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THE HOUSE ON THE HILL

Audience

Eclectic Prog


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bonzo1969@lib
4 stars Generally regarded as their magnum, and I agree. The great voice of Howard Werth always reminds me Roger Chapman and falls under the cathegory of great and truly unique voices, like Peter Gabriel. By no means a 100% progressive band, Audience are one of those groups capable of making memorable tunes with a light but tasteful prog approach and a voice of their own. "I had a dream" is a beautiful ballad, while the lenghty "House on the hill" and "Jackdaw" show their more complex side, even with a jazzy flavour here and there. Excellent offering from a band that should have deserved more attention than what they eventually had.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#30884)
Posted Tuesday, June 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is a magnificant album. I stil can't believe that all promises stated in this record have never been fulfilled. All the songs are very strong though some have this end of 60s - beginning of 70s flavour (You're Not Smiling and Indian Summer). But Jackdaw, I Had a Dream and especially The House on the Hill are superb tracks, complex and truely progressive. Audience even managed to turn such "hit for all seasons" as I Put a Spell on You into a pure prog composition. Raviole is a nice showcase for Howard Werth's classical guitar skills. Reminds me some romantic music of 19th century. Nancy is the only song I personally dislike. But it is a matter of opinion. The song itself is not bad.

The title track is a brilliant piece of prog. The change of tempo in the middle is great making this song one of the gems of early prog rock. The Wreth's vocal is so innovative and Keith Gemmell's work is great. Overall, it one of the best progrock albums of early 70s and highly recommended for ant progrock connoisseur.

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Send comments to Foxy (BETA) | Report this review (#30885)
Posted Tuesday, June 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars I never thought that two people would get a jump on this great band before I did . This is a all-too-forgotten group that recorde on thr Charima label along Genesis and VDGG. Although very different , Wreth's vocals can remind me of Gnidrolog and Hamill's incredible voice. The sax can remind you of David Jackson , but is there more connection to VDGG? I think not as this an eclectic band that can irk you for those very reasons afore-mentioned , but also please you for those exact reasons also challenging your ears . This is the album one should start with and work backwards. I can't be sure of this but on the back cover , it looks as though , it is Hugh Hopper of Soft Machine being dragged out of the house. As for the numbers on here my fellow reviewers mentioened all those fantastic numbers and they are rght on the spot. Jump on this and its predecessor. Well worth the hunt, but to my taste the next one (Lunch) is to be avoided.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#30886)
Posted Tuesday, June 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars I would go near that House on the Hill

Without a doubt, Audience's finest album, and a worthy addition to any prog rock collection to boot.

The opening "Jackdaw" is a fine blend of jazz and rock influences, with Howard Werth's vocals ranging from an almost threatening tone, to a sort of hammed up vaudeville as he sings ".. might as well, rent-a-tent". The heavy sax of the main theme gives way to a fine instrumental passage led off by soft Gabriel like flute solo, moving through fuzz guitar, and sax. A very powerful and striking opening track.

"You're not smiling" and "I had a dream" are more commercial but nonetheless highly melodic tracks, the former incorporating a sing-along refrain, while the latter has a beautifully haunting melody. Werth's sometimes under appreciated voice suits these two tracks ideally. He can at times attempt to insert too much of his own personality in a song, but here he plays it straight, and to great effect.

The title track is a wonderfully "spooky" piece. You can sense the "fear" in Werth's voice as he sings "I wouldn't go near that house on the hill" (vibrato on the word hill!). Between the song and the complementary picture on the sleeve, you can't help but be reminded of the house in the Hitchcock film "Psycho". As with "Jackdaw" there is a lengthy instrumental section led off by flute. Unfortunately this degenerates a bit with a brief drum solo and aimless jazz influenced section, but when the pace picks up again, the quality is also restored.

