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Gargamel - Watch For The Umbles  CD (album) cover

WATCH FOR THE UMBLES

Gargamel

Eclectic Prog


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Prognut
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Well, this one was a nice surprise for me! Since I have loved Scandinavian output for long time. A hybrid between KC (mid-period) and Anekdoten (Mellow/dark parts, at least on their 3 initial albums). This Oslo-based Norwegian quintet play the usual instrumentation (guitar, Keys, bass and drums) but, also include the beautiful mellotron, they expand their sound with sax, flute and cello; which by the way add a more dark atmosphere thru the entire album (something that I missed on Anekdoten recent releases, but that is another story..). Long tracks, and as they described on their web site, some of them has been remixed for this release, adding cello (a great musical idea, IMHO). Extended Melancholic moods, with also psychedelic and jazzy interludes!!

My only complain, even though is a very good and interesting debut album!, is the fact that no new ideas are presented, and definitively will put them in the Mid-70'. Not easily digested with one spin, and will have to grow on you! Which is a good thing on my personal experience. A very promising band, that I personally will keep an eye on, for further releases and where they will be going musically. 3.5 to 4 Stars!!!

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Send comments to Prognut (BETA) | Report this review (#74656)
Posted Tuesday, April 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first listen to this amazing record made bay the prog band Gargamel was enough to capture me. The air to Van Der Graaf Generator, mixed with the dark and tensious Anekdoten passages really capture me, but besides of all that, we are in front an amazing new band.

In my point of view, i think that the rock, in general, is suffering a strange "comeback" to the old ways. The pressence of bands like The Strokes, White Stripes and (remiting to this site) groups like Liquid Scarlet, Paatos, Wobbler and this Gargamel are the proof that young kids see in the past all the elements to build amazing and incredibly good recordings. "Watch for the Umbles", in particular, is extremely well balanced, the instrumental sections are very complex and very tied, and the sound of the cello and the flute like rock instruments give to this album a different approach, more organic, more honnest.

Songs are good all of them, but in my personal taste are 'Strayed Again' and 'Into the Cold'. This is an very good album and yes, maybe the sound is known for the majority, but certainly shows how new generations see in teh past the inspiration to recreate that days, when music was honest. Gargamel, and their debut, is the better example of this.

An outstanding Debut!!!

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Send comments to alioshak (BETA) | Report this review (#76589)
Posted Friday, April 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
dltF90@hamp.h
4 stars Papa Smurf and the rest of the Smurfs should be plenty worried now. This Gargamel knows what it's doing and is not to be underestimated! Sorry, I couldn't resist. Anyway, here is yet another Norwegian band that plays progressive music reminiscent of the 1970's. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. If you like bands like VDGG, King Crimson, and Anekdoten; you will love Gargamel.

Gargamel's music is very dark, ominous, and foreboding. This isn't something you listen to when you want to feel and warm and cheery. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the opening track Ties and the music of Matthew Parmenter / Discipline. It's a great instrumental track with lots of angular, disjointed organ and guitar riffs. Parts of the track really bring forth memories of Canto IV from Discipline's Unfolded Like Staircase album. Strayed Again is starts off with plenty of haunting and melancholy cello and a slow, evil sounding progression. The vocals are both depressed and tortured sounding with the occasional angry snarl. The band won't earn any special awards in the vocals category, but they do fit the music well enough not to detract from what they are trying to communicate. The music then extends into a rather jazzy sounding jam with some wonderful cello playing augmented with flute and some tasty bass work. This is followed by another jazzy jam featuring some excellent electric piano, bass, and great understated drum and deft cymbal work.

Throughout the rest of the songs you begin to hear that there are some very skilled musicians here with a definite talent for creating interesting, moody music. They make wonderful use of a lot of varied musical instruments to give each composition a distinct texture and sonic identity. The band uses as much cello as early Anekdoten, just without the intense King Crimson like bombastic accompaniment. Their sound still has those influences, but they are also mixed rather well with jazz and psychedelia. I really enjoy what I've heard on Watch for the Umbles and can't wait to hear what they come up with next.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#80987)
Posted Monday, June 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This debut album by Norwegian band GARGAMEL could not fascinate me right from the beginning as did the one by their country fellows WOBBLER. Though absolutely appealing to me due to its dark atmosphere and VDGG-reminiscence initially I dismissed it as just another one of those second class clone products. Right away I've to say repeated listening to this work have proved me wrong. Certainly it's quite obvious where these guys got their inspiration from but actually VDGG is just one of their influences albeit the strongest one, due to the similarity of the lead singer's voice to Peter Hammill's alone. And in fact Tom Uglebakken's vocal capability is almost the only point of criticism to be found on this excellent debut. By no way he's a bad singer but overall I've to say that to some extent he seams trying to emulate PH's intonation a bit too hard and I dare say he must fail. But anyway there are only minor points apart from that in this piece of work to niggle about. This album presents an excellent blend of old school prog from various influences (next to VDGG i.e. GG, FLOYD and CRIMSON) with frowning Scandinavian folk music. But let's come to the actual music presented in these five compositions none of them being a complete failure by the way.

