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5★♫: The Köln Concert · What hap­pened was, I was gonna make the tra­di­tion­al Sunday-morning pan­cakes and ba­con and, as I do ev­ery oth­er week or so, told the eight-year-old to turn the damn car­toons off al­ready be­cause I want­ed mu­sic. I threw the an­cient vinyl of The Köln Con­cert by Kei­th Jar­rett on the turntable and all these years lat­er, I kept hav­ing to stop mak­ing pan­cakes be­cause Kei­th had grabbed me where you have to lis­ten when they grab you there ...
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5★♫: Jeff Beck Rock ‘n’ Roll Party · I saw the LP on the new-vinyl rack in a record store and was sur­prised, be­cause I’ve been a pret­ty big Jeff Beck fan for quite a few years now, but I’d nev­er heard of it. It turns out the Rock ‘n’ Roll Par­ty is a col­lec­tion of tra­di­tion­al pop chest­nuts with a su­per hot band, not like a Jeff Beck record at al­l, and ex­cel­len­t. This is hap­py, hap­py mu­sic. But maybe the YouTube ver­sion is all you need. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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5★♫: Hard Again · In the mid-Seventies, old Mis­sis­sip­pi/Chica­go blues­man Mud­dy Waters had record-label prob­lem­s, but still an au­di­ence. Young Texas blues­man John­ny Win­ter had nev­er been a pop star, but had one too. So John­ny pro­duc­ing and play­ing on an al­bum by Mud­dy wasn’t re­al­ly a long shot; and Hard Again came out great. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.)  ...
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5★♫: Benefit · What hap­pened was, I glanced at my brows­er and saw a ran­dom turn of phrase, The free­dom to be who you want to be…, and thought “That re­minds me of something”. It turns out that it re­minds me of With You There To Help Me, a love­ly song on the al­bum Ben­e­fit, a 1970 of­fer­ing by Jethro Tull. So I pulled out the vinyl and have lis­tened to it three times in the last two week­s; it’s re­al­ly just un­rea­son­ably good. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.)  ...
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5★♫: Broken English · This is a 1979 record­ing by Mar­i­anne Faith­full, of whom many won’t have heard. If it doesn’t wrench your soul well then you don’t have one.
(“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.)
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5★♫: Jets Overhead · Wow, it’s been 2½ years since I did a Five-Star Mon­day piece, and this is for a disc I just bought to­day, so it may well be too ear­ly as well as too late. Jets Over­head are from Vic­to­ri­a, BC, which is near me; what I think de­serve the stars are the first two songs from their 2009 No Na­tions, I Should Be Born and Head­ing For Nowhere; bril­liant pure-pop tunes and can they ev­er sing. Al­so there’s a geek an­gle. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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iMixTape · I see they’ve dropped the price of the ba­sic iPod Shuf­fle to $49. That’s the on­ly iPod I have. It’s a re­mark­able de­vice, with enough songs and enough juice to get you over the Pa­cif­ic and back. You just have to re­mem­ber to auto-fill and recharge be­fore you go. The er­gonomics are min­i­mal and kind of per­fec­t. Now, ev­ery­body knows that the best gift for any­one is one you make your­self. It seems to me that a pre-loaded Shuf­fle qual­i­fies, at a rea­son­able price-point ...
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5★♫: Mixed Up · I’m not a fan of The Cure, par­tic­u­lar­ly. I am not nor have I ev­er been a Goth, and I laugh cru­el­ly at Emos giv­en the op­por­tu­ni­ty. I think Robert Smith looks ridicu­lous. But Mixed Up, a 1990 set of remix­es and re­takes (I own none of the orig­i­nal ver­sion­s), which was poor­ly re­viewed and sank like a stone on the chart­s, well, it’s just out­stand­ing­ly great mu­sic. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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5★♫: Arrau Plays Chopin · Yet again, one dead guy play­ing another’s mu­sic (I promise a re­turn to the liv­ing af­ter this): The Noc­turnes by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), as record­ed in 1977 and 1978 by Clau­dio Ar­rau (1903-1991). Each of the last three (this, Mozart/Brain, and Bach/Kre­mer) are fine mu­sic which has been record­ed by many fine per­form­er­s, but where I nev­er both­ered check­ing any oth­er per­for­mances out af­ter hear­ing the record in ques­tion. The Noc­turnes have no raw edges, no stark­ness, but are rav­ish­ing­ly ro­man­tic and ir­re­sistibly pret­ty, while still be­ing in­volv­ing and deep. They’re noc­tur­nal all right; two sol­id hours of sweet dark-brown ebb and flow, bed­time mu­sic for sure. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Record-Store Dharma · I used to vis­it mu­sic stores of­ten. There are few­er now, but the ones that have made it this far may sur­vive I think. The oth­er day we were on Hast­ings to vis­it Sophia Books, and on im­pulse I went two doors down to Sekora’s Clas­si­cal, and it’s prob­a­bly been a year, and what a shame. I hadn’t in­tend­ed to go shop but dropped $162 in about fif­teen min­utes ...
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5★♫: Brain Plays Mozart · Con­tin­u­ing the theme (from Au­gust, argh, maybe I don’t have a 5★ life) of mu­sic writ­ten by dead guys, and in this case al­so played by a dead guy. The dead com­pos­er is Mozart, the per­former Den­nis Brain. I re­fer to Brain’s 1955 record­ing of the Mozart horn con­cer­tos with the as­sis­tance of Von Kara­jan and the Phil­har­mo­nia Orches­tra. You al­ready know this mu­sic. You may not think so, but trust me, as soon as it starts play­ing you’ll think “Oh, yes”. I’m not sure whether it’s ev­ery­one ac­tu­al­ly hav­ing heard it, or whether Mozart tapped in­to some­thing so smooth, pol­ished, and el­e­men­tal as to con­vince us that we’re on fa­mil­iar and well-loved ter­ri­to­ry. No­body could call this ob­scure, it’s sold a kazil­lion copies; but per­haps not in re­cent decades. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Tab Sweep — The World · Tonight we have the great Au­dio Con­flict of In­ter­est, eBay Pain, Ira­ni­an pol­i­tic­s, Chi­nese macroe­co­nomic­s, new Is­rael/Pales­tine hor­ror, men vs. wom­en, and the big debt prob­lem. Uni­fy­ing themes are for weak­lings; the world’s not like that ...
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Heartbreak Hotel · On the one hand, there’s Elvis’ 1956 ver­sion, with the small band and lots of scream­ing. On the oth­er hand, there’s this 1990 ver­sion with nei­ther Elvis nor scream­ing, but with John Cale, Shawn Colv­in, and Richard Thomp­son. You pays your mon­ey and you takes your choice. Well ac­tu­al­ly, it’s all free, of course. What a won­der­ful world.
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5★♫: Kremer Plays Bach · I’ve been fish­ing in Twentieth-century five-★ wa­ters of late, so let’s cast our eyes back on mu­sic writ­ten by dead guys. There have been a few clas­si­cal works that I’ve heard one artist play, then nev­er both­ered to take the time to lis­ten to any­one else’s take. For ex­am­ple, Gi­don Kremer’s 1980 record­ing of the Vi­olin Sonatas and Par­ti­tas by J.S. Bach. This might be a tough sel­l: two hours of mu­sic con­tain­ing no notes much be­low mid­dle C, and no more than two notes ev­er played at the same time. And Kre­mer is all about Truth not Beau­ty, which is to say he doesn’t sugar-coat Bach’s rough edges. But I think that truth is beau­ty, and I think that this mu­sic has so much of both that you re­al­ly ought to sit down some­time and lis­ten to all of it. Wel­l, and it sounds good. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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5★♫: Cinquième Saison · This one is kind of ob­scure, but worth hunt­ing down; the full ti­tle is Si on avait be­soin d’une cinquième sai­son, record­ed by Har­mo­ni­um in 1975, who were a Big Deal in Québec back then. I’m sure it would ap­pear in my per­son­al top-ten-of-all-time list, com­put­ed by how many times I’ve lis­tened; mind you, that’s with 32 years of ac­cu­mu­la­tion. But I still put it on, and I’ve nev­er played it for any­one who didn’t like it. It’s mel­low, sweep­ing, and full of beau­ti­ful melodies, beau­ti­ful­ly per­formed, that you’ll find your­self hum­ming while you walk down the street. (“5★♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Functional Music · Sup­pose you’ve just rolled in­to the of­fice and the cof­fee isn’t quite do­ing it and you need a lit­tle pick-me-up. Wel­l, just saunter over to YouTube and lis­ten to one or two of the many live cuts of the Raconteurs’ Blue Veins. I’ve on­ly tak­en in a cou­ple, but on the ev­i­dence most of ’em will set your blood sizzlin’· ...
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5✭♫: The Texas Campfire Tapes · Just like the ti­tle says, this was record­ed by a camp­fire in Texas in 1986 (on a pre-digital Sony Walk­man). Voice and gui­tar and bril­liant mu­sic burst­ing out in all di­rec­tions by Michelle Shocked, one of my per­son­al mu­si­cal heroes. But there’s some con­tro­ver­sy about which ver­sion to get. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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5✭♫: Coltrane and Hartman · That’s short for John Coltrane and John­ny Hart­man, record­ed in one session—most songs in one take—on March 7, 1963. It sold a zil­lion copies back then, and was in­fa­mous­ly nom­i­nat­ed as the Great­est Record­ing Of All Time by some rock&roll-hating snob in a glossy mag in I think the ear­ly Eight­ies; but that was then, and I’m bet­ting that a lot of peo­ple who’d re­al­ly like it have nev­er heard of it. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Catchy Tune · The boy had a few morn­ing min­utes free be­fore we had to leave for school and so “Daddy, can I lis­ten to your iPod?” I told him to go ahead, and then when we were head­ing out the door he was singing; he can car­ry a tune well and I knew it but couldn’t make out the song. I asked him to sing a lit­tle loud­er: Perverts in the sun... perv­ing ev­ery­one... Oop­s. It turns out that the Shuf­fle had shuf­fled in some of Ig­gy Pop’s Skull Ring. I sug­gest­ed that maybe he not sing that one at school, and re­al­ized that if the iPod is a fam­i­ly re­source, I’m go­ing to have to be a lit­tle care­ful. Why’d Ya Do It?, for ex­am­ple, is right out.
