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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghoulish Grooves Make up Funky Halloween Treats

Time to get into the Halloween groove with some scary classic soul favorites.  Four out of the five haunting melodies below are guaranteed to bust a move on the dance floor.

Our fright night tunes embody entertaining performances with whistling wind, creaking doors, howling wolves, and blood-curdling screams.

Here are my top five soulful Halloween heavyweights, ranked in order.

1) Thriller - Michael Jackson


“Thriller” gets the nod as the best production.  With Quincy Jones and Vincent Price in your corner, how can you lose?

Jacko ain’t wacko on this one.  Michael delivers the goods.  An international mega hit.  Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

2) Ghostbusters - Ray Parker Jr.


Having a popular movie (of the same name) to promote your song always helps the cause.

The video was fun, the song is bouncy, the rhythm is memorable.  Who you gonna call?  Rating: 9 out of 10.

3) Addams Groove - Hammer


Hammer creates a tale about the spooky Addams Family, (a 1960’s hit television series), and details their bizarre behavior in this hip-hop pop gem.

He raps about the ghastly but harmless Addams’, a family with Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolf Man lookalikes.

With a tip of the hat to James Brown, Hammer takes “Addams Groove” to the bridge for fun and laughs.  Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

4) I Put a Spell on You - Screamin’ Jay Hawkins


Jalacy J. Hawkins wanted to sing opera like his idol, Paul Robeson.

Fortunately for R&B fans, the desire for quick money channeled the Cleveland, Ohio native towards more popular fare.

Hawkins is famous for his screams, howls, and vocal grunts.  Screamin’ Jay recorded “Spell” several times.  The 1956 version caused outraged parents to call radio stations to ban airplay.

Sound familiar?

Even with an eventual ban, a million copies were sold.  This one is wild - a classic and an original.  Rating: 8 out of 10.

5) The Skeleton in the Closet - Louis Armstrong with Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra


Once upon a time, the big band sound ruled the dance floor.

The legendary Louis Armstrong gets the joint jumpin’ with this 1936 recording along with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.

Armstrong sings about an old deserted mansion haunted with spirits.  Uptempo, eerie, and clever, “The Skeleton in the Closet” is entertaining, campy, and cool.

The song was also featured in the movie, “Pennies From Heaven,” starring Bing Crosby.  Louis pulls a stylistic Cab Calloway here, rappin’, struttin’, and singing.  He plays his trumpet too.

Seventy years later, “Skeleton” stands the test of time.  Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Halloween music lights up the imagination of listeners of all ages.  These five songs capture suspenseful drama at it’s best.

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Posted by King on 10/31 at 01:02 AM
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

George Benson and Al Jarreau are Trading Places

George Benson and Al Jarreau have gathered their friends together to offer us a brand new release, “Givin’ It Up."

According to the Concord Music Group, the 13 song collection features George or Al on a new arrangement of the other’s biggest hits.

Jarreau adds lyrics to and sings Benson’s signature instrumental “Breezin’,” while the legendary jazz guitarist delivers a nice instrumental version of Al’s wake-up hit “Mornin’."

"Givin’ It Up” also includes versions of Seals and Crofts‘ “Summer Breeze” and Hall and Oates‘ (and Paul Young’s) “Every Time You Go Away."

The tracks were recorded between April and June, 2006.

Paul McCartney dropped in to join Benson and Jarreau on an impromptu cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me."

Jill Scott performs Billie Holiday’s timeless “God Bless the Child."

Also included is an instrumental take on John Legend’s Grammy Award-winning R&B hit, “Ordinary People."

Patti Austin, Patrice Rushen, Herbie Hancock, and Stanley Clarke also appear on the album.

It sounds like “Givin’ It Up” has the sonic star power to appeal to a wide audience.

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Posted by King on 10/26 at 01:01 AM
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Evelyn “Champagne” King uncorks her New Spirit

I’ve always enjoyed Evelyn “Champagne” King, (left in this photo, along with Thelma Houston, and the late Vicki Sue Robinson).

Of the three times I’ve seen E-C-K live, her booming voice always left a lasting impression.  She started out in the music business as a teenager, performing her lively hits, including “Shame,” “Love Come Down,” and “I Don’t Know if it’s Right."

Evelyn’s waited in the wings for over a decade before recently signing a new recording deal.

