Archive for Tongue and Groove

For Emily, whenever he may find her

Patrick Williams wrote tons of TV and movie music, including the theme song to The Bob Newhart Show, which ran for six seasons on CBS in the 1970s. As the years progressed, Williams regularly updated his 59 seconds of the opening-title sequence, and each season the theme got just a trifle funkier, to the extent that anything that makes you think of Bob Newhart can be said to be funky. By season six, one lousy minute just wasn’t enough.

Somehow I managed to miss it, but in 1978, Newhart’s last year as Dr. Bob Hartley, Williams and his orchestra recorded an album called Theme, and side two led off with a six-minute version, which turned out to be titled “Home to Emily.” Manning the electric piano is the reliable Sonny Burke. Here we go:

You half expect to see Marcia Wallace and Peter Bonerz standing by the elevator.

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Gayageum band

Zither, except not so zithery:

The gayageum or kayagum is a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument, with 12 strings, though some more recent variants have 21 or other number of strings. It is probably the best known traditional Korean musical instrument. It is related to other Asian instruments, including the Chinese guzheng, the Japanese koto, the Mongolian yatga, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. When played, the sound varies between traditional Eurasian stringed instruments and the Appalachian banjo.

Here, Luna Lee, at the 21-string (I think) gayageum, performs a classic folk song from the faraway land of Tejas:

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Admirably tooled

There exists something called LMMS, and this is its core functionality:

  • Compose music on Windows, Linux and macOS
  • Sequence, compose, mix and automate songs in one simple interface
  • Note playback via MIDI or typing keyboard
  • Consolidate instrument tracks using Beat+Bassline Editor
  • Fine tune patterns, notes, chords and melodies using Piano Roll Editor
  • Full user-defined track-based automation and computer-controlled automation sources
  • Import of MIDI files and Hydrogen project files

I understood about half of that, maybe. And it doesn’t do a thing for the visuals if you’re uploading it to YouTube or some such place. Still, someone with actual talent — not me — can make wondrous noises with it.

I found this one last night:

This chap might be a third my age; most of the 40 or so tracks I’ve acquired from him qualify as good “production music,” the sort of stuff you find in your better movie trailers before the actual musical score is completed. “Denouement” here is totally different, and totally, well, wondrous.

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A time to every purpose

And yes, you have time for that, as do all of us. It’s simply a matter of sticking to the plan as we know it.

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A stunner

It’s almost, but not quite, a tongue-twister of a name: Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe. The first name, you might think, would be quite enough; early on, she decided she agreed with you. In 2007, at the ripe old age of fourteen, Tinashe and some friends formed a singing group called The Stunners, who put out a series of heavily adolescent singles like “Spin the Bottle”:

The Stunners broke up in 2011, and Tinashe decided she could do this on her own. Six years ago this week she put out a “mixtape,” recorded in her home studio; she wrote all but one song, and brought in production assistance on some of them. Even after she’d gotten a record deal (with RCA), she continued with the mixtape format. And somehow in her apparently copious free time she found time to make her name in animation: she did a series of Holly Hobbie features for Nickelodeon, and at nine, she was the motion-capture model for “Hero Girl” Nona Gaye in The Polar Express.

Tinashe at the BET Awards 2015

Tinashe expects you to think it over

Tinashe in the same photoshoot as the previous shot

That first mixtape, In Case We Die, featured a romantic number called “This Feeling”:

Her album Joyride, her third, is due this year; one track (“No Drama”) has been released so far. She’s twenty-five years old today.

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Before nine

The two most transcendent minutes of Kill Bill, Vol. 1:

“Woo Hoo” originated in Richmond, Virginia, where Boo Walker and the Rockets were playing some fierce rockabilly licks, mostly improvised by the band. In 1959, renamed “The Rock-A-Teens,” they auditioned for George McGraw of local label Duran Records, which issued “Woo Hoo,” a tune credited to McGraw. Roulette picked it up for national distribution and got it to #16; an album followed, but the group was not long for this world.

Quentin Tarantino said that he’d first heard the 5.6.7.8’s on CD in a clothing store in Tokyo, and was sufficiently smitten — and sufficiently rushed — to offer to buy the store’s copy of the disc. He was turned down. He upped his offer to twice the retail price, and left with the disc in hand. The scene in the House of Blue Leaves features three songs by the 5.6.7.8’s, though only “Woo Hoo” appears on the Kill Bill, Vol. 1 soundtrack album. Perhaps in deference to Tarantino’s known, um, preferences, the three women perform without shoes.

