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Beggars Opera - Pathfinder CD (album) cover

PATHFINDER

Beggars Opera

Symphonic Prog


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lewisoutrider
1 stars Years ago a friend on mine had "Act One" as an L.P. and it blew my mind. It's the only copy I ever saw and for years I wondered if I'd ever come across it in an archival store. No luck , but I was able to purchase "Pathfinder" which stayed in my collection for one week before being escorted to the nearest second hand music trading store. It was nothing like "Act One" and instead of the expected classical influenced symphonic rock it presented heavy predictable mediocrity. I would prefer to hum to myself than stoop to stick this in the cd player. At the risk of sounding bitter, the only album that I have ever owned and despised so much is "White Lady" by badger.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#21682)
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars This one is definitely sub-pareven for their standarts : I strongly suggest candidate fans to start elsewhere. This is not a bad album , but what they made before that was much better. They music is very symphonic and resembles Fruup, BJH, Camel in a way. I also realize that this is the type of album that many neo-prog groups in the 80's and 90's regarded highly and inspired their music from it. The atmosphere on this album is almost like a proto-neo-prog album , if you get my drift ;-)

Some people consider this album as their peak , but I just find it rather uninspired. Give another half star, though.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#21683)
Posted Thursday, February 05, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Someone left the cake out in the rain

"Pathfinder" followed on nicely from the superb "Waters of change" album. Generally not quite up to the standard of it's predecessor, this is nonetheless a highly creditable piece of work, with many fine tracks.

The best offerings are probably the first three tracks, which constitute side one of the LP. "Hobo" would have fitted in well on "Waters of change", being a keyboards driven piece. It is quite upbeat for Beggar's Opera, but retains the distinctive vocals and melodic content.

The band's version of Jim Webb's "Macarthur park" has been derided in the past, but for me it's a worthy interpretation, which gives the song a completely different feel to the version made famous by actor Richard Harris in the 1960's (a single which was many years ahead of its time). The remaining tracks are generally of a high standard, with dominant keyboards, and quality vocals. "From shark to haggis" is a fun instrumental which seamlessly moves from a "Jaws" type theme, to a Scottish jig!

A further slice of quality 70's prog from this talented band. If you enjoyed "Waters of change", you'll enjoy this.

The LP had an original fold out sleeve, which became a cardboard poster 6 times the size of an LP sleeve.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#21684)
Posted Monday, March 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is more an "Heavy rock" album rather than a "Proto-progressive" one, with a mellower touch of such "Proto hard-prog, HAWKWIND-like". Iit combines some long suites to some shorter songs in the vein of CRESSIDA or RAW MATERIAL, but with a constant presence of a "Mellotron keyboard". After all it's anyway a good heavy rock issue, with a lot of satanic lyrics and also some totally different moments at the harpsichord (listen to the strange hard version of Richard Harris' "McArthur Park.", maintaining anyway such a mellower approach, this time in the vein of JETHRO TULLl); nevertheless there's always an aggressive electric guitar, which compensates this "easier and simplistic" atmosphere... then - as for these explanations - I think that this album is not essential, being however remarkable in some circumstances only!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#21685)
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Actually I loved Pathfinder and think it is a consistently strong album throughout. I haven't got the previous releases so admittedly it is hard to relate or compare.' The Witch' and ' Hobo' are great songs and I have not heard a better version of MacArthur Park. Prog versions always sound better!

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#21689)
Posted Friday, July 09, 2004 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Although being somewhat not on par anymore with the first two albums their third release is still a very enjoyable one. Once again due to Alan Park's awesome organ even rather simple songs like "The witch" or "Madame Doubtfire" are sounding quite well done. Overall the album sounds less "dated" than the two predecessors and therefore it might miss somehow the "nostalgic charming" of those ones. Nevertheless it has its highlights like "MacArthur Park" which is in fact a cover version of a very simple pop song but in Beggars Opera's classical arrangement with harpsichord, piano and organ it grows to a small epic suite. Another one is "From Shark to Haggis", starting in a very slow, almost mesmerizing mood and developing into a Scottish Jig. The rest of the songs might be more simple but still very good ones for an Art Rock album.

For me as an admittedly strong lover of this band (at least of their first 3 albums) "Pathfinder" is still a good recommendation for lovers of classical and folk influenced art rock.

