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Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx [Review]

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Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. Hell Raising Women
2. Sound of the Loud Minority
3. Outlaw
4. Girls of the ’80s
5. I Missed the Mark
6. All Looks, No Hooks
7. Ain’t No Rest in Rock N’ Roll
8. Call to Action
9. Heroes Are Forever
10. Psycho City
11. Wrecking Ball Crew

Band:
Danny Rexon – Lead Vocals
Andy Zata – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Edd Liam – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jens Sjoholm – Bass
Joel Cirera – Drums

Producer: Danny Rexon and Andy Zata

I love this album’s cover art. How awesome would it be to have that on a vinyl sleeve?

This self-titled effort is the Swedish band’s fourth release (third on the Frontiers label) and delivers more of the sleaze ‘n’ glam metal goods. I’ll admit, it took me a few spins before some of the songs really started to click with me but “Girls of the ’80s” was an obvious standout for me from the get-go.

I’ve seen a number of people comment that “Psycho City” reminds them of KISS… Not getting that at all, although I do think the song is one of the best from the album. One song that does remind me of a band is “Ain’t No Rest in Rock N’ Roll”, which has the band sounding a bit like an AC/DC clone.

Other highlights for me are “I Missed the Mark” and “All Looks, No Hooks”. Great melodic hard rock that at times reminds me of Danger Danger, just not as polished.

I heard all three of the band’s Frontiers Records releases. While I don’t think the band has delivered a knockout release just yet, all three have been good. Nothing here matches the intensity and catchiness of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” or “Church of Rock” (both from Riot Avenue) but this may be the band’s most consistent album yet.

 Highlights: “Hell Raising Women”, “Girls of the ’80s”, “I Missed the Mark”, “All Looks, No Hooks”, “Call to Action”, “Psycho City”

Mike Tramp – Museum [Review]

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Mike Tramp – Museum
2014, Target Records
Buy the album

1. Trust In Yourself
2. New World Coming
3. Down South
4. Better
5. Freedom
6. Commitment
7. And You Were Gone
8. Slave
9. Mother
10. Time For Me To Go

Producer: Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp

Mike Tramp returns with another heartfelt and emotional collection of acoustic rock/pop tracks. Last year’s Cobblestone Street was good but I enjoyed it less than I did 2011’s Stand Your Ground. Luckily, Museum is an improvement over last year’s effort and the music is slightly more upbeat (although the album is still very mellow and slow-tempo songs).

One thing I’ve always loved about Tramp are his lyrics. You can tell they are very personal to him. Whether he’s talking about his mother, his life growing up or making a statement about society, the lyrics are very intimate and you know he means them.

Tramp’s solo material is not something I pull out (or queue up) often, but when I do, I always end up enjoying it. I think you have to be in a more laid-back mood to listen to it. There’s no hard rock to be found here. If you’re expecting something to sound like White Lion, you really aren’t going to get it. The closest he gets to rocking out are the songs “Down South” and “Slave” which are very bluesy and sound like something you might hear from The Black Keys. The music is all acoustic-driven and while I prefer good ol’ riffing on an electric guitar, whenever I sit down and listen to Tramp’s solo material, it’s always an enjoyable experience.

Museum is not in-your-face and bombastic. Mike Tramp albums never are, but this is a good disc to spin if you’re just looking to kick back and relax or possibly get a little introspective.

Highlights: “Trust In Yourself”, “New World Coming”, “Better”, “Time For Me To Go”

Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two [EP Review]

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Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two
2014, Megaforce Records
Buy the album

1. We Are the Damned
2. Give It the Gun
3. Catch Your Fall
4. Damnation Army
5. Zero Day
6. Sheer Heart Attack
7. Rats in the Cellar

Band:
Johnny Solinger – Lead Vocals
Dave “Snake” Sabo – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Scotti Hill – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rachel Bolan – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rob Hammersmith – Drums

Skid Row is back with the second installment of their United World Rebellion series of EPs, which I think is meant to be a trilogy. Personally, I think this is a great way for bands to go about releasing music — a steady stream of EPs and then maybe do a double or triple disc compilation later down the line.

Not sure why it took these guys seven years before they released new music but a fire has certainly been lit under them. I never bothered with Thickskin or Revolutions Per Minute because both albums were reviewed by mostly everyone as being poor or mediocre, but the United World Rebellion series shows the band still has a snotty punky attitude and continues to show why they were one of the heaviest of the “hair bands” back in the early 1990s. “We are the Damned” is a true headbanger and the best track on the album. Though I enjoyed the first United World Rebellion, I was caught off guard by how good this track is.