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Near a psychedelic shack

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Cloud Nine:

It says it’s a Motown song; it’s on the Gordy label, fercryingoutloud. But this late-’68 artifact, as un-Motown as it seems — the singing, in particular, owes a lot to Sly and the Family Stone — is one of the premier examples of the Hitsville, USA art. These are, after all, the Temptations, and Norman Whitfield, who co-wrote this tune with Barrett Strong, had by now worked long enough with the group to know how to make it work for them. It was, amazingly, the first Grammy winner on Motown. And “Cloud Nine” was the first post-David Ruffin record by the Tempts; the Ruffinesque gravel is still there to be heard, but this time it’s coming from Dennis Edwards, previously with, though never a lead for, the Contours.

Great as it was, “Cloud Nine” wasn’t quite Dennis Edwards’ — or, for that matter, Norman Whitfield’s, finest hour. This was:

Twelve minutes, one chord, and you dare not turn away. Of course, “Papa” had to be severely trimmed for concert and television purposes; even the 45, at 6:58, was damn near as long as “Hey Jude” or “MacArthur Park.” And when Dennis Edwards, two or three or how many minutes in, declares “It was the third of September,” you, too, will always remember. He would have been seventy-five today.

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Un Poco

Another Brian J. epic in the making:

While listening to a Richard Marx song (“Satisfied”) in the car, I mentioned to my beautiful wife that I saw him twice on the tour for his album Repeat Offender: Once at Summerfest in Milwaukee, and once at the old Arena in St. Louis (I won tickets in a radio contest on Y98, and the journey to pick them up is a story in itself).

She was impressed that I’d been to the Old Barn before it was destroyed and the St. Louis Blues moved downtown. I mentioned Poco opened for him, and that I heard them do “Take It To The Limit,” so I thought that was their big song (it would be about a year until I learned that was originally an Eagles song — Was I young once and ignorant of both St. Louis topography and the hits of the Eagles?)

The key here is Randy Meisner, who played on the very first Poco album (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 1969), but whose backing vocals were scrubbed from the tape, apparently due to a conflict with group leader Richie Furay. Meisner could take a hint; he wound up in Linda Ronstadt’s touring band, and David Geffen, whose Asylum Records had signed Ronstadt, also signed the band, subsequently named “Eagles.”

Meisner wrote “Take It to the Limit,” with help from Glenn Frey and Don Henley; it was the only Eagles single on which Meisner sang lead. After his subsequent departure, Meisner made nice with Richie Furay, and both of them wound up in Poco again. (Rusty Young, the one constant in four decades of Poco, finally retired in 2013.)

Over all those years, Poco managed only four Top 40 hits; “Call It Love” made it to #18, and that was their first Top 40 placing in ten years. (Before it: “Crazy Love” and “Heart of the Night”.)

And just to cap off the story, here’s Richard Marx singing “Take It to the Limit,” featuring Randy Meisner on twelve-string, and backing vocals from Timothy B. Schmit, who has the possibly unique distinction of having replaced the same person in two different bands (Meisner, in both Eagles and Poco).

If only they’d played in St. Louis.

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A pearl of great price

In 1966, Phil Spector signed Ike and Tina Turner to a record deal — sort of. Reasoning that his production style and Ike’s were not even slightly compatible, Phil struck a deal with Ike: only Tina’s voice would be used, and Ike would stay away from the studio altogether. It cost Phil $20,000, but he thought it was worth it.

Then “River Deep — Mountain High” crashed and burned at #88 in Billboard, and Spector, just this side of mortally wounded, withdrew from the scene, largely forgotten until Allen Klein brought him to England to work with the Beatles. But that was 1970. What happened in between?

This happened:

Spector’s brief production deal with A&M Records yielded up two recorded gems. The first was a reissue of “River Deep” and a complete Ike and Tina album, including some songs the Turners had recorded long before their signing to Philles.

The second was an album by the Checkmates, Ltd., a soul band from Fort Wayne, Indiana, featuring lead vocalist Sonny Charles. A&M tried four singles from Love Is All We Have to Give; the second, “Black Pearl,” written by Toni Wine and Irwin Levine with a composer credit to Spector, charted at #13, 99 points higher than the reissue of “River Deep.” It’s not hard to hear why: recorded not at Spector’s customary Gold Star Studios, but at A&M’s own nascent facility, and in stereo at the label’s insistence, with Perry Botkin Jr. on the arrangement, some actual warmth crept into the sound. Which was perfect for “Black Pearl” and its tale of “Someday we’re gonna make it.”

