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A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble
A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble
Price: £10.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jesse Winchester - A farewell note from an old friend, 30 Sep 2014
Jesse Winchester died in April 2014 at the age of 69. Like Warren Zevon's "The Wind" this posthumously released new album "A Reasonable Amount of Trouble" will be forever entwined with his fate. Yet when Winchester started the record in May 2013 he actually had a clean bill of health having overcome his diagnosis of esophageal cancer. More than most singers emerging from the tumult of the 1960s it was the Vietnam War that defined Winchester's live and career. In 1967 he took the agonising decision to move to Canada to escape the draft. Despite being pardoned by President Carter ia decade later he would not return to live in the US for twenty five years. His best songs like "Yankee Lady" and "Brand New Tennessee Waltz" are all reflections on his exile. Sadly it also appears that his move North meant that he was outside of the Laurel Canyon singer songwriter boom of the early seventies and while the quality of his music matched other singers like Jackson Browne and James Taylor, his success was more low key. Happily this may have suited Winchester for as he confessed to Rolling Stone in 1970 "I'd rather just hang in there all the time with good music, slow and steady, and share it, rather than set the world on fire all at once." By any standards Jesse Winchester achieved his aim and more.

"A Reasonable Amount of Trouble" is lovely, humorous, poignant and often heartbreaking sign off from the late Jesse Winchester. If you are not moved by the aching observations of the concluding track "Just so Much" then that heart of stone must be granite hard. However there are plenty of songs here to lift the mood not least the Cajun flavoured "Little Louisiana" and gentle covers of songs like the The Casades "Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain". Unsurprisingly with Winchester it is the songs of tenderness and sensitivity that pull you closer to his music. Tracks like "Ghosts" and "Neither Here Nor There" are vintage Winchester and are expertly constructed to soundtrack an autumnal mood.

Granted this album is tinged with great sadness but Winchester lived a principled life and the world is a better place for his music. If you wish to see Jesse Winchester in his absolute prime check out his mesmerising performance of "Sham-A-Ling-Dong-Ding," a tender ode to teenage love, on longtime fan Elvis Costello's Sundance TV cable series "Spectacle," and watch the reaction from fellow guests Neko Case and Costello himself as the great Jesse Winchester slays them with song.


Mr Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark: The Story of the Byrds' Gene Clark
Mr Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark: The Story of the Byrds' Gene Clark
by John Einarson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gene Clark - The Long Shadow of the Byrds, 29 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is what a rock biography should be. Having recently endured two horrible examples of the art in the sixth form philosophical babble of Katherine Monk on Joni Mitchell and the cliche ridden agony of Paul Rees's tome on Robert Plant it was a joy to come to this book. John Einarson's exhaustive biography of the late great Gene Clark is a very satisfying if rather sad read. It chronicles the story one of the key founders of the Byrds, possibly the most important American band of the 1960s and someone who ranks alongside Gram Parsons as the founder of Country Rock. This book offers chapter and verse on the late singer songwriter leading his friend Chris Hillman to write that having worked alongside Clark for years "I never really knew him until I read this comprehensive study"

Like many stories of the counter culture generation Clarks is one of tragedy and yet throughout his troubled life he managed to produce a series of country masterpieces not least one of the greatest albums in the whole canon 1974's "No Other". It is typical of Clark that it also includes one of the ugliest album covers on any famous record. Gene Clark had psychological hang ups so severe that they emotionally and professionally crippled him. His love life was tumultuous and often chaotic, but even worse for a performer his stage fright was legendary in its debilitating impact. His friends and family give eloquent testimony in Einarson's book of the agonies which he went through especially if any song went wrong which would see him turn to copious amounts of booze and pills leading to anarchic performances. Equally problematic for the writer of "Eight Miles high" was a fear of flying which meant that he couldn't venture out into the wide open spaces of the US and effectively tour and promote his albums.

