Posts Tagged ‘ 1975 ’

Jimmy Buffett “High Cumberland Jubilee”

Today we delve into yet another unexpected gem by an artist that is usually considered anathema to any discerning aficionado of American popular music. Long before Jimmy Buffett started scoring big in the top-twenty with insipid margarita beach music he was cutting weird, electric folk-rock records and hanging out with folks like Steve Goodman (yeah, that’s him on the cover of Somebody Else’s Troubles) and Jerry Jeff Walker. Nowadays Buffett doesn’t even acknowledge these earlier records, though they have been kept in print under a seemingly-endless number of guises on his own Margaritaville Records.

The second and, unfortunately, last of these, 1976′s High Cumberland Jubilee, is a killer, even though it remained unreleased until three years after it was recorded. The sound of the band here lays somewhere between psychedelic country-rock and late-sixties power-pop, with lots of weird phased drums, banjos, and twelve-string guitars. Heavy attitude everywhere, believe it or not. The production is pretty well-polished, but hardly overproduced; there’s just the right amount of definition between the instruments to keep things clean, which actually proves to be a beautiful thing when the band leaps into its little instrumental breaks, such as that which closes the record. The most relaxed pieces here definitely call to mind the man’s aforementioned folk-rock affiliates, but also have a touch of starry-eyed Gordon Lightfoot polish to them that you don’t normally find on records like this one.

As one might expect, Buffett’s songwriting tends to be hit-and-miss here. There are some light and entertaining moments, with slight-but-eventually-memorable lyrics, some good shots at obtuse sixties social commentary, and then some numbers which read like failed assignments from Songwriting 101; cliché, dragged-out, full of tired juvenile romanticism. It’s too bad that any chance to hear the singer mature as a songwriter was cut short by his untimely descent into artistic oblivion.

The unfortunate side to some of the reissues of Down To Earth and High Cumberland Jubilee is that Buffett has taken to cutting out the first song of the former, a relatively-scathing indictment of Christian hypocrisy which he today, as beachfront-yuppie-poster-child, presumably suspects will hurt his image. If you can track down original copies of these records, which looks to be a difficult task, snatch them up because, despite all the faults to be found here, there really is a lot to enjoy. Plus you get to see the look on your friends’ faces when you suggest breaking out some Buffett (and they thought they knew you so well).

mp3: England (As the Sun Went Down)
mp3: Travelin’ Clean

:) Original | 1975 | Barnaby | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Guy Clark “Old No. 1″

Guy Clark waited a long time to get himself on record, despite a proven pedigree as a songwriter penning sometimes joyous, sometimes bittersweet, frequently autobiographical, always poetic narratives of Western life. Jerry Jeff Walker had cut Clark’s “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train” for his eponymous 1972 album, whilst Townes Van Zandt included “Don’t Let The Sunshine Fool Ya” on his sublime The Late Great Townes Van Zandt the same year. Meanwhile, Monahans, TX, native Clark had held down a day job as a TV station art director in Houston whilst playing the city’s folk clubs with the likes of Townes and K.T. Oslin, and, during a brief unhappy spell in Los Angeles, worked as a staff songwriter for Sunbury Music and as a luthier building Dobros. It wasn’t until several years after he moved to Nashville that he finally signed to RCA and released his own first album in 1975, effectively “covering” some of his own tunes that others had put down years earlier.

Under his RCA contract Clark turned out two country-meets-folk albums of such homely, unassuming beauty that it’s amazing in retrospect to think it took him so long to find his own voice on vinyl. On the first, Old No. 1 , Clark’s own belated versions of “Desperadoes” and “Freeway” proved peerless, and other future classics such as “Texas 1947”, “Let Him Roll” and “A Nickel For The Fiddler” rounded out a faultless ten-track set taking in folk, bluegrass, honky-tonk and the most lonesome of torch ballads in a respectful, authentic fashion that contrasted with both the bland country-pop of Chet Atkins’s Nashville roster and the hyperactive rawk’n’roll of Waylon Jennings’s Outlaw clique. Alongside Clark’s own masterful acoustic guitar picking, the album featured gorgeous, restrained accompaniments from a bevy of Music Row sessioneers including Reggie Young (guitar), Johnny Gimble (fiddle), Micky Raphael (harmonicas), David Briggs (piano) and Hal Rugg (pedal steel and Dobro) plus almost all of Emmylou Harris’s entourage as guest backing vocalists, with Harris’s own crystal soprano harmonies embellishing Clark’s warm, cracked Texas brogue in similar fashion to the way she’d counterpointed the fragile warblings of Gram Parsons.