The band wraps up the second chapter by superbly covering a few Queen and Aerosmith classics. If you’re looking for something the band to try to recreate the past with some glossy hair metal, you’re not going to find it on these recent EPs but what you will get is good solid heavy metal and hard rock. If this is the type of music the band continues to release, I don’t have any interest in ever seeing them reunited for a nostalgia run with Sebastian Bach (who I happen to like as a solo artist anyway).

Highlights: “We are the Damned”, “Catch Your Fall”, “Zero Day”, “Sheer Heart Attack”, “Rats in the Cellar”

The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years [Album Review]

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The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
2011, Capitol Records
Originally Released: 1988, Capitol Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. “Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper w/ Guns N’ Roses
2. “Bathroom Wall” – Faster Pussycat
3. “Cradle to the Grave” – Motörhead
4. “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” – Armored Saint
5. “Born to Be Wild” – Lizzy Borden
6. “In My Darkest Hour” – Megadeth
7. “Prophecy” – Queensrÿche
8. “The Brave” – Metal Church
9. “Foaming at the Mouth” – Rigor Mortis
10. “Colleen” – Seduce

Any metal-head worth their weight in steel is well aware of this documentary that was released in 1988. It’s a truly fascinating look at life as rocker in the 1980s. For better or worse, warts and all, it absolutely captures a time and a vibe & scene that can never truly be replicated no matter how “retro” a band may act.

As it stands, the soundtrack to The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a solid compilation. Sure, bands like Seduce and Rigor Mortis didn’t stand the test of time but when it comes to the ’80s metal scene, you can’t really argue against the inclusion of bands like Motorhead, Lizzy Borden, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Guns N’ Roses, Metal Church or even Faster Pussycat. It was all metal one way or another.

The documentary itself was actually what turned me on to Megadeth as they performed “In My Darkest Hour” in the film and it certainly made an impression on me.

The lack of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Poison, KISS or W.A.S.P. is a bit odd given how their stature and appearances in the documentary but the soundtrack isn’t meant to be all encompassing. If it was, we’d be putting up with having to listen to the likes of London, Tuff and Odin, too. A few tracks either start or end with audio clips from the film.

We could argue for hours over who truly deserves to be included on a compilation of ’80s metal but this soundtrack is just a taste of what that era had to offer and is meant to tie in most closely with bands featured in the documentary. Keep that in mind and what you’ve got is a good collection of ’80s rock & metal that will fit right in with your retro denim vest.

Highlights: “Under My Wheels”, “Bathroom Wall”, “Born to Be Wild”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Prophecy”

Babylon A.D. – Lost Sessions/Fresno CA 93 [Review]

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Babylon A.D. – Lost Sessions/Fresno, CA 93
2014, Apocalypse Records/Perris Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. Love Blind
2. While America Sleeps
3. Love Is a Mystery
4. Bang Go the Bells

Band:
Derek Davis – Vocals
Ron Freschi – Guitar
Danny De La Rosa – Guitar
Robb Reid – Bass
Jamey Pacheco – Drums

This EP is new release of old songs (even the re-recording of “Bang Go the Bells” is a few years old) but that doesn’t deter from the quality of music. Late bloomers in the ’80s hair metal scene, Babylon A.D. has regrouped yet again for a run of shows throughout 2014 and have given us this glimpse into “what could’ve been” with three unreleased tracks that were recorded in 1993 and a newer version of their signature song “Bang Go the Bells” that was recorded in 2010.

The first three tracks were recorded, presumably, for a third album. Ultimately, a third studio release from the band wouldn’t happen until 2002 with the release of  American Blitzkreig as the band became inactive in the face of the changing musical climate in the early 1990s.

“Love Blind” is a great rocker. It’s a shame this song got scuttled due to the rise of grunge and alternative music. The riff is great. Very catchy song.

“While America Sleeps” is okay but basically filler.

Clocking in at nearly 7 minutes, “Love Is a Mystery” seems like the band’s attempt at writing an epic ballad. Parts of it remind me of Great White but other parts have a dark vibe to it. It’s good.

Finally, we arrived at the 2010 rendition of “Bang Go the Bells”. It’s fine. Derek Davis’ voice may be slightly weaker but at least they didn’t try to reinvent the song and modernize it.

