Concrete Blonde: Bloodletting [1990 Australian tour souvenir edition] (Review)

This disc may be my newest acquisition, but some of these songs and I go back more than fifteen years. So when I stumbled across this disc the other day, and saw that it had all my favorites from the band, I had to get it. And now I’m telling you why you should get it. Just maybe not this version, it’s probably a little difficult to find these days.

But not matter what version you get, the album will kick off with the brilliant and atmospheric “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)”. The sinister bass line that underpins the song and the killer , slightly doomy/Sabbathy, riff dig a groove for this song something like six feet. Singer Johnette Napolitano, meanwhile, is most comfortable prowling the midrange, but you’d better believe she can let loose with some power for the high notes when she needs to. And what better place to show it off than the song’s chant-along chorus that is really fun to, well, chant along to.

The top quality tune is immediately followed up by the speedy “The Sky is a Poisonous Garden”, which is just thrash. A solid drumbeat drives along a speedy fiesta of riff, bass and low vocals. It’s not the heaviest the genre has to offer, but female thrash is a rare treat, and this song will scratch that itch, while also adding something new with some soft, high notes to back the chorus. And then the album changes track again for the mid-intensity “Caroline”. Not at all a full-on, slow ballad, it keeps the album’s momentum going while also exploring a softer side of things. And I love the song as much as the previous two. It’s one of the ones that’s been in my life for about as long as I can remember, and, yep, it was my father responsible for that.

Things do get more ballady as the album leads on with “Darkening of the Light”, but the acoustic twinkle keeps the song vibrant. And by no means is it a bad song, Napolitano has range and versatility in spades, so I don’t mind the variety to the songs. It’s actually something that makes the album quite appealing, even if it means you’ll need a wide palate of musical tastes to get the most out of it.

The ballads continue on with “I Don’t Need a Hero”, though taking a slightly more stripped back approach, with an increased percussion presence. It’s only alright though and it goes on a little long for my tastes. After the great “Darkening of the Light”, this song doesn’t really do enough to justify its existence. But we are plunged back into the action with the fun riff and funky bass of “Days and Days”. Napolitano’s punky and slightly Boingo-ey sneering through the verses if fun too, and the simple call and response hook of the chorus of ‘days and days!’ is plenty catchy and makes an enjoyable headband or fist pump no matter where you are.

Rock rolls on into the next song, the speedy and riffy “The Beast”. Another one for the bass fans, I also find the low-range vocals for the chorus to be a nice change of pace from the usual, and it helps differentiate the songs on the album. There’s also a couple of killer solos on this tune (and around the rest of the album too) to enjoy) Eighth track, “Lullabye”, is definitely one ballad too many, and not a real innovative or interesting one at that, unfortunately. But the next song is brilliant again so it’s not the end of the world. Another ballady one, but actually a good one this time, “Joey” has a lot more in common with “Caroline” than the two duds. And I love it as much as that one. Napolitano gets to open up the vocals a bit too, which helps the song for sure, and they manage to fit in a contemplative solo and a bit of a riff in there as well.

And now, we finally get to “Tomorrow Wendy”. The soft and emotional tale of a woman diagnosed with AIDS who took her own life rather than living with the disease, this is absolutely one of the best ballads on the disc, interpolating incredibly soft parts with livelier bits. It would usually close the album on a depressing note, but on this edition you get four extra bonus live tracks. Recorded in Malibu, likely in 1990, you can get three of these on various b-sides from the era, as well as the 20th anniversary anniversary edition of this album.

But the one song you can’t get on those, and I think is exclusive to this very disc, is the song I bought the album for, the live version of “God is a Bullet”. My favorite Concrete Blonde song (actually getting its own, in-depth song of the week a while back), it’s rendered as you’d want from a live version: a little faster, a bit more intense (with a a choice f-bomb to boot) and just a tad haphazard. I didn’t pay a huge amount for this disc, but it was absolutely worth it for this track alone. The fact that the rest of the album is mostly great and has most of my favorite songs from the band is a wicked bonus.