The remaining tracks struggle to justify sitting along the fine pieces discussed above They include a sub-standard cover of the classic "I put a spell on you" (for me, Creedence Clearwater Revival came up with the definitive rock cover of that song), and a couple of other throw away pieces. There is however enough top quality music here to satisfy most who hear the album, a fine offering indeed.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#30888)
Posted Sunday, August 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
brianjwright6
5 stars I have yet to hear an Audience song that does not sound good. This is the only recording I have of theirs (though I have heard some songs from other releases), but I am looking to obtain more. Another overlooked prog-rock classic from the early-70's. I know the record companies could not promote everything being released but there was a LOT of good music that did not get the exposure it warranted. This is one such album that should be in the upper echelon of the prog rock genre. I love this stuff..."Jackdaw" should be an FM classic, while "I Had A Dream" is the obligatory 'mellow' song that just aches with poignancy without sounding wimpy. "Eye To Eye" is a good take on the generation gap and "Indian Summer" is the hit song that never was. All in all, no self-respecting prog-rock fan or any fan of late-60's or early-70's music should be without this in their collection.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#30889)
Posted Sunday, January 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The only album by Audience that I've heard so far is an excellent brew of folk, jazz and blues-rock with the odd instrumental work out. Far from being the most complex of groups, The Audience relies on a mixture of rootsy charm and quirky arrangements to win you over. The melodic work of Keith Gemmell (who plays sax. flute and clarinet) and Howard Werth's lead vocals are perhaps most memorable elements of the group's sound, but what really sticks in my mind is that Audience makes music that makes me smile.

As the album is a general consistent affair, it's almost a shame to pinpoint distinct highlights, but from a progressive standpoint some songs do stand out. The opener Jackdaw begins life as a fierce melodic jazz-rock riff, then mutates into a pastoral flute and acoustic guitar reverie, before an extended fuzz guitar solo and a brief sax solo effort brings things full circle. Then there's Raviole which is full of exquisite classical guitar moments, on which Howard Werth shows no little skill ... he is aided and abetted by some sympathetic orchestral arrangements from the man who did the best string arranging I've ever heard ... Robert Kirby (who is responsible for the glorious strings on Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left album). The third real highlight is the dark frantic title track ... wild brass careening acoustic guitars, echoed vocals, darting flutes, a brief drum solo from Tony Connor ... this is a stupendous treat if you can get in the mood.

When it comes to the more straight-laced tracks, Audience is no less skilled. You're Not Smiling has a wonderful singalong chorus that could have packed the terraces during the glam era, and I Had A Dream is another wonderful song with a glorious gospel sound that is curiously catchy ... it's almost the kind of song that The Band might cut. Indian Summer is another mellow rootsy piece that has a joyous explosion of a chorus. Then there's an intriguing psychedelic "sinister folk" cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins' signature tune I Put A Spell On You.The driving, brassy Nancy and Eye To Eye, which really sounds like a spoof theme song of some 60s spy show, are probably the least memorable efforts, but they are not bad.

As I said, the one thing that stands out about The House On The Hill is that even though not all its components are experimental, the band almost never fail to put a smile on my face through the sheer quality of the music on offer. ... 72% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#71736)
Posted Sunday, March 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Audience hit their high stide on 1971's masterpiece, "The house on the hill" featuring the distinctive vocals of Howard Werth and his electric classical guitar work. Audience were definitely not a prototypical progressive rock band...more prog-folk that explores a multitude of connecting genres including jazz, baroque, fusion and even Renaissance-era. Musically, "Audience" combined classical guitar with tenor sax, clarinet, flute, bass, vibes and percussion. This album defies catergorization and ranges from classical rock to Van Der Graaf sax-like dark passages to the art pop influences of 10CC...to the Incredible String Band, CCR, Badfinger and on and on.... Void of heavy mellotron, electric guitar and long epic tracks, yet this album still hits a great artistic high and resonates with a progressive sensitivities. A great album

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#85735)
Posted Friday, August 04, 2006 | Review Permalink
infandous@exc
3 stars I finally remembered that someone had sent me a CDR of this album years ago, but I never listened to it. So I dug it out after reading the favorable reviews here. My reaction is.......underwhelmed. It is not bad at all, just not the lost gem I thought it might be. Some very nice folky playing with an edge, nice flute as well. The singer really doesn't sound anything to me like Peter Hammill. In fact the person he reminds me of most is Alvin Lee of 10 Year After. But this is definetly not blues rock. Proto-prog describes this well I think. The Van der Graaf Generator comparisons are not too far off musically I suppose, at least during the louder parts. But it lacks their wackyness and musical inventiveness. It sounds more like something from the 60's than something from 1971. But I suppose if you like VDGG, and you like prog folk, this is something worth getting. I will put up 3 stars, but I think it really does deserve a solid 3.5.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#86023)
Posted Sunday, August 06, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Yet another great LP from Audience. Not my personal favourite (I prefer the previous 2 myself) but still great all the same. Indeed I have met one or two people who have claimed this to be the greatest LP of all time, so what do I know??!!