Fans of Babylon A.D. will enjoy this look back at what the band was up to in 1993. The physical CD price of $12+ is a bit ridiculous for four songs but you can score the MP3 album version for under $4.

Highlights: “Love Blind”, “Love Is a Mystery”

KISS – Hot In The Shade [Review]

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KISS – Hot In The Shade
1989, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Rise to It”
2. “Betrayed”
3. “Hide Your Heart”
4. “Prisoner of Love”
5. “Read My Body”
6. “Love’s a Slap in the Face”
7. “Forever”
8. “Silver Spoon”
9. “Cadillac Dreams”
10. “King of Hearts”
11. “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”
12. “You Love Me to Hate You”
13. “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell”
14. “Little Caesar”
15. “Boomerang”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Bass

Additional Musicians:
Tommy Thayer – Guitar (“Betrayed” & “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”)
Phil Ashley – Keyboards
Kevin Valentine – Drums (“You Love Me to Hate You”)

Producer: Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley

Another very commercial album though not as slick as Crazy Nights, even if it did produce the ballad “Forever” (that Paul Stanley co-wrote with Michael Bolton) which reached #8 on the Billboard charts as a single and the band’s first major radio hit in years.

The main problem with Hot In The Shade is that at 15 songs, it’s just too much and there’s obvious filler like pretty much ever Gene song. “Cadillac Dreams”, “Prisoner of Love”, “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” and “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” could’ve easily been left off but I’m sure Gene wanted equal time to Paul, even if the quality wasn’t there.

“Hide My Heart” was the lead single and was a very minor hit. I actually remember hearing that song on the radio when I was a kid though. It wasn’t until years later when I got into KISS that my mind was blown  after having heard the song again for the first time in nearly 10 years — “That was KISS?!?”

Anyway, this album is underrated despite being a bit bloated. “Rise to It” and “Betrayed” sound like they could’ve come from the Asylum album, “Hide Your Heart” is a pop-metal masterpiece, “Read My Body” is an enjoyable Def Leppard rip-off, “Love’s a Slap in the Face” is the one good Gene song here, “Forever” is one of the greatest hair metal ballads ever and “Silver Spoon” and “King of Hearts” feature Paul in all his pop-metal glory. “King of Hearts” starts off reminding me of “Shocker” from soundtrack for the film of the same name (which Paul also sang on).

Hot In Shade is a fine 1980s glossy slab of hard rock but in the early 1990s, the band would decide to get a bit tougher with their next release.

Highlights: “Rise to It”, “Betrayed”, “Hide Your Heart”, “Read My Body”, “Love’s a Slap in the Face”, “Forever”, “Silver Spoon”,”King of Hearts”

Steel Panther – All You Can Eat [Review]

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Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
2014, Open E Entertainment
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Pussywhipped
2. Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
3. Gloryhole
4. Bukkake Tears
5. Gangbang at the Old Folks Home
6. Ten Strikes You’re Out
7. The Burden of Being Wonderful
8. Fucking My Heart in the Ass
9. B.V.S
10. You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk
11. If I Was King
12. She’s On the Rag

Band:
Michael Starr – lead vocals, backing vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals

Additional Musicians:
Vivian Campbell – Guitar (“Gangbang at the Old Folks Home”)

Steel Panther continues to prowl the streets with their special satiric blend of heavy metal, melodic rock, sex and gross-out humor. All You Can Eat delivers some of the band’s best songs to date with some interesting musical choices. “Pussywhipped” begins with an acoustic intro that sounds a bit ominous, I half expected the band to break out into 1980s-era thrash song while the keyboards portions used in “She’s On the Rag” sound like they could have very well come from a Lady GaGa song.

For my money, Steel Panther is one of the best rock/metal bands around. Not only are they funny but they are great musicians and songwriters. Pop, heavy metal, glam… it doesn’t matter. They do it and do it well (and I’m not just talking about having sex). Though the band already has some great songs in their catalog, this is probably their best record to date. I can’t get “The Burden of Being Wonderful”, “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk”, “Bukkake Tears” or “She’s On the Rag” out of my head. In fact, I’ve had to correct myself at work because I’ve found myself mumbling the lyrics on a number of occasions. And trust me, “Bukkake Tears” and “She’s On the Rag” are two songs you don’t want to sing aloud unless you want a visit from HR!

