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Old 04-11-2008, 10:45 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Room: Pre-Flight (1970)



1. Pre-Flight - Parts I & II (8:57)
2. Where Did I Go Wrong (5:32)
3. No Warmth In My Life (4:36)
4. Big John Blues (2:38)
5. Andromeda (5:09)
6. War (4:37)
7. Cemetery Junction - Parts I & II (8:30)

Room are a wonderful twin-guitar band that produced a catchy, proggy and generally awesome album in 1970 and with a female vocalist more metal than man it's a huge wonder they never made it big. The title track features several forays into jazz and prog with some lush densly layered segments, this is an incredibly satisfying and powerful song. The guitar solos are very appropriate and jazzy at times however they never lose sight of the song, and can seem very controlled at times. Room are very good at building mood and setting a strong thick atmosphere utilising every instrument to its full potential. Despite being nearly 9 minutes long the title track will leave you wanting more after a very quaint ending. Where Did I Go Wrong delivers this and more, starting off with a lovely guitar solo and soft yet agressive drumming. The vocals might remind you of early Black Sabbath only female instead of whatever Ozzy Osbourne is.

The guitars are what you'll be listening for here on the second track, which generally reflects the whole theme of the album, it features some incredibly wonderful solo work and memorable riffs and licks. The drumming is also a high point of the album sounding very clear and appropriate. Where Did I Go Wrong can seem quite bluesy at times, something which is built on as the album progresses. No Warmth in My Life builds on this blues theme however also remaining quite jazzy at times. The guitars again don't fail to impress with some powerfull riffs, however proto-metal fans will be left feeling a bit dissapointed wanting something a bit more heavy to complement the vocals. My personal feeling however is that the album never needed to rely on heavy riffs to make it great and the band must have felt the same way.

The guitar solos remind me a lot of Capability Brown at times, a band I'm reviewing in the very near future. Big John Blues continues the blue feeling with a track very similar to Wishbone Ash's Vas Dis with the vocalist scat singing the notes of the guitar. Lovely guitar solos run throught the whole song cementing it as a truly great guitar album, just the way I like it. At times the vocalist may seem quite awkward like at the start of Andromeda, however this is wholly redeemed immediately after, the quirky yet incredibly catchy song features some of the best vocals of the album. Not exactly lyrically however and this counts a bit against it, musically it's one of the albums most intense songs because of the bassline. It feels almost depressive with each beat feeling like a drain on your mind.

Musically proficient solos complement most of the songs very well however it most certainly wouldn't be a stretch to say Andromeda's guitar solo does it perfectly, all different sections of the song complement each other very well and it's hard to find songs that sound so tight while still seeming very free. Andromeda is certainly one of the big highlights of the albums and it's heartwrenching to think how unnapreciated this album truly is. War follows on the high set by Andromeda and is the true highlight, the vocals alone make this the heaviest song on the album, and the opening riff is very reminiscent of Black Sabbath's debut album with less distortion. The whole song is very reminiscent of Sabbath's early albums without being truly metal. This is certainly not a downside but if you are wanting something heavy it would be better to listen to something else.

While being in some ways similar to the early metal movement the sound is far more deeply rooted in the early 70's prog movement, however without the spacey self importance of some of the bigger groups. The album is incredibly earnest and lacking in almost any pretentia, sure they have the guts to make 8 minute songs but they're not doing it for the sake of long songs. As we come to the last song I can certainly say that this is a true obscure prog gem. And the final track makes the album oh so much more deserving of such a title. The instrumental Cemetery Junction showcases the true talents of the brilliant musicians involved in the pre-flight project. Lush synths, brilliant bass lines and cutting guitars are scattered throughout being very well supported throughout with brilliant tight drumming. Also present are some wind and string instruments that complete the package.

