In Concert: “And Toto, Too?” “Toto, Two!”

Toto at Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheatre, Grand Rapids Michigan, August 24, 2018.

Toto’s sold out my local outdoor shed twice in the past three years.  Last time through, they stacked the deck, playing plenty of hits and radio favorites.  This year, with the anniversary compilation 40 Trips Around the Sun to flog, they took more chances with a deep-cut setlist, a semi-acoustic storytellers interlude, and extended displays of their fearsome chops.  Riding a fresh wave of Internet love, they could do no wrong for the hyped-up crowd.

And the same held true for me; I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart (and possibly my critical faculties) for Toto.  A posse of Los Angeles studio aces melding Steely Dan’s shuffles, Boz Scaggs’ blue-eyed soul, crunchy proto-Van Halen guitar and proggy synthesizer fanfares, with the mission statement (from founding drummer Jeff Porcaro in Rolling Stone) “craft is content”?  No wonder rock critics hated their guts, especially when when they got triple platinum sales out of the box.  Their goal was to make sleek, catchy pop with a touch of musical ambition, get on radio and move records — not bare their souls, change the world, or even necessarily write sensible lyrics.  There’s an odd,  appealing purity to that aim, no matter how calculated the strategy.

Top 40 radio courts a different sound these days, but Toto still has a knack for the killer hook; kicking off, new songs “Alone” and “Spanish Sea” were every bit as engaging as the singalong version of “Hold the Line” and Toto IV’s “Lovers of the Night” that they framed.  Following spirited takes of tracks from forgotten-stepchild albums like Tambu and Turn Back, the band lit the fuse on Kingdom of Desire’s funky instrumental “Jake to the Bone;” guest keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Talpin (subbing for founder David Paich) and guitarist Steve Lukather stoked their lengthly solos to the boiling point, while synth whiz Steve Porcaro and the rhythm section (Shem von Schroeck on bass, Shannon Forest on drums, Lenny Castro on percussion) simmered underneath.  Building on the momentum, “Rosanna” was a foregone, happily welcomed conclusion to the first half, with singer Joseph Williams (the John Williams’ son!  Really!) and sax man Warren Ham helping bring the crowd to their feet.

The storytellers interlude — with everyone sitting on stools and Lukather playing acoustic guitar — had its charms, even though the six selections (including Porcaro’s “Human Nature” from Michael Jackson’s Thriller) were truncated to keep things moving.  Ramping up again, the band dove deeper into their catalog, holding the audience’s attention even through obscurities like the Dune soundtrack’s impressive “Desert Theme”.  But in the end, past was all prologue; the moment Lukather shouted, “Are you ready for that song?” and Castro and Forrest launched the polyrhythms of “Africa,” Meijer Gardens went joyously, deliriously nuts.  It was gonna take a lot to drag 2,000 fans away from that moment; they were all in — dancing, singing along, clapping during Castro’s exhilarating solo, chanting back and forth vocals with Williams, responding with a full-throated standing ovation.  Hard to beat an extended moment of pop ecstasy like that — even if you’re frightened of this thing that you’ve become.

One quick and grungy cover of Weezer’s “Hash Pipe” later (sadly, without Rivers Cuomo or “Weird Al” Yankovic in sight), Toto was done, the crowd went home happy, and my streak of satisfying shows in 2018 was unbroken.  Check out another review of the show, with an extensive photo gallery, here.

Setlist:

  • Alone
  • Hold the Line
  • Lovers in the Night
  • Spanish Sea
  • I Will Remember
  • English Eyes
  • Jake to the Bone
  • Lea
  • Rosanna
  • Storytellers interlude:
    • Georgy Porgy
    • Human Nature
    • Holyanna
    • No Love
    • Mushanga
    • Stop Loving You
  • Girl Goodbye
  • Lion
  • Dune (Desert Theme)
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Make Believe
  • Africa
  • Hash Pipe

 

— Rick Krueger

This Is All the Fault of Stranger Things …

So apparently, a Twitter user wanted Weezer to cover Toto’s “Africa,” after hearing the iconic 1980s yacht-rock classic on the season 1 soundtrack of Stranger Things.  After the meme went viral, in very short order:

