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Sky Sky 2 album cover
3.81 | 92 ratings | 13 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hotta (7:46)
2. Dance of the Little Fairies (3:31)
3. Sahara (6:56)
4. Fifo: (17:05)
a) Fifo - 6:44
b) Adagio - 2:29
c) Scherzo - 4:19
d) Watching the Aeroplanes - 3:33
5. Tuba Smarties (3:18)
6. Ballet - Volta (2:45)
7. Gavotte & Variations (6:14)
8. Andante (2:58)
9. Tristan's Magic Garden (4:09)
10. El Cielo (4:20)
11. Vivaldi (4:03)
12. Scipio (12:09)
13. Tocatta (4:42)

Total Time: 79:50

Bonus DVD (Esoteric Recordings, 2014)
Live at Hammersmith Odeon, 24th & 31st July 1980
1. Toccata
2. Danza
3. Sahara
4. Dance of the Little Fairies
5. Vivaldi
6. Hotta
7. Ballet / Volta
8. Carillon
9. Tuba Smarties
10. Fifo (1st, 2nd & 4th Movements)
11. Danza Paraguaya
12. Valse Creollo
13. Toccata ("Top of the Pops? ? BBC TV, 10th April 1980)

Line-up / Musicians

- Herbie Flowers / bass, tuba
- Tristan Fry / drums, percussion
- Francis Monkman / keyboards
- Kevin Peek / guitars
- John Williams / guitars

Releases information

CD Alex 2808 (1992) / Import 29078 (2000) - tracks 7 & 8 excluded.
CD+DVD: Esoteric Recordings, ECLEC22471 (2014)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Matti for the last updates
Edit this entry

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SKY Sky 2 ratings distribution

(92 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SKY Sky 2 reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by richardh
5 stars Sprawling Double CD with lots of atmospheric peices by this massively talented ensemble,including the excellent keyboardist Francis Monkman (ex Curved Air),classical guitarist John Williams doing a 'Steve Hackett in reverse' and working well in tandem with Australian guitarist Kevin Peek ,while Tristran Fry and Herbie Flowers make a rock solid rythm section.In my opinion there are few better instrumental rock albums out there.
Review by Marcelo
4 stars In the late '70s, a former CURVED AIR member -Francis Monkman- and an academic guitar player -John Williams, this one from Australia- joined to Kevin Peek and Tristan Fry to create an instrumental band able to mix classical music and rock: SKY.

Playing their own pieces and making traditional music covers, they've got compliments as well as criticals: Musicians were really virtuosos, but compositions were "light" and not innovative, and sometimes they were called a "MOR" band (Mature Oriented Rock, an euphemism to "Music for Old People").

As a reference for SKY's music, we can talk about EKSEPTION -a Dutch band who made, essentially, covers from classical pieces-, altough SKY was a little bit more "serious" in their arrangements (however, it's possible to find another rythms in "Sky 2", from jazz to ethnic music).

"Sky 2", the second effort from the band, is a double LP released in 1980. The original vinyl had a first disc with SKY compositions: "Hotta": Powerful opening with lots of percussion. "Dance of the Little Fairies": The album's gem, really beautiful and delicated. "Sahara": Changing piece that flows between energetic and soft moments, with some Middle East hints. "Fifo": Subdivided in four parts, this 17 minutes suite originally occupied the 'B' side of the first LP. It's the most "rockier" theme in "Sky 2", adding atmospheric touches too. It isn't the best of the stuff.

The following are short themes ('A' side in the second vinyl), but two brilliant pieces were eliminated from the original edition (I guess time reasons, but it's really sad, because both "Gavotta" -harpsichord delicatessen- and "Andante" -Vivaldi on acoustic guitar- could be situated among the best tracks). Remained alive: "Tuba Smarties": Composed by Herbie Flowers, where the band demonstrate that humour sense is possible even in the middle of "serious" music, with a tuba as the main instrument. "Ballet Volta": A traditional theme magically played with a classical guitar, another little gem. "Tristan Magic's Garden": This was the piece to be removed. Really, the weakest point that broke the nice classical atmosphere. Just percussions and vibraphone, boring and noisy. "El Cielo": Happily, this wonderful traditional piece returns to the listener the lost climax.