None of which, sadly, provided Clark with a hit; there were no singles released and the album itself struggled only to a lowly 41 on the Billboard country chart. The next year’s follow-up Texas Cookin’ similarly made no commercial impact despite being of nearly as high a quality and including such wonderful waxings as “Virginia’s Real”, “Don’t Let The Sunshine Fool Ya” and the incomparable “The Last Gunfighter Ballad”, and that did it for Clark’s RCA contract. It would be another two years before he resurfaced on Warner for his third long-player, since when he’s put out infrequent albums on that and no fewer than seven other imprints with no-better-than-modest sales all the way. Yet his songs have been repeatedly covered by country royalty: Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Rodney Crowell, Alan Jackson, Bobby Bare, Jimmy Buffett and the Highwaymen. In 2011 a slew of the aforementioned plus Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Roseanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Sexsmith, Townes’s son John and others returned the compliment with a double CD of Clark’s best known tunes entitled This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark. Rarely has such a tribute been so genuinely justified, but if this sounds just too gratulatory, treat yourself instead to the twofer CD containing Old No. 1 and Texas Cookin’.

mp3: Texas, 1947
mp3: She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

:) Original | 1975 | RCA | search ]
:D Reissue | 2fer | 2002 | Bmg | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Chip Taylor “This Side of the Big River”

Chip Taylor’s This Side of the Big River is probably one of the best underground country albums you’ve never heard. Though the record plays things pretty straight for its genre, it also boasts some pretty solid underground credentials. Not only is Chip Taylor the songwriter behind such Troggs classics as “Wild Thing” and “Any Way That You Want Me” (not to mention “Try,” the great kozmik soul shouter made famous by Janis Joplin), but he’s also the brother of the Midnight Cowboy himself, actor Jon Voight. In addition, three cuts on Big River feature Chip’s friend Sandy Bull on oud, which makes the album about as hip as Nashville could get back in the days of ’74.

As previously stated, however, the music here is country music, no matter how you cut it. Taylor never emphasizes his rock and roll background, instead letting his warm and introspective lyrics drift across lazy, pedal-steel-driven arrangements. One could say that this is the thinking man’s honky-tonk music, which may not be too far from the truth despite the unwelcome elitist connotations that label implies. At times Big River is definitely reminiscent of folks like John Prine or Billie Joe Shaver. In fact, there are a lot of signs that Taylor knew his music – some of his singing on the R&B-influenced “I’ve Been Tied” is straight out of the Gram Parsons handbook.

As an album This Side of the Big River is actually pieced together from assorted studio recordings and tracks cut live on a New Hampshire radio broadcast, though you’d hardly notice the difference without the occasional light applause. Of the latter, Taylor’s cover of Johnny Cash’s rollicking “Big River” is a highlight, despite the occasional presence of an extremely annoying electric piano. Apparently this take on the song impressed its author enough to persuade him to personally promote the album to radio stations – albeit to little avail.

 

As the story goes, Warner Brothers Records had originally signed Taylor as a rock and roll artist, so when he started recording country they had no idea what to do about promotion. Hell, up until his first record for the label, Chip Taylor’s Last Chance, they didn’t even have a proper country music division! Fortunately for us though, the beautiful people over at Collector’s Choice Music have given the album a well-deserved second chance and reissued it with some insightful liner notes by noted music scholar Richie Unterberger.

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“I’ve Been Tied”

:D Reissue | 2007 | Collector’s Choice | buy here ]
:) Original | 1975 | Warner Brothers | search ebay ]

Spirit “Spirit of ’76″

With the exception of their first four albums,  Spirit released some of their best music in the mid 70s.  Spirit of ’76 (released in 1975 by MCA) is a brilliant double album that saw Ed Cassidy and Randy California “officially” reunite for the first time since the legendary 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.  This disc was also the first band release to feature Randy California in complete creative control of the group’s sound.  Prior to the album, California had suffered a nervous breakdown, an event that led him to relocate to Hawaii.  In Hawaii, California lived on the beaches, miserable and destitute until he was taken in by a Christian family.  The guitarist wrote most of the material for Spirit of ’76 while being employed as a gardener in Hawaii.  When California recovered, he phoned Ed Cassidy (the drummer) and when the two met up, the Spirit name was once again resurrected.

Gone are the jazzy, intricate textures of the group’s early albums.  This version of Spirit favored a classic rock sound with plenty of distortion and phased guitars, vocal effects and a dreamy, stoned production – a strong Hendrix influence abounds. As with many double albums, there’s some indulgent moments sprinkled throughout the two discs.  The brief “Tampa Jam/Jack Bond” theme appears 5 times throughout the album.   Also,  some listeners may be surprised by the 5 or 6 covers that appear on the LP.  The original Spirit albums solely relied on original material.  To me, the covers sound excellent.  “Happy” (The Rolling Stones) is reckless and hard rocking, “Hey Joe” is suitably spacey and faithful to Hendrix’s version, “America The Beautiful/The Times They Are A Changing” is inspiring while ”Walking The Dog” is a powerful rendition that features lots of great guitar work.