  • Weezer tried to troll Twitter with a cover of “Rosanna.”  The masses were not appeased.
  • Four days later, the inevitable Weezer version of “Africa” dropped.  And it was a hit, scoring their first Alternative No. 1 song in 10 years.
  • Of course, Weezer now had to play “Africa” in concert; Toto synthesizer whiz Steve Porcaro even joined in the fun for the keyboard solo on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”  And last night, Weezer was joined by a very special guest for a even more very special solo:

 

  • Clearly enjoying the whole thing, Toto (currently on the US leg of their 40 Trips Around the Sun tour), have started covering a Weezer song for their encore:

 

  • And of course, Toto’s single of “Hash Pipe” will be released tomorrow.

All of which, to quote Robert Plant, makes me wonder:

  • Will Rivers Cuomo crash the stage when I see Toto live in a couple of weeks?
  • Are we witnessing the birth of a new supergroup, the likes of which the world has never seen?  Is a mashup of “Buddy Holly” and “Hold the Line” inevitable?
  • Is all this really the Upside Down’s revenge?
  • Can this astonishing turn of events be stopped before it’s too late?  Should we be frightened of this thing that it’s become?

On the other hand, perhaps we should all just relax.  And plan to tune in to season 3 of Stranger Things.  If only to see what music is hot in Sam Goody’s at … the Starcourt Mall …

 

— Rick Krueger

Progarchy’s Exclusive interview with Alan White of Yes

PROGARCHY EXCLUSIVE

An Interview with Yes’ Alan White (August 3, 2015)

Yes-Alan3

Prog Rock’s quintessential super group, Yes, will be heading out on an American tour again this summer/fall, including the third annual Cruise to the Edge in mid-November.  The most notable change in the line-up, of course, will be the absence of Chris Squire on bass—the first time ever for a Yes tour.

PROGARCHY’s Kevin McCormick recently spoke for with Yes drummer extraordinaire, Alan White, as he prepared for rehearsals for the upcoming tour.

____________________

PROGARCHY Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us.  I think I speak for all of the members of Progarchy.com in offering our condolences after the recent and sudden death of your colleague and friend, Chris Squire.  Obviously he was such an essential part of Yes, founding member and the only person to appear on every Yes album.  Are there plans to honor his memory in some way on the upcoming tour?

Alan White  Well, we’re going to start rehearsals on Monday and we’re going to put our heads together.  We’ve got numerous ideas and we’ve got to work out something to honor Chris.  Just how we’re going to do it, we haven’t really decided.

Chris Squire

PROGARCHY On your website, you wrote a touching note in his memory.  As a musician, I know how unique the musical relationship between the drummer and bassist is and how crucial it is to forming a solid foundation for the band’s sound.  Can you put your finger on what made your collaboration with Chris work so beautifully seamlessly?

AW Well yeah, it’s a question of similarity with each other.  And over the years it became a more brotherly kind of relationship.  Chris was almost part of my family.    We shared a lot of experiences together and we played together for 43 years.  So when you play together with someone for that long you get to know all of the facets of their playing and visa versa, him with myself.  So it made it easy for us to work out some kind of flow in the rhythm section in what Yes was creating.  And it was a special relationship.  It probably never will be the same.  All the same, he did ask that we keep this going, and that I keep it going.  He said just do whatever you can do.  And that’s a good insight, to just keep things very much forward.

PROGARCHY I imagine it must have been difficult to choose to continue with the planned tour.  Was there a deciding factor for you?  

AW That was what Chris wanted. He didn’t want everything to come to a halt just because he was ill.  And while he was ill he had a very positive outlook to the future.  He said, “Well, I’ll go into hospital for four to six weeks, I’ll get rid of this and I’ll be back on tour next spring.”

YES latmac CDVD cover lo

PROGARCHY Well, the fans will certainly miss him and I know the band will too.  Any hints on the set list for the upcoming shows or will that be decided at the rehearsals?

AW Well we’ve put a set list together, but we’ve not rehearsed. We’ve got a few things to try out and see if they’ll work out or not.  That will determine how we approach the set list.  It’s not confirmed yet, but we have a good idea the type of set we want to do, because we’re touring with Toto who are probably going to do a lot of their [popular tracks].  We’re not going to play whole albums like we’ve done in the past few years.  We’re just going to do a great selection of Yes music that people love to hear in concert.

