Archive for the ‘news’ Category

The Winter Garden Theatre – November 22 and 23, 2013

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

P1010297

It was an amazing weekend of music. We thank all of you that put your faith in us and bought a ticket. We hope you weren't disappointed. And we thank all of the musicians and crew that came together to create a weekend of inspired music. It was one of the more satisfying and uplifting events that I have had the pleasure in being a part of. Here are some pictures from backstage….I was a little busy so I didn't have much time to properly document the event. I'm expecting to receive some more pics over the next few days so I'll post them when I receive them. Check out the Cowboy Junkies and The Kennedy Suite facebook pages for more coverage and photos.


Created with flickr slideshow.

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The Kennedy Suite available Now!!

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

(The Kennedy Suite album is available today. Also make sure to check out the deluxe folder that brother Pete has created. You can check out one of his collages below….. here is a link to the Exclaim review reprinted below.)

by Jason Schneider

9 out of 10

November 22 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and of all the events marking it, none is as unexpectedly poignant as this song cycle created by Toronto poet Scott Garbe, produced by Cowboy Junkies' Michael Timmins along with Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson of Skydiggers. Who would have thought that a bunch of Canadian indie rockers could encapsulate the ongoing mystique of what happened that day in Dallas so comprehensively? But that's precisely what these 15 tracks accomplish, with various perspectives illustrated by voices that include Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett, Martin Tielli, and the Junkies and 'Diggers themselves, the last of whom revisit the monumental "The Truth About Us," first recorded on 1997's Desmond's Hip City. On paper, the overarching concept might suggest a dour history lesson — or worse, another Oliver Stone conspiracy theory — but from the opening Who-like performance by Hawksley Workman and the Screwed, The Kennedy Suite's drama is rooted in the real hope for change JFK instilled, and how his killing was an act that irrevocably changed North American society — an act not repeated on a similar scale until September 11, 2001. In that sense, Garbe's words are perfectly measured, focusing on intimate encounters with major players such as Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, as well as unnamed JFK admirers and hospital workers. It adds up to an audacious statement that musically conjures memories of '90s CanRock glory. More significantly, The Kennedy Suite is a highly affecting portrait of a moment in time whose lingering effects still cast a long shadow.

The Cowboy Junkies Kennedy Suite can be ordered from Maple Music. The Cowboy Junkies and their friends are performing two shows at Toronto’s Winter Garden theatre on November 22nd (sold out) and 23rd. If you’re in the area, it’s not to be missed. Tickets can be bought from Massey Hall.

take heart

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No Depression review – The Kennedy Suite

Friday, November 8th, 2013

(Make sure to order The Kennedy Suite before Tuesday November 12 in order to get a free copy of composer Scott Garbe's demo. Also make sure to check out the deluxe folder that brother Pete has created…you can check out one of his collages below. The No Depression review can be found here.)
 

reviewed by Skot Nelson

"Oh Marina, Marina, it’s cold and it’s lonely / When you’re pointing a gun at the President” sings Andy Maize towards the end of the Kennedy Suite on a song originally released by The Skydiggers in 1997. “I’m no flunky with a rifle / I’m an N.R.A. Golden Boy / I’m a Genius Forging a Legend.”

The fifty years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy have seen no shortage of artistic expression dedicated to the memory of Camelot. That assassination had as much impact north of the border as it did in the United States and the latest release ostensibly from Canada's Cowboy Junkies (though it's really a collaboration album) is an ambitious song cycle that chronicles the man and the events of the time.

The album’s fifteen tracks tell the assassination’s story from the perspective of a series of interconnected characters and those stories are told with the help of some of the band’s formidably talented friends: in addition to The Skydiggers, there are guest appearances from Doug Paisley, Lee Harvey Osmond, Reid Jamieson, and Martin Tielli to name a few.

The song’s perspectives vary widely and the musical styles shift with them: the jazzy I Got a Bullet for You captures the conspiracy theory nature of the era with a wide array of guests. Secret Spy Decoder Ring is a straight ahead rocker told from the playful perspective of a child.