Thus the brightest star in the Byrds was in the words of Hillman not equipped to survive particularly as drugs and the rock n roll lifestyle took their toll. His exploits for example with his country singer drinking partner Doug Dillard around the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles were the stuff of "Lost Weekend" legend including driving motor bikes directly into the bar and generally making a royal prat of himself. Einarson sympathetically charts the horrible predictability of Clarks extended twilight throughout the Seventies and Eighties, of false career starts and the painful outcome of his unsustainable lifestyle. In 1988 he underwent surgery during which much of his stomach and intestines had to be removed and from thereon he declined to a mere 130 pounds in weight. Yet the Byrds checks kept coming in not least a substantial amount of money from Tom Petty's superb cover of his anthem "Feel A Whole Lot Better". Petty hero worshipped Clark but in another cruel twist of fate some of Clark's fair weather friends took him on an extended month long binge with this money where as Einarson states he disintegrated to the point of death. Clark eventually died in 1991 after the years had taken their toll. Yet he left a musical legacy which stars such as Tom Petty, Alison Krauss Robert Plant have developed with the utmost care. Plant's covers on "Raising Sand" of Clark's "Polly" and "Through the morning, through the night" are the tip of the iceberg of in terms of his huge output. Sadly as Einarson states "Clark never escaped the long shadow of the Byrds" He ended up as as "a cocaine fuelled visionary....a Southern gentleman on the one hand and a belligerent drunk on the other". With Gene Clark you must learn to love the contradictions.


Stripping Cane
Stripping Cane
Price: £8.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jeffrey Foucault - Tales of the darker passageways of American life, 29 Sep 2014
This review is from: Stripping Cane (Audio CD)
There may be something about great country rock musicians that demands a passage of time to truly appreciate their art. Gram Parsons and Gene Clark reputations are higher today than in their lifetimes and other more obscure acts are often wheeled out as lost treasures. In this age of the internet and the instant download perhaps we can be less leisurely about recognising the talent in our midst and start to appreciate mastery of the songwriting art when it stares us in the face. Singers like John Prine, Richard Buckner and Jeffrey Foucault figure highly in this regard. Despite sounding like a French philosophy master Foucault is a singer-songwriter from Whitewater, Wisconsin with a deep resonating country voice and songs which are impressively literate and breath the air of the Great Lakes.

All his albums are packed with tales of the darker passageways of American life which require a keen ear and reflective mood. "Stripping Cane" is possibly his finest album not least since it contains one of the best country songs ever in "Northbound 35". Some songs are so special that words don't do justice suffice it to say that it gets better each listen, Foucault's voice makes you just want to listen and love especially on the chorus "Mustang horses, champagne glasses/anything frail - anything wild/It's the price of living motion/what's beautiful is broken". The album is populated with other great songs not least the gently rolling opener "Cross of Flowers" and the aching love song "The Bluest Blade" the track which initially cast the Foucault spell on this reviewer. Other highlights includes the reflective blues of "Tropic of Cancer", the authentic Appalachian feel of "Doubletree" and a great cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic "Lodi".

Jeffrey Foucault has recorded a number of albums since not least "Seven Curses" a covers record with Mark Errelli where he brilliantly takes on songwriters like Buckner and another stellar "lost" singer Paul Siebel. Equally albums like "Horse Latitudes" and "Ghost Repeater" are full of rich rewards. "Stripping Cane" is album which will probably be plundered in years to come by up and coming country artists looking to discover their muse and mare their mark with a unknown song of Foucault mastery. Frankly with the quality contained on "Stripping Cane" it would be a travesty to wait that long. A highly recommended, overlooked classic.


Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
Price: £9.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucinda Williams - Southern Accents, 29 Sep 2014
It has been a while since we heard from the Queen of Louisiana, Lucinda Williams. For many she is the epitome of a Deep South sensibility that is embedded in the culture below the Mason Dixon Line. Her emphasis on the important everyday things in life and loving sets her as the most assured navigator who is able in the words of Amazon to provide "a guided tour of life's dark clouds". Her voice is unique. It has developed from the dulcet tones of songs like "Sweet old World" to a raspy Southern drawl which has been "lived in" and which can convey racked emotion like no other.

