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TOBY Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 15:15

Well we've got TB2003 at last and despite the months of hot debate it's, well how shall I put it, it ain't half bad. My first reaction is one of 'he's brought exactly as much new to it as he's taken away from it. Some of the new details in the playing are quite utterly superb and some of the new bits are at worst just irritating. The much discussed new bass sound at the start is as bad as we all thought it would be now we can hear it in context, it just sounds distracting and modern for the sake of sounding modern. And on the subject of the introduction 'where's the 'DOING' sound Mike? It now sounds nothing more than a synth pad way back in the mix, I thought we were going to get a new well rounded bell sound like that use'd in 'Ghost Bells'.

But onwards and upwards. Mike's playing is without question amazing, simply the best this side of Amarok. There's so much expression to it here, a million times more than on any of the recent albums, this is where Mike's genius lies and not in programing drum boxes and synths. Speaking of which they are I think the weakest point of TB2003, I don't know why there is so much use of that sort of tiny synth stabbing sound you can hear, especialy on 'Blues', again it's just distracting.  And also why use a synth flute sound on the album? Why not use the real thing? People apreciate the difference especialy on a piece of music which is seen by many to be a celebration of real live instument playing.

The end of part one, my favourite piece of MO music ever, is actualy really, really well done despite my reservations about Cleese doing the MC'ing, I still think he's well over the top and bombastic in a way the rest of the album isn't. But to make up for it Mike makes all the instruments sing like there's no tomorrow and if you don't experience a minor orgasm on the anouncment of 'Tubular Bells' then you simply don't have a pulse.
For me the best bit of the new recording, although it sounds almost exactly like the original, is 'Ambient Guitars'. Again Mike's playing is so sublime and again you take note of how little of this sort of stuff there has been coming from him recently.

To finish I would say at its worst it sounds like somebody elses cover version, some bits like 'Latin' just lack any power when compared with the original and 'Fast Guitars' sounds like it's being done by some nu metal band infact that whole middle bit of part 1 suffers the most I think, at times I thought some of the mix was missing.
But at its best it's a dynamic rerecording with outstanding playing by Mike and some great new details here and there.
Oh, and I love all the instument info in the sleeve booklet and the fact he's kept the 'old tin box's' joke aswell.

ps What happened to the pub piano sing a long bit Mike? Someone call last orders. ;)
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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 17:12

[Ugo's review...]

Before I start my track-by-track analysis of the CD, I'd like to tell everyone that what follows is my own opinion. It's not the absolute truth, as I'm not Zarathustra and I don't claim to be him. :)  I'd also like to state three points about the album:

1 - I never was a big fan of the music of Tubular Bells (I). It always sounded too complicated to me, even if I know that many people here praise it just for that. Plus, it sounds very redolent of its own time, and not easy to 'update' without damaging it.

2 - Dividing the CD into single tracks is a very bad idea. I know that Mike had nothing against it, but he also never explicitly said that he was for it. A result of this is that there's at least one track which makes a lot of sense as music, but no sense at all as a track. See below.

3 - When talking about this album for the first time, Mike said he wanted to re-record Tubular Bells mainly because he wanted to get rid of the 'imperfections' and the other things that weren't satisfactory to him when he first recorded it in 1973. But the final result is not a re-recording of Tubular Bells. It absolutely isn't. It is a brand-new recording, called "Tubular Bells 2003", of a musical work written by Mike Oldfield and first performed/released in 1973 as "Tubular Bells". :) "Tubular Bells 2003" as a musical work is very similar, in many points, to "Tubular Bells", but it's not the same thing. So a comparison between TB2003 (the album) and TB (the album) is not only useless, it's dangerous, because it can hamper the enjoyment of Tubular Bells 2003 as a wholly independend musical work.

Having premitted all this, here I go.

Introduction: Very good. The world-famous main theme is flowing and hypnotically repetitive without being obsessive, the sounds are sharp and precise (especially the organ chords) and the climax is great. In one word: perfect.

Fast guitars: Very good. Those bleeps at the start remind me a bit of the thunderstorm in HR, a nice memory nudge. The rest is just Mike at his best.

Basses: So-and-so. A bit too heavy. Maybe a single-instrument line, without overdubs, would've been better.