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#21690)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This was the third album by this Scottish act that was recording for Vertigo. The original LP to "Pathfinder" comes with a gimmick cover that folds in to a giant poster, revealing the astronaut riding the horse is on a planet that hardly looks like Earth.

The Mellotron, as found on "Waters of Change" had all but vanished. Virginia Scott (just about the only female keyboardist I know who played Mellotron) had sat this one out, so all keyboard duties were by Alan Parker. The rest of the band at this time consisted of guitarist/vocalist Ricky Gardner, bassist Gordon Sellar, vocalist Martin Griffiths (not to be confused with Martin Griffin, the on and off again drummer for HAWKWIND from the late '70s to early '80s who was often wrongly named Martin Griffiths), and drummer Ray Wilson (absolutely nothing to do with the Ray Wilson who replaced Phil Collins in GENESIS). The music here is pretty much early '70s song-based prog typical of the British scene of the time, dominated by the Hammond organ. You won't be mistaking this for GENTLE GIANT, to say the least, so this is quite an accessible album.

There are just times you don't want your prog to go through a million meter changes in five minutes with as little melody as possible, there's time you want your prog to at least have some catchy and solid melodies, and this album delivers. A great example would be the opening song, "Hobo", with lyrics referring to an aging homeless man. They also do a cover of Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park" (a million versions of this song exists, don't ask me why, the most famous being the hit version from actor Richard Harris back in 1968, and "Weird" Al Yankovic doing a parody of that song in 1993 called "Jurassic Park" in honor of the Spielberg movie that came out that year). Harpsichord dominates this piece, but there is a little Mellotron, and unfortunately the only cut on this album that uses it. There's a couple of sinister, occult-themed songs too, with "The Witch" and "Madame Doubtfire" that could remind you of the CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN (without Arthur Brown's distinct vocals) or BLACK WIDOW. The title track has vocal harmonies that remind me a bit of the BYRDS, but still unmistakably progressive and '70s, especially the use of guitar and Hammond organ. "From Shark to Haggis" is an odd piece. It starts off rather jazzy, then the band goes exploring their Scottish roots, turning it in to a Celtic folk jig (let's not forget "Haggis" in the song title, which is a food unique to Scotland, and most commonly served during Robert Burns Day, and I wonder if the "From Shark" bit was inspired by Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife", which was a jazzy song with lyrics referring to sharks). "Stretcher" is the album's only instrumental cut, and unfortunately, for me, is rather unremarkable, mainly dominated by Ricky Gardiner's guitar playing. The album closes with "Madame Doubtfire", which, as mentioned before, has a strong occult theme, and the song really gets wild at the end with all the screaming.

It's to my understanding that "Pathfinder" was BEGGARS OPERA's last fully progressive album, although they did continue on and off again releasing albums until the beginning of the 1980s. This is a nice album to have for those who enjoy early British prog.

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#21691)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Just got the CD last month during DISCUS Live Verso at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta, May 19, 2005 - from a collector, with relatively expensive price for a used CD. Never mind, as long as I get the treasure of seventies band. I first knew the band last year from their album "Water of Change" through a loan from my progmate here. "Pathfinder" delivers a classic rock music with some prog touch. Most of the structure and compositions are simple and pretty straight forward with some inventive organ work. For me, it's good having this collection of classic band.

"Hobo" opens the album with a simple structure. What makes this track sounds prog is the organ solo that is very nice and inventive in nature. "MacArthur Park" which is Jim Webb's classic is performed nicely with clavinet work and excellent vocal delivery ranging from low to high register notes. "The Witch" is a rockier track with simple guitar riffs and excellent keyboard / organ work. "Pathfinder" starts off with drum solo followed with lead guitar work reminiscent of Uriah Heep's Mick Box. The guitar style has characterized the song and made it a bit similar with Uriah Heep music. "From Shark to Haggies" starts beautifully with keyboard and operatic vocal line augmented with drum high hat sounds. The vocal travels up nicely augmented with excellent guitar work. It's my favorite track of this album. I really love the powerful vocal here! "Stretcher" begins with a very nice piano solo work that reminds me to Refugee (of Patrick Moraz). When the music flows with a blues-based influence, the guitar solo brings the music into an uplifting mood. It's a wonderful guitar work. It's an instrumental track with good composition that brings you to the seventies nuance, really! "Madame Doubtfree" is an opera-like song with energetic voice line - powerful voice! Rhythm-wise this song is similar with the music of our local band in the seventies (I don't know which one release the album first): Barongs Band.