PROGARCHY At first glance, Yes and Toto doesn’t seem like the most obvious double-bill.  How did it come about?

AW Well it sounded pretty good to me.  Maybe … because we know the guys in the band so well.  Steve Porcaro and all the them, I’ve known those guys for years.  They’re all super-nice guys and we get along really well.

PROGARCHY Any chances that you might join forces?  

AW I doubt it.  You know, once you get on the road you have a set list to get into and a time line you keep to.  There’s not really time to work that kind of thing out.  But I’ve played with Steve Porcaro and Billy Sherwood [on the Pink Floyd tribute album, Back Against the Wall].

Yes Tour

PROGARCHY So is it Yes with Toto or…?

AW It’s going to be Yes and Toto.  They’ll be opening for us every night, but it’s really more of a kind of double-billing.

PROGARCHY It’s amazing to me how much energy you bring to your live performances.  When I saw Yes perform in Austin in 2013, I was impressed with the power in your playing.  For you in particular, it must be extremely physically demanding.  

AW [laughing] Well it all depends on what part of the tour you go to when we’re on the road!  You know, none of us are spring chickens anymore, obviously.  And traveling is really what gets you.  If we didn’t have to travel on a daily basis we’d be in relatively good shape every evening.  But sometimes you’re just really tired when you get to the evening and the last thing you want to do is share music.  But it’s really funny how the body turns around and rises to the occasion.  I guess when you walk out on stage and see all of the people out there, the body just shrugs all that off and gets to it.

PROGARCHY Has your relationship with Yes’ music changed over time?  Are there any songs that you enjoy more now than when they were recorded?

AW Not really.  All of Yes’ music is pretty challenging to play.  Each song has got its own demands on what to play, and how to play, and the way to play it.  So you have to readjust yourself to all of that framework….I have played some of them quite a few thousand times.  So it’s about getting back into the mold and making it work.

PROGARCHY Are you surprised at all to still be playing with Yes after so many years?

AW [laughs] Well, I mean, yeah.  Eventually, when I joined the band I said, “I’ll give you guys three months and see if I enjoy it and you give me three months and see if you enjoy it as a band.”  And I’m still here forty-tree years later, so there must be something working.

PROGARCHY You had commented a while back about the current line-up of Yes is one of the best there’s been and Jon Davison’s working out well.  Are you still feeling that?

AW Jon Davison is an excellent vocalist and all-around musician.  He’s a super nice guy and very easy work to with.

PROGARCHY It’s amazing to me that Yes is still touring after 40 years.  Is there an element to progressive rock that allows it to reach across decades and generations?

AW I guess the main thing is that everybody strives to make Yes a well-respected, high-standard-of-musicianship kind of band.  When we perform, everybody gives 110 percent. If one part of the band isn’t clicking on all eight cylinders or whatever, you can tell, because it affects everybody else and their whole performance.

When we’re all firing on all cylinders, there’s no other band like it.

PROGARCHY Indeed!  Thank you so much for all of the great music over the years and good luck on the upcoming tour.

AW Alright, man.

Yes-Alan4

30 years after taking “Drastic Measures”, John Elefante revisits Kansas

Any rock group that has been around for a few decades has seen its share of line-up changes. The same is true several times over for certain prog groups, some having a near legendary reputation for players coming and going, returning and re-leaving, rinsing and repeating. Yes comes to mind, along with King Crimson, Asia, and Kansas. The latter has essentially (if not precisely) had three different incarnations in the forty years since it formed in 1973: the original/current one (1973-1981; 1985-present), the one with John Elefante replacing Steve Walsh as lead singer/keyboardist (1982-84), and the line-up with Steve Morse taking the place of Kerry Livgren as lead guitarist (1985-89). Violinist Robbie Steinhardt has come and gone several times over the years; the two stalwarts have been drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams, who have appeared on every Kansas album. (A complete breakdown is available here)