First track "Tics" is one of the two shorter tracks on here, the only one without any vocals and as well the darkest and heaviest one. Dominated by a dark Hammond sound and Crimson-esque guitar it's spreading an extremely somber atmosphere which is even reinvorced by a mumbling bass play. After some tempo shifts during its eight minutes running time some bubbling synths and short pads of e-piano are rounding up the sound characteristics to an overall quite appealing impression.

"Strayed Again" is the most odd one I'd say containing a section filled with some chamber music-like improvisations on cello,flute and keyboards. This middle part is certainly something of aquired taste and needs repeated sessions. The initial part starting in a more sluggish vein with cello, Mellotron and Hammond really conveys very well an atmosphere of angst and Uglebakken's depressed and angry vocals are fitting quite well to the music here. Then after the pace has changed to a more up-tempo one there is this cello/flute improv which I found actually quite enjoyable and well done after a couple of listens. But after a short section of "normal" keys and guitar play we get exposed to another quite dissonant keyboard section lasting from 7:00 to about 9:30 which I honestly find rather redundant and even disturbing. Thereafter the more furious finish dominated by cello and saxophon is again brilliant. Without the mentioned sequence this track would deserve to be called the best one of the album. But still after substracting these 2 ½ minutes it has more than 10 min of excellent music to offer.

"Below The Water" is the shortest, maybe the most memorable but probably as well the weakest track here. Mainly dwelling in a quite slow pace and dominated by cello and Mellotron with lead vocals that sound here a bit too much rigid I've to say it does not exhibit too many inspiring moments.

"Into The Cold "is at least in my view the best and most divers compositions. With its several tempo and mood shifts and varied usage of instruments it reminds me in some way to second album by Italian band GERMINALE (where they had a VDGG-song as bonus BTW, so this association is not that far away ). After an intro with Mellotron we have some rather cheerful (!) flute, then it changes into a more upbeat pace and some multi-layered vocals are brining GG into mind. Thereafter a really amazing cello/flute interplay follows, then lead vocals are entering and a distinct cello is added up to keys and flute play. Later on a saxophone part is starting and after the pace is changing suddenly into a quite furious one reminiscences of VDGG are becoming even stronger here.

The final "Agitated Mind" is with almost 18 minutes the longest, most mellow and together with the previous one my favorite track on this album. This is also the place where reminiscences to 70's psychedelic/space rock bands like FLOYD, ELOY or NEKTAR are becoming very obvious. It starts in a rather sluggish pace with e-piano and Hammond and Uglebakken's depressed vocals filled with angst fit perfectly here I've to say. After an interplay of cello and flute it switches into a more up-speed pace with flute play (is that Focus playin'?) and some keyboard padding leads into a part where Uglebakken is sharing lead vocals with Morten Tornes. "My mind is filled with storms from the past as they try to push me over again." That's only a short citation of the fascinating lyrics in general on this album. The final part spreads a nice dreamy atmosphere with floydian type of keyboards.

Finally I'd like to say that GARGAMEL's debut certainly did not become a masterpiece but a very interesting and after a couple of spins enjoyable album in the spirit of 70's classical Prog. I'm quite sure that there are still bigger and more innovative things to come from these highly talented musicians and I'd recommend this album to any fan of 70's Prog and especially to those who love more the darker side of it.

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#85603)
Posted Thursday, August 03, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars GARGAMEL sound like a mixture of VDGG, ANEKDOTEN and KING CRIMSON.The vocalist really sounds like Peter Hammill, and that is where the VDGG sound comes from.

"Ties" is the only instrumental on the album, and it's dark and intense to say the least. An ominous intro gives way to a heavy mid-paced melody which ends 1 1/2 minutes in. A lone guitar line is joined by other instruments. Check out the deep bass before 3 minutes ! The tempo picks up after 5 minutes. Guitar arrives 6 minutes in just ripping it up. A calm 7 minutes in before it kicks back in for a big finish. Nice. "Strayed Again" has this heavy, brooding undercurrent of sound with lots of mellotron. He really sounds like Hammill 2 minutes in. Cello and chunky bass after 3 1/2 minutes. Flute joins in. The calm 7 minutes in is almost haunting. Keys and fat bass follow. A full sound returns 10 minutes in with those Hammill-like vocals. "Below The Water" is the shortest track at just under 7 minutes. Melancholic with vocals as it plods along. Some cello before mellotron comes in and vocal outbursts. Guitar 2 1/2 minutes in, cello after 3 minutes as the guitar continues. Themes are repeated. This is my least favourite song.

