Monday, October 31, 2011

New single from Strangefinger

Go check out the new single, "I Feel Fine", from Strangefinger! Following Strangefinger's previous effort, "Into the Blue" (reviewed here), "I Feel Fine" continues to impress as a delightfully sophisticated track in the style of Brian Wilson.

Get it at CDbaby or iTUNES.

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

OZZY OSBOURNE “No More Tears” (1991)

Fun facts revolving around Ozzy's sixth album, “No More Tears”: huge commercial breakthrough success, a bestselling album with over 5 million sales worldwide, a songwriting collaboration with Lemmy, and Grammy Award winning. One of my favorite releases by Ozzy because he had a perfect blend of commercial hard rock and the raw elements from his metal days, helped by Zakk Wylde's southern chugging riffs.

“Mr.Tinkertrain” is a very nice hard rock opener but he should have omitted some of the repetitive choruses near the end. “I Don't Want To Change The World” is also a good song, as strong as “Hellraiser”, “Zombie Stomp”, and “A.V.H”. This album has at least 3 super ballads, in which his mega-hit, “Mama I'm Coming Home” is the best one. “Road To Nowhere” and “Time After Time” are also sensational, probably among his best ever written. “Desire” and “S.I.N” are melodic heavy metal at its finest, with awesome riffs and a solo that is enthralling.

The bad track for me here is “No More Tears”. I don't understand how this song can penetrate the chart because it's too long, with that “Sweet Emotion” feel, this track is too progressive for the album, and definitely his weakest. With those superior tracks dominating the album, no wonder this got a high praise from everywhere, and I'm convinced that a solid 80%-85% rating is totally deserved.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We'll be back soon

We're on a two week break but will return with more music reviews and news! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Wires In The Walls “New Symmetry”

Pop rock
While their name reminds me of something Dick Cheney would offer as a solution to national security, Wires In The Walls is an organic pop rock band based in L.A. Led by lead singer and guitarist Warren Sroka, the band will be releasing their full length debut, “New Symmetry” on October 25. This record follows a well-received EP from 2010 entitled, “Call Signs”, which earned the band some local and national college airplay.

A bit of their Americana roots trickles into songs like the acoustic ballad “Soft Shirt” and accordion laced “ysa”, but by in large the band – now a quintet – is cultivating a larger soundscape that includes elements associated with indie rock, pop, and even some post-punk. To be honest, many of the tunes on “New Symmetry” didn’t pique my interest at first, but there was enough staying power to warrant a second spin. And I am very glad I did that – these tunes need a little time to germinate, but once they do you’ll truly respect their beauty. I quickly found myself appreciating them more and more. Highlights include “Tremolo”, “The Land The Sea And Outerspace”, and the first single, “The Ringer”.

I’d recommend Wires In The Walls for Dick Cheney, as well as fans of Crowded House, Flickerstick, and Toad The Wet Sprocket.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9

Wires In The WallsOfficial site.

Check out a short preview here:

And a FREE tune here!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: Dan Miraldi “Rock N Roll Band” [EP]

Dan Miraldi has been in Cleveland-based bands such as Cherry Flavored Elevator and Exit Suburbia prior to his stint in the DC band, The Silver Liners. His musical style was forged by listening to Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and modern day acts such as the Format, White Stripes, and Green Day. We covered his debut 2010 EP, “Tease” (see here), which has done as well as we predicted. “Tease” and “Lucinda” received radio airplay from Boston to Cleveland, and our favorite track, “The Holy Roller Stone Revival”, became a finalist for the best rock song in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition.

Teaming once again with award-winning producer Jim McKell, and his live band the Albino Winos, Miraldi is back with his follow up EP, “Rock N Roll Band”. The 5 song record kicks off with a smoldering rocker in “We Both Know” – it is crunchy but slow, and the song didn’t excite me. Much better is the Jagger styled swagger of “You’ve Got To Hurry” – a perfect radio-friendly anthem with a bluesy vibe and solid melody – easily my favorite on the EP. The 60s retro rock sound continues in the Orbison-flavored “Mystical Queen”. The title track is propelled by handclaps and a 50s backbeat, sounding like a lost feel good track from “That Thing You Do!”. The amusing charm of “Give & Take” rounds things out with lines like “you only use my heart for karate” to become a song that Dion and the Belmonts would have been proud to perform.