Being the proggiest work on the album it's definitely appropriate as an album finisher as it will definitely leave you pumped up and thirsting for more, it would certainly not be unexpected to immediately want to spin the album once more immediately afterwards. As a whole the album is immensely satisfying and there are very few drawbacks, I may not enjoy this as much as Leaf Hound however it is fundamentally bettern and my score will have to reflect this. The lush atmospheres here feature some inspirational and beautiful string and wind sections that will either lift your spirit or break your heart. It's a truly epic feeling, and it leaves you with an empty heart once it's abruptly cut out by a catchy bassline. The final song is truly a journey of emotions, worthy of the name Cemetery Junction.

Not to get too caught up with the atmosphere of it all it's score time, as I said this is better than Growers of Mushroom, it might not be as catchy or heavy but there's just something about it which makes it just in a totally different league and, well I'll just let my score do the talking.

8.9/10
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:07 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Capability Brown: From Scratch (1972)



1. Beautiful Scarlet (4:53)
2. Do You Believe (4:25)
3. The Band (3:39)
4. Garden (3:18)
5. Liar (7:13)
6. No Range (4:05)
7. I Will Be There (3:18)
8. Redman (3:21)
9. Day In Day Out (3:46)
10. Sole Survivor (9:46)

Starting off with beautiful vocal harmonies and a lovely riff Beautiful Scarlet sets the scene for an absolute ripper of an album. Everything about this album screams classic the vocal performance is honest and heartfelt, the guitars are beautiful and you'll always find something new. There's always something mind-blowing going on in the background, and the production is absolutely brilliant for a 1970's album. All the songs have something extra underneath, the layering is superb yet it never feels overproduced. The vocals are as close to perfect as you can get on a prog album, the vocal harmonies are incredibly appropriate and the solo vocal performances just ooze class and beauty. I'll challenge anyone to find a weak moment here.

The Band is one of the first lyrical strongpoints on the album, listen to it properly and you'll see why. The guitar work is incredible here in the background, as I said there's always a solo or something similar going on in the background, and you'll have to listen to this several times to fully appreciate the album as a whole. There's just too much to concentrate on to fully understand the first few times around. The vocal performance here can nearly be called an early form or rap, and let's just say it works incredibly well (that's from someone who despises anything to do with rap). I just simply cannot express how incredible the guitar work is, it's quirky, soulful, catchy and musically proficient all at the same time, and it never ever feels pretentious.

The musical performance by the band as a whole is incredible, and for an early vocal highlight, go no further than the solemn Garden. A lovely lush pop song without ever adhering to any of the rules of pop music, so pop, yet unmistakenly full of self respect. It has a slow build up to a crescendo and some incredible vocal performances all the way up to. The lyrics are beautifully crafted and create a perfect picture as the band must have intended. The song Liar is a Russ Ballard song, yet Capability Brown so very aptly make it their own (Just as they do with Rare Bird songs "Beautiful Scarlet and "Redman"). The vocal performance as well as the incredibly catchy riff here are brilliant, Liar is a song you can listen to all day and never get tired of. The solo is incredibly simple yet so effective.

Very reminiscent of Wishbone Ash at times, many songs come to mind, one of them being WA's own Epic "Phoenix" this album is a must have for any Wishbone Ash fan. The layering is done so incredibly well within the guitar work and the drumming keeps it all together brilliantly with the bass work. Overall an incredibly powerful piece Liar is simple yet complex in so many ways. No Range is full of surprises, a lovely powerful riff, brilliant vocals and lyrics, and why yes, that is a flute. The vocal harmonies once again come out and shine in a song which could have been a huge hit in every decade after it was released and not seem out of place. Criminally underrated this album just goes from strength to strength and it's just simply baffling how underappreciated it is.