Even so, “Bukkake Tears” and “The Burden of Being Wonderful” are two of my favorite songs of the year. They are nothing short of modern pop-metal masterpieces. I realize some people many not be accepting of that given the lyrics, but that’s how I feel. If these guys toned down the humor for one album, they’d probably deliver one of the best hair metal albums of all time. Even with the humor, they are still delivering some of the best hair metal albums. Filler tracks here would be “B.V.S.” (which stands for Big Vagina Syndrome) and “Ten Strikes You’re Out”.

All You Can Eat is an extremely fun album with great riffs and catchy choruses for days. Gonna be tough to beat this one at the end of the year.

Highlights: “Pussywhipped”, “Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World”, “Gloryhole”, “Bukkake Tears”, “The Burden of Being Wonderful”, “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk”, “She’s On the Rag”

KISS – Crazy Nights [Review]

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KISS – Crazy Nights [Remastered]
1998, Mercury Records
Originally Released: 1987, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Crazy Crazy Nights”
2. “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”
3. “Bang Bang You”
4. “No, No, No”
5. “Hell or High Water”
6. “My Way”
7. “When Your Walls Come Down”
8. “Reason to Live”
9. “Good Girl Gone Bad”
10. “Turn On the Night”
11. “Thief in the Night”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Phil Ashley – Keyboards

Producer: Ron Nevison

KISS were no strangers to experimenting with pop music in the past (DynastyUnmasked) and Crazy Nights is a culmination of the lighter metal sound the band had started with Asylum. “Crazy Crazy Nights” immediately sets the pace, it’s drenched in keyboards has a high cheese factor. So, of course, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. And “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, “My Way”, “Reason to Live” and “Turn On the Night” continue to work the keyboards into overtime.

The band was obviously in trend-chasing mode as bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Heart were huge acts in the late ’80s with their very polished hard rock/pop sounds. In fact, they recruited just the right producer if slick rock/pop was their goal as Ron Nevison was quite in demand, having recently worked with such acts like Ozzy Osbourne (The Ultimate Sin), Heart, Survivor and even on the soundtrack for the first Karate Kid movie.

At one point, both Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley denounced this album as a mistake, but apparently their stance softened a bit because just a few years back “Crazy Crazy Nights” made an appearance in their set list while they were touring in support of Sonic Boom over in Europe. “Reason to Live” is the big power ballad of the album. It’s very much of its era and features Paul in his element. He was made for this type of stuff. It was released as a single and it’s surprising that the song wasn’t a big mainstream hit for the band.

Just like “Crazy Crazy Nights”, this entire album is a guilty pleasure album. It’s glossy but it’s not without a little bite. “Bang Bang You” is a solid oversexed polished rocker that would’ve sounded fine right next to “Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” on Smashes, Thrashes and Hits. “No, No, No” is frenetic and features some great guitar work from Bruce Kulick. “Good Girl Gone Bad” is a mid-paced rocker that’s one of Gene’s better songs from the 1980s.

I initially didn’t like this album but I’ve come to love it. It was given to me as a graduation present from my girlfriend at the time. I popped it in my car as we were driving somewhere and she immediately apologized for giving me a bad graduation gift! It wasn’t what I was expecting but I told her she did good. After all, I was trying to complete my KISS collection and, bad or not, I wanted the album.

If you’re a fan of glossy commercial hard rock from the 1980s, Crazy Nights is sure to please.

Highlights: “Crazy Crazy Nights”, “I’ll Fight Hell to Hold You”, “Bang Bang You”, “No, No, No”, “My Way”, “Reason to Live”, “Good Girl Gone Bad”, “Turn On the Night”

KISS – Animalize [Review]

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KISS – Animalize [Remastered]
1997, Mercury Records
Originally Released: 1984, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”
2. “Heaven’s On Fire”
3. “Burn Bitch Burn”
4. “Get All You Can Take”
5. “Lonely Is the Hunter”
6. “Under the Gun”
7. “Thrills in the Night”
8. “While the City Sleeps”
9. “Murder in High Heels”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Mark St. John – Guitar
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Bruce Kulick – Guitar (“Lonely Is the Hunter”, “Murder in High Heels”)
Jean Beauvoir – Bass (“Get All You Can Take”, Under the Gun”, “Thrills in the Night”)

Producer: Paul Stanley

At this point in the band’s history, it’s a game of musical chairs as to who plays on what. Then again, that was always kind of the case when it came to recording music. Even new lead guitarist Mark St. John only had a cup of coffee in the group as his tenure lasted only about half a year. This was due to a combination of personality clashes and the fact that St. John ended up being diagnosed with Reiter’s Syndrome. He played only 3 live shows with KISS before being replaced on the Animalize tour by Bruce Kulick (who later went on to have a 12 year career in the band).