Closing the album, SKY reserved three excellent gifts: "Vivaldi": A classic in the band's discography, four minutes where Vivaldi's baroque music is played in a rock tempo (it was already played by CURVED AIR). "Scipio ( Parts I & II)": Composed by Flowers too, gives to the listener twelve very interesting and changing minutes. Not very complex, but really pleasant and with a fantastic end. "Tocatta": Another version from Bach's well known piece, very nice.

Summarizing, "Sky 2" is an excellent album, not complex but specially interesting for those who like classical music with rock rythms.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Over Easy

The combined talents of the five musicians who make up Sky are undoubted. This however is one of those rare occasions where the sum of the parts is actually greater than the whole. Sky are the musical equivalent of a Formula One car being taken for a Sunday drive, it's just all too easy. Much of the music here is the sort everyone "quite likes" but few "love".

The album shows it's hand straight away with what is probably the best track, "Hotta". Nominally conceived as being based on a Spanish dance, the track twists and turns with a constantly rising theme played out on lead guitar.

The revised version of Curved Air's "Vivaldi" has Williams' (or is it Peek) guitar replacing Darryl Way's violin. By and large it works well, if at times being a slightly sanitised version. Vivaldi (the composer) is revisited more faithfully on "Andante", a pleasant transcription of a movement from his "Concerto for two mandolins".

The final notable track is the band's reworking of Bach's "Toccata", with its immediately recognisable intro, and ultra familiar melody. The track was a major hit single for the band, bringing with it a much wider audience.

It's hard to criticise this album, and that is perversely its main failing. It and the band are just too "nice". If there is such a thing as "easy listening prog", Sky are the quintessential band of that genre.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Second album, but this one is a double, which is of course not exactly good news if you already know of Sky. I was never really fond of Monkman's previous works in his previous Curved Air ripping-off the classic composer (and this was not just that Vivaldi hit, either), but somehow this album and the debut are not completely devoid of qualities, even if on the overall, I cannot be considered a fan of Sky (I suppose that the epoch it was recorded in was not really helping as most of the second league British groups like Curved Air had packed it in and those musos were looking for a new ride and trying to recycle themselves (some as these guys were at least commercially successful even if artistically, this is definitely more disputable), and salvage a career.

As I said in the review of the debut, Sky was definitely nothing original even in the plagiarism dept, since the Dutch groups Trace and Ekseption had filled the slot in the 70's, but these guys managed some mega success (never really understood why, though) and did it with a certain touch of style (I would not call it class yet) even though some of their music is not far from hapless elevator music. Never offending to the ears, if you play this stuff to your grandma, she will not likely yell out of horror, and you might just brag to your friends that YOU might just be capable to make your family listen to prog. All kidding aside, some tracks are actually quite worthy such as the almost 7-min Sahara (it does have something enthralling) but unfortunately all too often offset (like the mini-suite Fifo with its awful 80's sounding drums. Other highlights might be Tristan's Garden, but I guarantee you it has nothing magic and El Cielo (Sky in Spanish). One of the main gripes I have with this album is its length, had it been a single vinyl, it might just have a small masterpiece in its own genre (with me doing the track selection mind you) albeit a minor one. And if I gave it a third star, I am being a little lame, myself.

Nevermind that these had so much success with this album (if memory serves, they went to the upper reaches of the UK charts although maybe not in the pop-rock category), if you are a real proghead, this should only played if you are about to shag a new blonde chick, but do not want to have to suffer techno or Withney, this tedious (mièvre in French) disc might just do the trick and get you laid. But if you are REALLY lucky, she escaped from bed complaining about your bland musical tastes and dares you to give your best shot at impressing you!!!! Your call but let me get you some advice: avoid Monkman-related groups and head for something punchier without going as far as metal. But whether you want to get laid by a worthy woman is really up to you! Get out of the minor leagues ;-) and head for the real stuff.