Miraldi further whets the appetite for a full-length release with his new EP. His lyrics are whimsical fun, much like the retro beats that infiltrate the song structure he favors. Imagine if Bob Dylan and Elvis started a band together, then you’d have a pretty good idea as to what Dan Miraldi is all about.

Dan Miraldi Official site.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Van Zant “Van Zant” (1985)

When this album came out, unless you were watching MTV at 3AM like I was prone to do, you would have completely missed out on this. Luckily, not only was I watching but was completely hooked on the single, “I’m A Fighter,” in one shot. It was the kind of the sound that only 1985 could bring, bordered on one side by the decline of new wave and the other by the over produced and glossy arena rock of the latter part of the decade. Taking major cues from Survivor, Van Hagar and the like, the youngest of Florida’s Van-Zant clan released this effort to thunderous silence.

The band was signed to Geffen, which was the kind of label I tended to purchase albums from “sound unheard.” They had a real knack of releasing quality radio rock without any promotion and letting them drown without a trace. All things considered I could write a year’s worth of columns on that alone. Anyways...

The Van-Zant release always puzzled me how it didn’t at least get the band a foothold on Gold territory. “I’m A Fighter” sounded like a lost tune from the Rocky 3 soundtrack (and with good reason as seeing how it was written by Jimi Jamison) and was the kind of song that top down summer nights was made for. Strange thing (or maybe not depending on how well you know the music business), that was far from the best song here.

Listening now takes me back to those days when I was driving around in my cherry red Mustang GT, which was required driving in northern New Jersey. But, rather than blasting cheesy dance music that sounds like it was recorded with a Casio SK1, songs like the smooth and hit worthy “You’ve Got To Believe In Love,” the Jeff Paris penned “Heart To The Flame” or the urgent sounding “2+2” all should have had no trouble finding a home on rock radio or MTV.

Of course, like so many gems of the era many have tagged the “AOR Glory Years,” it went almost straight to the cut out bins only to be treasured by those who stumbled across it accidentally. To further cement that AOR connection, background vocals were provided by the awesome Terry Brock, whose band Strangeways is another cult classic that will be featured here in the future.

Though most of the songs were written by outside songwriters, the best songs were written by Johnny along with his brother, Donnie, and somewhat pointed the way of how .38 Special’s sound would shape up on their “Strength In Numbers” album. My favorite song here is the mid-tempo ballad “Two Strangers” and is one of those songs that I just never get tired of hearing. It has the kind of sonics that probably would have sounded equally as great in front of a lighter waving, crowd filled arena as it would pumping out of a beer spilled boom box.

Not much ever happened with this band after, as Johnny released a few more Southern tinged solo efforts, leading to his transformation as the lead singer in Lynyrd Skynyrd. Looks like a few of his bandmates came along for the ride for a few years, but I could find no information otherwise.

A textbook example of quality over quantity, it’s a AOR true bargain bin classic.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Bobby Kimball and Jimi Jamison “Kimball Jamison”

Melodic rock/AOR
The teaming up of Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Jimi Jamison (Survivor) promises to be one of the most discussed alliances in the AOR world. Their debut record, simply entitled “Kimball Jamison” comes out on Frontier Records October 18.

Fans expecting the classic 80s AOR sound epitomized by their home bands are going to be in for a surprise. The big melodic choruses and lyrical content have been conserved, but the music has been catapulted into the modern age. The guitars sound fresh and gritty, constituting some of the hardest edge rock either of these guys has ever been associated with in the past. In my opinion, the results are fantastic and give this project a unique identity to call its own, rather than a strict mash up of the styles of Toto and Survivor.