The 1980s brought challenges stylistic, cultural, and technological in nature for most prog groups (Yes, Genesis, etc.) that tasted or enjoyed significant success in the 1970s . Much is made of the influence of punk in the demise of ambitious, complex prog albums, but other factors were in play. Those included the advance of electronic instrumentation and production values that were intertwined with the arrival of New Wave Music, something of a sophisticated, artsy cousin of punk. Also notable was the rise of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) in the mid-70s, which johnelefante_neweventually narrowed the focus and homogenized the content of music-oriented radio. It is rather fascinating, in considering the groups Yes, Genesis, and Kansas, how each went through big line-up changes in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then experienced massive successes in the first part of the Eighties with songs and albums that were less complex, more commercial, and often very much in keeping with the AOR sounds of the time. Journey, the band that (arguably) best embodied the AOR “sound”—or at least approach—was originally formed in the mid-1970s as a rather “meandering jazz-rock” , prog-ish band, finally arriving on the winning formula when singer/songwriter Steve Perry joined the group in 1977. And there is no doubt that Asia was formed by four prog giants in order to produce radio-friendly music that could—and did, of course—move truckloads of units. 

Kansas, meanwhile, had its biggest hit with “Dust In the Wind” (what, you’ve heard of it?), which reached #6 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1978. Yet the song was not the typical Kansas song up to that point: it was quite short—just over three minutes long)—quite simple, and quite sparse, with just vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, and a great melody line (not to mention some overtly existential lyrics shot through with palpable angst). But, having achieved remarkable success, the band began to show the wear of constant touring and being pushed to have further commercial success. In addition, band founder and primary songwriter Livgren announced during the Monolith tour in 1980 that he had converted to Christianity after years of obvious spiritual seeking (many of the lyrics on the Monolith album were influenced by The Urantia Book). Later in 1980, Livgren released his first solo album, Seeds of Change, which featured overtly Christian lyrics. With discord growing, Walsh finally left Kansas in October 1981. The year before, Walsh had released his first solo album, Schemer-Dreamer, which featured Kansas band mates Livgren, Williams and Ehart, as well as the great Steve Morse, who would eventually become the lead guitarist of Kansas when Walsh rejoined the group in 1985 (yes, keeping track of this stuff can be challenging!).

Which brings me, finally, to John Elefante.

Continue reading “30 years after taking “Drastic Measures”, John Elefante revisits Kansas”

30 years after taking “Drastic Measures”, John Elefante revisits Kansas

Any rock group that has been around for a few decades has seen its share of line-up changes. The same is true several times over for certain prog groups, some having a near legendary reputation for players coming and going, returning and re-leaving, rinsing and repeating. Yes comes to mind, along with King Crimson, Asia, and Kansas. The latter has essentially (if not precisely) had three different incarnations in the forty years since it formed in 1973: the original/current one (1973-1981; 1985-present), the one with John Elefante replacing Steve Walsh as lead singer/keyboardist (1982-84), and the line-up with Steve Morse taking the place of Kerry Livgren as lead guitarist (1985-89). Violinist Robbie Steinhardt has come and gone several times over the years; the two stalwarts have been drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams, who have appeared on every Kansas album. (A complete breakdown is available here)

The 1980s brought challenges stylistic, cultural, and technological in nature for most prog groups (Yes, Genesis, etc.) that tasted or enjoyed significant success in the 1970s . Much is made of the influence of punk in the demise of ambitious, complex prog albums, but other factors were in play. Those included the advance of electronic instrumentation and production values that were intertwined with the arrival of New Wave Music, something of a sophisticated, artsy cousin of punk. Also notable was the rise of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) in the mid-70s, which johnelefante_neweventually narrowed the focus and homogenized the content of music-oriented radio. It is rather fascinating, in considering the groups Yes, Genesis, and Kansas, how each went through big line-up changes in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then experienced massive successes in the first part of the Eighties with songs and albums that were less complex, more commercial, and often very much in keeping with the AOR sounds of the time. Journey, the band that (arguably) best embodied the AOR “sound”—or at least approach—was originally formed in the mid-1970s as a rather “meandering jazz-rock” , prog-ish band, finally arriving on the winning formula when singer/songwriter Steve Perry joined the group in 1977. And there is no doubt that Asia was formed by four prog giants in order to produce radio-friendly music that could—and did, of course—move truckloads of units. 