She really hasn’t gone anywhere, as she’s continued to perform through the years.  Her new album will give her the opportunity to expose her talent to a whole new generation.

Get into the complete Evelyn “Champagne” King biography on her official web site, and look forward to her brand new musical bubbly coming your way soon.

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Posted by King on 10/25 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ashford and Simpson Cook up Haute Hit Cuisine

Turn on your radio or favorite music device, and you’d be hard pressed not to quickly hear a hit song written by husband and wife team Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Nick and Val have penned some of the best:

  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
  • I’m Every Woman
  • Reach Out and Touch
  • You’re All I Need to Get By
  • California Soul

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) credits an amazing 240 songs to the pair.  Just their Motown output would be spectacular enough.  When you factor in their own self-authored hits, well this team is one-of-a-kind.

What’s your favorite Ashford and Simpson hit by Ashford and Simpson?  It might be one of these:

  • Is It Still Good To You
  • Solid
  • Found a Cure

Since 1996, Nick and Val have co-owned an intimate live entertainment full service upper West Side New York City restaurant.

Ashford and Simpson’s Sugar Bar was originally conceived by Nickolas.

Sugar Bar has had a decade of staying power.  The formula: famous hosts, great food, lively performances, and frequent visits from celebrities.

Ashford and Simpson.  They’ve sung the songs.  They’ve written the hits.  They’ve dabbled as DJ’s on New York’s 98.7 Kiss FM.  What’s left on their plate?  Serving up plenty of more surprises!

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Posted by King on 10/24 at 08:28 AM
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Whitney Houston Holds Top Ten Career Record

Here’s Whitney Houston in happier days having fun in the studio.

When she topped the pop charts in 1988 with her seventh consecutive number one hit, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” she broke the “six in a row” record held by both the Beatles and the Bee Gees.

It’s hard being a diva.  In addition to the fame and fortune, the tabloid press document your every move.  Whitney has been a frequent poster girl in newspaper gossip columns, blogs, and magazines.

The tabloids are notorious for lax fact checking when they know coverage of celebrities will generate big sales.

Let’s not escape the fact however that Whitney Houston has an enviable track record of big time success.

Here is her place among all artists with the most number one hits (according to music historian Joel Whitburn).

  1. The Beatles
  2. Elvis Presley
  3. Mariah Carey
  4. Michael Jackson
  5. Madonna
  6. The Supremes
  7. Whitney Houston
  8. George Michael
  9. Stevie Wonder
  10. Bee Gees

and Artists with the most top 10 hits (source: Joel Whitburn)

  1. Elvis Presley
  2. The Beatles
  3. Madonna
  4. Stevie Wonder
  5. Michael Jackson
  6. Elton John
  7. Janet Jackson
  8. The Rolling Stones
  9. Whitney Houston
  10. Paul McCartney

What does the future hold for the New Jersey native?

In a statement on her web site, visitors can find the following message:

"It has been confirmed that Whitney Houston has filed for a divorce. This has been confirmed and announced by Whitney’s spokesperson, Nancy Seltzer."

Of the three 2006 news section posts on her web site (to date), two have been damage control, while only one promotes her music career...

and what a career it’s been.

Dive right into our Powerhouse Radio Whitney Houston Quiz for some quick and tasteful trivia.

From this relatively young star, look for another eventual comeback.

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Posted by King on 10/19 at 01:01 AM
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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Contemporary R&B Chart Toppers Challenged by Staying Power

What’s the relationship between sales popularity and music quality?

I was curious about this question while reviewing one large online retailer’s current R&B music chart.

A quick scan of these two charts (for the week of October 16, 2006) reveals a big difference between buying preferences and personal evaluation of the quality of the music by the buyers.