Of course we are dealing with two titans in the vocal arena – Kimball and Jamison sound absolutely amazing, and take turns at lyrical lines in nearly every song making it a true 50/50 split of talent. Even better, most of song were written to contain a few sweet spots where Kimball or Jamison can really hold that high note and shine. For this we can thank ace songwriters such as Richard Page (Mr Mister), Jim Peterik (Survivor), Randy Goodrum (Steve Perry, Toto), John Waite, Erik Martensson (W.E.T.) and Robert Sall (Work of Art).

The guys come out with both guns blazing on “Worth Fighting For”, where loud guitars enhanced by keyboards drive a thundering song that wonders about whether we found that special someone (a sequel to “Is This Love”, perhaps?). Followed by the aggressive “Can’t Wait For Love” (video below), we have a superb introduction to what Kimball Jamison is all about. This is the kind of song I bet Survivor fans were hoping for on their last album “Reach”. Fans of either singer should be smiling ear to ear by now, but there are more gems to follow. While each song has its moments, the ones that really stand out for me include the mid-tempo treat laced with great backing vocals, “I Did Everything Wrong”, “We Gotta Believe”, and the majestic power ballad “Find Another Way”. But perhaps the best here is the encouragement anthem “Get Back In The Game” – this splendid rocker should find a home on the “Rocky VII” soundtrack.

I hope this is not a one-off record. The chemistry between Kimball and Jamison, coupled with their instincts for potent melodies and their sheer vocal power, makes the pair an unbeatable melodic rock dream team.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10

Sites for: Bobby Kimball and Jimi Jamison

Check out the video “Can’t Wait For Love”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

VYPER “Prepared To Strike” (1984)

Vyper is an obscure melodic metal quintet in the vein of Ratt, Dokken, and Keel, who produced two albums under Greenworld/Kondor records in the early 80s. The first one is the "Afraid of The Dark" EP and the other one is this full length studio effort, "Prepared To Strike". What was once sold on the market for a ridiculous price can now be obtained for a reasonable price - two records packed in one album reissued on Retrospect in 2005.

Looking at the original year of its release, you know what to expect. Roaring guitars, some high pitch screaming, thick harmonies, wild solos, and stuffs like that. Christy Black sure can't lie about Ratt's influences here, as his voice is reminiscent of Stephen Pearcy most of the time. And some tracks like "I'm Not Waiting" or "Can't Stop Dreamin'" are definitely in the same league with songs from "Out of The Cellar".

"Diamonds" is a purely explosive heavy metal tune with some great riffage all over the song, but "Dealer" is even better. The song is probably the heaviest track here and Black's hellish scream is the song's highlight. "Cold As A Stone" is flashy commercial melodic rock and had potential to become a major radio hit. "She's Nasty", "Drivin' Me Insane", and "Time Flies" from the EP are also personal favorites.

But I must admit not all tracks are listenable. "Daddy's Girl" or "Nighttime Is Wild" might be acceptable fillers, but "Runnin' With The Pack" or "Climbing Up The Walls" are totally confusing and capture the band at their worst. Such a shame they didn't last for at least another couple of albums like Icon or Hurricane for example. Though most of the songs aren't as great as the first class melodic metal heroes like Dokken or Ratt, "Prepared To Strike" is pretty awesome and undoubtedly a keeper in my book.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Odds and Ends

Each week I use this space to post some mini-reviews, cool tracks, random thoughts, neat news, or whatever else I damn well please.


Alpine White “The Hale” [EP] – The band did not take its name from the at-home teeth bleaching system, but rather the Gibson guitar. Colin Denker (lead vocals, guitar, piano, drums) is the mastermind behind this San Francisco quartet, which is rounded out by his brother Ian (bass, vocals), Ivan Wence (guitar, vocals), and Javier Benavides (drums). “The Hale” EP consists of four songs, the first half being superior to the second half. The gentle yet bright acoustic strumming of “When She Gets Home” serves as a fine introduction to this mellow rock band that straddles indie rock and power pop. “When She Gets Home” is memorable and moving, with enchanting backing vocals providing a sobering warmth. “The Evidence” picks up the pace a bit, practically floating with its soaring harmonies and crisp guitar line – another winner. “Days and Nights” is plagued with a lumbering introduction, but even when the vocals finally kick in, the song just doesn’t seem to get out of second gear. The record ends on a decent note with the steady “All The Weight” – lyrically strong, but musically less exciting than the standouts. Check out Alpine White if you like Snow Patrol, Arctic Monkeys, or Band of Horses. The EP is due out November 1 – learn more here.