There's something for everyone here proggers will love the instrumental performances, casual listeners will love the lush sounds and catchy lyrics that stay with you for days. Classic rock fans will love some of the epic riffs and guitar performances, the album can be overly intense at times if you get truly into it and it can be draining to listen to once you're fully aware of the scale of the layering. There's something truly beautiful about the most simplest of lyrics here and it's ultimately an incredibly satisfying listen from all angles. I will be there leads on to the second Rare Bird cover, "Redman" which is the most heartfelt and beautiful song on the album. The vocalists make the song their own and do so without any form of pretentia, it's more than just a tribute. And to top it all iff it has hands down the finest guitar solo I've ever heard, forget Comfortably Numb, forget Stairway to Heaven, forget Hendrix, Page, Gilmour or any of your guitar heroes. Capability Brown beats them all hands down in 35 seconds of pure brilliance, so simple, yet so amazing.

Day In Day Out provides another beautiful vocal performance and yet another beautifully crafted song, the formula is used to great effect on the album yet it never seems stale simple guitar work holds it all together very well. The vocal harmonies on Day In Day Out put CSNY to shame and make you wonder why the hell this band isn't regarded as one of the 70's finest. To close off the album I couldn't have picked anything more appropriate than the fast, epic and huge track Sole Survivor, proggers will feel it's the strongpoint and the pure brilliance of the instrumental work won't be lost on even the most casual listener. The vocals powerful and instense and you'll feel like the whole album has built up to this final perfect piece of perfection. This album made me appreciate obscure music and led me on a tireless journey to find anything to top it, as of yet I have been unsuccessful. There's not a weak point on this album, it is without a doubt the finest I have heard.

You'd think there would be a limit to perfection yet I don't know if there should be, to say this album is truly perfect would be wrong because it may not be the pinacle of musical achiement, and the score I will give will reflect this and my optimism that one day I might find an album to top this one. If I fail I will have to alter the score of this album, but until then it will stay as it is now. From Scratch represents what music was meant to be, an honest, earnest venture into every aspect of the band. Yet all the band did outside of the music they created was venture into obscurity and dissapear after releasing two albums that no one heard, until now.

I wanted to put off reviewing this album until I had set a precedent with my scoring system to truly appreciate how good I feel this album is. I talk about enjoyment and how my score doesn't fully reflect how well I enjoy it (Leaf Hound scoring below Room). However this is brilliant on both levels I enjoy it more than any other and I feel that it truly deserves the score I will give. Anyways let's get onto the score:

9.9/10
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:19 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Wow a Capability Brown review before my very eyes!! I doff my cap to you sir
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Old 04-11-2008, 03:24 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Have you come to expect anything else from this thread?
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Old 04-11-2008, 08:48 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Ups?

On Leafhound: They sound like Led Zeppelin a bit, it's mainly the vocal style though. The lyrics are pretty clumsy but I love the sludgy double guitar riffing, and the songs all have a larger-than-life feel while remaining gritty and down to earth.
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Old 04-12-2008, 02:30 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Leaf Hound's lyrics are great for what they are, considering they are a complete drug fueled mess.
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Old 04-12-2008, 10:06 AM   #17 (permalink)
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True. I wasn't complaining.
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Old 04-14-2008, 01:57 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Johnny Winter: The Progressive Blues Experiment (1969)



1. Rollin' And Tumblin' (3:12)
2. Tribute To Muddy (6:20)
3. I Got Love If You Want It (3:53)
4. Bad Luck And Trouble (3:41)
5. Help Me (3:47)
6. Mean Town Blues (4:26)
7. Broke Down Engine (2:48)
8. Black Cat Bone (3:47)
9. It's My Own Fault (7:20)
10. Forty-Four (3:30)

While not the most obscure artist I've reviewed it's certainly one of the more obscure albums, not considered a fully official part of the Johnny Winter discography it was very difficult to track down. Well as you should all know if anyone's got the blues it's Johnny, and Rollin' and Tumblin' certainly reflect this. An overall twangy feel to the guitar starts this album off with a bluesy bang, bursting with energy and charisma the vocals do lack some finesse yet it does add a certain bit of charm to it. The drums and bass keep it all together really well leaving time for Winter to play on a bit. Tribute to Muddy see a lovely blues song with all the cliches, and why the **** not, it's called Tribute to Muddy. The guitar work is pretty standard, but it works so very well with the song. The beat is incredibly catchy and lets Winter do whatever he wants and I feel this will continue throughout. The solo is nothing short of a nostalgic journey back in time, yet it feels so refreshing.