What’s weird is that Gene Simmons would later say St. John was too flashy of a player and wasn’t a good fit for KISS… so why’d  they hire him in the first place? They already had one flashy player with Vinnie Vincent (who was also a great songwriter) so why did they think it would work out any better the second time around?

It was also during this time that Paul Stanley began to take control of the direction of KISS. Typically, the fate of KISS was determine by Paul and Gene Simmons, but Gene had stars in his eyes and was trying to make a name for himself as an actor, band manager and music producer which left Paul to carry on with the day-to-day duties of KISS. This included writing, recording and producing KISS albums. Due to Gene taking less active role in the band, Paul has stated that Animalize was pretty close to what a Paul Stanley solo album would’ve sounded like at that time.

Despite friction and changes within the band, Animalize is a solid album that delivered at least one classic in “Heaven’s On Fire”. It’s notable that this was one of two non-makeup songs (along with “Lick It Up”) that initially made it into the set list after the original four members reunited in 1996. It also happens to be one of the first KISS albums I ever bought so it’s got a special place in my heart.

This is when KISS started going glam and although the record is step down from Creatures of the Night and Lick It Up it’s still pretty enjoyable and was a commercial success upon its release. “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)” is one of my favorite songs from this era as is “Heaven’s On Fire”. “Burn Bitch Burn” seems a bit too simplistic for KISS and has a touch of misogyny, but even so, it’s another favorite from the album for me.

Some numbers are stronger than others but I don’t feel like there’s any duds here, but then again, they may just be because I have a soft spot for the album and have listened to it so much. All told, I think it’s a very good album but I can see why others would be quick to point out its faults.

Highlights: “I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)”, “Heaven’s On Fire”, “Get All You Can Take”, “Burn Bitch Burn”, “Thrills in the Night”

KISS – Rock and Roll Over [Review]

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KISS – Rock and Roll Over [Remastered]
1997, Mercury Records
Originally Release: 1976, Casablanca Records

1. “I Want You”
2. “Take Me”
3. “Calling Dr. Love”
4. “Ladies Room”
5. “Baby Driver”
6. “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em”
7. “Mr. Speed”
8. “See You In Your Dreams”
9. “Hard Luck Woman”
10. “Makin’ Love”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Ace Frehley – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Peter Criss – Drums, Vocals

Producer: Eddie Kramer

After the experimental and successful Destroyer, KISS changed directions yet again with the release of Rock and Roll Over, which came just 8 months after Destroyer. While I always assumed KISS didn’t want to rest on their laurels or make Destroyer II, according to Paul Stanley, without Bob Ezrin producing the band was scared to blaze further down the trail that Destroyer had set. So they reverted back to the no-frills hard rock heard on Rock and Roll Over because that was what they knew best.

While Paul has stated this album was a “letdown” and that he didn’t think Eddie Kramer captured the proper sound of the band, I have to disagree as far as it being a letdown. Proper production on the other hand, whether a product of times or what, plagued KISS during the 1970s. I agree that this album doesn’t sound all that powerful but other than the Ezrin-produced Destroyer, nothing KISS did in the ’70s sounded all that energetic from a production standpoint.

The songs are top notch though with only “Take Me” and “See You In Your Dreams” coming across as a bit of filler. “I Want You”, “Ladies Room”, “Baby Driver”, “Mr. Speed” and “Makin’ Love” are some of the band’s best rockers. “Makin’ Love” especially so. Then you’ve got one of Gene’s signature songs — “Calling Dr. Love” while “Hard Luck Woman” is a trademark for Peter right up there with “Beth”. In fact, Peter gets lead vocals on “Baby Driver” as well and I wish he was given more vocal duties during his time spent in KISS.

For this KISS fan, Rock and Roll Over is one of the band’s best and most consistent efforts.

Highlights: ” I Want You”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Ladies Room”, “Baby Driver”, “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em”, “Mr. Speed”, “Hard Luck Woman”, “Makin’ Love”

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