Same line up, roughly the same sound. Howard Werth shows off some impressive guitar skills on this album - check out Raviole for that. Sound has lightened a little since their heavy 2nd LP. Tracks a little more commercial and accessible. Many would argue that they are stronger. The improvised sax solos still evident on the first and last tracks. Lots of emotion in the lyrics and vocals as well. Well worth checking out, possibly the best Audience album to start your collection with.

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Send comments to kingdhansak (BETA) | Report this review (#112323)
Posted Friday, February 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I borrowed this cd from my Brother in law, who told me the singer sounds like Axel Rose. I read others who described his vocals as a cross between Axel Rose and Ozzy, so you get the idea.

"Jackdaw" is my favourite song on this record. And the one where Howard's vocals do remind me of the singers mentioned above. Although when he sings "...keep away from my back door". I'm reminded of the singer who died from ALICE IN CHAINS.The sax, piano, clarinet and flute are all well done on this song. Great tune ! "Your'e Not Smiling" is an ok song with classical guitar. "I Had A Dream" is a mellow song with more classical guitar and drums. "Raviole" is a highlight with the intricate guitar melodies throughout and added strings.

"Nancy" is another good one. An uptempo tune with some fantastic sax reminding me a lot of the PSYCHEDELIC FURS. The song becomes more passionate 2 minutes in. "Eye To Eye" is a catchy song with flute leading the way. It's all over this one like a JETHRO TULL tune. "I Put A Spell On You" features vocals that are theatrical at times. More flute and classical guitar. "The House On the Hill" is my second favourite. Lots of tempo and mood shifts. I like the way his vocals quiver as he sings the word "hill". Flute solo 2 minutes in as it gets pastoral for around 4 minutes until we get back to the original melody. Very good song. "Indian Summer" is another good song with some impressive sax.

Overall I found this record had it's highs and lows, a little inconsistant for my tastes. Good album though.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#125378)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Audience play rock music with just hints of prog rock. This album according to most reviewers should be their crowning achivement. I disagree even though this album is very good.

I really love Audience debut album for it´s raw and unpolished style, Audience second album Friend's Friend's Friend is a transitional album as it is a teaser showing what Audience would become on this their third album. I was not too impressed with that one, but this one is a little better. The debut is my favorite though and the one I will recommend.

House on the Hill is driven by Howard Werth´s voice and Keith Gemmell´s flute and sax playing. This was also the concept on previous releases. Howard Werth has a very powerful voice and IMO he is a fantastic vocalist. Likewise Keith Gemmell is a great wind and brass player.

The songs are very much in the same vein as on Friend's Friend's Friend, just a notch better composed. A song like Jackdaw is very powerful to my ears while there are other songs that are a bit trivial. All songs are performed flawlessly of course as these are competent musicians. I must admit to being a bit disappointed asI feel the album is pretty average. Especially the title track is disappointing to me. I heard the version that is a bonus track on the debut and it´s a great song. Here it is extended with a sax solo and a Howard Werth that doesn´t sound as convinsing as on the debut bonus track.

My conclusion is that allthough this is a good rock/ prog album, it never reaches excellent and I will have to give this one 3 stars and recommend Audience fantastic debut instead. This one is better than Friend's Friend's Friend though.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#157695)
Posted Saturday, January 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars OK the album is getting a lot of 4* reviews, and thats fine and all, but it really is a classic. I don't want to be too liberal with 5*, and I think the users of this web page are really good about not doing that. But I've got to give it the full 5*. This lost classic has held up over time, and still sounds fresh today. Its a perfect blend of Prog and Art Rock, and the songs are immediately catchy, yet complex the way we like. It sounds like a 1980 classic, bridging Prog and newer music, not a 1971 album. Amazing. Buy it, you won't regret it.

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Send comments to akajazzman (BETA) | Report this review (#199588)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Raff
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Audience were another of those early British progressive rock bands that would have deserved to achieve greater fame than they actually did. Their third album, "The House on the Hill" was released one year before the band called it a day in 1972, after the flop of their fourth disc, "Lunch" (originally meant as a concept album). Unfortunately, as happened to far too many of the bands that were active in those heady years, they fell victim to internal strife, and ended up being forgotten by all but the more dedicated followers of the genre.