Review by Zac M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars From my experience with Sky so far, I'd have to say that this is the album that comes closest to a masterpiece. While there are obviously a few flaws, this album is certainly a most excellent addition to anyone's collection, although it's probably important that they realize what they are getting into before buying the album. It seems, at least to me, that Sky is not a very popular band around this site, and that's a shame. People claim the music is easy listening instrumental music, but for some reason, I can't really hear that, maybe it's just me. Certainly, this album is of interest to the listener who enjoys rock music in a classical setting or should that be the other way around???

This sprawling double album (I only have the CD, which deletes two of the tracks from the original vinyl release) starts out with one of the most popular Sky pieces, "Hotta." While it is good, I don't seem to like it as much as other Sky fans. "Dance of the Little Fairies" is a nice piece that starts with gentle piano and builds with William's unparelled guitar. Soon, synths and various other instruments are incorporated and it becomes very catchy, defintely a highlight of the album. "Sahara" is probably one of my favorite Sky pieces. At first the piece is quiet and somewhat subdued, but after the glistening piano parts, the intensity increases and it too builds; it becomes almost ethnic sounding at times. The best part comes when the flourish ends and calm begins. The guitar and piano interplay is absolutely sublime, soft and sweet, but never too cheesy. At the end, the flourish begins again.

I feel that the epic, "Fifo," could have been a great piece, but to me, it's too meandering. Maybe if it was divided up across the album indifferent segments, I would have enjoyed it more, but the way it actually is, just isn't to my liking. This is one case where the epic is the worst track on the album, although it has its moments. "Tuba Smarties" was Sky's attempt at musical humor, and it works. The piece was written and performed by Herbie Flowers on the tuba, and even though most wouldn't consider a piece featuring tuba as catchy or interesting, this certainly is an exception! "Ballet-Volta" is a nice classical guitar piece featuring the virtuoso John Williams; nothing out of the ordinary, but if you know Williams work, you will like it.

"Tristan's Magic Garden" is a percussion feature, and like the epic seems a bit meandering. I think it too could have been better, but that's not to say that it's bad. I like it, but I just it's just not up to par with many of the other pieces; it actually reminds me of Pierre Moerlen's Gong quite a bit. "El Cielo" (the sky in Spanish, they were trying to be clever I take it...) is another great track. At first William's guitar and a synth are present, and the song seems a bit dark. Then, it becomes a light, VERY catchy piece with soft percussion and nice latin-inspired guitar work. The mood shifts back to dark by the end of the piece, but then goes back to being light and catchy. This is definitely one of the best reworkings done by Williams.

"Vilvaldi" is a reworking of the Curved Air adaptation that Darryl Way did back when Monkman was in Curved Air. Sky does a great job with the piece; it's very dramatic and interesting. What can I say about "Scipio?" I think it's my FAVORITE Sky piece, so incredibly great. It begins with the nice guitar work of Williams, then like in other Sky compositions, it builds and builds, always staying catchy and interesting. The best part is when the glistening piano comes in. It's definitely eargasmic! This piece shows the passion and substance that people claim Sky never had. It's the best on the album by far! Sky's reworking of Bach's "Tocatta" is pretty good, definitely very dramatic and interesting, but I'm not sure if it's the perfect closer for the album.

All I can say to sum things up is that this is a fantasic album. While not a masterpiece per se, it's still of interest to John William's fans, or fans of classical Rock (I guess that's what you'd call Sky...). And all in all, I think it deserves 4 stars, although it verges on 4.5, possibly Sky's best effort, although I'm not sure, as I haven't heard their entire discography yet, unfortunately.

Review by russellk
4 stars A candidate for the best instrumental rock album of all time.

This, SKY'S second and most important release, sold extremely well in the UK in 1980, becoming that year's tenth highest selling album. That may, in fact, make it the year's biggest selling progressive rock album. Yet few people know of it now, or remember it, though they ought to.

This jazz/classical/rock fusion works so seamlessly, and the music is produced so effortlessly, that many listeners make the mistake of considering it muzak. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are original compositions on this double-album set that rank with the best instrumentals written. The 17- minute 'Fifo' and the 12-minute 'Scipio' are both glorious, brimming with changing moods, shimmering solo sections which allow each musician to display his talents, and, in the case of 'Fifo', a truly progressive finale.