This new album "Down where the spirit meets the bone" is an embarrassment of riches of the Williams craft. The album is a double stretching over 100 minutes and bookended by two covers. The first threadbare cover of "Compassion" from a poem by her father, Miller Williams and where the album derives its title in the line "you do not know what wars are going on/ Down there where the spirit meets the bone." Its a haunting start but even better is the closer, a superb cover of the late J J Cale's "Magnolia" which is extended from the gentle 3 minute original to a near ten minute tale of latent regret and a mighty respectful nod to Cale. As Williams states "When we went in (to record), he had passed away not too long before and was kind of on people's minds, so we decided to do it". How Eric Clapton must have wished he had this level of class for his recent tribute album.

Overall the album might be a long listen but has enough variety to keep it stuck to the turnable. The swampy vibe of songs like "Protection", "West Memphis" and "Foolishness" match the recent work of Rosanne Cash, whilst "East Side of Town" could have happily figured on "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road". Other tracks like the acoustic such as "This Old Heartache" will be the perfect soundtrack after a weary night on the tiles, while the beautiful "Its Gonna Rain" is pure alt-country heartbreak with Bob's offspring Jacob Dylan providing sterling vocal support. Equally with premier musicians like Tony Joe White and Bill Frisell providing accompaniment she can't really go wrong. You might think that this "overdose" of Williams may start to try the listeners patience, yet she is a class act and her songs are stayers. The excellent "Burning Bridges" (with a burning guitar solo) for example talks of "a string of bad decisions" and you sense that Lucinda Williams is no stranger to her share of mistakes. The slow blues of "Temporary Nature (of any precious thing)" demonstrates that weather beaten voice giving lessons in hurt to all her contemporaries and shows her as one of the great American exponents of the songwriting art. Remarkably this is topped by the pure pain of the slows blues on "Cold day in hell" which is emotionally as wide open as a gaping wound.

Consequently the good news is this is a great album. The even better news is that Lucinda Williams openly admits there may be more music to follow extracted from this rich vein. As she admits "We recorded enough stuff for three albums, actually. They weren't all my songs. We cut a JJ Cale song, 'Blond Hair and Blue Eyes.' We recorded Bruce Springsteen's 'Factory.' In meantime with 20 excellent songs located on "Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone" we have plenty of great music to preoccupy us in the interim.


Dead Man's Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A.
Dead Man's Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A.
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Man's Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A - Cover Me, 23 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For many 1984's "Born in the USA" is the point of entry in the works of Bruce Springsteen and was the music that defined that decade. For others the album is recognised as the breakthrough into stadium superstardom for the Boss yet does not come near topping the list of all his albums. Part of the reason for this stems from the shadow cast by the desolate beauty and emotion of its predecessor, the dark and acoustic "Nebraska". Many would argue with the passage of years that those barebones songs of torment and isolation are a far more significant work in the Springsteen canon. It is interesting then to have "Born in the USA" interpreted in this enjoyable tribute album "Dead Mans Town" in a fashion which is nearer to the spare ethic of "Nebraska" than the rocking bombast of the original.

Granted a couple of songs here are average not least the Quaker City Nighthawks version of "Darlington County" which is pretty straightforward bar room rock. So to the pedestrian cover of "My Hometown" by the North Mississippi Allstars. But to be fair the majority of largely new American talent present do an admirable job of taking these famous songs and giving them a new interpretative sheen and polish. The tone is set by the excellent Jason Isbell formerly of the Drive by Truckers who pairs back the anthemic title track into a haunting alt country anthem punctuated with Amanda Shires ghostly violin. Equally good is the deconstruction performed by Apache Relay in their spare folk rock version of "Cover Me" which is all slide guitars, mandolins and vocal harmonies. Blitzen Trapper's "Working on the Highway" takes on the shape of a Little Feat style funky stomp, while Duluth's finest "Low" deliver a superb chiming version of "I'm on fire" a song which has been waiting for Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker to infuse with their slowcore philosophy. The standout here is from Austin based folk singer-songwriter Joe Pug and his striking cover of "Downbound Train" which could grow to be as loved as much as the original. When it comes to Trampled by Turtles they are cover experts (check out their version of Arcade Fire's, "Rebellion, Lies") and they do a sterling job on a rootsy "I'm going down". Possibly the most difficult task on "Dead Mans Town" falls to Brooklyn based singer Nicole Atkins who turns the huge hit "Dancing in the Dark" into a Roy Orbison sounding melodrama that could have also been used to soundtrack "Twin Peaks". Well done Ms Atkins on achieving the impossible and a respectful nod in addition goes to he beautifully paired back version of "Glory Days" by Justin Townes Earle which is almost transformed into a different song.