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Misirlou · You know, I don’t of­ten post here say­ing “check out this YouTube clip”, but to­day I’ve got two, both fea­tur­ing Dick Dale. The first one I saw was this in­ter­view, where Dick of­fers ad­vice based on bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence that il­lus­trates, were that need­ed, how dys­func­tion­al the mu­sic busi­ness is. Then serendip­i­ty led me to this 1963 video of Dick play­ing Misir­lou. Be­cause, you know, there are many dif­fer­ent gen­res of mu­sic stretch­ing back over the decades and cen­turies, but it seems ob­vi­ous to me that any­one with taste and in­tel­li­gence would have to ac­knowl­edge that the surf-guitar-instrumental stands head and shoul­ders above all the rest as the pin­na­cle of hu­man mu­si­cal achieve­men­t.
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5✭♫: The Hot Spot · Den­nis Hop­per di­rect­ed The Hot Spot in 1990, and I’ve nev­er seen it. He hired Jack Nitzsche to write the mu­sic, and they got Miles Dav­is, John Lee Hook­er, Taj Ma­hal, and some oth­er re­al­ly good mu­si­cians to play on it. It’s the on­ly record I know of in which Miles Davis plays straight blues so­los in front of a straight elec­tric blues band, and while there’s some oth­er good stuff too, that would be enough for me. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Wobble and Laswell: Radioaxiom · What hap­pened was, I was think­ing of lis­ten­ing to some­thing by Jah Wob­ble, long one of my mu­si­cal heroes, and the W’s are down at the bot­tom right of the thou­sands of CDs so you have to bend and stretch to see them, and lo and be­hold, what do I come across but Ra­dioax­iom by Mr W and Bill Laswell, which I not on­ly don’t re­call buy­ing but to­tal­ly can’t even re­mem­ber ev­er hav­ing heard of. I’ve lis­tened to it three nights in a row now ...
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5✭♫: Misa Criolla · Ariel Ramírez is an Ar­gen­tinean com­pos­er born in 1921; Misa Cri­ol­la, a 1964 mass for tenor, mixed cho­rus, per­cus­sion, key­board and (e­spe­cial­ly) An­dean folk in­stru­ments. It ap­pears on sev­er­al disks; I’m go­ing to rec­om­mend two fea­tur­ing José Car­reras and Mercedes Sosa. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Baby Dread · Sup­pose it’s re­al­ly late and you have a lit­tle ba­by who’s cranky (maybe sick) and can’t or won’t sleep and you’ve tried all the usu­al tricks and they’re not work­ing. Here’s my ul­ti­mate weapon, and while the sam­ple size is on­ly my two chil­dren, it does span gen­der­s ...
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Dub, Baby · What hap­pened was, I got a note from my friend Adam “Vudu” (MyS­pace) about his new CD echo :: dub­style. I have a soft spot for dub and liked the sam­ples, so I hit the “Buy” but­ton. The record is good, a huge bar­gain at $12.97, go get it. But the buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was out of the or­di­nary ...
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Smart Music · The Times writes about the mu­sic la­bels toy­ing with the idea of sell­ing prod­ucts with­out poi­son oops I meant DRM. Chris An­der­son takes it fur­ther, ar­gu­ing that the eco­nomics of mu­sic fa­vor per­for­mance over record­ing. (I’m not sure about that, I still think sell­ing record­ings is a good busi­ness). An­drew Or­lows­ki over at the Reg has a lengthy and in­struc­tive in­ter­view with mu­sic man­age­ment maven Kei­th Har­ris cov­er­ing re­lat­ed ter­ri­to­ry. But the fu­ture is al­ready here ...
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5✭♫: The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines · This song is by Joni Mitchell and Charles Min­gus (re­cent­ly dis­cussed in this space). It first ap­peared on Mitchell’s Min­gus in 1979 but I no longer have that ver­sion; this is about the ver­sion on the 1980 Shad­ows and Light, a live set fea­tur­ing Ja­co Pas­to­rius, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Michael Breck­er, Don Alias, and The Per­sua­sion­s. The whole record is worth­while, great in spot­s. Dry Clean­er is pure genius-level mu­si­cal fun. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Byrne on Music · Al­most ev­ery­thing David Byrne writes is in­ter­est­ing, but when the sub­ject is mu­sic and you’re some­one who cares about it, you re­al­ly want to read it. While he falls for the “an LP has more in­for­ma­tion than a CD” ca­nard, and that in an es­say where he has ear­li­er con­sid­ered the ef­fects of CD’s vastly-superior han­dling of the high and low ends of the fre­quen­cy range, it doesn’t re­al­ly weak­en the force of his ar­gu­men­t. Many will prob­a­bly be too young to spot that his ti­tle Crap­py Sound Forever! is a ref­er­ence to the ini­tial 1983 CD mar­ket­ing pitch “Perfect sound forever”. This pitch was wide­ly de­rid­ed by au­dio­philes, who just­ly crit­i­cized the bleed-from-the-ears ef­fect re­sult­ing from play­ing quite a few of the ear­ly CDs on quite a few of the ear­ly play­er­s. Byrne spec­u­lates about the kind of mu­sic that might start to be writ­ten un­der the in­flu­ence of the ubiq­ui­tous MP3 players’ pri­vate lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and says he doesn’t know of any ex­am­ples. My own private-listening-experience mu­sic in­cludes pret­ty well ev­ery kind of mu­sic imag­in­able, so the new medi­um doesn’t seem to rule any­thing out. Hav­ing said that, Lo­la Dutron­ic (@ MyS­pace) has been in heavy ro­ta­tion on my iPod and match­es Byrne’s cri­te­ria well. Mind you, it al­so sounds great on the home stereo and in the car.
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3✭♫: An Other Cup · This is a re­cent re­lease by Yusuf, born Steven Deme­tre Ge­or­giou, known in a pre­vi­ous life as Cat Stevens, and whose le­gal name is Yusuf Is­lam. It has very beau­ti­ful sound and some fine singing, but on­ly a few of the tunes are keep­er­s. There are re­li­gious is­sues. (I’ve been run­ning a “5✭♫” se­ries, in­tro­duc­tion here, with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken; I’m bor­row­ing the for­mat for this piece.) ...
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5✭♫: Better Get Hit In Your Soul · This piece ap­pears on Min­gus Ah Um, a 1959 al­bum by Charles Min­gus, and on Min­gus at An­tibes, record­ed live the next year. There may be a few rock-&-roll fans who haven’t heard this and don’t know how hard jazz can be played; I can’t imag­ine any band ev­er play­ing hard­er. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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5✭♫: Rough Mix · This is a 1977 al­bum by Pete Town­shend of the Who and the late Ron­nie Lane of the Faces. It’s a rar­i­ty in that most of it, while un­ques­tion­ably rock mu­sic, is al­so gen­tle. Of its eleven songs, eight or nine are ex­treme­ly beau­ti­ful, the singing is tune­ful and heart­felt, the play­ing (lots of stars sit­ting in) is great, even the lyrics will grab you. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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Samsung, Ringtones, Fair Use · My cell­phone ex­pired, so I was pok­ing around here and there on the net look­ing for some­thing un­locked in a GSM fla­vor; but one of my key cri­te­ria is big but­tons that I can see with­out my reading-glasses, and the Web just doesn’t help you there. I end­ed up at a lo­cal grey-market em­po­ri­um where a friend­ly Rus­sian sold me a Sam­sung SGH-D600; it def­i­nite­ly meets the no-reading-glasses cri­te­ri­on and seems like a pret­ty nice phone. This cute lit­tle slidey black goober lets you use any old MP3 as a ring­tone. Giv­en that most of us have tons o’ mu­sic on our com­put­er­s, and it’s pret­ty easy to slice out a sub-ten-second clip and Blue­tooth it over to the phone, I guess the ring-tones busi­ness is dead. It seems ob­vi­ous to me that us­ing mu­sic I’ve al­ready paid for in this way is Fair Use, but I bet there’s a lawyer some­where who’d dis­agree for a fee. So I sat up late one evening cack­ling fiendish­ly over the au­dio soft­ware, and my ring­tones are: Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme (the clas­sic Ray An­tho­ny ver­sion of course), the open­ing se­quences of Burn­ing Spear’s Slav­ery Days and Deep Purple’s High­way Star (off Made in Ja­pan), and the clos­ing sec­onds of Ru­n­away Hors­es from Phil Glass’ won­der­ful Mishi­ma sound­track. Now, when­ev­er the phone rings, I smile.
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5✭♫: Brahms’ First & Haydn Variations · If I were asked to pick my fa­vorite sym­pho­ny, well, I couldn’t. If I were backed in­to a cor­ner and re­al­ly pres­sured, I still couldn’t. But if it were a mat­ter of life and death and I were mak­ing short list­s, Sym­pho­ny No. 1 by Brahms would be on all of them. Some have ar­gued that the First isn’t re­al­ly his first sym­phon­ic work; that would be Vari­a­tions on a Theme of Haydn. Which, if grant­ed, might not change my an­swer. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
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5✭♫: Patti’s Gloria · Pat­ti Smith is an in­ter­est­ing per­son and a fine mu­si­cian, al­ways worth lis­ten­ing to; I par­tic­u­lar­ly en­joy her re­cent record­ings. And in her youth, she record­ed Glo­ria by Van Mor­ri­son; it’s a con­tender for the best single-song rock per­for­mance ev­er. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
Magnificent Silliness · In the wake of the pass­ing of Syd Bar­rett, Rober­to Chin­ni­ci point­ed out that you can see a com­pendi­um of Bar­rett video at YouTube, and I spent the best part of an hour watch­ing some. Ah, YouTube, feels like the Nap­ster glo­ry days; be­yond any doubt a life-enhancer. Col­by Cosh has in­no­cent fun search­ing it by date. And, like Nap­ster, it feels doomed. Pump­ing video around the Net isn’t cheap for any­one, and I just don’t see how it gets paid for. For more In­ter­net video neg­a­tiv­i­ty, see Mark Cuban. And speak­ing of mag­nif­i­cent silli­ness.... Sy­d. Bye, Sy­d. He nev­er made it out of the Six­ties and I had a few friends not make it out of the Seven­ties, you can burn the can­dle at both ends and in the mid­dle too, but not for that long. I looked in­to the record col­lec­tion and didn’t find any­thing with Bar­rett on it, so last night I lis­tened to Atom Heart Mother, which is not far of­f. It’s hard to know what to think of PF these days. Their lat­er work is far too much on the ra­dio; sud­den­ly about the time of the ex­e­crable The Wall, the world flipped and they were a symp­tom of ev­ery­thing wrong with Rock; John­ny Rot­ten was picked out of his Lon­don gut­ter wear­ing an “I Hate Pink Floyd” T-shirt. Stil­l, I’m quite sure that the mu­sic will re­main loved by many long af­ter we’re all dead; but I bet most of them will nev­er have heard of Sy­d.
 