The album’s songs unfold along a loose but intertwining timeline. While the first few start early in the day by the time we get to Parkland—not quite half way through the full collection, and told from the perspective of a hospital worker—the President is dead.

We’re gradually moved into post-assassination territory with the poignant Disintegrating (the only song on the album to feature Margo Timmins’ voice at the forefront) and Senior Prom before culminating in the events of the days immediately after the President's death..

Those days lead to one of the album’s finest moments, when Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is given voice by Andy Maize in The Truth About Us, a song that chronicles the American dream and optimistic sentiment of the the times. “Let’s settle up on boot hill / To the view we adore” Maize sings at the song’s start before moving on to a later refrain of “Oh Marina, Marina, it’s cold and it’s lonely / when reporters are carrying your coffin.”

As a concept album, The Kennedy Suite succeeds where other similar efforts might have failed in capturing a historic era. There are no rose coloured glasses here: Slipstream sees Martin Tielli sing about the complex duality of Camelot with lines like “Buy an election / get the girl / while the girls are gone / have more than one” that allude to Kennedy’s numerous affairs. This is followed  by news clips covering the assassination of Martin Luther King and making reference to the eventual death of Bobby Kennedy. Camelot may have been sunny, but the Cowboy Junkies are looking in the shadows too.

Highlights on the collection include Lee Harvey Osmond’s Parkland, the Skydiggers’  Truth About Us and Martin Tielli's performance on Slipstream. It really is a collection that should be listened to in full though.

The Kennedy Suite is a rich, complex work that rewards a close listen. Grab this, sit back with a good set of headphones and spend an hour with an album that succeeds on just about every level: it’s a lyrically rich, well constructed, musically versatile tribute to a time when America was the land of hope and glory when, as The Skydiggers put it, “Every girl and boy could grow up to be the President / Or grow up to be the President’s killer.”

The Cowboy Junkies Kennedy Suite can be ordered from Maple Music. The Cowboy Junkies and their friends are performing two shows at Toronto’s Winter Garden theatre on November 22nd (sold out) and 23rd with guests. If you’re in the area, it’s not to be missed. Tickets can be bought from Massey Hall.

Origami Final

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Lou Reed 1942 – 2013

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Uncle Lou died today….gone but never, ever forgotten. My older brother John introduced me to his music. The year that Transformer came out I broke my leg and it was my brothers job to drive me to school. He had an 8 track copy of Transformer in his car and the album would play on a loop. He would yell out loud when Lou talked dirty on Walk On The Wild Side, just to frustrate me because I wanted to hear what he was saying. So I snuck in to his bedroom when he was out and would play his vinyl copy….I was thirteen years old, back when 13 was young, and I didn't understand what he was singing about, but it was enthralling. There was something childish and sinister about the songs on that album: they hinted at a world that wasn't as black and white as the one I was growing up in, his world was full of shadows and innumerable shades of grey (way more than 50). Alan and I latched on to every solo album that he released throughout the 70's and every one brought us somewhere new and unexpected, you never knew what you were going to get from a new Lou Reed album, you let the needle drop and you let him grab you by the arm, with the occasional smack across the mouth. Transformer was followed by Berlin, the most harrowing of listening experiences…there were no “hints” on this album, it was a full-on exploration of drug addiction and abuse, not for timid. Coney Island Baby was a big one for us, and its still one of my favourite albums of all time….there is just something concise and perfect about it. “The morning of the show….” and “I want to play football for the coach….” became, and still are, a part of our private lexicon. Metal Machine Music became the coolest “fuck you” of all time and I still own an extremely rare mint condition vinyl copy of it (rarely played because listening to it wasn't what it was all about). Street Hassle with its binaural sound recording technique completely changed the way we listened to records. It had this open, spooky vibe to it which pulled you inside the recording, it felt as though you could walk around inside it….no doubt a huge influence and precursor to the stereo ambisonic recordings that we would undertake ten years later. We lost touch with Lou's solo work throughout most of the 80's, partly due to the decline in their quality and partly due to our immersion in the punk scene that emerged in the late 70's….despite the fact that Lou was the godfather to this scene, in true punk fashion, the children ate their parents. We did have a cassette copy of The Blue Mask in our band apartment in NYC in the early 80's. This was our first band, Hunger Project, and we played it as our bedtime music as the four of us bunked out on the floor of our one room apartment/rehearsal space….”The image of the poets in the breeze/Canadian geese are flying above the trees”. In 1989, just as Cowboy Junkies was blowing up, Lou released New York, which trumpeted his return to the top of the heap…another simple, but beautifully drawn suite of songs, a love poem to the city that was his muse.