Here are the top 25 R&B CD’s in order:

  1. Janet Jackson, 20 Y.O. (2006)
  2. Justin Timberlake, FutureSex / LoveSounds (2006) Parental Advisory
  3. Fergie, The Dutchess (2006)
  4. Ludacris, Release Therapy (2006) Parental Advisory
  5. Gladys Knight, Before Me (2006)
  6. Solomon Burke, Nashville (2006)
  7. Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor (2006) Parental Advisory
  8. South Park Mexican, When Devils Strike (2006) Parental Advisory
  9. Aaron Neville, Bring It On Home...The Soul Classics (2006)
  10. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Thug Stories (2006) Parental Advisory
  11. Lloyd Banks, Rotten Apple (2006) Parental Advisory
  12. Tego Calderon, El Subestimado (2006) Parental Advisory
  13. Crunchy Black, On My Own (2006) Parental Advisory
  14. Lionel Richie, Coming Home (2006)
  15. Various Artists, What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves: 1967-1977 (2006)
  16. Roots, Game Theory (2006) Parental Advisory
  17. Ras Kass, Eat Or Die (2006) Australia; Parental Advisory
  18. Beyonce’, B’Day (2006)
  19. Danity Kane, Danity Kane (2006)
  20. Jedi Mind Tricks, Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell (2006)
  21. Young Jeezy, Can’t Ban The Snowman (2006) Parental Advisory
  22. Daz Dillinger, So So Gangsta (2006) Parental Advisory
  23. Natalie Cole, Leavin’ (2006)
  24. Method Man, 4:21… The Day After (2006) Parental Advisory
  25. Dave Hollister, Book Of David - Vol 1 The Transition (2006)

Here’s another version of the list from the same retailer.  It’s the top 25 R&B best seller chart, this time based upon customer ranking and reviews of the music...

  1. Aaron Neville, Bring It On Home...The Soul Classics (2006)
  2. Lionel Richie, Coming Home (2006)
  3. Natalie Cole, Leavin’ (2006)
  4. Dave Hollister, Book Of David - Vol 1 The Transition (2006)
  5. Willie Clayton, Gifted (2006)
  6. Governor, Son Of Pain (2006) Parental Advisory
  7. Cormega, My Brother’s Keeper (2006) Parental Advisory
  8. Mr. Marcelo, Son Of Magnolia (2006) Parental Advisory
  9. K-Ci, My Book (2006)
  10. Big Rich, Block Tested, Hood Approved (2006) Parental Advisory
  11. Justin (Ft Timbaland) Timberlake, Sexyback Pt.2 (Enhanced) England
  12. Ike Turner, Risin’ With The Blues (2006)
  13. Intruders, Best Of The Intruders: Cowboys To Girls(1995)
  14. Pete Rock, Underground Classics (2006)
  15. Lil Cuete, #1 Gun (2006)
  16. Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings (1999)
  17. Millie Jackson, Caught Up/Still Caught Up (1974)
  18. Stevie Wonder, At The Close Of A Century (1999) Box Set
  19. Daz Dillinger, So So Gangsta (2006) Parental Advisory
  20. Sweet Inspirations, Sweet Inspirations
  21. Angela Bofill, Angel Of The Night (1979)
  22. Various Artists, Disco Dance (2001)
  23. Jibbs, Chain Hang Low (2006)
  24. Roots, Things Fall Apart (1999)
  25. Paul Butterfield, East-West (1966)

What do the differences indicate?  First, people really like the CD’s by the artists at the top of the second chart.

Second, more classic soul artists dominate the second chart.  Many of the releases are not even from 2006.

Janet Jackson is number one on the sales chart, but doesn’t even rank on the second chart!  This is no error.

"20 Y.O.” has sold just over 500,000 copies, and is now being considered a flop.  After listening to this CD a couple of times, I agree with the masses.  See my review in a future Powerhouse Radio Newsletter.

Third, the crew of artists in the “Parental Advisory” club drops dramatically in the second chart.

These trendy R&B/hip hop releases dominate the sales chart, but seem to be less valued when reviews are written by the community of music lovers who rank the tunes in chart two.

How we feel about music influences whether we’ll like a certain amount of exposure to unknown tracks.  Too often we typecast artists and genres.  We don’t listen first before forming opinions.

But what if your favorite music betrays you?

One writer who has been doing a lot of recent listening is Lonnae O’Neal Parker.  Her October 15, 2006 high profile article in the Washington Post, “Why I Gave Up On Hip-Hop,” is a confessional laced with conclusions you could easily draw from just eyeballing the trends of these charts.

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Posted by King on 10/18 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lionel Richie Leads a Grab Bag of Christmas Holiday Favorites

Here are some notes on three festive holiday releases coming your way this Fall.

(1) The rejuvenated Lionel Richie, riding the success of his latest CD “Coming Home,” offers eight holiday songs for the new “Lionel Richie Collection,” including “Joy to the World,” and “Silent Night."