"Into The Cold" starts with mellotron and is not as heavy as the first three. Flute,cello and piano stand out. There is a SINKADUS feel to the flute in this one. There is some sax 7 minutes in that continues as the tempo picks up with organ leading the way. Flute comes in until we get a calm after 10 minutes. It picks back up to end the song. The final track "Agitated Mind" is the longest track at almost 18 minutes and differs in that there is a PINK FLOYD, psychedelic feel to it. The vocals are more theatrical as well on this one. This one is fairly laid back except for powerful organ and more aggressive drumming after 5 minutes that continue until before 7 minutes in. That section is also where the vocals are at their most theatrical. We also get an uptempo melody before 8 minutes that is flute-led until the organ takes over a minute later. A calm 10 1/2 minutes in with spoken words that are kind of funny. 12 minutes in we get back to that laid back, psychedelic vibe from earlier. That's the way the song ends.

This album was a very pleasant surprise for me. Excellent !

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#89609)
Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars It was the year 2002, when a new band, called GARGAMEL moved on the stage of the progressive rock theater. 4 years later, the smart norwegian guys produced their first album, they gave it the name WATCH FOR THE UMBLES. It was an album full of ideas, full of great instrumental work (especially on the cello and the flutes), few chant and very long tracks.

You could clearly hear GARGAMEL's influences here: KING CRIMSON, ANGLAGARD and WOBBLER (allright, I don't really know if the last band was one of their influences but sometimes they sound very similar to that band, especially in the first song of the album, "Tics"). Sometimes I even heard some PINK FLOYD influences (especially in the last song "Agitated Mind").

All in all the album was very dreamy and sounded somehow exotic. The frequent use of the cello gave this album often a sad touch, the chant may not have been everybody's taste, I have to admit that I did not like it either as I heard it for the first time, but the oftener I listened to that CD the more I liked the chant. Now I think it fits perfectly to that strange style of this band.

However, this very less known band (I guess so) has created something new and if these guys go on as hitherto they can become very succesfull because they have a lot of potential.

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Send comments to Badabec (BETA) | Report this review (#92657)
Posted Saturday, September 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars First full record from this Norwegian (Oslo-based) retro-prog quintet, but unlike most Scandinavian groups they do not based their music on Genesis, Yes and Crimson, but rather on a cross of Crimson and VdGG which seems to give them an edge as well as the constant use of the cello (something Anekdoten has lately completely phased out unfortunately). If Norway is known for White Wwillow and lately Wobbler, the country had also seen in the previous decade Ravana's sole album, which had the same kind of dark melancholic and desperate ambiances. And although Gargamel comes close to Ravana, Gargamel fails to match the incredibly moody, doomy and gloomy atmospheres of their predecessors. Why this comparison? Well for one, the apocalyptic and lugubrious artworks of both albums, but also for musical reasons.

Although I can appreciate retro-prog much better than neo-prog, the one thing that we can say is that retro-prog is not trying to be original or even inventive and Gargamel's debut album is neither. But compared with Sinkadus, Wobbler or others, they chose to aim towards a sort mix of Crimson with Hammill's singing, which does give us a rest from the Genesis and Yes imitator. But this does not mean that Gargamel's adventures are flawless either. If the opening Ties (Tics?) is somewhere between Anekdoten's debut and Crimson (Starless' middle section), the next track Strayed Again is more reminiscent of Discipline's Staircase album (the best US retro prog IMHO) and VdGG's Godbluff with an rather brilliant flute-cello duo and the Fender Rhodes improv following it.

So you get the message: not much new under the midnight sun or even under the midday moons. And their third track Below The Water is certainly not my fave and thankfully it is kept short. I am only half enthused by this debut album, because the music is simply too derivative and most tracks, although impressively played and executed, they all fail to convince me except when they are more improvising. There is only one song standing out, Into The Cold, again mostly because of the excellent musical interludes (those excellent flute-cellos-mellotrons "passe d'armes" and a sudden sax break unfortunately a tiny bit ruined by the Graaf-esque electronics effect on both the sax and organ) rather than the actual songwriting. The album closes on a rather sedated almost 18-min Agitated (sound asleep ;-) Mind, which is again interesting if you are not too discerning about derivative music. Another great flute excursion on this track but some clumsy songwritings are the main remarks on this one.

