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Published: 2009/01/25

Staff Picks: Favorite Releases, Live Shows and Go To Music of 2008

This year in addition to asking our staffers to list their favorite discs and live shows of the year, we’ve asked them to name those older recordings they kept in steady rotation over 2008.


Favorite 2008 Release
1. Railroad Earth Amen Corner
2. Mike Gordon The Green Sparrow
3. Neil Young Sugar Mountain
4. Lucinda Williams Little Honey
5. Michael Falzarano We Are All One

Favorite Reissue
1. Lee "Scratch" Perry_Chicken Scratch_

Go To Disc Or Show
1. David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name
2. Zero Nothin’ Lasts Forever
3. Allman Brothers Eat A Peach
4. Bunny Wailer Blackheart Man
5. String Cheese Incident Carnival ’99

Favorite Live Performance
1. Los Lobos – Rockport, ME 3/9/08
2. American Babies – Up North Festival 8/10/08
3. Railroad Earth – Up North Festival 8/10/08
4. David Lindley/Hotuna – Northampton, MA 9/4/08
5. Robert Earl Keen/Levon Helm Band – Woodstock, NY 9/6/08



Favorite 2008 Release
1.Lotus- Hammerstrike
2.Telepath- Contact
3.Thievery Corporation- Radio Retaliation
4.Enigma- Seven Lives Many Faces
5.OTT- Skylon

Favorite Reissue
1. Neil Young- Sugar Mountain- Live at Canterbury House 1968
2. Billy Joel- The Stranger
3. Ween- At the Cat’s Cradle

Go To Disc Or Show
1.Disco Biscuits- Starscape Festival June 2008
2. Younger Brother- Last Days of Gravity
3.Blockhead- Music by Cavelight
4.Shpongle- Tales of the Inexpressible
5.Enigma- A Posteriori

Favorite Live Performance
Disco Biscuits- Starscape
Younger Brother- Camp Bisco 7
STS9/Umphrey’s McGee- Bank of America Pavillion- Boston, MA
Dieselboy- Bill’s Bar- November 2008
Agents of Mayhem- Spiegelworld, NYC- August 2008



Favorite 2008 Release
1. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
2. MGMTOracular Spectacular
3. Apollo Sunshine – Shall Noise Upon
4. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
5. Tie: Dr. Dog Fate and Ryan Adams Cardinology

1. My Morning Jacket, 6/20/8, Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
2. Trey Anastasio w/Mike Gordon, Rothbury ("The Only Rule Is It Begins")
7/6/08, Rothbury, MI
3. Marco Benevento & Friends, 1/10/08, Sullivan Hall, New York, NY
4. Wilco, Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL, 2/18-19
5. Cloud Cult, Exit Clov Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, 11/11/08,
(Best Festival): Bonnaroo, esp. 6/13 run from The Raconteurs into Les Claypool
Chris Rock, My Morning Jacket and The Disco Biscuits

1. Phish-_At the Roxy_
2. REM-Murmur
3. Phish, Walnut Creek

Go To Disc Or Show
1. The National, Alligator and/or Boxer
2. Weezer, Weezer (Blue Album)
3. My Morning Jacket, At Dawn
4. Arcade Fire, Funeral
5. The Disco Biscuits, 7/14/2006, All Good Music Festival, Masontown, WV

For an expanded take be sure to read Mike’s latest column



Favorite 2008 Release
1. Porter, Batiste & Stoltz with McConnell- Moodoo
2. Railroad Earth- Amen Corner
3. Jimmy Herring- Lifeboat
4. Greensky Bluegrass- Five Interstates
5. Mike Gordon- The Green Sparrow

Best Live Release:
Phish- At the Roxy

Favorite Reissue
1. The Band- The Band (on vinyl)

Go To Disc Or Show
1. Talking Heads- Speaking in Tongues
2. Burning Spear- Marcus Garvey
3. Most Phish ’97 Fall Tour Shows
4. Old Crow Medicine Show- Big Iron World
5. Jimmy Cliff & Various Artists- The Harder They Come