It's been awhile since I've listened to some great blues, and for anyone wanting to experience some good blues this is what you'll be looking for. Winters does excellent stuff playing up and down certain parts of the song to create a lovely contrast. This is a lovely guitar album because it shows what you can do with just a guitar and a pick without resorting to any of the tricks guitarists used in the next decade. If I could change anything though it would be the sound of the guitar, a bit tinny in bits but it seems to vary from song to song, yet I'd wish for it to be a bit smoother. This album's never really going to get away from the blues aspect but you can certainly respect that, yet it's still certainly a very different kind of blues while remaining very much the same. This album takes the blues guitar to a new standard, bringing a lead instrument even more to the forefront. This is not to say there's not some lovely drum and bass work which at times can be quite spectacular.

The Drummer is none other than Uncle John Turner who has played with such greats as Hendrix, BB King and Muddy Waters himself. Bad Luck and Trouble features some lush mandolin and harmonica performances from Winter who keeps it all together brilliantly without the help of percussion on bass work. A lovely track if just for it's simplicity and great mandolin playing. While not present in this song, the bassist is none other than Double Trouble great Tommy Shannon. Help Me brings a new more distorted guitar style onto the album and it works very well in contrast to the mandolin featured previously. This is just what I've been wanting the guitar to sound like, far smoother and it even has a slight psychedelic feel to it.

If this album had been more popular I would have had to say it was instrumental in shaping the way the guitar was used in progressive rock, there is certainly a very progressive element in his playing that can be heard all throughout the seventies. The vocals improve with each song and shine in Mean Town Blues in a very gritty hard rock fashion, I do still have a few qualms about his voice on the album though. There's just not enough soul in his voice to reflect the bluesy stylings of his guitar, and it's not powerful enough to properly convey his lyrics in the hard rock style. But that's all moot really when he can play a solo like he does in Mean Town Blues. This is definitely one for the guitarists out there, that's not to say any blues fan won't enjoy this either, and it's essential in any Johnny Winter collection.

Even with an acoustic his playing still stays fast and inspired, a perfect example is Broke Down Engine where once again Winter is alone without his rhythm section and once again holds it all together very well. After the sombre acoustic piece Black Cat Bone is a huge burst of energy with a fast powerful blues song, this is probably the band's best performance on the album as a whole, sounding incredibly tight. "Hey man check this out" Winter sings before launching into an incredible solo, you can hear aspects of Jimmy Page's latter playing here and it reflects the styles that would become popular later on in the seventies.

The epic 7 minute long It's My Own Fault shows off Winter's truly bluesy vocals, and it finally showcases his most soulful delivery on the album. Coupled with more great guitar work it's not much different from the rest of the album, but this can't really detract from the feel because I knew going into it, that it was going to be pure blues. Winter shows some great guitar control towards the end of the song and the final solo featuring some scat singing is brilliant. Forty-Four immediately made me thing "Cliffs of Dover" yet that really doesn't feel right. There's a great eastern feel to the guitar that works superbly with the song and the album as a whole. For a straight blues record this certainly doesn't break many boundaries, but it does expand them quite somewhat and Winter takes the guitar to whole new levels.

Overall it's an incredibly enjoyable blues album but it has a lot of obvious drawbacks, the sometimes lack-lustre vocals bring it down and so does the general lack of experimentation, it's still a very good album, just not a truly brilliant one, and as I'm beginning to so often say, my score will reflect that.