I may sound/read harsh on Gargamel's debut album, but it is also evident that these guys are not debutants anymore (their EP demo is almost four years old, now) and therefore I was expecting a stronger personality that is simply lacking. But let's face it, with retro-prog groups, you simply have to be severe to avoid copycats or plagiarists, and it is not yet certain Gargamel will avoid this pitfall. Definitely one of the better albums of this year along with TMV's Amputecture.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#99986)
Posted Thursday, November 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Of all the comparisons I’ve heard for this band, Anekdoten is the one that rings the truest. Sharply formed keyboard arrangements throughout, mellotron and Hammond abound along with the wonderful sounds of the cello, flute, and stilted clavinet. Guitar as well and fairly compared to King Crimson of the mid- to late-seventies. But I disagree with many who say these guys are seventies throwbacks. The music here is a careful blend of experimental rock, maybe even a bit of well-disguised math, and some of the best intentions of pop-influenced progressive rock at the end of its heyday. Which were the latter seventies of course, but that music didn’t have the range of this stuff.

What were left of the progressive bands by that time were steeped in pompous and climactic arrangements, pop-tinged melodic passages, and usually trite lyrics. That isn’t the case here, although the vocals are the one part I could probably do just as well without. Not bad, even somberly complementing the music in most cases. Just not necessary.

There are a couple places where you can hear something like a Krautrock-like tone, particularly on “Below the Water” and at points during “Agitated Mind”. At other times the music is more melodic, and still others come off as bordering on folkish. And not just because of the flute – in the middle “Agitated Mind” there is a guitar plucking section with flute and vocals piped through some sort of area mike that comes off sounding like some obscure old folk bands like Elonkorjuu or Seventh Dawn, and yes – even the more well-known Peter Hamill.

Another positive note is that again like so much experimental rock; all the tracks here are quite long, ranging from around seven minutes to nearly eighteen. So there’s no abrupt cessation or even need for a climactic finish. And that’s actually one of the strong points of this album – the finishes. Except for “Below the Water” which simply fades away, the band finds innovative ways for all the tracks here to finish. “Into the Cold”, which also has the most aggressive tempo and therefore ranks as my favorite, culminates in a jazzy instrumental; “Agitated Mind” has a moody lulling sleepy ending; Strayed Again’s vocals wind to a close; and “Tics” does end abruptly but only because it sounds like the logical thing to do at that point.

The cello and mellotron are major plusses for me. Both these instruments are almost impossible to play badly as far as I’m concerned, and add immensely to what would otherwise come off as a bit hollow and unformed.

Don’t know much about these guys, but I suspect that if they can stay together this will be a band to watch in years to come. Looks like from their web site that there has already been quite a bit of turnover, but hopefully the band will stabilize around a solid core and crank out some really impressive releases in the future. This one is closer to four stars than to three, but I suspect the band is capable of much more given the time to develop. Well recommended.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#135524)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars Talented new band hailing from the cold country of Norway and playing some sort of dark and psychedelic progressive rock.Formed in 2001 initially as trio,the founding members were soon to be joined by Jon Edmund Hansen and Geir Tornes and recorded a three-track EP the next yea.At the end of 2002 Leif Erlend Hjelmen jumped on board with his cello and GARGAMEL wernt on to write three more tracks to be included in their debut along with the EP's compositions.''Watch for the umbles'' came out in February 2006 on the Swedish labelTransubstans records .

If you like ANEKDOTEN then stop by and read this review,GARGAMEL produce an impressive dark and atmospheric retro-prog,based on some FRIPP-ian guitars,A VAN DER GRAAFGENERATOR-like psychedelia,KING CRIMSON-esque early symphoniscism and a light Canterbury twist.The album is heavily led by a mass of strong Hammond organ parts,followed by thrilling mellotron and some scarce spacey synth effects here and there.Most of the song structures contain alternating solid rhythms, upon which the musicians torture their instruments with weird solos and constant breaks:Flutes,keys and guitars are all over the place.Add to this complicated stuff the nice work of Leif Erlend Hjelmen,which reminds me of ANEKDOTEN's female power,cellist Anna Sofi Dahlberg or also a bit of WHITE WILLOWS' works.Slow tempos are often met when the vocals of Tom Uglebakken,are present,which by the way aren't GARGAMEL's strong point,keeping a safe procedure of delivering the lyrics.A few flute-based drives are not far from the Canterbury sound,while a couple of tracks contain also some trully interesting sax solos,interplaying with the rhythm section and the organ...This is an album of long tracks,varied insrumentation, haunting atmospheres, balanced complexity and most of all,a sophisticated approach to music.