Favorite Live Performance
1. Mike Gordon w/ Trey & Fish Rothbury 2. Keller, Moseley, Sipe & Droll with Cornmeal Barrymore Theater, Madison, WI 9/24
3. Yonder Mountain —> Leftover Salmon —> Yonder Mountain String Summit (surprise swap & swapback mid-set) 4. Primus Rothbury (late night)
5. Widespread Panic Pepsi Center (NYE) 6. Bluegrass Super Jam Dunegrass (Thile & Punch Bros, All of Greensky, Ronnie McCoury, Peter Rowan, Vince Herman, etc.)



Favorite 2008 Releases
1. Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet Self-titled – East meets West in this beautiful union produced by and featuring B Fleck. Washburn is years ahead of our time with her ability to combine Western motifs with Chinese lyrics, but she also crafts music that transcends the individual abilities of the excellent musicians within her quartet. And that may be the most important lesson of all as we head deeper into the 21st century. Perfect.
2. Erykah Badu- New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) She gets IT. Do something personal. Try to change your world one step at a time. Speak your mind. Make it kick ass.
3. Metallica Death Magnetic The quartet shows how to return to their roots. It’s the jams, riffs, solos, and the intricate interlocking prog rock sequences, stupid. WELL done.
4. Omara Portuondo Gracias In a year that belonged to the women in music, in my opinion, as Susan Tedeschi could also be on this list with her rousing Back to the River gem, a 78-year old Cuban music superstar reinvents herself by being true to her muse, including a healthy dose of Brazilian magic along with her Cuban expertise. Superb.
5. Al & the Transamericans This Day & Age – Al Schnier and his seasoned side project band members help create the guitarist’s first excellent studio album since moe.’s Wormwood, and few fans notice. Many should take the time to ponder the brilliant Americana edge of some of the best music he has made in years. 4 Stars.

1. The Clash Live at Shea Stadium 13 Oct 1982 The only PUNK band that mattered.
2. Grateful Dead Winterland 1973 When the trip was still strange and beautiful.
3. Phish 12/30/97 Phab Phour in all their ragged, worm-y gloryshining and sloppy.
4. Dennis Wilson Pacific Ocean: Legacy Edition Gone too soon.
5. Roy Harper Stormcock AWESOME.

Go-To Albums
1.John Coltrane A Love Supreme – Some things defy words, beyond the mysteries of life, to raise you up, carrying the ethereal spirit of the universe along for the sublime trip.
2.Frank Sinatra The Best of the Columbia Years 1943-1952 The Voice. The Man.
3.Elvis Presley Ultimate Gospel The King reaches to the heavens, and also succeeds.
4.Led Zeppelin How the West Was Won – The Best from the Best.
5.Phish Billy Breathes The best album from our reunited national treasure.

1.Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet – Bonnaroo Manchester, TN 6/14/08
A wonderfully transcendent performance on a miraculous Saturday at the Roo.
2. Erykah Badu & The Roots Radio City Music Hall New York 5/9/08 Badu plays a gig at the stately venue, and ?uestlove raises the legendary roof with his band The Roots in the opening slot. The headliner? She takes the roof into the stratosphere.
3. Umphrey’s McGee – San Francisco – the middle of a three-night run – 2/16/08 If you didn’t notice, Umphrey’s not only inherited the jam crown in 2008, they cemented their lofty position later on with January’s stone solid Mantis. Your turn, Phish.
4. Avett Brothers & Jessica Lea Mayfield Phoenix 3/27/08 – Both bands played for 250 people in an intimate and emotional barnstormer that left a strong lasting impression.
5. Galactic & The Crown City Rockers New York 10/17/08. Galactic is sometimes overlooked because they are always changing and always brilliant. That ain’t a fault. Crown City Rockers, from the Bay Area, show how to burn a room down as an opening act, neither derivative, or just filling time as the patrons wait for the headliner, they take their slot as if it’s the World’s Last Gig, and that is another lesson for this century.