Latin: Good. I like the synthetized stuff, and also the whole percussion thing going on in the background. Plus, another perfect climax. (Note the famous 'taped motor drive amplifier organ chord'.)

A minor tune: Very good. Musically, one of the best movements in the whole work. The mixture of old and new sounds that Mike chose to play it may sound a bit TresLunas-y, but I find it very suitable.

Blues: Good. Is this a blues? Doesn't sound like it is. :) But it's of course a classical example of Mike's wonderful guitar playing.

Thrash: Very good. Metal Mike!!! :) "Shadow on the wall" meets "Outcast" with a strong Zeppelin flavour. Great. A bit short, maybe.

Jazz: G. Bad idea to put this as a track of its own, because it's the natural continuation of what came before. Another nice percussion backing.

Ghost bells: As a link piece, good. As a CD track, bad. I can't think of any reason why anyone would want to play this on its own, except, maybe, to sample the sound. But there are sound effects CDs that may serve this purpose much better.

Russian: Apart from the title (Mike yet again using the title 'Russian' for something unrelated to Russia...), another very good section. Extremely clear sounds, very fitting to the melancholy mood of the piece. The guitar countermelodies, first appearing on the Boxed version of TB, are a welcome reappearance here.

Finale: From a musical point of view, very very good, the first of the two best tracks on the CD. Each of the instruments is given its due relevance when it's its turn, and the final climax with the bells (and the choir) sounds as powerful as ever. But John Cleese's voice in some points sounds forced, just like he was trying to be deliberately comical. I've heard many people saying that being intentionally comical, i.e. doing or saying something with the intention of making people laugh about it, is very hard to do, even for professionals. And even a consummate professional like Cleese succeeds 70% in doing it, but not 100%.

Harmonics: Very good. The flute going up there, on top of everything else, is one the musical highlights of Tubular Bells as a whole.

Peace: Very very very good, the other one of the CD's best tracks. I might be a very sentimental guy, sometimes even a bit corny, but I just love Mike when he goes romantic like this. And then at the end it just rises up in the sky with yet another of his wonderful crescendos... into...

Bagpipe guitars: Good. Maybe not powerful as 'expected' (see point 3 above), but very well crafted in its overlaying of the melodic lines. Then the acoustic guitar comes in, and we are suddenly taken into a brand-new rendition of the classic 'Mike Oldfield's Single'... and then the bagpipes come in again... and they go away... wonderful.

Caveman: Very good. Funnier than all the previous versions of Mike's caveman. Yes, it's two voices, and the second is not Mike's. Listening to the track, I got a vague feeling of knowing whose it is.

Ambient guitars: Good. Mike's new-age facet shows up very nicely here. Its relevance, or its being fitting/unfitting to the whole thing can, of course, be argued upon, but it's there, and I think that we should simply accept the fact that it's there.

Hornpipe: Very good. Only thing is that the catchy folk feeling of this piece derives a lot from its being mainly acoustic, even if not totally unplugged (the Farfisa organ is there, but in the background). So what is that electric guitar doing there at the end? Shouldn't Mike have kept it acoustic all the way through?

Overall score: 9/10. A nice addition to the TB trilogy, and an essential part of any Mike collection.

This is all. Now you're all free to attack me. ;)


Edited by Ugo on May 26 2003, 17:16

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TOBY Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 18:08

I'm not going to attack you chap but am I wrong in thinking the 'taped motor drive amplifier organ chord' (isn't that just a mellotron?) was used on the original TB to make 'Basses? I think he's just used synths and guitars this time.
Personaly I would call this album a rerecording, Mike say's its a rerecording and to my ears it sounds everything like a errr' rerecording, I think you're flying in the face of hard fact there Ugo. If you want to view it as TB4 then thats up to you though. It's a 30th Aniversary celebration how about that?
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Anonymizeruk Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 19:25

Well, I can't give you a track by track review. To me, it is still 'Part One' and 'Part Two'.....

On the whole, I like TB2003. Hence, I will give you my opinion on the 'bad parts', and I only consider them bad because they are the only parts where I keep thinking 'Hmmm. That doesnt sound so good'

Anyway, I like the opening. Nice and sharp sounding. That 'new bass' sounds a little out of place (why do you need pitch bend?.) I think it's a little over the top.

I also think that striking chord (sounds a little like an orchestra hit) sounds extremely weak on TB2003. It used to make me jump out of my skin when I heard the first one!