Anyway, live track two is “The Sky is a Poisonous Garden”. And this rendition rules too. Taking an already amped up song and applying the energy of a live performance to it results in a blistering take on this killer tune. Then, from the band’s 1989 album Free (as was “God is a Bullet”), is “Roses Grow”, a fun, bouncy number that’s nice to have. And, finally, the album returns to its original closer with “Tomorrow Wendy”. A little more lively in the vocals department (not that the studio version was deficient in this regard), it sort of acts as a more hopeful reprise of the song to close the album on a slightly less depressing note.

Bloodletting is a pretty damn good album. There’s a pretty half and half mix between the softer and harder stuff, but most of the ballads are brilliant, and the heavier and speedier songs help offset this as well by totally knocking it out of the park.

The verdict- 4.25/5 stars

Song of the Week Jr- Yesterday’s Hero

Our song of the week this week is this little Australian number that wormed its way back into my head. Not that I mind. It’s a great song, with three great renditions to take a look at. So let us commence.

Top 3 Renditions

1- Countdown: Live at the Sydney Opera House

John Paul Young’s singing is remarkably strong for his age, especially when he starts going for it towards the end of the song. But the reason I love this rendition so much is because of how happy he looks on stage. He’s pretty much smiling the entire time, and it’s infectious. Meanwhile the drummer looks like he’s asleep half the time.

2- Live 2008

The most upbeat and lively or the renditions, this one’s real fun too. I like the keys that pop up for the chorus.

3- Live 2006

Another good live rendition, especially with that fun reveal of the rest of the players towards the end. I just prefer the top one due to being more familiar with it, and because it can be bought commercially.

Motörhead: Deaf Forever- The Best of Motörhead (Review)

I don’t usually review greatest hits sets, but today I was in the mood for one, so I chose this motherload of Motörhead. I bought it at a CD and record fair along with a Megadeth greatest hits in an attempt to try some new bands (though I had already heard, and liked very much, “Ace of Spades”). And boy was this worth it. I instantly clicked with most of the songs, and despite the album’s length, it never got boring or tiresome. Major kudos to whoever picked and arranged the tracklist. Now at 21 songs this is a bit much to go song by song, but I will entertain a few more words about some of the standout songs to me.

Running in tracklist order, we start with the cover of “Louie Louie”. It’s just really fun, and not what I’d expect from a band with such a husky singer as Lemmy. Then it’s another cover, technically. “No Class” is as fun as it was when ZZ Top sang to the riff four years earlier in “Tush”. And that’s something really important about Motörhead that I really like. The music is fun. Even though it can be heavy at times, and Lemmy’s got a husky and raspy voice, I’m always having a great time with the songs on this disc. Especially on “I’m the Doctor”. It was one of the first songs to jump out at me, and I particularly like the melody for the chorus as it bounces around seemingly perfectly with its rhyming. Imagine that, complimenting the rhyming in a Motörhead song. But I like it. The soloing is also top-notch, especially on this tune.

This disc also has a couple of rarities on it. First among them is the alternate lyrics take on “Heart of Stone” from Iron Fist called “Lemmy Goes to the Pub”. Yep, you guessed it, this one is really fun too. And I definitely prefer the version found on here. Another great song, and one of my favorites on the disc, is the cover of “Please Don’t Touch”, the collaborations with Girlschool. I know I haven’t stopped saying it through this review, but this song is really, really fun. I can’t help it, I always have a blast listening to the band(s in this case).

Quickly back to the hits, “America” is another one I really like, and the live version of “Motörhead” is also a nice surprise (Sorry KeepsMeAlive). Penultimate tune “The Chase is Better Than the Catch” is killer as well, and closer “Deaf Forever” is the perfect barnstorming note to end on. But every song is good at the end of the day, this is just the ones that spoke to me the most.

Sure, I found Iron Fist to be kinda boring beyond what featured on this disc, but to judge a compilation by how much it got me into a band, there’s no other option for rating this one.

The verdict- 5/5 stars.

Star Wars ‘Songs’ of the Week

Coming off the back of a brilliant Star Wars movie ranking and discussion on The Lebrain Train, this song of the week was pretty much always going to be Star Wars related. But seeing as we’ve already done the cantina tune, I had to go a little more out of the box today. So this time we’ll be giving my favorite part of the score of each film (tough being only one per film). So you get a double value song of the week this week (actually a Tufnel), with just about double the entries. And so, without further ado, let’s get right to it. Up first, The Phantom Menace.