5✭♫: Tabula Rasa · This is the ti­tle of an al­bum of mu­sic by Ar­vo Pärt, and of a com­po­si­tion on that al­bum. I have a lot of mu­sic by Pärt, but if I had to rec­om­mend one record, or one piece, both would be Tab­u­la Rasa. It’s com­plex, deep, and aus­tere; and con­tains some of the most beau­ti­ful sounds ev­er record­ed. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Israelites and More  · Des­mond Dekker just died; I had to do a quick rip on his Great­est Hits so he’d qual­i­fy for the 5-✭ treat­men­t. A lot of peo­ple un­der 45, and a lot of Amer­i­cans of all ages, won’t know about Des­mond, and you’re miss­ing some pret­ty good mu­sic. You might on­ly have heard Is­raelites and that’s an out­stand­ing song, but there are lots more, and a greatest-hits disc is a no-brainer in­vest­men­t. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Wrecking Ball · The last 5-✭ song, Dylan’s One More Cup of Cof­fee, got there in large part due to har­monies from Em­my­lou Har­ris. Emmylou’s nev­er re­al­ly been a Big Star I think, which is un­fair; she’s sung more beau­ti­ful songs beau­ti­ful­ly than al­most any­one. Wreck­ing Ball, her 1995 out­ing with Kana­di­an Karmick Kon­sul­tant and over­pro­duc­er Daniel Lanois and fea­tur­ing lot­sa Big Stars, is per­haps not ab­so­lute­ly her finest work; but it’s what I have on my com­put­er and it’s very good. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: One More Cup of Coffee · I’m not re­al­ly a Bob Dy­lan fan. A voice like that, and a tune­smithing tal­ent like that, come along on­ly a few times per cen­tu­ry, but he’s still kind of ir­ri­tat­ing. That aside, the song One More Cup of Cof­fee, from the 1976 al­bum De­sire, can’t be ig­nored; won­der­ful tune, won­der­ful or­ches­tra­tion, won­der­ful per­for­mance. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Take Five · You’ve all heard this, it’s the biggest hit Dave Brubeck’s band ev­er had, on­ly Dave didn’t write it nor does he play a solo. The tune’s cool enough, you’ll hear it and think “Oh, I know that” but ac­tu­al­ly you prob­a­bly don’t, it’s an al­to­geth­er as­tound­ing per­for­mance and re­wards lots of close lis­ten­ing. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Francesca da Rimini · This is an twenty-odd-minute or­ches­tral suite writ­ten in 1876 by Tchaikowsky. It’s in­tense­ly ro­man­tic, ridicu­lous­ly melod­ic, and should be played re­al­ly, re­al­ly loud. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Rock n Roll Animal · The last five-star piece, from two weeks ago, was about the Cow­boy Junkies. They cov­ered Sweet Jane on their ex­cel­lent The Trin­i­ty Ses­sions al­bum, and Lou Reed was quot­ed as say­ing that their ver­sion was defini­tive. He’s wrong; his own take on this 1974 live set is at an­oth­er lev­el en­tire­ly. So is much of the record. If you had to name the great­est live rock record of all time, well you couldn’t, but if you had to name the top five, this would be one: it shows how hard rock ought to be played. There are some prob­lem­s: it’s kind of bom­bas­tic in places, and it does glam­or­ize the use of ad­dic­tive nar­cotic­s; but let’s not be pick­y. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
Totem Thunder · Ear­ly this year, I re­con­fig­ured the video set­up, among oth­er things adding a lit­tle Velo­dyne “MiniVee” sub­woofer that worked re­al­ly well, but made me think that per­haps the big Se­ri­ous Mu­sic sys­tem could ben­e­fit from sub­woofer love. So I added a Totem Thun­der; here­with an unashamed­ly sicko-audiophile (but quan­ti­ta­tive, with mea­sure­ments) frag­ment that ob­sess­es about mu­sic in gen­er­al and Real­ly Low Fre­quen­cies in par­tic­u­lar; with a side-trip to a church in Paris. I’ll pro­vide some in­tro­duc­to­ry ma­te­ri­al in hopes of maybe lur­ing in­no­cent read­ers in­to this ob­ses­sive and ex­pen­sive hob­by ...
 