There are quite a few parts that seem to have dumped real instruments in place of synth sounds. Now, I am also a JM Jarre fan, but Tubular Bells + Synths isn't a match made in heaven.

John Cleese does a good job of being MC (playes the part of 'Q' very well too hehe.) Let's face it, anyone other than Viv Stanshall would get marked down by any true Tubular Bells fan (who liked the 'strolling player' on TB2?)

I shall no doubt figure out what I do and don't like about TB2003 as I listen to it a few more times. I will definatly say though, it was worth spending my money.

Thanks to Mr Oldfield for another hour of enjoyment.

Cheers

Anon
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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 19:32

Quote (TOBY @ May 27 2003, 00:08)
I'm not going to attack you chap but am I wrong in thinking the 'taped motor drive amplifier organ chord' (isn't that just a mellotron?) was used on the original TB to make 'Basses'? I think he's just used synths and guitars this time.

Toby: thinking back of what Mike said in interviews, I recall him saying that the t.m.d.a.o.c. is a chord that he taped and then put through a varispeed device to make it rise in pitch... something like 'whoooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOssshhhh!' :)  You can hear it clearly in some points of (the original) HR, as well in TB 1973, but at a very lower volume, at the same point where it features in 'Latin'. Back in 1973, the section that Mike now re-did as 'Basses' was done, IIRC, with a distorted bowed double bass, overdubbed twice. No organ. :)
Concerning your doubts on what TB2003 is, I still think that it sounds more like a reinterpretation (rearrangement, rework, re-performance) than just a rerecording. But, of course, as everyone's free to have opinions, you have yours and I have mine. :)


Edited by Ugo on May 26 2003, 19:44

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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 19:38

Anon: I think that the organ chord (the 'orchestra hit' you mention) sounds a bit weak now 'cause the original chord may have been impossible to recreate... its impossibility deriving, I may gather, from Mike not remembering anymore how the hell did he do it. :) Anyway, I like that part in the new rendition because all the sounds are clearer. And as I said, there's no real need to compare it to the 1973 version.

Edited by Ugo on May 26 2003, 19:39

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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 26 2003, 19:50

A P.S. for Toby: if you're familiar with a cover, done by Pet Shop Boys, of the U2 song 'Where the streets have no name', you'll remember that it starts with a synth sound gradually rising in pitch from a very low note to an extremely high (almost ultrasonic) one. That's PSB's synthetic version of Mike's 'taped (etc) organ chord'. :)

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gregrobson Offline




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Posted: May 27 2003, 07:09

A shorter review (due to the fact that I've only heard it once).

Overall a lot 'lighter' and more balanced in feel (like TB 2)

Specifics:
Caveman: Two vocals! Very refreshing and works well.
John Cleese: Fantastic choice, works well with the new mix.

The original will always have a place in my heart, but if I'm going to listen to Tubular Bells - it will be the new one. :)

Told you it would be shorter!
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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 27 2003, 08:57

Quote (gregrobson @ May 27 2003, 13:09)
Caveman: Two vocals! Very refreshing and works well.

Apart from the fact that I agree entirely... :)

1st voice (lower-pitched): Mike Oldfield.
2nd voice (higher-pitched): Tom Newman (I think). :)

...just like (the original version of) Sally. ;)


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Tati The Sentinel Offline




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Posted: May 27 2003, 09:31

The second voice on the Caveman is Sally Oldfield,Mike did said that on last thrusday on the press conference in Madrid...saw that info on the Mundo Mike Oldfield site.

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James
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Posted: May 27 2003, 13:47

Hiya!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Listened to it on small speakers (studio monitors) and was somewhat dissapointed the mix seemed wrong in relation to the first version things like certain lead tunes too far back in the mix too much bells (synth type) too loud in the mix.

Transitions didnt seem to blend together properley due to mechanical mix procedure ie digital mixing automation perhaps.

Any way listened to it again on a personal CD player and Grado headphones and Im pleased to say it was extremely enjoyable had me transixed and seemed far  more accurately mixed in respect to the original.

Mikes playing as we would expect is impeccable.What talent to be able to reproduce this complex work so faithfully
Well done Mike!!!!!!!!!!!