Overall, it's a good classic rock music with prog touch.

Progressively yours, GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#39102)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Pathfinder" is not as good as "Waters if Change", but it's far better than Beggars Opera later works, and IMHO is also better than "Act One", their first album. "Pathfinder" has some outstanding tracks: "The Witch" (the most developed track here), "Pathfinder" (with nice, heavy guitar and a great vocal harmony), "From Shark to Haggis" (another track with heavy guitar and a strong vocal performance, with a long organ solo which reminds me of traditional Scottish music - I'd love to hear bagpipes doin' at least a part of the organ solo) and the instrumental "Stretcher" (with a classical piano intro; the guitar melody reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd). Their cover of "McArthur Park" is also worth checking out, but I'm not familiar to Richard Harris's original version, so I'll not make comments about. Two tracks are far below than the others: "Hobo" (opening track, sounds me too poppy) and "Madame Doubtifire" (my least favourite track here). Overall, this is a good album, but newcomers will probably find "Waters of Change" more interesting, and casual fans will probably like it too. As the last decent offering by Beggars Opera, fans will need this one at their collections.

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Send comments to M. B. Zapelini (BETA) | Report this review (#43269)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The third work released in 1972 "Pathfinder". The content is British rock refined further. There is overall no big change in atmosphere. However, it challenges various music. It gives birth to air it is poetic and with goods. It appears remarkably in the arrangement of "MacArthur Park". It is that the balance of the entire sound improved that it differs from the former work. It is a work where authentic atmosphere like PROCOL HARUM is felt.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#61235)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is by far the best album this band ever created. Act One and Waters of Change are good too but they are not as complete as this one is. They sound like rehersals for the big one: Pathfinder! Yes, a true masterpiece of prog. If you only have one record or want to make aquaintance with BO the this is the place to start. The MacArthur's Park alone is such a stunning experience, I've heard several other performances of it but this my favourite. The band is here at its peak. The musicanship is flawless, simply great, the voice of Martin is solid and enjoyable, the compositions and the way they are treated is just perfect. There is nothing wrong in this album!

It is possible that somebody don't like this, I saw some such reviews up there, but anyway this is Essential piece of prog music, prog history, and a true masterpiece. So even if you don't get it only correct amount of stars is five!

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Send comments to pirkka (BETA) | Report this review (#72602)
Posted Thursday, March 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Beggar's Opera returned somewhat with the style of their debut album which was more heavy-rock oriented than their symphonic Waters of Change.

The opening song has this Mark I feeling and vocals are especially close to Rod Evan's one. Hobo has a very commercial feel, but it is quite pleasant to listen to.

The first highlight from this album is their cover version of Macarthur Park (which was also covered by Donna Summer FYI). They have revisited this song as the Fudge would have done: a brilliant intro, which is miles away from the original song and which introduces it brilliantly. The rest of their interpretation might not be on par, but it remains an excellent work . This is how covers should always be.

My favourite song is The Witch: it is a pure heavy-rock song which features solid heavy organ during its six minutes. I am really found of such songs: the rhythmic section is absolutely great and they go along pretty well with the fine vocals (another constant from this band). It is a really powerful song: the Heep is not far away. 3The Witch is an excellent piece of music.

If ever you would like more Heep music, just get a listen to the upbeat and melodic Pathfinder. It was released the same year as Easy Livin and sounds as great. And most of the album is actually a fine performance even if the finale of From Shark To Haggis is a bit too much Country & Western oriented, its psychedelic start (Mark I oriented) could have led to a much more better song.

The closing number is one of their most disjointed. It reminds Fire from Arthur Brown: a wild beat, surprising vocals and a complete chaos to close. What a ride!