To stress again if you desire to hear a covers album of one of the Boss's most famous album with all the originals in their rocking glory this album is going to frustrate, so avoid like the plague. Alternatively if you are prepared to give these sparse Americana versions of Springsteen's tracks a fair hearing you will note that they retain the honest integrity of his songwriting and give a invigorating twist to some very famous songs. You suspect that Springsteen himself would approve as he is no stranger to providing his own acoustic variations on many of his songs. As a result "Dead Man's Town" is that exception to the rule, an almost consistently good tribute album by artists who should be highly commended for their decision not to play it straight.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 30, 2014 7:48 AM BST


Single Mothers
Single Mothers
Offered by Books2anywhereUS
Price: £5.30

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Justin Townes Earle - The sins of the father, 23 Sep 2014
This review is from: Single Mothers (Audio CD)
New albums by Justin Townes Earle seem to mark time and slow incremental progress. Earle has settled into a groove into which he seems perfectly content churning out heartbreak alternative country ballads with some more up tempo numbers thrown in for good measure. The ballads seem to be winning on this new album "Single Mothers" and since Ryan Adams has ostensibly decided on his latest release to do a passable impression of Tom Petty, it appears that Townes Earle is turning to the formers "Heartbreaker" for inspiration. Songs like "Today and a lonely night", "Picture in a Drawer", "White Gardenia's" and the excellent "It's cold in this house" would be hailed as outright classics in other settings and they all prove that Townes Earle can write a superb sad lament in the tradition of his namesake Townes Van Zandt. The album however is less successful on the rather middle of the road country of the opener "Worried about the Weather" or the plodding rocker "Burning Pictures". Indeed none of the rockier tracks are in the class of songs like "Halfway to Jackson" or "Harlem River Blues" from previous albums.

The good news for Earle fans is the fact following some very turbulent years he back on the rails and there are real signs here that all the mighty forces might come together on future releases to see him produce a stone cold classic of the alt country genre. His extended long weekend of recent years has become a source for some of his best material. Similarly his troubled relationship with his father Steve Earle remains a source of resentment. As he bitterly states in the nice bluesy title track "Absent father, oh, never offers, even a dollar / He doesn't seem to be bothered / By the fact that he's forfeited his right to his own, now / Absent father, is long gone now." Stick with Justin Townes Earle, there are songs on "Single mothers" which are as good as anything by Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell. Indeed like the latter a fully sober and cleaned up Earle could be a real contender.


Too Bright
Too Bright
Price: £9.05

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfume Genius - Equal parts Heartbreak and Rage, 22 Sep 2014
This review is from: Too Bright (Audio CD)
This is the third album from the Seattle-based artist Mike Hadreas who has enlisted Portishead's Adrian Utley to produce this melancholy wonder. Anyone who heard Hadreas last album "Put Your Back N 2 It' walked away deeply impressed and fully prepared to do evangelical missionary work exalting his talents. "Too Bright" continues in this vein but it is a more diverse mix of songs. As such it is a darker beast than its immediate predecessors, an album which is infused with both heartbreak and rage.