Surprise of the week
Science has spoken – what are the catchiest songs ever? Some of them might surprise you…

I think this one will be a contender against the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration for worst record of the year. Listen to William Shatner covering Black Sabbath here.

It has been a long time since we’ve heard from Alien Ant Farm (remember their awesome cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”)? I’m looking forward to the new record from these guys due early 2012. Details here.

Def Leppard discusses the state of music business: "The music industry went from being an art form to a business, and then to an industry." Read more here.

Butch Walker autobiography details here.

It’s confirmed: Jani Lane died of alcohol poisoning. Story here.

Rooney frontman Robert Schwartzman has announced the release of a new solo album and a supporting tour this fall.

And finally, in memory of Steve Jobs – a man who changed the face of the music business as much as he did computers.

Random iPOD song of the week
The Jayhawks
– “Blue”

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: 7 Months Later “Time To Decide”

Rock/Post punk
Cross Fall Out Boy with Green Day and you’ll get the Orlando based band 7 Months Later. The foursome has just released their new record, “Time To Decide”, which follows their 2009 debut EP, “By The Light”. The latest release contains eight songs that try to establish 7 Months Later as a unique outfit within the overcrowded post-punk genre.

Nothing is overtly wrong with anything, but nothing really stands out of the crowd either. But these guys are young (we can’t even call them 20-somethings yet!), so they have a lot going for them – they are making significant headway during this early stage of their career, so with some more experience I am confident that more remarkable songs will emerge. Some of the highlights to enjoy on “Time To Decide” include the driving opener, “Outlines”, where the lead vocals match Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day) so precisely it nearly sounds like an imitation, and the engaging energy of “Faster Faster”. Songs like the acoustic ballad “All Out” showcase another side of the band that was refreshing to experience. Evolving from songs like these will surely equate to big success for this upstart band.

7 Months Later will appeal to fans of Reliant K, Jimmy Eat World, and Blink 182.

7 Months LaterOfficial site.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Mike Tramp and Rock N Roll Circuz “Stand Your Ground”

Melocid rock/AOR
After recently launching a reunion record of sorts for his old band White Lion, Mike Tramp returns this year with a new solo effort with his backing band, The Rock N Roll Circuz. Comprised of Soren Andersen (guitar), Claus Langeskov (bass), Morten Hellborn (drums) and Emily Garriock (backing vocals, keyboard and percussion), the Rock N Roll Circuz complement Tramp’s songwriting style and vocals perfectly, delivering a sound that is sure to please old school fans as well as younger rockers.

Tramp’s previous solo efforts have typically been mixed affairs, but they have been steadily getting better with each release. I think “Stand Your Ground” may rank among his best yet. This record is filled with consistently awesome tunes that are bursting with memorable hooks and sing-a-long choruses. I didn’t expect it going in, but “Stand Your Ground” is easily in the running for best melodic rock record of the year. There are so many good songs to highlight, so don’t neglect certain tracks just because I didn’t mention them.

After a reasonable beginning with an arena-ready encouragement anthem, “Don’t Let Them Put It On You”, the record kicks into high gear with a sizzling set of melodic rock goodies. “Alright By Me” features a classic Tramp chorus – the kind that could have been found on White Lion’s “Mane Attraction” album. The mid-tempo song “Distance” has immediate likeability with relatable lyrics and an earnest vocal from Tramp. An excellent ballad is found in “Straight From The Look In My Eyes”, which offers up one of the best choruses on the album. “Got Me Crazy” is an affable rocker about life’s trials and tribulations. “Prettiest Girl” is a silly little love song, but it’s undeniably catchy. The rocking “Say What You Will” is another highlight with a driving beat escorting you to another terrific chorus.