This is another fine album by the band which hasn't released a weak one so far. Three stars

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#185151)
Posted Thursday, October 09, 2008 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Very different in sound and style from their previous two studio albums(the classically-tainted ACT ONE and WATERS OF CHANGE), PATHFINDER is probably the Scots band's strongest effort, eschewing the ELP- esque piano medley's and Bach-inspired epics in favour of poppier, more melody-orientated tunes in which Ricky Gardiner' impressive lead guitar begins to take centre stage. In fact, the LP liner notes declare(somewhat pompously) that PATHFINDER is a completely new departure for the group, with no single song over the 7-minute mark, and a jolly, enjoyable cover of M'MacArthur Park' filling up the running time alongside the more prosaic, prog-pop cuts such as the pacey opener 'Hobo' and the recently covered(by ex-members of the darkness)rock-horror-histrionics of 'The Witch', complete with opening ear-splitting scream. Fans of early seventies prog and rock will find much to enjoy here, with PATHFINDER a welcome improvement on the groups indulgent earlier material; non-aficianado's may find a crumb of interest here and there, but it's an album that is very much of it's time. An un-expected bonus proves to be the striking artwork, depicting an astronaut riding a rather stressed- out looking horse(NOT by Roger Dean), but it's hard not to feel slightly jaded by some of the more impenetrable lyrics, the slightly jokey tone and the bands predeliction for myths and legends-themed stories that give the whole package a rather quaint, frivolous feel.

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#197962)
Posted Friday, January 09, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Pathfinder is the third full-length studio album by Scottish progressive rock artist Beggars Opera. The first two albums by the band Act One (1971) and Waters of Change (1971) were IMO some pretty good but rather average symphonic progressive rock albums so I wasnīt expecting anything much different with Pathfinder. And I think I have gotten exactly what I expected from the album.

The music is symphonic progressive rock. Compared to the previous albums the guitars are more prominent but Alan Parkīs vintage keyboard arsenal is still very much on display. You can say that Pathfinder is the least progressive album of the first three from the band but somehow itīs also the most memorable IMO. A song like MacArthur Park is quite catchy. Martin Griffiths theatrical vocal style can seem a bit too much at times but he is a really skilled vocalist. Thereīs a definite hard rock element in the music too and a band like Uriah Heep could be mentioned for reference even though the music on Pathfinder isnīt quite as heavy as the music of Uriah Heep.

The musicianship is good and Iīm sure Beggars Opera must have been a real treat live.

The production is not as good as I could have wished for, but on the other hand itīs not bad for those days and considering that this is not Close to the Edge the sound is allright.

Pathfinder does not improve my view on Beggars Opera as a second division symphonic progressive rock band. They make good music but unfortunately never reaches excellence and IMO thatīs the reason why they were only ever a footnote in the history of progressive rock. Thatīs of course my personal opinion and others might enjoy this more than I do. As I said itīs a pretty good album but it doesnīt deserve more than a 3 star rating in my book.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#204190)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Though not their most progressive, this third offering is perhaps the semi-legendary Scots' most successful. That is if success can be measured by a band's ability to further develop, hone, and in some cases strip down their material. Pathfinder is an enthusiastic performance of some very good songs and showed a well-muscled outfit in Alan Park's obvious keyboard skills & guitarist/founder Ricky Gardiner who would go on to work with Bowie, Iggy Pop and other button-pressers of the era. The album may have been a touch radio friendly but almost every artist has gone through a period like that, and there are some downright inspired passages here that deserve attention, surely having had impact on the British post-underground scenes of the 1970s.

Though the sounds of classic prog and early art rock pervade the music, a folk element is strongly felt from Gardiner's & Gordon Sellar's acoustics and the fabler's crooning of Martin Griffiths. A highly pleasing mix of eerie folktale, quality musicianship and catchy songsmithing is heard throughout the album as on slightly lackluster 'Hobo', the uneventful but sincere opener as it marches along, ending with fine flurries from Alan Park's keys. Eight-minute 'Macarthur Park' is an improvement with the quintet reinterpreting the Richard Harris hit from 1972, kitsch harpsichord tones leading to a battlefront that softens into a throaty upscale ballad and screams "It's 1972 and this stuff sells!"-- Shakespearian in tragedy, Carpenters-like in tone. Deepening the chill is 'The Witch', a macabre tongue-in-cheek gallows that sends shivers, and the title track is a fine roadside rocker that foreshadows the pseudoclassical swing of Iron Maiden. In 'From Shark to Haggis' the dry humor comes out in full, ends on a jig, and 'Madame Doubtfire' is an absolutely hilarious Satanic send-up.