The Top Themes

The Phantom Menace- The Sith Spacecraft and the Droid Battle

I’ve never held “Duel of the Fates” in as high regard as most others do, so for this pick I’m going with what is (mostly) essentially the Battle Droid battle theme. Playing a multiple points in the movie (and the other two prequels), this one never fails to get the blood pumping. Plus the bit from 1:10 to 1:25 is a beautiful mix of dramatic and poignant.

Attack of the Clones- Love Pledge and the Arena

While “Across the Stars” on its own would be a worthy contender, getting to hear it in this two-fer, which also features the grand militaristic brass of the theme that would later play during the Order 66 march on the temple (and the Kashyyyk battle) in Revenge of the Sith was too juicy. This is why we need an ultimate edition of every one of these films.

Revenge of the Sith- Anakin’s Dark Deeds

There were so many great tracks to choose from (even from just the neutered standard edition that is all we have), but I had to go with the sheer dramatacism of this song. Starting with that haunting opening that plays as Obi-Wan and Yoda investigate the younglings bodies, it quickly goes to 11 with that abrupt intro of the choir. Then the strings and brass all come together with it all to create this terrific tune. I also like the brief lull at about 40% through, before it increases the intensity even further and further, before an sudden ‘finish’ and a lighter last third to finish the track. But even that won’t finish without another dramatic brass round for the finale. Truly some of John William’s best work. It also popped up during the finale of Jedi: Fallen Order, where the final ‘boss’ of the game is Darth Vader who, despite having a health bar, cannot be beaten in combat and must be run away from.

Solo- Marauders Arrive

Was there ever any doubt about this one? Such a brilliant track, hugely in part to the child choir to complement the orchestra. It really makes an already awesome battle on the train even more epic.

Rogue One- The Imperial Suite

Spoiler alert: Rogue One bored me. But the soundtrack did have a few moments of life, my favorite being the Imperial’s theme. It is a little odd to hear a Star Destroyer not scored to the “Imperial March”, but this was still an epic tune, with equal parts grandiosity and sinister vibes.

A New Hope- The Princess Appears

Yeah, “Cantina Band” is the best song ever, but we’ve already covered that one on song of the week, so today the pick is probably the most famous theme of them all. Don’t let the title fool you, this is the track with the famous Binary Sunset aka The Force Theme. Such a grand and beautiful theme.

The Empire Strikes Back- The Battle in the Snow

A really dramatic number. I love the horns in the back every now and then as can be heard at the one-minute mark (and at other times later). And to make the song even better, it was melded with a few other themes from The Empire Strikes Back to make the amazing boss theme music for the SNES Empire Strikes Back game.

Return of the Jedi- Into the Trap

A killer tune from probably the franchise’s best space battle (and the battle of Endor). It really just ramps up the tension and doesn’t let up. My only complaint is that it is way too short.

The Force Awakens- March of the Resistance

Man, I love it when John Williams goes for the more militaristic themes. The sequels’ soundtracks may have been a fair bit more forgettable at times compared to the rest of the films, but The Force Awakens did give us at least three brilliant themes (probably the only good thing it did, in my opinion). This theme in particular is so good that whenever it comes on, I forget I’m watching one of the sequels and just fall completely immersed into the moment.

The Last Jedi- Main Title and Escape

The whole opening with the bombing ‘run’ on the dreadnought, logic issues aside, was one of my favorite set pieces in the franchise, and the music was an important part of that. The beautiful mix of dramatacism and poignancy at the 6:15 mark, when the dreadnought is finally going down is a highlight of the soundtrack. And as a bonus you even get some of the First Order theme briefly as well as some of the Resistance Theme. Plus the main titles don’t hurt either

The Rise of Skywalker- Finale

Yeah, it’s technically cheating picking this one, but sue me. You got ten other perfectly functional song of the week entries today.

Dio: intermission (Review)

As a younger fan I really have it good these days. There’s a whole wealth of back-catalogues for me to explore in any order I like. But this week I decided to remind myself that, for a little while before the release of the indomitable Sacred Heart: The Video, this was the only live document of the Sacred Heart tour. So what did fans have to mull over until they could sink their teeth into the expanded video?