Mike Tramp is back in a big way with a fresh modern sound and a plate of memorable melodies - don't miss this one!

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10

Mike TrampOfficial site.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Sugarbomb “Bully” (2001)

I’ve always been something of a pop-head. I guess it came from being raised on AM radio back in the 70s, where the worlds of ABBA would collide with the likes of Kiss, and no one thought it strange in the least. Even when I was a “rocker” by day, listening to Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, by night I was listening in secret to the Bee Gees and the Bay City Rollers. I was always more of a McCartney and not Lennon guy. Give me those silly little love songs any day.

As I skated through the 80s, bouncing between Iron Maiden one day and Journey the next, I was dragged into the 90s and, while I might have been late to their party, discovered the band Jellyfish. It really did shake the foundations of my musical base. Suddenly, here was a band that was not only afraid to cite someone like the Carpenters or Badfinger as influences, they did so quite proudly by covering their songs in concert. While the rest of the world was nursing the mediocrity of the hair metal hangover, Jellyfish were busy attempting to craft the perfect intelligent pop song and succeeding, even if no one was listening at the time.

That discovery also set me on a course of finding bands that shared their vision of a pop utopia. I came across many albums, both old and new, that I still treasure to this day, but none more so than “Bully” from the Dallas band Sugarbomb. Taking equal bits of the grandiose of Queen, the orchestration of Electric Light Orchestra and the brilliance of Supertramp’s pop sheen, it has become the kind of album I love as much from the first listen as I do on the thousandth. Like the best classics, each time out brings new bits that you didn’t catch before and remains fresh to this day, some nine years on.

Oddly enough, the band was dropped by their label RCA as their single “Hello” was denting the lower reaches of the chart, thanks to its placement in the film Van Wilder. The album had the really unfortunate timing of being released two weeks after September 11, 2001 and a world that was bordering on happiness was thrown into years of despair then hope and eventual recovery. There just wasn’t a place at the time for happy go lucky pop.

There were so many potential hit singles here, from the bouncy power pop of “What A Drag” to the balls out rock of “Clover” and “Gone” to amazing harmonics of my favorite song on offer, the very Queen-like “After All.” I wonder if everyone might have been better served to put the album back on the shelf for a year or so while the world sorted itself out.

I was lucky enough to get a CD with a handful of songs that would have made up the next album and these guys were definitely on to something. But, nothing ever became of it and I have no idea what happened to the foursome after. Even Google searches turn up very little other than glowing reviews of people who share my unyielding passion for this set. Considering the price it currently fetches on Amazon, this would be the best $1.52 you ever spent.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review: My Pet Dragon “Mountains and Cities”

Pop rock
We last heard from My Pet Dragon back in April 2010 when we reviewed their excellent maxi-single, “Lover In Hiding” (see review here). Now they are back with a new full-length album entitled, “Mountains and Cities”, which happens to feature “Lover In Hiding”. The band started as a duo consisting of New York singer/songwriter Todd Michaelsen and Indian dancer/actress Reena Shah, but has since blossomed into a five piece outfit. The early buzz helped to recruit Stevo George (the original drummer for Ministry) to produce the record.

I absolutely love the vocals of Michaelsen – soft yet soaring, this guy has a beautiful pop rock tone and keen instincts for what to do with the lyrical line. Moreover, the group never seems to miss placing in plentiful harmonies and backing vocals in an attempt to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. In terms of the songwriting, “Mountains and Cities” has its peaks and valleys, but the peaks are quite an experience. Opening track “Majestic Lovers” certainly lives up to its grandeur, easing itself into your ears where the sweet sounds of Michaelsen will lift you right out of your seat. The chorus is mesmerizing with its hook and harmonies, reminding me of Keane at their best. “Moonshine” picks up the pace and proves to be a fun and memorable ride, fitting the celebratory lyrical content. “Love Anthem” contains distorted vocals in the verses and some other experimentation that just doesn’t work for me – the Radiohead-like chorus is pretty great, though. “U R” returns to the affable upbeat sound with 80s overtones I find appealing. Other highlights are squeezed onto the end of the record in the gorgeously peppy “Songbird” and engaging title track.