For those who loved the shimmering piano ballads of his first two albums a number standout for inspection not least the gorgeous opener "I Decline" with its slight Thom Yorke vibe and the splendid "No Good" with a heartbreaking vocal from Hadreas shows that this artist can pen lush laments like few others. The album however takes a sort of John Grant turn into pounding synth songs which are equally compelling as the gentler fare present. The single "Queen" is anchored by heavy drum beats and is Hadreas's counter attack on homophobia which he delivers with a defiant steely anger as he sings "Cracked, peeling/ riddled with disease/don't you know me? No family is safe/when I sashay." Equally "Long pig" is pure 16-bit laser sequences and Kraftwerk like in its driving synth. The pulsating "Grid" also sits in the same category and conjures up memories of the early Human League. The soft hymnal "I'm a Mother" is almost an instrumental as Hadreas vocals are so low contrasting in turn with the slowly building emotive drama of the hurt vocal contained in the evocative title track. The whole thing is rounded off with the fragile "All Along", a closer worthy of a great album and a potential huge hit if picked up by a more mainstream artist.

Like Rufus Wainwright the music of Mike Hadreas has often been badly typecast as "gay piano". The fact is that both artists have used their sexuality to transcend such cliches and move to a bigger stage dealing with issues of transformation, beauty, and truth. Those looking for tracks like the sumptuous "All Waters" will find songs of its equal on "Too Bright" but they will also locate an artist determined to develop into new areas, not afraid to speak out and expose some very bruised raw feelings. This is not an easy or immediately accessible album yet it rewards richly and leads you to believe that despite the the all round excellence on display the best may yet be to come from the Perfume Genius.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2014 8:17 PM BST


Sukierae
Sukierae
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tweedy - A Family Affair, 22 Sep 2014
This review is from: Sukierae (Audio CD)
As a double album of over 72 minutes of music this record by Wilco's master craftsman can feel like a bit of a slog on first listens and at 20 songs it does on occasions threaten to overstay its welcome. For this release Tweedy has teamed up with his son Spencer on drums to produce his first studio double since "Being There". The key question is it a Wilco album without Wilco or something that stands in its own right? The answer is there are plenty of sounds on "Sukierae" to fully justify this solo exploration although the results come with some missteps that could have erased with more judicious editing.

Like recent Wilco albums there is not one overarching label you can apply to album. It starts with a terse jagged one minute punk rock song "Don't let me be so understood" which contrasts sharply with Nick Drake style ballads like "Pigeons". One thing that certainly is absent is the sonic adventurism of albums like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost is Born" although songs like "Diamond Light Part 1" have fascinating Radiohead like drum patterns and do end in a controlled cacophony. It is however to the more structured tracks to which you must turn to reap the richest rewards. Songs like the simple Americana of "New Moon" confirms Tweedy as a master of the simple alt country ballad. "Wait for Love" is even better with one of those aching melodies that Tweedy summons up at least once on a Wilco album. Broadly in this same vibe is "Flowering" which Tweedy admits was one of several of the album's tracks were built up from solo acoustic demos recorded on his iPhone. The echoes of Dylan on "Fake Fur Coat" are obvious but its a brilliant track where Tweedy wryly observes that "I concede there's beauty in bubblegum/And rolling up my sleeves/To advertise the new freedom/I accept that I can't receive". Others like "World Away" have that rough and ready feel that the Band once had a monopoly upon.

The problem is that by this time the generally laid-back vibe tends to become all too familiar and somewhat lacking in pace and excitement. Thus a song like "Down from above" is a plain dull and proceeds at such a snails pace that once you hear it there is little chance of ever seeking it out again. Indeed the album tends to fire best when Spencer's drumming drives the music forward as in "Slow Love". It is however the laid-back fare of "Honey Combed" which predominates making "Sukierae" a largely mellow affair which despite some faults will do nicely until the next full Wilco album.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2014 12:34 AM BST


Blind Water Finds Blind Water
Blind Water Finds Blind Water
Price: £7.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adam Faucett - "Arkansas' truckstop poet laureate", 15 Sep 2014
Adam Faucett hails from Arkansas and is one of those musicians who belonged to a band called "Taught the Rabbits" who you file in that drawer marked "should have been bigger". Faucett has a voice that comes across like a hybrid of My Morning Jacket's high level pipes of Jim James combined with the more earthy concerns of John Fullbright. Quite why Faucett languishes in relative obscurity and is not wider known is one for the Gods of Fate to explain, what is clear is that some detective work on the part of readers of this review would be richly rewarded.