Favorite Release
As usual, when I start this endeavor, I don’t think I’ll be unable to find enough qualified releases to fill out the list. Then, once I get started and look over what’s happened throughout the year, I do find an abundance of quality. Consider this my Baker’s Dozen of 2008:

Even with unreleased and revamped, they’re still so good
Bob Dylan- Tell Tale Signs: Bootleg Series Vol. 8 Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006
Loudon Wainwright III- Recovery

These alt-rock veterans are still at the top of their game. Nada Surf with a tense and highly melodic release while former Cop Shoot Cop frontman Todd A uses world music elements with Firewater and still produces another round of intense music.
Nada Surf- Lucky
Firewater- The Golden Hour

These two put together some of the finest ’60s-derived soul/ska (Hunter) and Motown (Saadiq) that you need to hear.
James Hunter- The Hard Way
Raphael Saadiq- The Way I See It

Both offered addictive albums that present modern twists on Soweto Rock/reggae/ska (Vampire) and rock/electronic (TV)
Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
TV On The Radio- Dear Science

I’ll take my psychedelia in several flavors, please. A monstrous rush of sound enveloped me (Black Angels), added a touch of pop and memorable hooks (MGMT) and ingested the Beatles Rubber Soul and Revolver and more and shaped their own musical world (Dr. Dog)
The Black Angels- Directions to See a Ghost
MGMT- Oracular Spectacular
Dr. Dog- Fate

It shouldn’t make sense but the elements don’t lie. The rock/country/soul hybrid feels so right.
My Morning Jacket- Evil Urges

Power to the people, indeed! If Franti could just bottle this stuff in pill form, we’d all be waking up and changing the world.
Michael Franti & Spearhead- All Rebel Rockers

The Gonzo Tapes: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Favorite Reissue 1. Mickey Hart/Diga Rhythm Band- Diga (hypnotic trance rhythms) 2. Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box- Mystery Box (underrated) 3. The Replacements- Let It Be/Tim (2 of their BEST)

Go To Disc Or Show
1. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend (does listening to it to and from a 3 hour drive count?)
2. Grateful Dead- Winterland 1973 (glutton’s worth of goodness)
3. The Jayhawks- Tomorrow the Green Grass (been this way for years)
4. Nada Surf- Lucky
5. TV On The Radio- Dear Science

Favorite Live Performance
All Good



Favorite Release
1. Mike Gordon- The Green Sparrow
2. Sonny Rollins- Road Shows: Vol. 1
3. The Hold Steady- Stay Positive
4. Sigur Ros- Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
5. Tie: Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters- Hope Radio (late 2007 but I didn’t receive until 2008)
5. The Derek Trucks Band- Already Free (early 2009 release but it’s been in max rotation for a couple months now)

Favorite song to play repeatedly until the point of exhaustion for kids and adults alike in a Maine cabin: “Highly Suspicious,” My Morning Jacket

Go To Disc Or Show (Beyond the above list, these received the most spins in 2008)
1. Miles Davis- Kind of Blue
2. Grateful Dead- Fillmore West 1969
3. Allman Brothers Band- At Fillmore East
4. John Scofield- A Go Go
5. moe. The Conch
6. The Mahavishnu Orchestra- The Inner Mounting Flame
6. Phish-_Live Phish 11, 11/17/97_
6. Miles Davis- A Tribute To Jack Johnson

Favorite Live Performance
1. Battles, Bonnaroo, 6/12/08
2. Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton, MSG 2/26/08
3. Umphrey’s McGee and STS9, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA 7/26/08
4. Keller Williams with Keith Moseley, Gibb Droll and Jeff Sipe, Calvin Theatre, Northampton, MA 2/22/08
5. Soul Stew Revival, Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, MA 8/2/08
6. Pearl Jam, Bonnaroo, 6/14/08



Favorite 2008 Release
1. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
2. The Cardinals, Cardinology
3. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
4. Kings of Leon, Only By The Night
5. Coldplay, Viva La Vida