Somewhere, early in our introduction to his music, Alan and I dug up a Velvet Underground album. I remember not quite getting it at first. The sound was just too raw and nasty, there was no attempt at drawing in the listener, even the gentle pretty songs were all about the raw energy, which probably scared me off initially. I remember the exact moment that I “got it”. I had a copy of White Light/White Heat” on a cassette and I was driving downtown in my brothers car to meet up with some friends at a bar (yes, in Montreal in those days, we were openly going to bars in our early and mid teens). Sister Ray came on and I suddenly “heard it”….the noise and the pulse, the feedback ,the cacophony all made sense. I found a parking spot and sat there and listened over and over to Sister Ray, and the world of The Velvet Underground opened up to me……”awww just like Sister Ray said…”

When we recorded The Trinity Session we included a version of Sweet Jane that was inspired by the version on 1969, which was, at that time, an obscure live Velvet Underground album. It was our way of tipping our hat to Lou as one of the great American songwriters/folk singers, in the tradition of Hank Williams, Rogers and Hart, The Carter Family all of whose songs we included on that album. An enterprising record company exec got our version to Lou and he gave the equivalent of two thumbs up…we could have stopped right there and, for Al and I, our foray in to music would have been a success. About a year later the band was introduced to Lou at a bistro in Paris after we had each finished our respective gigs. He was kind and gracious to us. He told us the story of how the bridge in Sweet Jane (“heavenly wine and roses”) was cut out of the studio version. The song was on the last true VU studio album and half way through the recording he left the band. There had always been a bit of disagreement inside the band about the bridge, so when he left, the remaining band cut the bridge out of the final mix, and it had bothered him ever since, until our version came along. His sage words of advice that night, from someone who had been through it all to a young band just starting out, were “fire your manager and hire a good lawyer”. He invited us to his show the following night at The Olympia and half way through the show he started up Sweet Jane. When he got to the bridge section, he vamped for a moment and then said, “this is for the Cowboy Junkies who put the bridge back in this song” and he continued on in to the bridge. It doesn't get a whole lot better than that ….a shout out (before the term existed) from the stage by an idol who is not known for being gratuitous with his praise.

Good bye Lou…thanks for transforming my life…for the inspiration….for showing us all how it should be done….we miss you already….

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The Kennedy Suite – pre-order

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The pre-order for The Kennedy Suite is now officially on. The album won't be in stores in Canada until November 12th and as of right now we don't have a release date for the album anywhere outside of Canada, we are still wrestling with what to do with it…so jump on-board and order from us directly.

As of now it is only available as a CD and in multi-digital formats. We also have a limited edition deluxe package, that we are only offering through the website, which includes 14 collages created by brother Pete each inspired by the lyrical content of The Kennedy Suite, printed on high quality 100lb, Lynx gloss paper, suitable for framing.

Also, if you place an order through our website before November 12th you will immediately get a digital download of Scott Garbe's demo for The Kennedy Suite which played a vital part in the making of The Kennedy Suite.

And don't forget the premier of The Kennedy Suite stage show on November 22 and 23 at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto…we hope you can make it.

Enjoy the new music and thanks again for listening.