More melodic than the likes of East of Eden (another unjustly overlooked, early prog band), Audience had an idiosyncratic approach to music, involving an unusual lineup with two percussionists, a noticeable lack of keyboards, and the pervasive presence of woodwind instruments (courtesy of the very underrated Keith Gemmell). One could indeed go as far as to say that the woodwinds are the real driving force behind the band's distinctive sound, together with Howard Werth's dramatic, high-energy vocals.

Although "The House on the Hill" can strike the listener as a definitely upbeat album, its title-track is in fact a rather dark offering, hinting at mysterious, disturbing goings-on in the titular mansion. At over 7 minutes, it is the longest track on the album (together with opener "Jackdaw"), and the most interesting by far, with its screaming saxophones and quiet, eerie, flute-and-percussion-driven bridge, complete with ominous sound effects that let the imagination run wild. Werth's vocal performance is particularly impressive on this song, as on the aforementioned "Jackdaw" - an angular, jazzed-up song in which the singer offers a very convincing Hammill impersonation. He also proves himself no slouch on his main instrument, the classical guitar, as shown by the exquisite instrumental "Raviolé". Compared with these three, the remaining songs on the album are not equally impressive, though undeniably interesting and well-constructed, with their blend of disparate influences - folk, blues, jazz, even gospel, like in the soothing ballad "I Had a Dream".

On the whole, "The House on the Hill" is a solid album in the best art-rock tradition, sufficiently eclectic to appeal to dyed-in-the-wool prog fans, ultimately uplifting (in spite of the title track's sinister slant), and full of memorable melodies that can appeal to those more inclined towards the mellower end of the musical spectrum. While not a masterpiece, it keeps up a consistently high level of quality, and as such deserves far more exposure than it usually gets - even on sites or magazines specialised in progressive rock. If you can get hold of it, this album will definitely be a worthy addition to your collection.

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Send comments to Raff (BETA) | Report this review (#204698)
Posted Saturday, February 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I picked this album up after reading a praising review on AllMusic.com back in 2003 and I was really surprised since it was my first experience of this great band!

The album begins with a real in-you-face sound of Jackdaw which pretty much summarizes everything that you have to know about this band in order to appreciate the rest of the performance. Soon the music turns to the softer side with You're Not Smiling, I Had a Dream and the wonderful acoustic instrumental called Raviole! After that the material comes back to the album opener territory with Nancy and the weird but nevertheless enjoyable performance on Eye To Eye. The last three tunes are here to guide the listener towards the album conclusion which consists of a Folk-cover of I Put A Spell On You, which fortunately enough isn't expanded into a 20+ minute jam-session, followed by the great album title-track and the sweet Indian Summer.

I really recommend this album to fans of Prog Folk à la Jethro Tull...Whoops! Audience is now considered to be Eclectic Prog although I personally don't see the connection since The House On The Hill is in my opinion highly representative of the Prog Folk-movement of the '70s. Did I mentioned that there is a flute player here? But I guess that there is only one way for all of you to find that out!

***** star songs: You're Not Smiling (5:12) Raviole (3:38)

**** star songs: Jackdaw (7:28) I Had A Dream (4:17) Nancy (4:14) Eye To Eye (2:30) I Put A Spell On You (4:08) The House On The Hill (7:27) Indian Summer (3:16)

Total Rating: 4,21

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#255833)
Posted Sunday, December 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Doing great prog without keyboards is possible.

A very good album from this group of the famous Charisma Records (the label of Van Der Graaf Generator, Genesis and Lindisfarne). The music is a sort of contamination, done with great elegance, of different styles (blues, jazz, classical, american folk and country music). No keyboards here, so nothing is bombastic or pompous: acoustic guitar is the lead instrument and saxes and vocal parts are very important too.

The amazing voice of Howard Werth, that reminds an american bluesman, is perfect for pieces like Jackdaw (the best song of the album and in my opinion a masterpiece of progressive rock), Nancy and the fantastic cover of the classic of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, I Put A Spell On You.

In every song there is a great use of wind instruments by Gemmell, and Van Der Graaf comes immediately to mind. But notice that we are miles far away from the experimental music of Peter Hammill and his band, because most of the songs are very catchy and melodic (You Are Not Smiling, Nancy, I Had A Dream).