Favorite Reissue
1. Phish, Live at the Roxy
2. Benzi and The Knocks Present: Jay-Z "American G-Funk"
3. The Best of Radiohead

Go To Disc Or Show
1. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
2. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
3. The National, Boxer
4. Jason Collett, Idols of Exile
5. Phish, Red Rocks, CO – 6-11-1994

Favorite Live Performance
1. Ryan Adams, Neal Casal, Brad Pemberton – 10.28.08 – Cafe Select, New
York, NY
2. Under African Skies – Paul Simon featuring David Byrne, Vusi
Mahasela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and more – 4.13.08, Brooklyn Academy
of Music, Brooklyn, NY
3. My Morning Jacket – 6.20.08 – Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
4. Radiohead – 5.9.08 – Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre, Charlotte, NC
5. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – 8.23.08 – The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA



Favorite 2008 Release
1. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs: I cannot say enough about this band and this album. It is a stellar listen from beginning to end and while "I will Possess Your Heart" is the album’s hit single, songs like "Narrow Stairs" should not be overlooked by any means
2. Metallica – Death Magnetic: I still haven’t stopped listening to this album. It’s everything you want from a Metallica album but haven’tgotten in a long, long time
3. Santogold – Santogold: This is a REALLY catchy album and L.E.S. Artistes alone makes this worth owning
4. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: I had the privilege of listening to this album after I had already heard how bad it was from everyone on the intrawebs. I say privilege because I thought, and think, this album is incredible. Yeah, Highly Suspicious is better live than on disc but both Touch Mes are among MMJ’s best work
5. Radiohead -_in rainbows_: Very rarely do I find an album that I love and my favorite song on the album is the second to last. I’m not sure how anyone can not love everything these guys do. They are constantly pushing the envelope, creating new sounds and yet never cease
putting out music you want to listen to and not just admire.

Notable: I don’t love the album as much as the above 5, but if Phish is smart, they’ll work Green Sparrow’s "Traveled Too Far" and "Dig Further Down" into the live show immediately

Favorite Live Performance (Please list up to 5)
1. Unfortunately, 2008 was far from my peak year with respect to concert attendance. A vast array of personal and professional situations prevented me from seeing as many shows as I would’ve liked, however I still managed to get to the All Points West Festival over in Jersey. Ignoring the opinion that the festival was among the worst I’ve ever attended, back to back sets from Kings of Leon and Radiohead as well as a stellar early set from Sia made this one of the better days I’ve music I’d experienced all year.
2. My Morning Jacket – RCMH 6.20 – Needless to say, the band was in top form as they absolutely killed the audience with an array of songs off Evil Urges, complementing their array of soon-to-be-classics from earlier albums
3. Flight of the Conchords – Town Hall 5.6 – I’m a sucker for musician/comedians and Flight simply do it as well as anyone. In concert, the songs were predictably hilarious, never suffering due to familiarity, and the between song banter put this show over the top. I couldn’t be happier I was there.
4. Dave Matthews Band – MSG Stand up for a Cure Benefit – 9.10 – Yeah I know, I like Dave…I suck. Anyway, the show was awesome and the fact that I had phenomenal seats can’t go overlooked. The setlist was amazing, the show was amazing, the crowd was amazing…the show was amazing.
5. Death Cab for Cutie – RCMH 10.6 – This was the year I really discovered this band and while I had become quite familiar with Narrow Stairs upon attending the concert, the back catalog was still an emerging treat. Fortunately for me the setlist relied heavily on earlier material and I loved every second of the show. I was surrounded by high school kids who were singing every word and having the time of their lives and I couldn’t help get caught up in the excitement. This might have been my concert highlight of the year.