Bullet For You

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The Kennedy Suite – Lee Arrives Unannounced in Mexico by Scott Garbe

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

(We will be releasing The Kennedy Suite on Latent Recordings on November 12th. Pre-orders will start on October 15th. The debut performance of The Kennedy Suite will be on November 22nd and 23rd at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

Scott Garbe is the writer of The Kennedy Suite. He will be posting a series of blogs about the writing of the Suite, it is a fascinating journey and definitely worth following along…make sure that you check back in every now and then.

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Barging in” was a common method of arrival for Lee Oswald throughout his brief life. Whether it was confronting U.S officials in Moscow on Halloween 1959 with his wish to renounce his citizenship and remain in Russia or the fatal imposition of his will from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in November of 1963, you never saw him coming; he simply appeared at your elbow.

My experience was no different.

It had been years since an encounter with a series of JFK assassination photos had left me with a palpable sense of vulnerability as a young boy. I was now a teacher, immersed in my first assignment teaching English at a dynamic international school in Monterrey, Mexico. In the interim, books, films and documentaries exploring innumerable JFK conspiracy theories had flooded the market, assailing the credibility of the Warren Report until its single bullet theory became the Magic Bullet Theory – a cultural/historical punch line.

In between lesson plans and theatrical productions I consumed what I could, but the notion of giving artistic expression to that initial loss of innocence and the layers of information acquired since would only begin to formulate itself when an additional assignment arrived on my desk. I was asked to take on the publication of our school’s yearbook, and my training would require me to travel to Dallas, Texas.

It was an incredible experience to find myself in the physical location that had occupied such a profoundly formative place in my imagination. Standing on the infamous grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, moving quietly behind its picket fence, walking the wooden floor of the warehouse where Lee Oswald had methodically constructed his nest of cardboard boxes in preparation for the President’s arrival, and finally looking down from the sixth floor window with my own eyes – the compact geography and humanity that had been missing in my experience of the event settled on me.

I had understood that the historic ramifications of President Kennedy’s assassination were epic in their sweep, but I had not appreciated the intimacy of the violence that had taken place, the intrusive cruelty that occurred as one human being reached for the life of another – and took it. In that moment, I also came to understand how the power of that violation, caught second-hand in a photograph, could lay hold of a young boy’s sense of security – and break it.

And there at my elbow, unannounced, was Lee Oswald.

He had barged in, and the journey that was to become The Kennedy Suite had begun.

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The Kennedy Suite – Origins by Scott Garbe

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

(We will be releasing The Kennedy Suite on Latent Recordings on November 12th. Pre-orders will start on October 15th. The debut performance of The Kennedy Suite will be on November 22nd and 23rd at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

Scott Garbe is the writer of The Kennedy Suite. He will be posting a series of blogs about the writing of the Suite, it is a fascinating journey and definitely worth following along…make sure that you check back in every now and then.

 
**********
Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering, stamped into one’s memory. And yet, I can’t remember it.”
  • Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

When I think about the origins of The Kennedy Suite it really began when I was in the third grade. I didn’t start writing the songs at that time, of course, I had a formative experience that was to change my perception of the world.

President Kennedy was a hero in our home. The image attached here is of a vinyl record of his most famous speeches that used to lean against our family’s old cabinet stereo in perpetual view. Maybe your family had the same record.

Even at a young age, I was struck by JFK’s beautiful family and the ideas he had left for the world to consider, the stories of his courage during the Second World War (PT 109), of his longing to reach the moon, of his love for poetry. In a sense, I had all the romantic notions of President Kennedy as a young boy that many citizens of the world must have had in the early sixties, that of a man of great dreams and grace – almost invincible.

In the fall of that third-grade year, I was digging through my parents' bookshelf when I came across a commemorative book published by the Associated Press entitled The Torch Has Passed… Unsuspecting, I flipped through to a sequence of pictures of the assassination in Dallas. I hadn’t known the President had been murdered. In a double page fold of stark, black and white photos I saw for the first time that the world was not what I thought it was. It was a dangerous, frightening place where no one was safe, not even Presidents.