Kansas, meanwhile, had its biggest hit with “Dust In the Wind” (what, you’ve heard of it?), which reached #6 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1978. Yet the song was not the typical Kansas song up to that point: it was quite short—just over three minutes long)—quite simple, and quite sparse, with just vocals, acoustic guitar, violin, and a great melody line (not to mention some overtly existential lyrics shot through with palpable angst). But, having achieved remarkable success, the band began to show the wear of constant touring and being pushed to have further commercial success. In addition, band founder and primary songwriter Livgren announced during the Monolith tour in 1980 that he had converted to Christianity after years of obvious spiritual seeking (many of the lyrics on the Monolith album were influenced by The Urantia Book). Later in 1980, Livgren released his first solo album, Seeds of Change, which featured overtly Christian lyrics. With discord growing, Walsh finally left Kansas in October 1981. The year before, Walsh had released his first solo album, Schemer-Dreamer, which featured Kansas band mates Livgren, Williams and Ehart, as well as the great Steve Morse, who would eventually become the lead guitarist of Kansas when Walsh rejoined the group in 1985 (yes, keeping track of this stuff can be challenging!).

Which brings me, finally, to John Elefante.

Back in late 1980, he was a young 22-year-old just getting started, along with his brother Dino (guitar), in the music business. He was also a recent convert to Evangelical Christianity and a huge fan of both Kansas, Yes, Gentle Giant, and other prog groups. In this 1992 interview, he explained how he came to be the lead singer of Kansas: he knew someone who knew someone who knew…and the rest was history. “I remember, the first thing the band wanted to do was to go over some of their early material,” he said, “They’d been off the road for a few months at that time, and I actually knew some of the songs better than they did!” The other two top candidates for the job were reportedly Warren Ham and Michael Gleason, both of whom would eventually form the group A.D. with Livgren in 1983. Kansas hit the road for one of the highest grossing tours of 1981 and then released Vinyl Confessions, which included the hit song, “Play the Game Tonight” (#17 on Billboard) and three songs penned by the Elefante brothers and one (“Play On”) co-written by Livgren and John Elefante. 

What is notable about Vinyl Confessions is the obvious move in the AOR direction; the only song that I would generally describe as “prog-gish” is the final cut, “Crossfire”, penned by Livgren. AllMusic.com is in the ball park in writing that “it was getting hard to distinguish Kansas from Foreigner and Journey.” The big difference was that while Journey and Foreigner specialized in love songs, the new Kansas material was lyrically much more in the vein of early ’80s CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). Songs such as “Borderline”, which urged listeners to make a choice between being “hot and cold”, obviously referred to the church of Laodicea, chastised in the Book of Revelation for being “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold” (Rev 3:15). The next album, Drastic Measures, which features the worst Kansas album cover of all time. was Elefante’s second and last with Kansas, and it was, to put it nicely, a mixed affair. Livgren was already moving on to A.D., and at times it is hard to believe it was produced by the same band that had, just a few years before, put out Leftoverture (1976)and Point of Know Return (1977). As Elefante would bluntly admit ten years later: “I didn’t like ‘Drastic Measures,’ and we even said to the band, ‘Guys, this is almost an Elefante Brothers album. This isn’t what Kansas is all about.’” Steinhardt had left the band at the end of 1982 and the band was now an overly AOR group, with just one song, “Mainstream”, breaking the six minute mark—and it was a Livgren-penned tune that openly skewered the direction of both the music world and his band:

It’s so predictable and everybody judges by the numbers that you’re selling,
Just crank ’em out on the assembly line and chart ’em higher (higher, higher),
Just keep it simple boys it’s gonna be alright, as long as you’re inside the Mainstream,
are we moving too far away?
Is it worth it if it doesn’t pay?

That said, the album does demonstrate that the young Elefante, in addition to being a fine vocalist, could write a great hook and a good tune. The hit, “Fight Fire with Fire” (#3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart) is a good example, but personal favorites include “Andi”, which is a precursor of sorts to songs such as Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”, with its imploring, ruminating lyrics about a young girl trying to find her way in life (“And you’re not just anyone; don’t be ashamed”), and “Don’t Ever Take Your Love Away”, which ambiguously works as either a love song or a modern psalm: “‘Cause nothing means a thing unless you’re here/To live without your love’s my only fear/I just want to let you know/I can’t make it on my own.”