A few personal observations

Rather hear Terry Oldfield on the flutes than synths
would have liked to see Phil Newell Tom neuman and Simon Heyworth involved in the mix,production even if only in a reunioon kind of way.

wish Mike would not show off with that bass line at the beginning no need for all the little pich trills etc and use a real bass at the beginning keep that bit very simple it was superb that way.

Why no big real bell hammer clang accents in first section

Sally does a neat job but another girlie singer please Clodagh Simmons .

The bagpipe section is masterful so to is the closing ambient guitars its all lovely really. :D
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ian Offline




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Posted: May 27 2003, 14:33

Have just listened to it for the first time and the first impression is pretty good.Some things work very well and some not so well.It sometimes has the feel of someone covering it using the nearest approximations they have on their synth.

The guitar work is excellent,especially Ambient Guitars which is stunning! but I cant help hearing some bad choice of synth preset sounds that may date in time.The bell stabs at the begining dont have that haunting effect that grabs your attention and the flute sound is so obviously synthetic too.Why not get a real flautist?.You can't replace real instruments with software versions because they sound thin

On the whole,the playing and getting it to sound so like the original in most parts is a feat of excellence to say the least,but some things drop back in the mix that should sound louder and visa versa.

Its good,but not as organic sounding as I would have liked to hear like for instance Amarok.I still think T Bells 1 has more atmsophere and intrigue.
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TOBY Offline




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Posted: May 27 2003, 14:56

I think everyone seems to be coming to the same conclusions, which is telling. I listened to it bit more today and went for a walk down the beach last night with it in my minidisc, it's strange because there's certain familiar bits you really miss but there's a few new touches which are really good. I think the finale section does admittedly improve a lot with all the instruments in time, its the bit I keep getting drawn back to because Mike's playing there is amazing. Pretty much all of the first half of part one, up till 'Blues', really lacks something, all the details we've spoken about but also I think the transitions don't seem to be as seamless as they are on the original.
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Nils K
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Posted: May 27 2003, 17:29

I just got Tubular Bells 2003 today (both the 'package' and the 'main event' CD, BTW), and, on a first listen, I'm impressed. It's like meeting an old friend 30 years on, recognizing the face although many things are different.

I like MO's music, and as an amateur musician, MO is possibly my greatest inspiration. (Mike, where would I be without you?)

I do have a few tiny bits to criticize about TB2003, though. Not a word about the copy protection, though. That doesen't interest me. MP3 sounds like s**t anyway, regardless of compression. If I want a copy, I can always make an analog one - and legal, too... - hmmm... - OT'ed again...

Firstly, the dynamic range is'nt being exploited to its full potential. With 96 dB to play with (more on the master system - Checked the specs on the Fairlight Merlin) why does everything have to be kept at full blast all the time?!

Secondly, the mixing (stereo, that is - I haven't had the possibility to check the 5.1 mix yet) seems a bit sloppy and messy overall. The top is missing - especially on the electric guitars and the percussion - and everything on the first half of the album just drowns in that megabuck digital reverb. Impressive, but where's the music gone to?! At least, it sounds a bit too "cathedral-like" to me... On the very first listen I even spotted a few bad edits - the mix must have been made in a hurry.

Not all the segues work as intended on the original TB. Especially, the announcement of the instruments on 'Finale' feels 'dropped-in' and sometimes downright unmusical.

These are my critiques. There is actually a lot I like about TB2003, too. The 'feel' is very, very close to being the same as the original. This is very hard to do. Compare this against, for example, two different recordings of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. They are usually a lot more different. MO does it - and does it well. For me, the second half of the album works best. I actually toyed with the idea of playing the first part of the original TB folowed by the second part of TB2003.

I still think this is one of the three most important compositions of the 20'th century, the other two being 'Rhapsody in Blue' and 'Le Sacre du Printemps'.

Remember, it's not a new composition, just an upgrade.  :D

regards, Nils
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Fingers Offline




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Posted: May 28 2003, 04:51

I've listened to the album numerous times now, and I think most of your comments are fair. "Introduction" is IMHO ruined. There is no feeling to it - all the notes are there but the tempo is too fast, and it's pretty emotionless for the first 4 minutes or so. The same goes for the "finale" bells bit, which although it builds nicely never really gets to a climax and definitely hasn't got the same hypnotic thrill as the original.

I don't put this down to synths.