5✭♫: Pale Sun, Crescent Moon · Three tracks from this 1993 al­bum by the Cow­boy Junkies earned five stars, pret­ty good for pop mu­sic. Plus there’s one from The Trin­i­ty Ses­sions, but let’s leave that for lat­er. There are a lot of Cow­boy Junkies al­bum­s, and they’re all good as far as I know; I find my­self ashamed that I haven’t bought any for a decade or so, so I’ll fix that Real Soon Now. Read on for an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of good songs, good singing, good play­ing, and good word­s. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Plutonian Nights · This is a track by Sun Ra from his al­bum The Lady With The Gold­en Stock­ings, record­ed around 1958 and re­leased in 1966. Sun Ra, full le­gal name “Le Sony’r Ra”, born Her­man Bloun­t, said a lot of crazy stuff and played some crazy mu­sic, some of which I like. But this isn’t crazy, it’s 4:22 of low-voiced cool funk per­fec­tion. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Come On-A My House · This song was made fa­mous by Rose­mary Clooney, but the ver­sion I’m writ­ing of here is by Julie Lon­don, who record­ed 32 al­bums but is no longer a house­hold name. Julie’s ver­sion of Come On-A My House is just the thing for Valentine’s-Day week: Come on-a my house (my house­), I’m gonna give you can­dy... Pure, pure sex. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
5✭♫: Burning Farm · Sho­nen Knife formed in Osa­ka in the ear­ly Eight­ies and, a decade lat­er, sud­den­ly had a North Amer­i­can au­di­ence; it helped that they opened for Nir­vana on a 1993 tour. Burn­ing Farm was the ti­tle of their first record but al­so of a song; the ver­sion I have is off of 1993’s Let’s Knife, prob­a­bly the group’s es­sen­tial al­bum. It has a lot of good songs with great melodies, su­perb light-hearted vo­cal­s, high-energy per­for­mances, punk gui­tar, and ami­able Ja­panese looni­ness; but Burn­ing Farm stands out. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
Music Sharing · The morn­ings when I take the kid to school I see them stand­ing in the school­yard, shar­ing two be­tween four or three be­tween five. It’s a pri­ma­ry school, which around here means K-7, and I’m talk­ing about the Grade 7 girls and their iPod­s. Two can share a lis­ten, an ear­bud for each and two ears left open for talk, but most­ly they don’t, they just lis­ten, maybe bop­ping a lit­tle but most­ly not. I won­der what they’re lis­ten­ing to? I’m see­ing more of them now in the new year than I did back at the start of school, I won­der if the iPod-per-girl den­si­ty reached a tip­ping point at Christ­mas. [Up­date: What they’re lis­ten­ing to.] ...
 