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The man with the horn

“Black as night,” sang Eric Burdon about Hugh Masekela’s music in “Monterey.” One might note that Burdon wasn’t given to really florid descriptions — Ravi Shankar, he said, “made me cry” — but the lead Animal was out in front of the rest of us, who didn’t notice Masekela until The Promise of a Future, his eighth album, and the unexpected pop hit “Grazing in the Grass.” (Anyone who calls out “More cowbell!” will be asked to leave the room.)

Masekela’s death this week brought out this family statement:

Statement by the family of Hugh Masekela

It must be noted that Masekela left his homeland in 1960, following the massacre at Sharpeville; two years later, the South African government imprisoned Nelson Mandela. In 1985, Masekela got what might be considered a fan letter from Mandela, who had long been familiar with Masekela’s music; Masekela responded with “Bring Him Back Home” and gradually evolved into an anti-apartheid activist, though he’d had the impolitic politics of South Africa on his mind for many years, which is why we close with “Soweto Blues,” sung here and on record by Miriam Makeba, to whom Masekela had been married for a couple of years:

Now that’s a robust engagement.

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No explanation is required

Not that this is the only example of HP songcraft:

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K-pop it isn’t

Meet North Korea’s Moranbong Band:

Assembled by the Supreme Leader his own self (of course), this group of girls (no boys allowed) could let themselves be introduced as an orchestra, and no one would bat an eye.

Still, there’s only so much image they can borrow from the rest of the world. Said Tim Stanley of The Telegraph in Britain:

The Moranbong girls are not what you’d expect from an unfashionably totalitarian regime where grey is the new grey. Their skirts are short, the hair is trendy, the music danceable. It could just about pass as a Eurovision entry from Azerbaijan.

And they are acutely aware of on which side their bread is buttered: the jazzy little number up above is titled “My Country Is the Best.”

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From the Rodford Files

Jim Rodford was a founding member of Argent, the band formed by keyboardist Rod Argent, a cousin of Jim’s, after the Zombies went the way of all dead flesh. After Argent broke up, Rodford joined the Kinks; he played bass for the band until its dissolution in 1996. And in 2004, Rodford and son Steve became part of the resurrected Zombies, beside original vocalist Colin Blunstone and, yes, Rod Argent on keyboards.

There’s a third Rodford son, Russ, and the three of them appear in this 2016 video as, yes, the Rodford Files. And neatly enough, they’re playing a Kinks song:

Jim Rodford died Saturday; he was seventy-six.

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Beckronyms

Beck’s 127th album, Colors, came out in October; I heard some of the tracks, but I didn’t go hunting down the videos. Then YouTube decided I needed to see this one, which was apparently done for the title song and bore the legend “Slime Visualizer.” And hey, how long has it been since I got a chance to visualize slime?

Okay, it’s really his thirteenth album, not counting compilations or remixes or EPs or Song Reader, which came out as a book fercrissake. Still, this man has produced a mountain of work, and it’s time I recognized more of it.

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Florrie of activity

Florence Ellen Arnold took up the drums at age six, and when she was twenty, she landed a gig with the Xenomania production house in Kent, having foreshortened her name to simply “Florrie.” She’s twenty-nine now, and her solo career has produced four EPs and not a single album — yet.

Florrie has descended the stairs

Florrie has ascended to the stage

Florrie has taken a selfie

Florrie signed to Sony Music in 2014 and turned loose “Little White Lies”:

She describes her oeuvre as “a big mixture: kind of a sixties, organic feel merged with modern pop beats and electronics.”

Her most recent solo release is the single “Real Love,” not related to the Doobie Brothers’ song of the same name:

I assume she’ll turn loose a full-length album eventually.

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A room where the light won’t find you

An unexpected artifact from late 2017: a new Tears for Fears song, dropped into a 35th-anniversary Greatest Hits set with the perhaps-predictable title Rule the World. (Everybody wants to, doncha know.) Herewith, “I Love You But I’m Lost”:

Last week, the album was released as a two-LP set, which is fine with me, since all my previous TFF stuff is on vinyl.

A second previously-unreleased song called “Stay,” also on Rule the World, was written by Tears’ Curt Smith and independent producer Charlton Pettus, which I mention here because Pettus also co-wrote Rebecca Black’s “Person of Interest” in late 2011.

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Living on a beat

I think my favorite song of 2017 might have been Jain’s “Dynabeat,” which I characterized as “unbelievably catchy.” This opinion received essentially no assent from the readership, but that’s hardly a new experience for me. (And here’s a live version, just to rub it in.)