Especially striking was an image taken shortly after the shooting. Kennedy had fallen forward, unconscious, onto the floor of his limousine. The life of the bold leader of the New Frontier had been ruthlessly taken before my eyes – Secret Service Agent Clint Hill’s foot dangling hopelessly over the rear side of the car in a desperate attempt to steady himself as the Presidential party rushed in a violent blur to Parkland Hospital.

That’s when I realized, for the first time, that I wouldn’t go on forever.

And that’s why I had to write these songs.

Talk to you soon,

Scott

jfk-death-2

Kennedy LP Photo

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The Kennedy Suite performance – 2nd show added

Monday, September 30th, 2013

We are excited to announce that a second show at the Winter Garden Theater in Toronto has been added on November 23rd (the first show is on November 22nd). We will be performing two sets each night, with the first set dedicated to a complete performance of The Kennedy Suite which will have a stage production created and designed by  Benedict Hilliard (Associate Designer for Cats, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon), Stephen Pollard (Lighting Designer for U2, Adele, Simple Minds) and Geoff Burpee. Joining the band for both performances will be Skydiggers, Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett, Lee Harvey Osmond, The Good Family, Harlan Pepper, Jessy Bell Smith, Reid Jameison, The Screwed, The Potion Kings and Ivy Mairi. In the second set we will pull songs from the more familiar corners of our catalogue and hopefully we can convince a few of our guests to join us on stage.

We will be starting pre-sales on the Kennedy Suite album on October 15th and along with the album we will be offering some limited edition prints of 14 collages that brother Pete created for The Kennedy Suite artwork.

Also, we continue our Nomad Tour on October 24th and are heading to some of our favourite haunts in the mid-west. Please check out the tour page to see if we are coming close to your front door.

disintegrating

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The Kennedy Suite: An Introduction

Friday, September 20th, 2013

(We will be releasing The Kennedy Suite on Latent Recordings on November 12th. Pre-orders will start on October 15th. The debut performance of The Kennedy Suite will be on November 22nd and 23rd at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. Please visit The Kennedy Suite website and Facebook page)

When I was eleven years old my older brother John arrived home with the album Jesus Christ Superstar under his arms. I still have a memory of him walking in to the kitchen and pulling it out of the bag and announcing it's arrival. I must have listened to that album a hundred times and to this day I can still sing every song (which is saying something because I can't even remember the words to my own songs).

Ours was a Roman Catholic household and although we weren't very strict Catholics we still attended Mass on Sundays and had been thoroughly indoctrinated into the church at an early age by the nuns that were our grade school teachers. At first I was shocked by the album title, the idea that someone could meld the words Jesus Christ and Superstar was outrageous, approaching blasphemy, was tempting the wrath of God and his mighty lightning bolt (I got God and Zeus mixed up a lot back then). And then I was hooked in by the songs, the word play and melodies. But ultimately I kept delving deeper into the album because I was intrigued by how this piece of music took the iconic event of our civilization (the crucifixion) and the main players (Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Apostles) and humanized them. Jesus became a young man fueled by a cause, but also blinded by ego and filled with doubt; Mary, who had been marginalized in the Bible teachings, became a confidant, a source of comfort and an important part of Jesus' inner circle; Judas, who had personified the word “treachery”, became another young man conflicted by doubt and driven by confusion; Herod was shown to be the psychotic sociopath that he probably was; and even the ultimate evil-doer, Pontius Pilate, had a slightly more humane and shaded light shone upon him. In other words all of the people in this great passion play became human, they were not the good vs evil, black vs white cardboard cutouts that I had been taught. This may not seem to be that revolutionary in 2013, but in 1971, inside the mind of an eleven year old, in a Roman Catholic household in Montreal, Quebec it was pretty mind expanding. I was hooked….and by the way, the band on the album was rockin'. 