Six songs, starting with “King of Rock and Roll”. One of my favorite Dio songs, it’s rendered as spectacularly as you’d hope. It’s a really good opener and I wish it was played live more after the Sacred Heart tour. But hey, this is one of two great live versions we have access to. This gives way to the virtually ever-present “Rainbow in the Dark”. There isn’t much unique about this take on the song, but it rocks as usual (despite what certain individuals may profess tot he alternative).

Then it’s the centerpiece of the record, “Sacred Heart” itself. And this is a really cool rendition because it forgoes (through either editing or performance choice) the extended dragon fight to give you a straight-up live rendition of the album take. I like both performances and I’m glad each one exists, and you still get plenty of that epic riff in this shorter version.

The things get shaken up a bit. Craig Goldy replaced Vivian Campbell on guitar midway through the tour, and the band recorded the song “Time to Burn” at the time to show off their new guitarist. It was also added to the setlist going forward, appearing on Sacred Heart: The Video. To be honest, it’s not the best Dio song, it just generally fails to leave third gear for its runtime.

Then it’s a medley (of course it is, this is Dio we’re talking about) of new track “Rock ’N’ Roll Children” with Rainbow classics “Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll” and “Man on the Silver Mountain”. The first song is a killer tune and really should have been played more in later years. The Rainbow songs, meanwhile, are very welcome, even if not every verse is present. This track in particular helps the EP feel longer than it is without feeling overly long. If you just look at the number of songs on here, you’ve got enough for an entire Deep Purple live album. Anyway, this mini-setlist is closed out by the classic Dio finisher “We Rock”. An energetic rendition, I always like hearing this song. It was one of the first solo Dio songs I heard.

Now while the existence of the 2012 re-release and expansion of Sacred Heart: The Video renders this release to the second fiddle of mid-80s Dio live documents, this is still a really enjoyable bite-size chunk of an ’85 Dio show. There’s a nice mix of Sacred Heart songs and Dio and Sabbath classics, and Vivian Campbell purists will get an extra kick out of this one (mostly). But even without considering the personnel, this is still one of the best EPs released.

The verdict- 4.5/5 stars

Song of the Week- Seven and Seven Is

Here’s a rarity: the alternate song of the week format. I was in an Alice Cooper mood after that awesome show we just did on The Lebrain Train and thought I’d (spoiler alert) cover the song this week that he did, not one, but two great covers of. But we do have to start with the original, so let’s see what Love has to offer.

The Original

The production’s a little rough and the performance’s not as interesting of some of the other versions, but it nevertheless laid the groundwork for what was to come later. And it is notable that of the songs that have used this alternate format, this is one of the originals to fare the best to my tastes. But we all know that the meat of this format is the covers, so let’s get to them.

The Best Covers

1- Deep Purple

Alice may be the artist I believe to be the best at covers, but Deep Purple do take point on this one. It’s a very bright rendition with some very, very welcome horns and keys. And Ian Gillan might not have the shriek he used to, but he rocks through this song brilliantly. Moving a short bluesy solo to the midsection and keeping pace with the song when doing so was also a great way of keeping the song’s momentum and still homaging the roots of the original. And the additional keyboard and guitar solo was very welcome as well.

2- The Hollywood Vampires

It’s a tough call between the two Alice-led versions, but the fuller sounding Hollywood Vampires rendition just takes the lead here. It even (over)”corrects” the ’81 version which skipped the bluesy outro solo by dedicating half the song’s runtime to said solo. Alice in this version might not stay with you as long as some of the others, but what you do get is great.

3- Alice Cooper

And this one is still good too. Very amped up and energetic , it also omits the outro solo in favor of keeping up album momentum.

4- Robert Plant

Robert Plant’s band infuses the song with a lot more rock and roll flavor, particularly giving the bass player a lot more to do, and I like it a lot. It’s a nice way to shake things up. His singing isn’t my favorite take on the melody, but it’s undeniably Robert Plant take (and at least it wasn’t Geddy Lee). And of course this means that the outro solo is a lot more exciting too.

5- The Ramones

Rough, short and raucous, it’s everything you’d expect from a Ramones cover of this song.

Tonight on The Lebrain Train- Alice Cooper Deep Cuts

Oh boy, is this a show I’ve been waiting to do for ages, and now it’s happening. Myself, Lebrain and Marco from The Contrarians (along with a bonus list from Holen) will be counting down our top eleven (yes, the return of the Tufnel again) Alice Cooper deep cuts.