SKY show us they can rock out ('Hotta'), have fun ('Dance of the little fairies') and create music with drama and hair-raising moments ('Sahara') - all on side one of four, all original compositions, and all essential listening. Sides two and four offer us longer pieces, and side three contains diligent reproductions of classical pieces, and a little gem of a piece ('El Cielo'). The most well-known piece, a spirited interpretation of Bach's 'Toccata', possibly resulted in many people dismissing them as 'Hooked on Classics'. Nothing could be further from the truth. I really can't imagine a fan of progressive rock not finding something to enjoy on this release. Highly recommended.

Review by progrules
3 stars Sky is actually one of my earlier encounters with prog. The band is mainly from the prog-poor eighties so that will have something to do with it (seventies prog I discovered later on). In fact I had a friend in those days who introduced me to the band (1985 ?). He was a big fan, played it a couple of times and I actually enjoyed it but since there were no CD's yet in those days but were some years later I bought the CD as soon as I saw it. Never became a huge fan but it's nice music.

It's instrumental and I always like those. Hotta is the first track and one of the highlights I believe, it's pretty fierce for Sky standards but an inventive and great composition (4*). The Dance of the little fairies is more like average Sky: funny, bit folky tune (3*). Sahara reminds me of Iris in the beginning but then turns into a rhythmic kind of dance tune then going back to a very slow dreamy one, interesting variation ! Good track (3,5*). The epical Fifo consists of four parts and has a classical build up with Adagio and Scherzo but the composition itself is not in classical style. It's again varied instrumental handling with many different instruments successively taking their turn, again with nice rhythm. Sky isn't really about structured songs with themes coming back all the time, it's true prog in this sense that they leave the usual road and shine in complexity sometimes sounding like improvisation. You will not get bored with this album at least not so far with the first 4 songs, not when you sit down and have a real good listen. Because there is also another way of going about with Sky's music and that is use it as background music but to be honest that is mainly by the absence of vocals, not because it's simple music. Anyway, Fifo is a classic to me, good epic, especially the first movement (3,75*).

Unfortunately we have had the best after these first four. Of the other tracks I believe only Gavotte & var. and Scipio (highlight !) are really worth mentioning. But still a pretty good effort by Sky and you get enough playing time with this disc (almost 80 minutes). 3 stars (3,2) and recommended for fans of instrumental varied music (modern & classical) who can also appreciate some humour in it (Tuba Smarties).

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars To most of us in North America, this was Sky's debut, a sprawling 2 LP work that took the UK charts by storm and did pretty well in selected new world markets like Ottawa, Canada where I went to university. It was a breath of fresh air at the time, with the airwaves dominated by punk, new wave, and other genres that placed image above musicianship and songwriting. The fusion of classical with rock was certainly not new, but Sky did it without the histrionics of ELP, and from the outset they tried to be light and self effacing about it. All you have to do is read the liner notes to appreciate their attitude.

Like most music based on older compositions and ancient instrumentation, Sky's material has aged pretty well and, while it possesses some kinship with the new age music that permeated adult consciousness some years later, it also displays a lot more virtuosity and can be appreciated even by serious students of the masters. Sure, some prog fans prefer a little more machismo, and for that I point to the "Fifo" suite, which to my mind is the weakest part of the proceedings, but it does show more verve. The highlights are pretty much everything else: the Latin inspired "Hotta"; the epics "Sahara", "Dance of the Little Fairies" and especially "Scipio" ; the happy go lucky "Tuba Smarties"; the harpsichord fest that is "Gavotte and Variations"; the percussive melodicism of "Tristan's Magic Garden"; the nearly Flamenco "El Cielo"; and of course the wildly popular adaptations of "Vivaldi" and "Toccata". The virtuosity and panache of all members of this supergroup makes Sky 2 one of the better double LPs of any era, and one of the few that didn't beg for condensation into one disk.