(2) John Legend, (scheduled to release his next CD October 24th), gives fans a bonus CD of holiday hits.  “Let it Snow” is featured on “The John Legend Collection” Christmas offering.

Retailer Target will be the exclusive distributor of the Richie and Legend holiday CD’s.

(3) Daryl Hall and John Oates have released their first ever Christmas album.  They are donating a portion of the proceeds to Toys for Tots, the charitable program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.

There are two new songs, “Home for Christmas,” which is the title track, and “No Child Should Ever Cry on Christmas."

These traditional classics get a contemporary touch:

  • The First Noel
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  • The Christmas Song
  • Mary Had a Baby
  • Oh Holy Night

Hall and Oates have also re-recorded “Jingle Bell Rock,” a promotional single they originally released many years ago.

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Posted by King on 10/17 at 01:15 AM
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dionne Warwick and Girl Friends Sing Fresh Duets

Dionne Warwick continues her 2006 celebration of 45 years in show business with a new all-star female duet collection featuring those most memorable Burt Bacharach - Hal David hits.

Together with Dionne on “My Friends and Me” are:

  • Gladys Knight
  • Olivia Newton-John
  • Kelis
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Mya
  • Angie Stone
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Reba McEntire
  • Da Brat
  • Celia Cruz
  • Chante Moore
  • Wynonna Judd
  • Cheyenne Elliott
  • Lisa Tucker
  • Deborah Cox

Gladys Knight joins Ms. Warwick for a powerful reading of “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.”

Olivia Newton-John and Dionne do a bouncy interpretation of “Wishin’ and Hopin’.”

Contemporary R&B maven Mya does “Close to You” duet style.

Kelis jumps in with DW for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”

Gloria Estefan tag-teams “Walk on By.”

Celia Cruz together with Dionne helps point the way to “San Jose.”

Deborah Cox, Chante Moore, Angie Stone, and Da Brat help Ms. Warwick bring the socially conscious “Windows of the World” up-to-date, with Da Brat rapping about Iraq, Katrina, and other controversial issues.

Dionne will celebrate the November 7th release of “My Friends and Me” with a special benefit concert on Sunday, November 19, at New York’s Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall.

The evening will raise funds for Love Our Children USA and The New York Therapeutic Riding Center.

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Posted by King on 10/12 at 09:45 AM
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Soulful 45 RPM Picture Sleeve Flashback

By approximately 1990, 45 RPM picture sleeves faded into music history.

The colorful jackets artfully promoted the latest songs by eager recording acts with visions of hits dancing in their heads.

The seven inch vinyl record inside of the sleeve also faded into oblivion along with 8 track tapes, turntables, and electric typewriters.

CD singles still come with picture sleeves, but as digital downloading of music becomes more popular, the days of CD singles are numbered.  Retail CD albums will probably last a little longer.

Can you guess what year these four songs with sleeves were released?

  

 

Hint: all four are from the same year in the 1980’s.

These four original 45 RPM picture sleeves, from the PowerhouseRadio.com collection, promoted what turned out to be major hits for Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, and minor releases for Natalie Cole and Smokey Robinson.

As you might guess, sleeves keep increasing in value.  Do you have any in your collection?  Most 45 RPM picture sleeves, even without the vinyl records inside, fetch between $5 to $10 a piece in 2006.

Several authors have written books estimating the value of these sleeves.  The more famous the act, the more value the sleeve has.

I’m lucky enough to have several hundred original 45 RPM picture sleeves going back to 1964, 99.5% with the records too, and I plan to hold on to all of them.

Answer to the trivia question:

1987.

Grab our free Powerhouse Radio Screensaver featuring an exciting portion of our picture sleeve collection.

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Posted by King on 10/12 at 12:31 AM
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Mary Wilson Supreme Fight for Truth in Music

In my review of Marc Taylor’s Book: “A Touch of Classic Soul: Soul Singers of the Early 1970’s,” I mention that there were two groups of competing Delfonics touring in the 1980’s.

William and Wilbert Hart, original members of the Delfonics, each sought to control the name.

Today, there are still bogus groups touring the world using familiar names in an attempt to “get over” while shamming you and me.

In the USA, the “imposter group” fraud problem has been around for years.