I’d recommend My Pet Dragon for fans of Muse, Coldplay, and early Radiohead.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 8, 11, 12

My Pet DragonOfficial site.

Check out the video for “Moonshine”

My Pet Dragon "Moonshine" from My Pet Dragon on Vimeo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

GREAT WHITE “…Twice Shy” (1989)

The fourth album, "...Twice Shy", strengthened Great White's position by claiming double platinum in 1989 thanks to their huge hits, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and the ballad, "The Angel Song", which raced the ladder of Billboard Hot 100 back in the days. Musically, Great White stripped down most of their rocking tracks and introduced a more laid-back release compared to their prior albums, but tracks like "Move It" or "Baby's On Fire" still rolled highly, rocking with style, and Mark Kendall's soulful solos with Russell's roaring vocals were paired perfectly.

"House of Broken Love", a bluesy ballad with such a passionate intro tells the story about a failed relationship from both Kendall and Russell's point of view. The emotion he poured into his singing is just flawless, and this track is definitely one of the best they ever made, but I always have a thing about Great White's ballads - they really know how to make a great one. The Ian Hunter cover, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", is another hot track for the money. These tracks alone make the album worthwhile. I have to admit that despite the commercial success, this album has too many fillers, including the unnecessary "Heart The Hunter" and "She Only".

"…Twice Shy" isn't really essential since you can find all the great tracks in their greatest hits compilation except for the piano ballad, "The Angel Song". But if you like a relaxing rock and roll show with ballads for the cold and lonely night, this album can be bought cheap easily, so grabbing one won't cost you any harm.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Odds and Ends

Each week I use this space to post some mini-reviews, cool tracks, random thoughts, neat news, or whatever else I damn well please.


Fallon Cush
“Fallon Cush”Fallon Cush is otherwise known as Steve Smith, a singer/songwriter from Australia. He and his band breeze through the 11 tracks on their eponymous debut, delivering an array of generally mellow and bright acoustic folk rock with 80s overtones. Most of the tracks don’t quite have a sharp enough hook to maintain my attention, but every once in awhile there is a needle in the haystack. For example, the upbeat drums, jamming organ, and fiery guitar solo make “Where You Been” stand out like a sore thumb among the other tracks – and that is a good thing in this case. “Where You Been” is easily my favorite track – I wish there were more songs like it. “The Great Divide” is another winner, boasting shimmering guitar tones, a memorable chorus, and effective backing vocals. “Dog Day Afternoon” and the pleasant “Over Me” are also worth a spin. Recommended if you enjoy Neil Nathan, David Mead, or Grapes of Wrath. Learn more about Fallon Cush here.

Surprise of the week
And the new lead singer for INXS is…(click here)

Cast is back! The legendary underground indie pop group fronted by singer John Power will return with their fifth album of new material, on the heels of the 15th anniversary of their debut. More info here.

Golden Bloom has released a new music video for "Rhyme the Reason". The song is available on Golden Bloom's latest EP, "March to the Drums".

Golden Bloom "Rhyme The Reason" from Alicia J. Rose on Vimeo.

Hope you got to see R.E.M. live while you had the chance – looks like there will be no reunion tour. Read the story.

At least there will be a new R.E.M. retrospective arriving November 15 called “Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage, 1982 – 2011” which will contain three new songs: "A Month of Saturdays," "We All Go Back To Where We Belong," and "Hallelujah". More info here.

Tony Bennett beats a record held previously by Bob Dylan.

New Aerosmith as early as March 2012? This would be the long-awaited follow up to 2004’s “Honkin’ On Bobo”. Details here.

New Daughtry coming November 21st – “Break The Spell” will be his third album. More here.

Random iPOD song of the week
“It’s A Sin” by the Pet Shop Boys

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