5✭♫: Any Time · Leon Red­bone is alive and per­form­ing, but he’s not ac­tu­al­ly a con­tem­po­rary artist; he per­forms sen­ti­men­tal and jazz songs from the first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry, with acous­tic ac­com­pa­ni­ment and pe­ri­od ar­range­ments. Which doesn’t sound very com­pelling; ex­cept for, Red­bone picks ter­rif­ic tunes and sings them beau­ti­ful­ly. The song in ques­tion is the ti­tle track from his 2001 al­bum Any Time, and it might just be the sin­gle best vo­cal per­for­mance of our young cen­tu­ry. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) [Up­date: Sam­ples at the iTunes UK store.] ...
 
5 ✭ ♫ Mondays · The idea came from JWZ in late 2005: why not rate all the mu­sic in your juke­box? If your juke­box is iTunes, you cre­ate an “unrated” smart-playlist con­tain­ing all the tunes with no stars, then you set up the Par­ty Shuf­fle to draw from it, then you rate them as they go by ex­cept when you’re not lis­ten­ing, and af­ter a few month­s, you have them all rat­ed. I haven’t got them all rat­ed, but I have quite a few la­beled ✭✭✭✭✭, which means “a tune that in some way gives me as much plea­sure as mu­sic can.” I care a lot about (and am rea­son­ably lit­er­ate about) mu­sic, so I de­cid­ed I to share some of this five-star stuff with the world. I’ll try to post some­thing most Mon­days. [Does the ti­tle look bro­ken? Here’s why (Up­dat­ed 2006/01/30).] ...
 