At the time, I mentioned that “Dynabeat” was also the name of a line of electronic wristwatches by Timex, popular in the 1970s. I did not, however, go any farther back, or I would have discovered this:

That contraption, which you could build yourself if you were handy with a soldering gun and possessed of a whole lot of free time, was offered by the Schober Organ folks as a add-on rhythm machine for their Theatre Organ, an amazing piece of 1960s electronica sold as a kit for about two thousand 1960s dollars. By today’s synth standards, it’s positively prehistoric; but half a century ago, it was darn near miraculous.

Interesting bit of history:

The Schober Organ Corporation was formed in 1954 by C.G. McProud, then editor of the magazine Audio, Henry Schober, the magazine’s business manager, and Richard H. Dorf, engineering consultant and writer, recognized throughout the English-speaking world as an authority on electronic musical instruments. Never guessing that any substantial number of people would want to build so elaborate series of kits, the three conceived (and Mr. Dorf designed) the Schober organ as a spare-time venture. (Mr. Schober’s name seemed to give the authentic Teutonic touch to a classic organ.)

Dorf was the technical wizard of the three, having patented a proto-synthesizer called “Thyratone” in the late 1940s. The Dynabeat, sold separately from the Schober Organ, sold for $150. A portable Dynabeat was also offered as a kit for $139.50, or as a completed unit for $30 more. (Dorf, I suspect, figured that if you’d already built the Organ, you wouldn’t shy away from a little extra work to build the rhythm box.)

Let’s flip that demonstration record over:

Audio magazine, incidentally, died in 2000, the year Jain turned eight.

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Feed deep, they’re gathering food

Just let this one slide by:

(Thanks to Jeff Faria.)

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Get your paws off that labeler

And don’t bring them back until you learn some Basic Anatomy:

Chicken feet, mislabeled

Those are not chicken paws.

And neither is this:

(Photo from Phoebe’s Instagram.)

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The U. S. Male

Would Elvis Presley have been as big a star if he’d been named David instead? I suspect he’d end up owning the name; you’d have “Dave” alongside Madonna and Cher and Oprah, and that guy Letterman would be going by his middle name (which is “Michael”). How Elvis Costello fits into this scenario is anyone’s guess.

That said, today Elvis has been gone almost as long as he was here in the first place, which prompts me to a few offhand musings about the King.

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The sound never quite dies

“Echo Beach,” as described by Martha and the Muffins in their 1980 New Wave-ish hit, isn’t an actual location with sand and such; it’s some place “far away in time” where your mind can wander while your workaday self endures yet another day at work. It was a fair-sized hit in Canada, where it won a Juno Award; it was mostly a nothingburger in the States, though I snapped it up quickly enough along with a couple of subsequent M+M albums. These days, when I mention M+M, it’s usually in the context of the song “Be Blasé” from their second album, Trance and Dance, which contains a description of a Creepy Older Guy trying to pick up a young woman:

Riding on the streetcar,
Not going very far,
Someone pats me on the head,
Someone who I thought was dead.
Says: “It’s time to go to bed.”
This is what I said:
“You were thirty when I was three,
What the hell do you want with me?”

In later years, I took that as a potential personal rebuke.

Over the years, M+M — Martha Johnson and Mark Gane, the two mainstays of the original band — did what they could to keep the name alive. In 2010, they came up with Delicate, their first new material in 18 years, and separately from the album, a “30th Anniversary” version of “Echo Beach,” smooth and silky and slinky instead of the pogo bounce of the original. It was a stunner:

There’s about a 30-second clip of 1980 video to finish it off.

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Ear-catching

I’m not quite sure I grasp the concept of psytrance. Wikipedia says this much:

Psychedelic trance, psytrance or psy is a subgenre of trance music characterized by arrangements of synthetic rhythms and layered melodies created by high tempo riffs. Psytrance lies at the hardcore, underground end of the diverse trance spectrum.

“Diverse” it certainly is.

Anyway, I went digging for examples, and apparently this one was a Number One in Beatport — yes, children, I have an account at Beatport — and it seemed like a good way to torture my subwoofer:

“Chakra” (subtle, huh?) was a joint venture between W&W, a Dutch DJ duo which has made one album and several dozen singles, and Vini Vici, a side project of the Israeli trio Sesto Sento.

This is admittedly not, to borrow a phrase, easy like a Sunday morning, but it was Saturday night before I even heard it.