MO's favourite bit, "Ambient Guitars", is, IMHO, ruined by the ridiculous amount of compression used on the guitar watering down the emotive effect. The part is played incredibly, but the effect ruins it for me.

I put this down to electronics of all sorts. too many effects, too much compression, reverb everywhere (Mike seems to like increasing the reverb as the note fades.. nice once in a while but all the time?), delays cluttering the sound (listen to the double speed guitar.. stutter stutter!;)

All in all, I do like this album, especially the heavier parts where he's used the new effects to create what he was so clearly trying to do first time around.

Sunstantially better technical guitar playing - but with all the raw emotion of a housewifes coffee morning.

Never the less, MO wanted to do this - who the hell are we to argue!
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Holger Offline




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Posted: May 28 2003, 13:57

All in all, I like it very much. It's by far the best bell since the first four ones (original, Orchestral, Boxed and Exposed) ;) The sound is awesome; has to be one of the best sounding recordings I've heard to date. Playing-wise, some things are just amazing and show more of Mike's genius than all his recent albums together. Love the caveman and cavewoman, too. Bass sound still sounds stupid. Don't like John Cleese but agree he's better than the strolling player. Don't feel like going more into detail at this point (only heard it two times yet).

Quote
Russian: Apart from the title (Mike yet again using the title 'Russian' for something unrelated to Russia...), another very good section.


When I heard that TBII interview where Mike says 'This is a bit called Russian' and then plays Red Dawn I immediately felt I knew what he was talking about. Don't want to play the expert here but I'm married to a Russian woman and my best friend is a Russian, and this bit definitely has a feel of Russian 'toska' (the typically Russian kind of wistfulness, impossible to translate appropriately) to it.
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ian Offline




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Posted: May 28 2003, 16:51

Listening to it more I tend to think there are some not so good edits between sections.The guitar after the Tubular Bell finale seems rushed and comes in too soon before things tail off naturaly.

Also,some of those raw,spikey electric guitars that startled us on the first version are now tamed and lose the punch they used to have.

I also notice on one sequence,I think on the first side,a quite obvious drop in volume which is enough to distract me.
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Anonymizeruk Offline




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Posted: May 28 2003, 17:19

I have listened to TB2003 a few more times now, and to be honest, I am a little dissapointed.

When I first listened, I thought "I'm comparing this to the original too much", so I assumed I was being too harsh.

I find myself more critical each time I listen to it (yeah, I know it's a contradiction to my earlier post....).

I haven't had chance to listen to the 5.1 mixes yet (PowerDVD just stutters too much, and Media Player just won't play it)

I'm still glad I bought TB2003, but I think that when I get the urge to listen to Tubular Bells, it will be my trusty vinyl from 1973
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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 28 2003, 17:49

Quote (ian @ May 28 2003, 22:51)
Also,some of those raw, spikey electric guitars that startled us on the first version are now tamed and lose the punch they used to have.

I guess this is part of Mike's desire to smoothen out the 'imperfections' found in TB 1973... the rawness and spikeyness of the guitars being to his ears [but maybe not to other people's ears... :)] one of those 'imperfections'. :) Tom Newman complained about the guitar's pickups (on the Telecaster used by Mike back then - his only electric guitar) being noisy and farty all the time... that's what makes it spikey. ;)

P.S's.:
1) Sorry for my usual excessive usage of smileys.
2) The spikey guitars didn't ever startle ME. In fact, I'm one of the very few people who finds 'em annoying. But, as I said, I'm not a big fan of TB I (any version of it), so maybe it's all part of the same attitude that I have towards it.


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Ugo Offline




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Posted: May 28 2003, 18:01

Quote (TOBY @ May 27 2003, 20:56)
[...] also I think the transitions don't seem to be as seamless as they are on the original.

If you want to hear seamless transitions, just close your eyes while the CD is playing, or simply don't look at the player's display. :D Jokin', of course, but IMHO the transitions (especially in "Part 1") are amongst the very few pieces that Mike didn't change at all during his transferral of those pieces from TB 1973 to TB 2003. At least, I hear no significant change. Blame it on my cloth ears, if you want. :)  

P.S.: Don't compare TB 2003 to TB 1973. As I said, it's useless, except if you're a S&M lover. [I don't refer to Metallica. :)]


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