Mary Wilson, an original member of The Supremes, has been involved in a battle to pass national legislation to prevent imposter groups from using famous names of 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s performers.

Her legislation requires the presence of a verifiable original group member for the name to be legally used in a live performance.

The federal courts have passed on the issue, so Mary has pushed for the legislation in individual states.  Other famous music celebrities have supported her cause.

So far, Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Carolina, and North Dakota have adopted the truth in music legislation.

The Pennsylvania bill forbids, among other things...

"Conducting any theatrical exhibition, public show, public amusement or exhibition, for admission to which a price is charged, without stating in any advertisement of the same, in the case of a musical group, whether or not the musical group performing is composed of the original members or a tribute group."


It’s important to note that Mary says tribute groups are OK, as long as the tribute group doesn’t purposely masquerade as the original group.

Visit Mary Wilson’s web site for complete contact information.  You can join her and support her honorable truth in music crusade.

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Posted by King on 10/10 at 11:10 PM
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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Diana Ross drops Love Power Pick

The highly anticipated Diana Ross CD, “I Love You,” is scheduled for release Tuesday, October 10th.  It’s her first studio album in over seven years.

Diana says that she and her producers researched hundreds of songs to select the 14 that are included in the collection.

Their screening process was similar to the Quincy Jones - Michael Jackson technique of whittling down about 800 songs to the nine that appeared on “Thriller."

Ms. Ross offers “I Love You (That’s all That Really Matters)” as the sole new song.  The other tunes were selected for what Diana characterizes as “craftsmanship in songwriting."

  1. Remember - from the pen of Harry Nilsson
  2. More Today Than Yesterday - Spiral Starecase
  3. I Want You - Marvin Gaye
  4. I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters)
  5. What About Love - from Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple” (stage Production)
  6. The Look of Love - Dusty Springfield
  7. Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
  8. Lovely Day - Bill Withers
  9. To Be Loved
  10. Only You
  11. I Will - Paul McCartney
  12. You Are So Beautiful - Billy Preston
  13. Always and Forever - Heatwave
  14. Remember Reprise

Diana Ross, at age 62, is closing in on her 60th Album.  Wow!  I like the look of “I Love You."

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Posted by King on 10/05 at 06:05 PM
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Before us again: Song Stylist Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight has been underrated for years.  She’s one of the great R&B singers.

Showing even more range, Gladys has jumped on the “standards” bandwagon with her brand new CD, “Before Me."

Yes, you’ve heard these jazzy classics before:

  1. Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
  2. The Man I Love
  3. Good Morning Heartache
  4. Since I Fell For You
  5. God Bless The Child
  6. This Bitter Earth
  7. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
  8. Someone To Watch Over Me
  9. But Not For Me
  10. I’ll Be Seeing You
  11. Stormy Weather
  12. Come Sunday

They are the great songs of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.

"Before Me” is the kind of collection you spin to set the perfect mood for a special evening.

Gladys is in perfect form.  The songs resonate personality with her warm and earthy phrasing.

Song stylist for the ages...absolutely.

Every Gladys Knight fan should love, “Before Me.” The collection reveals another facet of a vocal legend - a strand of jazz that’s good for the soul.

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Posted by King on 10/04 at 09:33 AM
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ultimate Luther Vandross Shines Bright

Will the Luther Vandross touch on a song ever go out of style?

Just add his name to these glowing, classic soul CD releases...

  • “The Best of” - 1989
  • “Greatest Hits” - 1999
  • “Super Hits” - 2000
  • “The Ultimate” - 2001
  • “Very Best of” - 2002
  • “The Essential” - 2003
  • “The Ultimate” - 2006

There are a few other “pretend” hit collections from obscure record labels, but this list represents the strongest of the Luther Vandross compilations.

Some time back, Chic‘s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers collaborated with others to write a previously unreleased dance track, “Shine,” showcasing Luther’s magnificent voice.

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have produced “Shine,” which appears on the new “Ultimate Luther Vandross."

Out of the 17 other “Ultimate” tracks, one additional song has never been released: “Got You Home.” It’s a slow-to-medium tempo ballad.

Vandross diehards will probably want to grab just “Shine” via a digital download, since the rest of “The Ultimate Luther Vandross” appears on earlier releases.

Newer fans can’t go wrong getting this excellent 18 song collection.

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Posted by King on 10/03 at 01:01 AM
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