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Just makes it more Imperial

Three terms that you probably don’t think go together:

  • Bagpipes
  • Dubstep
  • Star Wars

Think again:

Warning: About 45 seconds of self-promotion at the end.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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We own the funk

For wildly variable values of “we,” it appears:

The entire funk genre might want to go ahead and file a class action lawsuit at this point. Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson reached a settlement with the Gap Band over similarities between “Uptown Funk” and the latter’s “Oops Upside Your Head,” and have since fielded other claims of copyright infringement from bands like Zapp and Collage, who felt their funk jams were sonically comparable to the uptown variety. Well, it’s almost a new year, which sadly means a new lawsuit for Mars and Ronson over their gigantic hit. TMZ reports that Sugar Hill Records rap trio The Sequence have filed a lawsuit alleging “Uptown Funk” sounds suspiciously like their 1979 hit “Funk You Up.”

Oh, come on. How many different songs can there be?

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Fluttery and all

Singer Ellie Goulding, thirty-one today, wasn’t always sure she really was a singer:

“I think part of what sparked my panic attacks was not feeling confident enough to believe in myself — I was scared I wasn’t as good of a singer as everyone thought I was,” she says. “And as the stakes grew, I was afraid of letting everyone, including myself, down.”

She fought off her mental reservations with purely physical means: boxing and kickboxing. It did knock a few pounds off her, but that wasn’t what she had in mind:

“It wasn’t about any change in my outward appearance; it was about seeing and feeling myself get better and stronger,” she explains. “It carried over into other areas of my life, and now I truly feel that exercise — however you like to work out — is good for the soul.”

Ellie Goulding is not revealing as much as you think

Ellie Goulding leans back

Ellie Goulding is revealing as much as you think

It hasn’t changed her voice either: still high and breathy and fluttery. And to me. it’s never been better than when she recorded (in 2010) a version of Elton John’s “Your Song,” a UK Number Two with sales of over 800,000, but a non-starter in the States.

I assure you, I don’t mind.

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Before the Brew

The tracks were laid down in three days in August; the album, all 94 minutes of it, was released the following March. In between, this happened:

Memo by Columbia Records producer Teo Macero regarding a Miles Davis album

Miles, of course, got what he wanted. And “CS 9961” was never released as such: Columbia assigned the double-disc set the catalog number GP 26. If you care, CS 9962 was the first disc in the Chicago — aka Chicago II — two-record set.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Knowing how to use them

In 2006, the ever-protean Hello! Project paired off Aya Matsuura and Miki Fujimoto in a twosome called GAM, officially standing for “Great Aya and Miki.” “Thanks!” was their first single:

Chances that these J-poppers are aware of the English connotation of the term “gam”? Judging by the Hello! Project intro, I’m guessing 100 percent.

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What kind of deal is two days?

“The Weekend” is the third single from SZA’s Ctrl album, and no, it’s not the lament of a side chick:

Asked about that, she answered:

Time-sharing a man is real AF. If we’re all being honest there’s very few men that are just dating one woman. I think, low-key, the internet makes it so difficult [to be in relationships] because we’re taking in so much information. There’s always new, new, new, more, more, more. Having one person seems like a restriction, like a limitation. Everyone’s used to being overstimulated.

I feel like men kind of do this thing where they don’t wanna tell anyone about [who they’re with], because they don’t want to lose the opportunity to potentially call you if they needed to. Not saying that they would, but they need the option. So in that song, I’m opting in. Like, I know you have a bunch of girls, probably. Maybe you’re not being honest with me — I just know that you have mad girls — and I still don’t care, because I didn’t want to be your girlfriend anyway! I’m not internalizing the way that you’re acting as a disrespect towards me, it doesn’t make me any less because you’re not my boyfriend. And like, you’re not her boyfriend, and you’re not her boyfriend. You’re just out here wildin’.

The video, directed by Solange Knowles, is scary in its own right, set in a parking garage at a time of night when you perhaps ought not to be out. Then again, the heart of a woman can be a scary place to visit, especially if you’re an inexperienced explorer.

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Way off the Champs-Élysées

Not everyone is au courant with the last six decades or so of popular music:

I don’t know most current music outside of a few things friends refer to. But I know Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and I often recognize the old tunes used in advertising and wind up going “Why on earth are they using a song about the poor people of Paris to sell face cream?” and the like…

Dino’s expertise, I suspect, ran more toward the Italian. But Bing certainly know about this sort of thing, as he’d actually sung that song before:

This lyric, by Jack Lawrence, is not in any way a translation of René Rouzard’s French-language original; the song was never intended to be a celebration of the Parisian underclass.

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Ohio players

For instance, well, the Ohio Players:

The museum will be open to the general public in late January, or perhaps early February. Suggested donation is an earthy five bucks.

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