5✭♫: BWV 131 · I think I should start with J.S. Bach, since we have a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship. BWV 131 is one of his can­tatas, based on Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Her­r, zu dir (from Psalm 130), com­posed in 1707, and if you buy it you’ll like it. (“5✭♫” se­ries in­tro­duc­tion here; with an ex­pla­na­tion of why the ti­tle may look bro­ken.) ...
 
Stones · Hey, good on the Stones for post­ing the tracks from A Big­ger Bang. There were some quality-control prob­lems get­ting them to play on my Mac yes­ter­day, but they’re work­ing now. Yeah, I could steal ’em, and some peo­ple will, but the Stones no longer play for a “What can a poor boy do?” de­mo­graph­ic, they play for peo­ple who can buy the songs they like. The last Stones record I bought was what­ev­er Miss You was on, damn I loved that song, that’s a decade or three back. I might pick this one up be­cause I like their In­ter­net Mar­ket­ing Mo­jo, but ya know, there are some decent-or-better tunes here. I par­tic­u­lar­ly like Back Of My Hand, straight blues, and This Place is Emp­ty, a sen­ti­men­tal pi­ano bal­lad with Kei­th on vo­cal­s. Danger­ous Beau­ty is a pret­ty good rock­er. Don’t think I’ll go see the show though, be­cause I don’t want to pol­lute the golden-glow mem­o­ry of singing Hap­py Birth­day for Kei­th Richards a few years back.
 
Sock Hop Arousal · In re­cent week­s, I’ve had some suc­cess­es at dis­cov­er­ing good new mu­sic on the ra­dio, which isn’t what it once was but is still not be­yond hope. Here’s one: the oth­er night, lis­ten­ing to CBC Ra­dio3 some­time past mid­night on CBC-FM, I re­al­ly liked a cut off Bonobo-a-Go-Go by Sock Hop Arousal (they have a way with words if noth­ing else), and then the guy came on the ra­dio and said “You can buy that at Bull­frog Mu­sic” and right then and there, sit­ting in my chair, I did, it was C$8.49 and with ship­ping was still on­ly $12 or so. The most ob­vi­ous in­flu­ence, like the Web site says, is Bris­tol trip hop, on­ly with gui­tars. The mu­sic, to my ear, has a heart, a cen­tre; a rare enough thing these days, or in any days. Money well spen­t.
 