Fans of KING CRIMSON,VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR,CIRCUS or modern bands like ANEKDOTEN,MEN OF LAKE or AREKNAMES will definitely love this album.For the rest,be warned that the album contains some really serious music,on which you should spend sometime.Nice and intricate discovery...3,5 stars.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#211847)
Posted Monday, April 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is another Northern band who really needs to be considered as a good player on the prog scene. Their name was appealing to me: "Gargamel" is the one of the sorcerer who wants to destroy the Smurfs. This is one of the best known Belgian comics (with another 50 other ones probably). Being a musical desert (or almost), my country (Belgium) still has brought some good stuff to the world (beers, chocolates, and comics).

"Gargamel" plays a complex music (they fully belong to the "Eclectic" definition of prog we all love). There are hardly any compromise featured on their debut. If you are into some Crimsonian oir Graaf mood: no doubt that such an album performed by a fresh band is going to please your senses ("Tics").

Even if weirdness is achieve during "Strayed Again", the harmonious fluting adds on to the balance between a jazzy item and a full prog fantasy. You might know my genuine love for fluting, so there is no way I cannot be enthusiast about this track.

The general mood is quite dark and oppressive during "Below The Water" whose mellotron lines reminds me of some other great Scandinavian bands. It is of course useless to look for accessible music here, but this is valid for all bands from the eclectic category. You need to fully concentrate on the music while listening to such piece of work to grab all of its essence. You'll be fully rewarded.

My fave from this very good album is "Into The Cold". It is indeed somewhat "cold", but this band comes straight from the North, right? Very nice and peaceful flute (again!), heavy keys (à la "No Quarter" from whom you might know) and great sax part fully reminiscent of the sublime Van Der Graaf Generator. It is really a pleasure to listen to such good music (even if not 100% original).

As its title announces, the closing epic "Agitated Mind" is another weird piece of music. Almost as tortured as some great VDGG songs (but not quite yet, the masters remaining the masters), it offers a turbulent ocean of complexity which should enchant the deepest fans of the great band I've just named.

In all, this album is quite a ride and a very good experience. I only hope that their next work would be on par. Four stars for this one.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#229560)
Posted Sunday, August 02, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Gargamel is a Norwegian modern Prog act with a vintage 1975 VDGG sound, complete with Hammill-alike vocals. The music is largely 'Symphonic', but it moves in diverse directions and can be 'Heavy' as well as 'Spacey' on occasion. So it's not a mere VDGG copy-cat. The vocals however are the weak link, being too indebted to Hammill's approach but without the melodic qualities or fervor of Hammill himself.

The instrumental 'Tics' is easily the highlight, starting with a dark organ sound that sounds more Hugh Banton then Banton sounds himself nowadays. The track continues through multiple sections with brilliant heavy-ish prog, with influences from VDGG, Anekdoten and Genesis. 'Strayed' opens strongly with a melancholic cello part that recalls the mood of Crimson's 'Islands'. The effect lasts till the atrocious vocals join. Really, trying to mimic Hammil if you haven't got the qualities to pull it off is sacrilege. This mainly instrumental track remains strong but the grating vocals largely spoil it. 'Below the Water' is even worse. 'Into the Cold' fares better due to being largely instrumental again. 'Agitated Mind' is an attempt at writing an epic. A failed one because it goes down entirely with the preposterous vocals. Really, why didn't anyone mute the volume level of the microphone.

This kind of album automatically makes me reach out for the real thing and unfortunately Gargamel doesn't come out well from the comparison. The music on this album is excellent but with a 'Hammill' in such poor shape, it doesn't touch anything released by VDGG. The next album has a distinct improvement in the vocal department and is much better by consequence. 2 stars, 4 if you can tune out the vocals.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#448398)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This sinister album from Gargamel is retro-prog which doesn't sound very retro - perhaps because the most obvious classic-era prog touchstones the band draw on are mid-1970s Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, bands which sounded miles ahead of their time in their heyday. With sneering vocals which at points remind me of a less garishly theatrical Alice Cooper (circa Billion Dollar Babies) and brooding soundscapes which include plenty of modern influences (there's more than a touch of post-rock at points), Gargamel create an album which is at once true to its symphonic forebears and yet at the same time is very forward-thinking and advances the genre substantially. Despite the retro-prog tag, I'd say Gargamel are doing much, much more than simply pandering to nostalgia.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#700516)
Posted Friday, March 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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