Go To Disc Or Show
1. All the reunion talk helped me re-find the beauty that is Houses of the Holy. You simply cannot get much better than this album. “No Quarter” is probably one of the greatest records ever recorded and can you get on a highway and NOT turn on The Song Remains the Same? I can’t.
2. "whose been touching these monkeys, Leave these poor sick monkeys alone, they’re sick, theyve got problems enough as it is" – this is just one of the many lines throughout Flight of the Conchords’ self titled 2008 release that cause fits of laughter. Much like The D, comedy albums with awesome music make for great listening and Flight’s full release is filled with absolutely great songs that just happen to be really funny.
3. Al Green Greatest Hits – Finding a greatest hits album as good as this one is a tough task and while his voice is not what it once was, its silky beauty is preserved forever on these classic, classic songs
4. I really only discovered my love of Death Cab for Cutie in 2008. I know I’m late to the party but I really fell in love with the band and Plans this year. I love the new album but Plans…, this is a GREAT album
5. Very few classic rock albums escaped my high school years without several dozen listens, but The Who’s Who’s Next was one of those few that I did not know too much, if anything, about. It took me years and years to fully understand and "get" The Who, but when I did, it was like an overflowing damn. Who’s Next is simply one of the greatest albums of all time and I haven’t stopped listening to it for years now and 2008 was no exception



Favorite 2008 Release
1. Mike Gordon- The Green Sparrow
2. Hiromi- Beyond Standard
3. Lotus- Hammerstrike
4. STS9- Peaceblaster
5. Aderbat- We Belong to the Sea

Favorite Reissue
1. R.E.M- Murmur

Go To Disc Or Show
1. Phish – A Live One
2. Lotus – ESS
3. Damien Rice – O
4. Umphrey’s McGee – Safety in Numbers
5. The White Stripes – Icky Thump


Favorite 2008 Release
1. Menahan Street Band Make The Road By Walking
2. Q-Tip The Renaissance
3. David Byrne & Brian Eno Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
4. Jenny Scheinman Crossing The Field
5. Charlie Hunter Baboon Strength

Favorite Reissues
1. Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Les Stances A Sophie

Go To Discs Or Shows
1. Shuggie Otis Inspiration Information
2. Sly & The Family Stone There’s A Riot Goin’ On
3. Q-Tip Kamaal The Abstract
4. Curtis Mayfield Curtis
5. Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy When The Spirit Returns

Favorite Live Performances
1. Sex Mob plays Sexotica with DJ Olive Abrons Art Center, NYC (9/27/08) 2. Medeski, Martin and Wood (and Marc Ribot and Steven Bernstein!) Prospect Park Bandshell, NYC (6/19/08)
3. William Parker’s Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (with youth choir) Vision Festival XIII, NYC (6/15/08) 4. Spiritual Unity (Marc Ribot/Roy Campbell/Henry Grimes/Chad Taylor) Issue Project Room, NYC (5/30/08)
5. Creative Music Studio Celebration (John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, MTO and more…) @ Symphony Space, NYC (10/24/08)



Favorite 2008 Release
1. Lindstr Where You Go I Go Too
2. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
3. The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed
4. Quiet Village – Silent Movie
5. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Favorite Reissue/Remix
1. The Shortwave Set – "Now Till ’69" (Aeroplane Remix)
2. Cut Copy – "Far Away" (Hercules & Love Affair remix)
3. Benzi & The Knocks – Jay-Z: American G-Funk

Go To Tracks, Discs Or Show
1. Easy Star All-Stars – "Let Down" (feat. Toots & The Maytals)
2. MGMT – "Kids", "Time to Pretend", and "Electric Feel"
3. Aeroplane – Resident Advisor Podcast
4. The Knife – "Heartbeats"
5. The National – Boxer

Favorite Live Performance
1. My Morning Jacket – 6/20/08, Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY
2. The Disco Biscuits – 7/18/08, Camp Bisco VII, ILCC, Mariaville, NY
3. Electron (Phish set) – 10/30/08, Highline Ballroom, New York, NY
4. The 7th Jammy Awards – 5/7/08, The Theater at MSG, New York, NY
5. Mixed Bag BYOB Party with Pet Cemetery and Orchard Lounge – 3/22/08,
Paul Robeson Theatre, Brooklyn, NY