After Kansas broke up in 1984, John Elefante embarked on a prolific and award-winning career (multiple Grammy and Dove awards) in CCM as a producer, songwriter, and bandleader (Mastedon). Although he received offers that promised success in the broader music world (such as an invite to be lead singer of Toto in the late 1980s), Elefante was committed to working with Christian artists, including Guardian, Petra, Bride, and numerous others and, later, producing some of his own albums. During the 1990s, he released three solo albums, none of which I’ve listened to. In fact, I’ve not paid much attention to Elefante’s work for many years until he released his new solo album, On My Way to the Sun, his first in fourteen years, which came out on May 7th. I saw the album on amazon.com, noticed that Kansas members Williams and David Ragsdale (violin) performed on the 11-minute-long opening cut, “This Is How the Story Goes”, and I had a listen. My immediate impression was, “This is Kansas, circa 1978!” That was not entirely accurate, but similarities are obvious: the lush harmonies, the violin-driven opening, the very Kansas-esque guitar licks from Williams. In truth, the song is a near perfect marriage of mid-1970s and early 1980s Kansas, but with superior production and some frankly evangelistic lyrics:

And this is how the story goes:
You must believe it all, my friend,
from the beginning to the end.
Everyone lives forever, we just have to choose where,
Because the virgin had a son,
and the stone was rolled away,
so how can we can be terminal,
because He lives today.

Granted, those sort of direct lyrics aren’t going to attract many new listeners (I do like the line about being “terminal”; it reminds me somehow of Part IV if Eliot’s “East Coker”). But, while I’m not a big fan of overtly evangelistic rock tunes, I think “This Is How the Story Goes” is a really fine bit of prog-rock. It is perfectly produced and performed, has a killer hook, develops wonderfully, and is both rocking and thoughtful. Another plus, and a pleasant surprise, is just how great Elefante sounds. He has always been a fine singer, and he displays not only range, but an admirable combination of confidence and reserve, never over-singing or being indulgent; there isn’t an unnecessary note on the album.

The other nine songs are certainly in the AOR/”classic rock” vein, but with lots of nice twists and details. “Where Have the Old Times Gone” has some obvious tips of the hat to Led Zeppelin and Foreigner, but also features violin work that is directly from the Kansas playbook. The Foreigner influence is front and center on the title track while “All I Have to Do” could have fit nicely on Vinyl Confessions, albeit with an updated sound. “The Awakening” begins with a huge, warm wash of harmonized vocals that then leads into lush guitar-driven verse and chorus that reminds me of some of Livgren’s work with A.D. “Half the Way Home” featured more lush harmonies, over the top of a 38-Special-like guitar riff; the lead vocal, oddly enough, sounds like Doug (Dug) Pinnick of King’s X in a few spots, and there is a huge sing-a-long chorus (did I mention the album has big hooks?). “We All Fall Shorts” is a largely acoustic number that starts with a Beatles/Phil Keaggy vibe before moving into a very Yes-ish chorus. “Don’t Hide Away” returns to the Foreigner influenced sound, but with a very Styx-like chorus, along with a short section of rap (yes, that’s right). “This Time” offers a somewhat abrupt shift in tone and lyrics, a moody, minor-keyed (and quite emotional) song about a pregnant girl who decides, at the last moment, to keep her baby rather than have an abortion. The closing track, “Confess”, is, frankly, a praise-and-worship tune, but a very well done one at that: “Fall down on your knees/Praise Him/And fall to your knees/And confess with your lips/that Jesus is Lord.” 

While the influences are obvious, there’s never a sense that Elefante is trying to write, say, a “Foreigner” or “Kansas” tune. Rather, this is a very cohesive-sounding album that works because Elefante is an exceptional musician, songwriter, and producer who seamlessly marries a myriad of loves and influences without losing his way or his focus. He knows prog-rock and classic rock better than most, and he does a fine, even exceptional, job of crafting songs that draw on those sources. Anyone who enjoyed the Elefante-fronted Kansas, or likes AOR/classic rock with lyrics that are unapologetically Christian will enjoy this well-crafted album. Having said that, here is the opening cut:

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