Maybe not a masterpiece but I really can not find weak moments in this album. Maybe you'll like it at first listen and, I know, for prog lovers this is not ever a good thing, but I also think you'll never find it boring and you'll play it for a long time.

Rating: 8/10.

Best song: Jackdaw

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Send comments to Dark Nazgul (BETA) | Report this review (#424426)
Posted Tuesday, March 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A fantastic little album which uses the flute, clarinet and sax stylings of Keith Gemmell to great effect, fans of early prog should not be put off by the fact Audience don't use keyboards - this has a big, lush sound worthy of any of the band's competitors like Rare Bird or Van der Graaf Generator - though with a bit more jazz influence than either. Howard Werth's vocals are powerful and haunting, and work especially well on the accusatory Jackdaw and the eerie title track. The album isn't perfect - I thought Eye to Eye was a bit underbaked (and, indeed, early US editions of the album left it off in favour of a track from the previous album) - but otherwise it's a great little gem from the early prog era, one which I'm surprised hasn't achieved more attention.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#480257)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a wondeful little gem that should be re-discovered, probably the most important effort by Audience.

The band doesn't use any keyboards' sound. The structure of music is based on guitars (acoustic mainly) and, above all, a SUPERB gruff saxophone (and clarinet) playing that reminds the typical VAN DER GRAAF mood, as it's evident up to the powerful opening number "Jackdaw". The album sounds eclectic, folky, baroque, periodically turning into avant-garde and jazz.

Some reviewers have linkened "I Had A Dream" to Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heavens Door" which was written - from what I know - in 1972 or 1973, quite some time after Audience's track (so to say how far Audience's influence spread). Other highlights are "Raviolé" (beautiful folk and classical arrangements) and the pleasant "Indian Summer" (nice flute).

The title track is simply stunning with those alternatings between crispy vocals and mad saxes, with slow interludes, flute, drums' solo, excellent bass playing.

This record was certainly written and composed during the golden hours of the early seventies: highly recommended.

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#646872)
Posted Monday, March 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In the vein of acts like Traffic and Gnidrolog, Audience combines the natural feeling of styles of folk and blues and the more musically engaging styles of jazz and classical. It's prog rock in a non-traditional stance, and that's what makes HOUSE ON THE HILL as exciting as other proggier albums.

Think of Audience as Gnidrolog's rhythm section (that good) with Van der Graaf Generator's woodwinds and a unique lead singer with a distinctive voice and plays strictly acoustic guitars. The delicacy of the acoustic guitars mixed in with the thrust of everything makes a near perfect sound balance that few can match. Maybe that explains the relative obscurity of Audience; the sound, while great, was hard to categorise, and that seems to have made it difficult for Audience to achieve even cult status.

On this particular album, the North Americans again get the better bargain much like on MOONTAN. Sure, Europe got the snappy ''Eye to Eye'', a great song in its own right and better than ''It Brings a Tear'', but the order on the NA release is better. I know there isn't much of a difference, but ''Indian Summer'' does not sound like a track that should close the record; it opens the record on the NA release, much more suitably too. The slow moving yet epic ''Jackdaw'' doesn't sound like an opener to me. I know I'm being nitpicky, but still?

HOUSE ON THE HILL can thrust power when it needs to; the title track is a perfect fusion of blues, rock and folk with an extended jam session at the right spot. The saxophone solo with two echoes is quite imaginative, and it's a few years before Mr. Freddie tried that when singing about prophets. There are also calmer, quieter bits as offsets. The beautiful rendition of Screamin' Jay's ''I Put a Spell on You'' is a slice of freshness to a normally sinister piece (it still kind of sounds that way), and classical buffs will enjoy the interceding orchestra on ''Raviole''.

There are times when HOUSE ON THE HILL compromises the two dynamic levels. ''You're Not Smiling'' executes this near flawlessly. The softness of the verses crescendoing into that haunting vocal/sax line is pure music euphoria.

It's hard to rate an album like HOUSE ON THE HILL on a prog site, but it belongs here and it's one of the better albums of this genre. The country-fied ''Nancy'' is the only blemish I could find (either version, it's on both), and even then, Howard Werth's vocal delivery saves the song. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#789997)
Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2012 | Review Permalink

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