"Blind Water Finds Blind Water" is a often haunting record packed with minimalist instrumentation and country angst not least the dark pain on display in "Sparkman". Some have described Faucett as the "Arkansas' truckstop poet laureate" and this nicely captures the atmosphere of his songs. The starting point should be the outstanding "Benton" written about his hometown and demanding a major league artist to turn into a classic. The guitar runs which populate the song are pure Grateful Dead while Faucett's vocal comes from the Dickie Betts school of Southern charm. Other songs also impress greatly. Opener "Day Drinker" has a slight REM feel although the vocal is pure emotion. "Edgar Cayce" is a song about the American mysticist known as the "The Sleeping Prophet" who believed in the power of trance. One doesn't have to buy into Cayce's mumbo jumbo to recognise that Faucett has penned a great song about him. Finally "Rock over Gold" is the type of electric anthem which Neil Young nailed on "Le Noise" albeit it has a melody.

"Blind Water Finds Blind Water" is one of those albums that you play when drunk to friends bemused that they cannot recognise the greatness stemming from the speakers. The answer is don't give up and lock them in the room. Faucett deserves a wider audience not least since he has one of the finest beards on offer in rock. What more could you ask for?


Somewhere Under Wonderland
Somewhere Under Wonderland
Price: £9.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Counting Crows - Possibility Days, 15 Sep 2014
There are those who heard "August and Everything After", Counting Crows legendary debut upon its release in 1993 who never really got over it. This was a record that somehow defined musical space and time, capturing a certain spirit of the age. "August" was so impactful that even excellent follow up albums by Adam Duritz and co were overshadowed by its breadth and depth. Thus when poorer fare followed over the more recent period, such as a Marmite concept album (Saturday Night & Sunday Mornings), an ok covers album and a range of "live" albums, many shifted their gaze elsewhere.

"Somewhere under Wonderland" is the Crows first album of new material since 2008 and whilst no match for their debut it is a record that is a rich palette of sounds. Duritz's song writing once threatened to be the missing link between Springsteen and Van Morrison and there are times on this album where past glories are rebooted. The long opener "Palisades Park" is essentially a eight minute suite of songs which for some reason brings to mind Joni Mitchell circa "Hissing of Summer Lawns". It is a sort of musical kitchen sink replete with a jazzy trumpet opening, Duritz's hurt vocal and wordy lyrics plus standard rock segments which push the song along. Repeated listens confirm a well planned if loose construction which despite its intricate nature is very endearing. Even better is the slow blues of "Scarecrow" which starts with a Drive by Truckers riff and builds into a commendable rootsy rocker. The later "John Appleseed's Lament" is probably the track with the nearest feel to the preoccupations of "August" and is punctuated by some lovely guitar work. When Duvitz strips everything back on "God of the Ocean Tides" he confirms his status as a top grade songwriter and reminds us that "less is more". On the down side why he felt the need to populate the album with such a standard rocker as "Elvis went to Hollywood" with its daft lyrics about "Aliens on motorcycles" is a bit of mystery. Still amends are made with the brilliant "Possibility Days" the albums concluding ballad a fine lament about "waiting for winter this year" where all the bands considerable strengths are on full display.

What is impressive about "Somewhere Under Wonderland" is the ability of Counting Crows to dust themselves down after what has been a lean few years and slowly construct an album which is possibly one of their best collections in a decade. In 2013 Duritz admitted that "God of Ocean Tides" was the first original song he had written in a long while. On the evidence here his creative juices are flowing again and whilst we in the UK have "parked" this band, its time to give them another chance with this fine release.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 18, 2014 8:42 PM BST


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