For me, an Alice Cooper deep cut is not a single, is not a cover and doesn’t appear on any live albums. But even with those restrictions it was really difficult to nail down the list. But I’m happy with it at the end. I’m definitely hoping there’ll be some surprises for my two friends, but they know their stuff too so who knows, maybe I’ll be the one surprised.

So tune in tonight at the link below (or just watch it if you’re from the future)

King’s X: Gretchen Goes To Nebraska (Re-Review)

Yes, a re-review. The first re-review in the history of the site, and one that was actually hinted at way back when the original review occurred through a ?/5 score. Because back in February of 2021 I couldn’t properly compile my thoughts on the album. But what about more than a year on? Read on and see.

Well “Out of the Silent Planet” is still a dud. It’s really dense, with lots of things going on, but nothing of real consequence is heard by my ears. It feels like everything just dilutes everything else. And the sudden change-up to a sparse and boring style around the two-third mark is too boring and far too long. But, from the opening note of “Over My Head”, we have a winner. A hell of a riff, with a Zeppish flavor at times goes very well with a wicked guitar solo and some powerful vocals courtesy of Doug Pinnick.

The softer and gentler “Summerland” is decent too. It’s not the most exciting song, but I wasn’t falling asleep, so that’s a plus. The bluesy guitar solo was cool too and it does rock up a tad towards the end. “Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something” is pretty good too. Solid riffing back there keeps things moving, and the chant-along chorus is fun, without going too heavy on the sugar.

The next song has an annoyingly cumbersome title, but you probably know which one it is anyway. And if you don’t it’s fine because the song is a boring ballad you can probably skip. Besides, you’re probably going to want to get to “I’ll Never Be The Same”, especially if you’re a fan of Lou Gramm’s style of singing. This gives way to “Mission”, which begins with some gentle organ work before the guitars kick in. Another solid midtempo rocker, the singing of the verses on this one reminds me of someone I can’t quite place (and believe me I tried) but I like it a lot so that’s a good thing.

Now we get to the only song that was beginning to click with me last time, “Fall on Me”. And let me tell you, it rocks just as much as it did back then. Sure, it doesn’t do much that the other songs on the album don’t do, but it does them really well (not that the other songs don’t, just that this one particularly nails it). But they can’t all be complete winners. Following on, the heavy “Pleiades” marks the rare occasion where the riff sits head and shoulders in quality above the rest of the song. At least we get a fair bit of it.

As the album starts to get long, the quality doesn’t look to drop with “Don’t Believe It”. Riffs? Check. Solo? Check. Confident vocals? Check. All three working together for the benefit of the song? Yep, the song checks out. The penultimate track mostly does too. The vocals are just a little aimless for my liking at times. But it’s not a complete deal-breaker. Closing track “The Burning Down” might be though. It’s just a boring, unexciting number that has me reaching for the eject button. Definitely not what you want you closing track doing.

So definitely not an unknown score this time. Despite a few meh songs, some time and some extra listens was all this album needed for me. I’ve particularly grown to like how almost every song features a great riff and solo that kind of fly under the radar because they’re just content to be one part of a whole song. I’ve also found Doug Pinnick’s singing style similarity to Lou Gramm to also be a highlight. The whole package is mostly really solid, so I can confidently say this time-

The verdict- 3.75/5 stars

Song of the Week Jr- Redeemer

It’s been a while since we’ve touched on Blaze here, so this week our song of the week is one of the best tunes to come out of the Infinite Entanglement trilogy: the opener to The Redemption of William Black, “Redeemer”. The Lebrain Train is unlikely to do a top eleven Blaze Bayley songs show, but if they were to do so, this song would definitely make the list.

Top 3 Renditions

1- Live in France

We’ll get more into the song itself when we touch on the studio album, so I’ll just focus on what takes this live version ahead of it for me. First, giving the epic intro buildup time to shine on it’s own without the concept album narration. Also, the crowd interaction Blaze does en Français. I always love it when bands talk in French on stage because I also know a bit of the language. And, lastly, having the crowd contribute to the whoah oah oah oah oah’ section.