When I was first handed the demo for Scott Garbe's The Kennedy Suite, I had some of the same reactions. At first I was intrigued by the title and premise: the idea that someone would attempt to write a song cycle around one of the most iconic events of the 20th century. And once I began to listen I was struck by the intelligence of the lyrics, the way they blend and blur history and fiction, the way they play upon some of the mysteries and controversies surrounding the event, the way they easily bounce from the macabre to the enlightened, from black humour to empathy and pathos. And eventually what kept me hooked was the humanity of the whole thing. The way the songs took this catastrophe, an event that has been twisted and poked and prodded and until it has lost all sense of the actual horror and suffering that it entailed and scaled it back down to a simple human tragedy. The assassination and subsequent funeral may have been played out in front of the entire world, but ultimately it is about loss and grief and the horrible randomness of colliding worlds.

The Kennedy Suite is filled with acute insights into the human condition, black humour, profanity, moments of pure empathy, historical details, cultural references and self-referential asides.  Each song is written from the perspective of someone, real or imagined, that had a connection to the events of Dealey Plaza on Nov 22, 1963. JFK, RFK, Jackie, Ruby and Oswald are all represented as are; three sisters giddy with anticipation for the Kennedys’ arrival at Love Field; a motorcycle cop riding in the motorcade determined to protect the Presidential couple to make up for his own failure to save his own family; a police detective assigned to escort the suspect Oswald but caught up in a delusional reverie about his Senior Prom and many other assorted characters. In order to do justice to Scott's vision we decided to call on a number of our friends and collaborators in the Canadian music scene. The Junkies along with Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers) took Scott's demos and recorded our own versions. We then invited more friends to join us and to add their voices and talents. Margo took on the role of Jackie Kennedy on board Air Force One returning from Dallas with her husbands body; Jason Collett is JFK singing from the horse drawn caisson making its way through the streets of DC to Arlington cemetery; Bruce Good does his turn as a profane and nasty Jack Ruby sitting in his club and contemplating killing Oswald; and Sarah Harmer performs a delicate, yet searing epilogue to the Suite. Many others joined us as well, including Hawksley Workman, Doug Paisley, Martin Tielli, Jessy Bell Smith, The Screwed, Harlan Pepper, Lee Harvey Osmond, The Potion Kings and Ivy Mairi.

The Kennedy Suite is an examination of a world changing event and the human toll that the assassination exacted. It is also a cutting look at our present day culture and times: it holds up a mirror to the circumstances, people and events of November 22, 1963 and reflects back a strikingly recognizable image, half a century later.

*****

Here is a taste….Jackie Kennedy (as imagined by the writer) sitting on Air Force One, heading back to Washington with the body of her husband, still wearing her blood-splattered clothes so that the world could see “what they have done to Jack”, wracked with survivors guilt and suddenly struck by the horrible realization that maybe the bullet wasn't meant for him, but for her.

 

 

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The Kennedy Suite performance – on sale now

Monday, August 19th, 2013

As I mentioned in the blog below, our latest project is a collaborative one called The Kennedy Suite. We will be performing the Suite in its entirety on Nov 22 at The Winter Garden Theater in Toronto. This will be a two set night with a debut performance of The Kennedy Suite in the first set. The second set will be all Cowboy Junkies with, we hope, a few special guests joining us on a few songs.

Helping us with The Kennedy Suite performance will be a long list of friends that also perform on the album: Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett, Skydiggers, Lee Harvey Osmond, Harlan Pepper, Jessy Bell Smith, Reid Jameison, The Good Family (Bruce and Margaret Good), The Screwed, The Potion Kings and Ivy Mairi.

This will be a very special and unique night of music. Tickets go on sale today so now is your chance to get snag the best seats in the house. Click here for ticket info: http://roythomson.com/eventdetail/cowboyjunkies

We will be posting a lot more info about the Kennedy Suite album in the coming weeks. Stay Tuned. We are looking forward to seeing some of you in November.

In the meantime there is still time to do a little bit more fishing:

P1000744

 

 

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