Tiki Torches at Twilight? · I’m on va­ca­tion in Maui next week (Fe­b. 7-13). In the un­like­ly event that any oth­er sun­burnt geeks will be on the is­land, get in touch and let’s do a so­cial un­der the palm­s. Oh, the torch­es? Just an ex­cuse to rec­om­mend a tru­ly su­perb record­ing ...
 
Maria Schneider · She is a mu­si­cian but un­usu­al both in her mu­si­cal and busi­ness ap­proach­es, and I think you might en­joy her ...
 
Lew Brody · A point­er to some­thing called emu­sic showed up in a Google ad on the front page at on­go­ing with a teas­er that men­tioned some in­ter­est­ing mu­sic, so I checked it out, it wasn’t re­al­ly turn­ing my crank un­til I ran across Lew’s Cool Be­fore You Were; he’s fun­ny and he rec­om­mends some se­ri­ous­ly interesting-looking mu­sic.
 
Afro Celt Sound System · One of the nicest ways to find out about good new mu­sic is to hear it while you’re shop­ping in the record store. I picked up this one that af­ter­noon in San Fran be­cause they were play­ing it re­al loud in the Vir­gin store and I knew I had to have it. This record­ing by Afro Celt is called POD (Real World 7243 597526 0 0) and it’s a col­lec­tion of remix­es. Oc­ca­sion­al­ly they stum­ble in­to world-music clichés, and a cou­ple of the tracks are just son­ic wall­pa­per; but very pret­ty wall­pa­per. The fla­vor is more Afro than Celt and oc­ca­sion­al­ly the pipes or pen­ny whis­tle or what­ev­er don’t quite make it with the djem­bes, but usu­al­ly they do, and the sound is gen­er­al­ly glo­ri­ous. Plus it came with a DVD of the band per­form­ing, and they seem like some damn hot stuff, I’ll go see ’em if I get a chance.
 
Lachrymae · I’ve been lucky in my mu­sic shop­ping in re­cent months and end­ed up with a stack of ex­cel­lent record­ings I’ve been mean­ing to write up. Let’s start with this one (Warn­er Clas­sics 2564 60190-2) sub­ti­tled Mu­sic for strings, fea­tur­ing the Cham­ber Orches­tra of Europe un­der three dif­fer­ent con­duc­tors. Some of the mu­sic works a lit­tle bet­ter than oth­er­s: Tippet’s Fan­ta­sia con­cer­tante is a bit of a yawn­er, but the two chunks of Pur­cel­l, ar­ranged by Brit­ten and Stokowski, are both mag­ic, as is Vaugh­an Williams’ Fan­ta­sia on a theme by Thomas Tal­lis and the Wil­liam Wal­ton pieces from the Hen­ry V movie sound­track. Rather English in the­me, you ob­serve? Wel­l, there’s a non-Englishman, Ar­vo Pärt—represented by Can­tus in Me­mo­ri­am Ben­jamin Brit­ten—well, OK, it’s re­al­ly English. The mu­sic is good, and the sound, well the sound is mag­i­cal; record­ed live (and min­i­mal­ly I’d guess) in a Lon­don church, it flows out of the speak­ers like silken tsunami, even the less thrilling num­bers ca­ress the ears.
 
Cellism · Here­with a cou­ple of notes on record­ings and per­for­mances by two fa­mous cel­list­s, Du Pré and Ma, liv­ing and dead ...
 
Goodies From the Family · I had a birth­day a few days ago and the fam­i­ly was re­al good to me. A gen­uine­ly fun­ny e-card from my mother-in-law (pret­ty good), an ob­scure DVD from the kid (quite good), and from my Mom, Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Com­ing, high­ly lit­er­ate doom­say­ing but, dig this, it came from Ama­zon. My Mom us­es Ama­zon, is that cool or what? Then Lau­ren gave me a beau­ti­ful bird pic­ture and—best of all—a pair of Shure 3C’s, the ul­tra­mod­ern way-in-your-ear head­phones. This mo­ti­vat­ed me to go rip a cou­ple of CDs with the new Ap­ple loss­less en­cod­ing; first to hand were Steve Earle’s Train a Comin’ and the k.d.lang/Tony Ben­nett Won­der­ful World col­lab­o­ra­tion. I’m writ­ing this at 33,000 feet on the Air­bus from Van­cou­ver to San Fran, and I hear no air­plane, just Steve and the band; raspy heart­felt har­mo­ny and sweet swing­ing strings, so tight they’re loose. (To ev­ery­one: Lossy com­pres­sion of mu­sic is van­dal­is­m, i.e. MP3 is so over.) And I think to my­self... what a won­der­ful world.
 
Legal Downloads, Eh? · It’s all over the news that a Cana­di­an judge has ruled that post­ing copy­right­ed works on a P2P net­work is not against the law. (I have no idea how long-lived that URI will be, Cana­di­an news­pa­pers are not very care­ful about their web-space). I won­der if the rul­ing ex­tends to the We­b? I would just to­tal­ly love if it I could post the oc­ca­sion­al ex­cel­lent piece of mu­sic here, and I bet it would drive busi­ness to the artists and their pub­lished work­s; and I’d love it if some of the oth­er peo­ple whom I’ve got­ten close to via their writ­ing were able to share some of their faves with me, too. Go, Judge Finck­en­stein!
 