Largely and unjustly forgotten now, Sky 2 was an important album for keeping serious rock music alive, let alone popular, when it was oh so unfashionable. Recommended.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Sky 2", what a lovely collector's item for me in my earliest days as a prog rock fan. My Spanish vinyl edition remains a cherished gem in my collection: I haven't listened to it too often in the last two years, but from time to time I come back to it, even if it's only for two or three tracks. 'Hotta' kicks off the album on a very optimistic mood: it is basically a refined rocker on an up tempo pace, featuring solos by each member (special mentions to Peek's soaring phrases and Fry's amazing drumming chops) as the moderately exotic main motif gets cleverly reiterated. This is what I call taking good advantage of 7 ¾ minutes. It is a great opening, indeed, and from step one it is an indication that this album should be more vibrant than the debut. 'Dance of the Little Fairies' a Flowers-penned piece that had already been part of the band's live setlists before this album's production, states a dynamic exposure of Baroque- style palace music on a playful 5/4 tempo: while the dual classical guitars carry on the main motif, it is the piano harmonies and harpsichord additions that bring the definite structure for the track. 'Sahara' is one of the most accomplished Peek compositions: bearing a combination of plain symphonic rock and jazz for the Arabic main motif, it delivers a pleasant atmosphere whose eerie potential is mainly discovered during the soft interlude. So far, so good. And things will continue to be so very good with the 'Fifo' suite written by Monkman to fill the vinyl B-side's 17 minutes. The first section has the peculiarity that Monkman doubles on keyboards and a second electric guitarist, which helps the catchy motif's groove to carry out a clever dose of intensity: as usual, Fry confidently builds the rhythmic dynamics paired with Monkman's precise bass lines. Not that the band turns heavy or Hawkwind-like, but the energy level of Sky-style rock is properly conveyed. The second section, entitled 'Adagio', is a literal adagio, a slow piece with a patent melancholic mood. Section 3 returns to the uptempo elegance of Sky at their rockiest: once again we find a catchy motif delivered with finesse and gusto, eventually connected with inserted portions of section 1 plus a quotation of 'Scipio' (a Flowers composition that will appear later in the album). The suite's last section is a cleverly monotonous spacey motif that conjures images of airplanes flying through pleasant blue skies above peaceful desert lands. As the fade-out slowly begins, I wish the motif could be reiterated one more time. The double album's C-side was devoted to highlighting the individual ideas. Here is Flowers' tuba-centered piece for a circus-like theme (Fry plays some trumpet counterpoints); two classical pieces that Williams arranged for duets with Peek; an extended harpsichord solo. Well, my favorite solo is Fry's adventure on vibes, marimba, xylophone and tympani, which makes an accessible approach to the use of percussive textures in 20th century chamber. But my fave track from this vinyl's side has to be 'El Cielo', movingly beautiful, impressively evocative. Williams took two Spanish folk pieces, taking one as the verse and the other as the chorus: the final result is a captivating exercise on romance and introspection, with a controlled colorfulness and a convincing use of atmospheres. I don't need to listen to it, just remember it to feel a special, unspeakable warmth in my heart. Anyway. Moving on with the album's repertoire, next is a 'Vivaldi' cover (a hint to Curved Air, Monkman's prog alma mater): it really isn't that substantial, although it is fair to say that it works as a pretext for the musicians to show their skills craftily integrated into the whole ensemble. Something similar happens in 'Scipio', but this really is a substantial track, with heavily melodic interplaying, a well-sustained groove, a solid demonstration of inspiration and colorfulness. The album's closed down by yet another chamber music cover: Bach's 'Toccata' is given a sort of Camel-meets-Wakeman treatment that really enhances the popular motifs involved. "Sky 2" is Sky's top opus, not their last great release, but definitely, this is where the band was at top of their game. One may enjoy some tracks more than others, but it is not like the less enjoyable numbers are mainly fillers: this is, generally speaking, a well constructed double album. Sky rules!
Review by TCat
4 stars This is a great double album which I was very fortunate to find in great condition in a second hand shop on vinyl. It's definitely something you should look for if you love a lot of variety in your instrumental repertoire because this one has something for everyone and it is all done very professionally. I was lucky enough to get the full version because apparently the version listed on this site is missing two tracks. The first record seems to be more jazz influenced while the second record is more classically influenced. But the main thing you have here is a very exciting variety which still sounds quite cohesive and not contrived.

