down.

In addition to working on a new album with her son, Richard Tuckey, she’s planning to put out another book, maintaining a presence on social media, and even cleaning up after herself. “Of course my cleaner can’t come so I’m going against my religion to clean it myself. I have to have music on when I clean so I’m dancing around to my Motown,” she says. “That just makes it a little quicker, when you can do the Temptations, you know? I was cheerful for about the last two weeks but that seems to have gone away…”

We chat about her other musical influences and what’s stuck with her since the Sixties: Otis Redding, Billie Holliday, Bob Dylan, and (of course) Elvis Presley. “The music that you listen to as a teenager really stays in your heart forever,” she says. “I saw [Elvis] on TV and knew I was going to do what he did.” Her preferred medium? Vinyl, of course. “Nothing quite like it. The old days you’d go and flick through the sleeves and hold it in your hands… just fantastic. There’s a whole new vibe in vinyl. It’s beautiful in its imperfection.” The same might be said of Quatro’s whole career.

She talks about her favorite tunes with the same electric energy that made her a household name in the music business in the 1970s, singled out for stardom by Mickie Most. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t… getting up and doing a number,” she tells me. “I was always a performer, always, from a little girl. And in fact that’s what I put on my first passport [with the Pleasure Seekers]. I was the only one that put down ‘entertainer’ as profession… It says a lot about my mindset back then.” This, in her own estimation and that of the friends and family who populate her upcoming rockumentary, Suzi Q, is the leitmotif of her life: uncompromising ambition. Suzi Quatro was determined to be a star.

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