Young Cave Pop Strummer Stripes · That would be Neil, Nick, Ig­gy, Joe, and White, get it? What hap­pened was, I was down­town to meet Roland Tanglao (Van­cou­verites see al­so VanEats) and had a few min­utes to kill and this big mu­sic store jumped out in front of me, and I end­ed up buy­ing five record­ings at least four of which are worth shout­ing about mu­si­cal­ly and then there are some oth­er points of in­ter­est, like those music-biz guys aren’t fib­bing when they say they’re in trou­ble, you can smell it ...
 
Buck 65 · A cou­ple of months ago, I got a plain brown en­ve­lope at the of­fice. It con­tained a CD by some­thing called Buck 65 along with a poorly-photocopied pro­mo blurb from Warn­er Brother­s. It got lost in the pa­pers in a cor­ner of the desk but just fell out so I stuck it in the Mac. Here­with a shame­less at­tempt to be­come part of the mu­sic mar­ket­ing food-chain, and the stuff isn’t bad ei­ther ...
 
#9 · After din­ner Fri­day the kid want­ed to do a jig­saw puz­zle and I thought that we might as well have a mu­si­cal back­drop for our qual­i­ty time. I felt in a rock & roll mode and my hand fell on the White Al­bum. Even­tu­al­ly Revo­lu­tion #9 came along, and all these decades lat­er, you know, it holds up pret­ty well. Any­how, the kid with fur­rowed brow was try­ing to fig­ure out which way a piece of Thomas the Tank Engine would fit, and I was mak­ing help­ful sug­ges­tions when I no­ticed that in his lit­tle munchkin voice he was in­ton­ing “Number nine... Num­ber nine... Num­ber nine...” Now that’s Qual­i­ty Time.
 
Israel Vibration · Dub the Rock by Is­rael Vi­bra­tion has been in heavy ro­ta­tion in the car CD play­er in re­cent week­s. Dub as deep as the ocean and sweet as choco­late, ghosts of song struc­ture and aethe­ri­al in­stru­men­tals float­ing over the vasty depth­s ...
 
Appalling Debauchery · What hap­pened was, I went to Black Dog, our lo­cal (very good) video join­t, for a Saturday-night flick for a tired fam­i­ly, and picked up Princess Mononoke, we hav­ing re­cent­ly be­come Miyaza­ki fans (it’s good, but not up there with Chi­hi­ro). As I was walk­ing out of Black Dog the new Led Zep­pelin DVD jumped out in front of me. Lau­ren gave me an un­der­stand­ing look af­ter Mononoke ran down and shuf­fled off to bed, so I Zepped out till late. Here­with some notes on the DVD and band, for which the au­di­ence will self-select, a high pro­por­tion shuf­fling off like Lau­ren to more wor­thy di­ver­sion­s ...
 
Giving Back Timbuktu · He­h, a mi­nor mile­stone; for the first time, I put some­thing back in­to CDDB. Which makes me think that I should take a mo­ment to plug the disk Talk­ing Tim­buk­tu, by Ali Far­ka Toure (from Mal­i) and Ry Cood­er. CDDB is mag­ic, so is the record, read all about it ...
 
Riffs Für Gitarre · My old phone kicked the buck­et and I got a new one; it turns out you can la­bo­ri­ous­ly pro­gram in your own ring-tones. So I went look­ing for some can­di­dates and, well, I don't know why this pic­ture is fun­ny, but I think it's fun­ny ...
 
Death by Music · “Music to Die For” is a not-uncommon ex­pres­sion but it makes me ner­vous since I'm among the peo­ple most like­ly to be a mu­sic fa­tal­i­ty. This would hap­pen when I'm driv­ing and some­thing comes on the ra­dio that I haven't heard be­fore that's so beau­ti­ful that it sucks up all my men­tal ca­pac­i­ty. What's re­al­ly sad is that I could eas­i­ly take some in­no­cents along with me, and they might hate mu­sic, which would be ter­ri­bly un­just. It hap­pened again this morn­ing, but I sur­vived and can tell you about an out­stand­ing record­ing you've prob­a­bly nev­er heard of ...
 
Rock & Roll Radio(head) · I was driv­ing around to­day lis­ten­ing to the lo­cal modern-rock sta­tion (104.9 XFM, but their web­site won't work on Mac browser­s, bah), and I had a re­al teenage mo­men­t. The DJ had got his hands on a boot­leg of Radiohead's Hail to the Thief, to be re­leased June 9, and was play­ing the tracks as fast as he could one af­ter an­oth­er, say­ing he'd been told there was an in­com­ing cease-and-desist. Ra­dio nor­mal­ly isn't like this any more, what a pity ...
 
Bach/Sitkovetsky · This morn­ing lis­ten­ing to one of the Big Mu­si­cal Finds of re­cent years, a record­ing of J.S. Bach's Gold­berg Vari­a­tions by a string or­ches­tra led by, and play­ing an ar­range­ment by, Dmit­ry Sitkovet­sky. The record­ing is EMI 79341-2, and Sitkovet­sky is a Rus­sian vi­o­lin­ist of whom I re­al­ly know noth­ing be­yond this record­ing and ar­range­men­t. It's an as­tound­ing, beau­ti­ful, fiery per­for­mance. The vari­a­tions were writ­ten for key­board (the sto­ry goes, for Gold­berg, per­son­al mu­si­cian to a Pol­ish aristro­crat, to play to lull his em­ploy­er to sleep; don't know if this is true) but af­ter you lis­ten to this it seems ob­vi­ous that Bach must have had a string or­ches­tra in his mind ...
 
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