Hotta is a Spanish style dance piece fashioned after a Spanish rhythm. The guitars at the beginning almost sound like a theme from a western movie but the song moves forward featuring solos from everyone with the same beat continuing in the background up until the wild and crazy percussion solo, which afterwards returns to the main theme. "Dance of the Little Fairies" is a 5/4 beat with minimal percussion and a playful theme reflecting on the title, harpsichord and a classic guitar play throughout and additional percussion gets added in as it goes on. "Sahara" begins quietly with piano improv with some guitar joining in and then a jazz-tinged flamenco develops out of this. Nice guitar here. The middle part of the piece quiets down quite a bit with some lovely guitar and piano complimenting each other with bass, soon drums start in making this into a nice flowing song, the drums eventually give back the wheel to the guitar and piano as before, then the flamenco/jazz sound starts again to close out the piece. "FIFO" is an excellent prog instrumental in 4 movements, the 1st movement being the proggiest, the 2nd quite slow and somewhat ambient and the 3rd and 4th very straightforward and rock oriented. It plays around with a main theme which is established in the 1st movement and embellished throughout the other movements. "Tuba Smarties" features a (you guessed it) Tuba. This is a live track and is featured for "comic relief" as it transforms itself from a brooding tune to something that sounds like a polka and piano and other brass is added before coming to a lumbering end. "Ballet ? Volta" is a stripped down tune which sounds very baroque-ish and played on two acoustic guitars. The Ballet section is mid tempo and the Volta section is faster. "Gavotte & Variations" continues the baroque sound of the previous track and is performed solely on a harpsichord. This is an actual baroque composition written by J.P. Rameau which is made up of a theme and several variations. "Andante" is more of a classical piece performed on guitar based on the second movement of Vivaldi's Concerto in G for mandolins. "Tristan's Magic Garden" turns back to jazz/rock as this one is all percussion instruments. It starts out very minimalistic with vibraphone, marimba and timpani. The last part is a lot louder with some very excellent use of percussion and the "bass line" is played by timpani! This is really cool. "El Cielo" is a very nice acoustic Spanish guitar piece which actually mixes two Spanish themes. The second part sees the addition of other instruments to keep it interesting. This one is very nice. I love the track "Vivaldi" which is actually a Curved Air tune. This is a classic "classical-rock" tune which they claim was a crowd pleaser and I can hear why. Very cool! "Scipio" is the longest piece (not counting the multi-movement "FIFO") here clocking in at 12 minutes. This is another "classical/rock" type piece which utilizes the entire band melding together to produce something very nice. The final composition is "Toccata (in D m)" based upon the very famous toccata of the same name by J.S. Bach. This is a rocked-up version of the toccata using the non-classical band instruments with even a small drum solo in the middle. This is a lot of fun to listen to.

Definately an excellent addition to any prog rock collection, but nothing new here, just very enjoyable.

Latest members reviews

3 stars The second album by Sky is really appealing being a double album and it is an enjoyable one. Just as many reviewers have explained, these musicians were top class but you're often reminded here that they are playful and seldom take themselves seriously, most notably from the song titles. "Hott ... (read more)

Report this review (#1170082) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Friday, May 2, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Most Sky fans regard this as the peak of the band's output, and with good reason. There are ver few weak spots here, which is unusual for a double album. I now have the CD release, but I will speak of "sides" because I first discovered this album in LP form, it being 1980. At the time I first en ... (read more)

Report this review (#117080) | Posted by rsmoore | Sunday, April 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What a shame that this band is so unknown... I've just discovered them, and am very happy I did. I love their imaginative versions of classical masterpieces. Original compositions are also quite sophisticated and memorable. They have the chops and the imagination to make rich and complex music ... (read more)

Report this review (#31185) | Posted by EMinkovitch | Monday, January 17, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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