2- The Studio Version

And so, to the studio version. This song honestly has everything you’d want from a song. Epic, building intro, cool riff, uptempo with aggression and a simple but effective hook, a killer solo, some Maiden-esque ‘whoah’ing, and finally a guitar harmony to top it all off. Concept album narration is never something I ask for, but at least the song is building to its start while it happens. Plus William Black sounds cool while doing it. And this rendition is not far behind the live take, if at all. I love live stuff, but I suspect many will prefer the polish found on this version. But at the end of it all, two great renditions is better than one, so I’m happy.

3- Live, Chile 2019

This is really just a throwaway entry to hit the quota. It’s live and its good but the bootleg quality is what puts it here. No matter, allow me to direct you back to the to superior renditions immediately preceding this one.

Mix CD Monthly- 36 Songs From The 70s (mostly) Part 1

[By the way, that’s a reference to the movie Top Secret!, not how I feel about my father]

Another month, another Mix CD Monthly (Duh, that’s what ‘monthly’ means Mr MadMetalMan). The journey through my father and I’s joint mix CD efforts continues this month as we look at the first of a two-disc set from 2017 (obviously :). Now this disc actually marks the first time in any of these issues that I have had zero influence on the tracklist. The songs for this disc were sourced from my dad’s impressively large collection of 70s hits compilations (and the like). He went through all of them and marked the ones to pick, and I merely gathered them together and put them on the disc. And unlike most mix CDs, I didn’t even bother to arrange the tracklist for this one (which would have been difficult anyway, considering I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs), and instead just threw them on in alphabetical order.

But this disc is still relevant to this series as it was played a lot in our house, and it certainly had songs on it that I liked a lot. It also had some songs I didn’t like a lot. So let’s get to them.

The Tracklist

Eric Carmen- All By Myself

Pretty boring way to start the disc, honestly.

Terry Jacks- Seasons in the Sun

Not one of the ones that I’ve grown to like either. This is where the brief deviation from alphabetical order occurs. This is because I used Windows Media Player to rip the songs, and when it identified the disc to ascribe track titles, it must have identified an edition with a slightly different tracklist. Thus the hard to alter song title was of a song starting with A or B. Oh well. At least we get this one over with.

Eruption- I Can’t Stand The Rain

This is one that I was familiar with, but haven’t really cared for much.

Freda Payne- Band of Gold

Now we get to a good one though. And it sounds like it would be really fun to belt out as well.

Heart- Barracuda

Inexplicably, I’ve never liked Heart. I found the singer’s voice annoying and the songs don’t do anything for me.

Randy Edelman- Concrete and Clay

This is another fun one. Heard it on the radio once and took a liking to it. Glad to see it popped up here.

Marshall Hain- Dancing in the City

Bleugh. Never liked this one.

Mud- Dynamite

It’s alright

The Sweet- Fox on the Run

The album version that I was actually unfamiliar with until hearing it here. It’s much rougher than the single version, and I like both for different reasons

John Stewart and Stevie Nicks

Oh I love this one.

Bee Gees- I Just Wanna Be Your Everything

It’s alright. Hardly the most Bee Gee of Bee Gee songs

Lynn Anderson- I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

This is a great one too. A really fun little bouncy uptempo number.

Bay City Rollers- I Only Wanna Be With You

Love this one as well. A very well done cover. It made the honorable mentions list for my top covers list show on The Lebrain Train back.

Johnny Wakelin- In Zaire

It’s fun, even if I don’t consider it a disc highlight

The Hollies- Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress

Another pretty good one

Billy Ocean- Love Really Hurts Without You

Always loved this one since I first heard it as a little kid.

Joe Cocker- Mammy Blue

This another fairly good one.

Janis Joplin- Me And Bobby McGhee

It’s the best version of the song, but it’s never a song I particularly cared for.

Definitely a CD more reflective of my father’s tastes than my own (not that he wasn’t fond of the occasional dip into the heavier stuff, as we’ve seen in previous issues). So apologies for the lack of analogies and analysis. With this disc at eighteen tracks and no artist repeated, this post probably gets the award for most tags (not that many of the artists are likely to pop up here again).

Anyway, at the end of the day I’m glad the disc was made as it introduced me to some good music, and that’s all I can really ask of any CD. So next month we’ll cover the second disc, containing tracks from the rest of the alphabet.

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