Favorite 2008 Releases
1. White Denim: Exposion
2. Blues & Lasers: Blues & Lasers
3. Tea Leaf Green: Raise Up The Tent
4. The Raconteurs: Consolers Of The Lonely
5. A.A. Bondy: American Hearts

Favorite Reissue
1. Dennis Wilson: Pacific Ocean Blue
2. Rodriguez: Rodriguez
3. The Replacements Reissues

Go To Disc Or Show
1. The Hold Steady: Boys & Girls In America & Stay Positive
2. Jethro Tull: Thick As A Brick
3. White Denim: Let’s Talk About It
4. Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Live At Wetlands
5. My Morning Jacket: Austin Music Hall, March 13, 2008

Favorite Live Performance
1. My Morning Jacket: Radio City Music Hall June 20, 2008
2. White Denim: Club de Ville, March 14, 2008
3. Marco Benevento, Reed Mathis & Brad Barr, Sullivan Hall, January 31, 2008
4. The Decemberists, Terminal 5, November 5, 2008
5. U-Melt: HighLine Ballroom, January 1, 2008



Favorite 2008 Releases
1. Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band- Season of Changes
2. Jackie Greene- Giving Up the Ghost
3. Charles Lloyd- Rabo de Nube
4. The Wood Brothers- Loaded
5. Nate Wilson Group- Unbound

My top six live gigs, in reverse chronological order, include Surprise Me Mr. Davis & the Benevento Russo Duo at BB King’s on New Year’s Eve/Day the interlocking song structure of the night and the constant cross pollination, not to mention superb musicianship, made for a truly special NYE mash-up that up till that point had eluded me all year. Not too long before that was Phil Lesh Friends’ second Sunday matinee at the Nokia. The monster second set built around an outrageous “Cryptical” > “Dark Star” > “Other One” > “Mts. Of the Moon” > “Dark Star” > “Cryptical” was the best Grateful Dead music I heard in 08 especially the “Other One”. Honorable mention in that category goes to P & F’s mostly acoustic jam on the first Sunday, the stellar “Attics” > “Playing” encore at the Jones Beach summer tour closer, and DSO’s GOTV show, along with their “Music” filler on Governor’s Island.

Just about a month prior was Trey’s return to the Palace Theater in Albany. At just a couple nights into a very short tour, the band was comfortable on stage but still raring to go. They killed right from the opening notes of “Sand” to the final fist pumping of “Bug”, but people literally couldn’t give tickets away. A few months before that was Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at the Village Vanguard, a night of intensely heady jazz that almost leaned toward some otherly form of earthy, instrumental Americana. The drummer is a phenomenon and he’s surrounded with the very best compatriots, not the least of which is guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Honorable mention also goes to Blade with his other band, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, both at Philly’s Kimmel Center in the spring ( a show that sent the geriatric patrons running out mid set) and at Carnegie Hall in December (a celebration of Wayne’s 75th birthday).

Also in the instrumental vein was MMW’s Radiolarians show at the Klein in Bridgeport. Only the second show of the tour, the music was thick and dense and pushed boundaries as only MMW can. During what would become “Reliquary”, I was transported. Honorable mention also goes to the band for their groovetastic Celebrate Brooklyn gig, and Medeski’s participation in the Wood Brothers’ performance at the Bowery Ballroom in May. But the best show of the year was my first show of the year, Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff at the Narrows in Fall River in January, a whiskey warm night of wooden roots music in one of the coolest rooms on the eastern seaboard. The whole show smoldered and smoked, but the “Good Shepherd” late in the set burned, Barry’s lead causing even Jorma to gasp, laugh and applaud.



Favorite Live Performances
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Acoustic Show 9/1/08, Fox Theater – Boulder, CO
2. Galactic 11/8/08, Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
3. Phil Lesh & Friends – 1/28/08 & 1/29/08, Crystal Ballroom Portland, OR
4. Gov’t Mule & Umphrey’s McGee 8/31/08, Red Rocks Morrison, CO
5. Quick and Easy Boys 12/31/08 – The Edgefield – Troutdale, OR

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