7.5/10
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Old 04-23-2008, 09:42 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Kayo Dot: Blue Lambency Downard (2008)



1. Blue Lambency Downward (9:59)
2. Clelia Walking (5:29)
3. Right Hand Is The One I Want (6:53)
4. The Sow Submits (4:02)
5. The Awkward Wind Wheel (3:29)
6. The Useless Ladder (2:40)
7. Symmetrical Arizona (10:49)

The album starts us off with a nice ambient guitar and generally annoying vocals that still somewhat retain their charm from earlier releases. The instrumental passages are interesting and but don't really seem to flow anywhere. This could be seen as a good thing as a lot of it is incredibly infectious, it's very stimulating to say the least. My first question here absolutely has to be: okay guys, I understand that you're experimenting and going in new directions, but didn't you used to do metal? Not much stands out in the title track yet it all does come together well and is executed just as it should be. The overall theme is interesting, but you can't really listen to the vocalist for any long period of time, so I don't know what the lyrics are about, it feels like their trying really hard to be the Mars Volta.

Clelia Walking is geniunely fun to listen to, it's like you're back in the canterbury scene with five guys going "okay, how can we make this sound as random as possible". Not enough bands do this anymore, and all the power of these guys for pulling off a fun filled passage. There are some stand out performances, a lovely violin, which although not very technically proficient still sounds absolutely awesome. I can't help but think I've heard some of the accompanying noises before though on a nintendo handheld version of donkey kong. Yeah, trying really hard to be TMV on the lyrics here, somewhat effective, but only because it distracts you from how annoying his voice has become.

The rest of the album follows on much in the same way, with nothing really standing out, it's certainly not as eventful as their other work, and that of motW, but I'm sure this one will have some growing potential. In all honesty this does sound like a straight forward prog/avant garde work without many of the earlier hallmarks of true experimentalism that were present in their earlier work, for better or worse. The whole album is starting to feel genuinely light handed, as if the musicians aren't genuinely interested in what they're doing, with their minds drifting elsewhere. This however does have somewhat of a positive effect on the listener, as I can feel my mind racing all over the place. I often comment on the mental impact of the music I review, and this is certainly one of the most profound.

It's as if it's trying to make me remember everything I've forgotten, it's filling me with a great sense of incompleteness, intentional or not, it's certainly a very strange experience. But on the musical side, I can almost see why, the whole thing does feel incomplete and unpolished, unfinished and not yet fully layered. Maybe their producer died from boredom halfway through the mixing process, before he could add all the awesome metal bits and ambient soundscapes. All this being said, it's still genuinely enjoyable, I sometimes comment on the whimsical side of the old obscure prog I review, and this has a lot of this, but it just doesn't work as well. The whole reason why is because music just simply isn't that innocent anymore, the world is more aware, and thus music has changed to reflect that.

The album does manage at times to be infectiously catchy, like on The Awkward Wind Wheel which is a certain highpoint, some great drumming keeps it all together, and the song is beautifully put together. The faster pace of the passage is entirely welcome in this album setting as it focuses the listeners back onto the music after letting their minds wander for a long time. Effective use of repetition and the absurd keeps the Useless Ladder interesting and ultimately sets up the final song.

For all the drawbacks on the album, Symmetrical Arizona is a true journey into the beauty that music can become. Featuring a beautiful guitar solo that strikes almost all the right notes. This continues on beautifully for the final half, with some more beautiful instrumental passages from several different musicians. The track is layered beautifully and just works on a scale which isn't present anywhere else on the album, except maybe on the Awkward Wind Wheel. Each passage is a welcome change from the next, and there's just no drawbacks. It is truly a fitting end to an overall good album, despite my criticism.

Make no mistake, this is a good album, a contender for the top 20 of the releases this year, but it's not a true masterpiece, and, as I say, my score will reflect that.