A lot of fun and some good music from these guys, the albums nicely repackaged on Repertoire, and perfect for those retro weekends when The Nice and old Rick Wakeman just won't do it.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#214144)
Posted Wednesday, May 06, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is the last of their three classic symphonic prog albums.

Symphonic Prog is perhaps not the phrase I would use. Beggars Opera was far more commercial on this album than on both their first two albums. The melodies are a bit simplistic. For some reason, I get a lot of Rainbow vibes from this album. Not that I am a big fan of Rainbow though. I also get some Bad Company vibes. Both bands were a part of this arena rock scene back in the early 1970s and both bands released their albums after Pathfinder was released. But I guess you still get my drift. I also get some vibes from bands like Camel and The Nice. Pathfinder is a blend of symphonic prog and arena rock.

The best thing about this album is Alan Park's keyboard works. He adds a lot of spice and at least half a star on my rating to the mainly guitar driven songs here. The songs are pretty commercial and simplistic. There are also some Scottish folk rock influences on this album. Not only because of the use of bagpipes. But also throughout the album. This album is maybe bordering to folk rock in it's approach. I also guess the many gigs this band did before the recording of this album also influenced the songs here. On stage, you know what works and what does not works. There is certainly a live edge over the songs.

The quality is rather good throughout. The title track is the best song here. But the rest is good too. I am having difficulties working up any excitement over the songs. There are some good pieces of music here. All of them includes Alan Park. The rest is good, but nothing more. This is a good Beggars Opera album, but nothing more than that.

3.5 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#265172)
Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Thid album from this scotish act from 1972 and naed Pathfinder is another worthy album from their career. I find this album almost at same level with predecesors and more specific with Water of change, Pathfinder has some trulty classic momets in progressive rock - like MacArthur Park - with some super vocal lines, I realy like a lot Griffith voice , Hobo, The Witch and one of my fav from here Madame Doubtfire. A good albuym, with again some nice and catcy moments , the mellotroin is still present on most of the pieces, but the whole atmosphere is less intristing and not so confident like on previous album, the decline was near, still not present but right next corner for sure. The music is entertaining, very pleasent, symphonic prog with good passages. I will give 3.5 rounded to 4 just becaue Beggars Opera is one of the bands I like to listen constantly, special those two albums reviewed today. Good band that for some reasons never made it big. Ok with a good reason if you try to listen the albums from this one on, excluded this one Pathfinder. Good towards great, still one of the most unnoticed albums from early '70's UK prog movement. Some similarities with Uriah Heep, Birth Control , but more rely on symphonic arrangements then on heavier parts, Beggars Opera are here to stay for sure in prog rock history.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#277834)
Posted Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Pathfinder" is the third album from Beggars Opera and is not a symphonic album but a great Prog album, not ecletic or crossover, only a Prog album. The only Symphonic moments are the cover of Jim Webb "MacArthur Park" with harpsichord and a taste of mellotron and the incredibly "Stretcher", an instrumental guitar driven song. "From Shark To Haggies" present a first part that is a good dark light version of Black Sabbath and a second part that is a good cheerful mix of Rock and mediterranean Folk. "Madame Doubtfire" is a technical Rock song with tons of psychedelia as "hobo" is a Rock with tons of arrangements.

Without Virginia Scott (that has co-wrote two songs) this album is, at the end, a good album of Prog, as I wrote above. Not fundamental but excellent.

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Send comments to 1967/ 1976 (BETA) | Report this review (#362797)
Posted Friday, December 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars This album is a proof of connection between psych Rock and a classical tendencies, while also one of the primer examples of this unholy alliance. Uriah Heep and it's organ work is one similar sounding band I can give you from scratch. True, this album sounds alike the first one, but that's not something too bad in my judgment. They slowly refined their sound, crafted new songs on a similar pattern and here we go. Unfortunately, later on, their direction will take a whole new path, whole new meaning and, from our Prog point's of view, also quite sad one. Nevermind that, we still have these three beauties.

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Send comments to Marty McFly (BETA) | Report this review (#603357)
Posted Thursday, January 05, 2012 | Review Permalink

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