7.4/10
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Old 04-25-2008, 05:14 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Opeth - Watershed



1. Coil (3:10)
2. Heir Apparent (8:50)
3. The Lotus Eater (8:50)
4. Burden (7:41)
5. Porcelain Heart (8:00)
6. Hessian Peel (11:25)
7. Hex Omega (7:00)

The much awaited new album from Opeth leaked tonight when I was at work, and it will most certainly be living up to expectations. Coil starts off with clean guitar and singing, a trademark for bits of the newer Opeth albums, and I must say it's done masterfully. Mike's singing has changed a bit but I certainly can't say that it's bad. It also introduces soem beautiful female vocals that are done very effectively at the end of Coil. I wasn't expecting the first track to be completely clean, but Opeth immediately deliver at the end of it, with some awesome guitars at the beginning of Heir Apparent. Again with the trademark heavy/clean interludes this is unmistakeably Opeth, yet there's something so awesomely different.

The album feels more organic than their earlier efforts and there's so much life in this, the guitars sound absolutely stunning and much better than they have on earlier releases. At times the ambience created will completely blow you away, and the soft interludes fit perfectly in. Mike's growls are even better than ever, and they add more of a natural harsh feel to the music, Bloodbath was a good testament to his vocal abilities, but this just blows them out of the water. The progressive influences can be heard so much clearer here than on for example Ghost Reveries and it really adds a new, greater dimension to the album.

The Lotus Eater brings another dimension to Mike's vocal expertise, with both the growls and clean vocals outshining even Heir Apparant. The guitars are incredibly catchy and memorable, and you can really see Opeth have matured from their earlier material, if such a thing was even possible. The drumming is constructed brilliantly, and it stays away from many of the downfalls of metal drumming, it keeps everything together brilliantly without being overboard. The guitar solo in Lotus Eater is even better than Heir Apparent and it's great to see some well played solos as I've never really found that to be Opeth's strong point. Quiet bits continue to impress as Lotus Eater reaches the halfway point with some incredibly ambient pieces, that despite their generally slower approach never completely lose the momentum of the song.

Burden starts out with a slow piano and ambient effects that sets an incredibly dense atmosphere, which just keeps building as drums and vocals are added. The instrumentals on Burden are some of the most stong and progressive that Opeth has ever done, and it's a joy to behold the band maturing in such a way. The guitars are brilliant, and the same can be said for everything else within the song. It's the second song completely devoid of metal and it's great to hear such progression.

The album progresses further with some lovely acoustic guitars on Porcelain Heart, the lyrics are an obvious downfall but then again they are basically just an afterthought for Mike. The dual guitars work perfectly, and in places such as Porcelain Heart are simply glorious, there is so much depth here, on just the first listen that I can feel this being even more of a grower, definitely with a very high replay value.

Hessian Peel is a very heavy listen despite the acoustic/clean instrumentals, there's something primal about it, and this works so effectively within the album. There are some incredibly 70's styled riffs filtered through the song, and it's starting to become clear that there's a lot of nostalgia throughout the whole effort. This is certainly delivering and has been well worth the wait since 2005's Ghost Reveries. There are a lot of influences that only become apparant if you really look for them, but it is certainly well worth the investigation. There are some incredibly psychedelic parts to Hessian Peel and it's definitely the best layered song on the album.

Some of the more quiet parts of the album are, to me, very reminiscent of Ulver's Shadows of the Sun, yet it's so brilliantly balanced with the heavier metal parts. Although there are some death metal vocals, it never even borders on the genre, this is pure progressive metal/rock and I'm incredibly pleased Opeth have decided to go even further in this direction. The whole album just simply sounds more fun and experimental than the earlier work, and it's clear it's got a lot less pretentia in the production.

Overall the album was incredibly refreshing and certainly didn't dissapoint, actually I don't think much of it dissapointed at all. It's certainly one of the top three releases of this year so far and the score I give will be deserving of such a place. Brilliant from start to finish, with great production, incredible intro's and outro's. The progressive element has been taken up to a whole new step, however it feels a bit more like immitation than their own progression, but that really doesn't take away from the enjoyment. Brilliant album.

9.5
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