The California originals are truly exceptional.  “Sunrise,” “Veruska,” and “Victim Of Society” rock hard and fierce, featuring plenty of fuzz guitar, distortion and pounding drums.  Some of the album’s tracks such as the trippy “Urantia” are influenced by California’s interest in the religious teachings of the Urantia Book/Urantia Foundation (a religious organization).  Other great moments include acoustic, reflective numbers “What Do I Have?” and “My Road” and a few lighthearted cuts such as “Lady Of The Lakes” and the country-psych gem, “Joker On The Run.”

Not many great classic rock albums were being issued in 1975/1976.  At this point, all the heavy hitters (example – at this juncture The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and solo Beatles were releasing weak, uninteresting LPs) were peddling slick, corporate dreck to the public.  Taken in this context, Spirit of ’76 is one of the better classic rock releases from 1975 that actually does possess real artistic integrity; a hidden gem from 1975.

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“My Road”

:D Reissue | 2004 | BGO | buy here ]
:) Original | 1975 | Mercury | search ebay ]

The Rolling Stones “Metamorphosis”

For reasons unexplained, officially-sanctioned outtakes from the Rolling Stones’ Decca (a.k.a. London) period remain as rare as rocking-horse manure. Was the Glimmer Twins’ quality control really so good that they recorded little more than those tracks that appeared as singles or on albums? Or were they so perfectionist that almost all the other stuff was immediately wiped, Paul Dukas-style, rather than being archived? Although to date no fewer than 23 compilations of their ’63-’70 material have been issued worldwide, the number of cuts on these which were not used on the scheduled studio releases can just about be counted on the fingers of one hand – with one notable, noble exception.

At first glance, Metamorphosis, with its Kafka-derived cover art, is just one of the many “exploitation” back-catalogue collections issued by Allen Klein’s ABKCO Music in the wake of the Stones’ defection to Virgin. But where Metamorphosis differs is that it consists completely of studio material unavailable elsewhere – including possibly the meagre sum total of the album-session outtakes remaining from the sixties. These include a cracking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Don’t Lie To Me” with rollicking piano by Ian Stewart, and the stomping, Motownish original “Try A Little Harder”, both of which inexplicably got left off their 1964 LP releases; a strange alternative take on “Heart Of Stone” with pedal steel (by Jimmy Page?); a funky alternative punt (to that used in performance and subsequently issued as a UK-only Mick Jagger solo single) at “Memo From Turner” featuring Al Kooper and possibly Steve Winwood; and three unused cuts from the sessions for Let It Bleed plus one each from Aftermath, Beggars’ Banquet and Sticky Fingers. For rarity freaks these include the gloriously sloppy “Downtown Suzie”, one of only two Bill Wyman songs ever committed to tape by the band, with open-G guitar supplied by Ry Cooder, and a fine cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why” taped the night Brian Jones died and featuring slide guitar solos from both Keith Richards (recorded earlier) and Mick Taylor (overdubbed later). Taylor also makes a confident early declaration of intent on the studio version of the live concert favourite “Jiving Sister Fanny”.

And that’s only half the story. Almost half the album consists of demos of songs penned by Jagger and Richards but intended for other artists to record, during the Twins’ first fertile period as writers around 1965 (several songs from that year’s Aftermath album were similarly covered). These were cut under Andrew Oldham’s tutelage with Jagger vocalising and backings provided by sessioneers and studio guests including Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Clem Cattini, John McLaughlin, Tony Hicks and Graham Nash. Jagger sings “Out Of Time” over the actual string-laden backing track used by Chris Farlowe for his UK no. 1 and “Each And Every Day Of The Year” over that used by Bobby Jameson, and on demos of “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind”, “I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys”, “(Walkin’ Thru The) Sleepy City” and “We’re Wastin’ Time” which were realised with new backings respectively by Dick And Dee Dee, the Toggery Five, the Mighty Avengers and (honestly) Jimmy Tarbuck.

So how worthwhile are the sixteen genuine rarities here? Well, the demos are all pretty good, the songs certainly strong enough and the backings sophisticated enough to have made it as single releases under Jagger’s name, apart from the uncharacteristically wimpy “I’d Rather Be With The Boys” (credited to Oldham rather than Jagger as co-writer). And it’s genuinely hard to decide why the excellent band originals here were sidelined in favour of the tracks that made it on to the albums. The schizoid chronology of this collection (mostly 1964-65 and 1969-70) makes it an uneven rather than a homogenous listen, but any serious collector of the Stones’ oeuvre needs to own these tracks.

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“Don’t Lie to Me”

:) Original | 1975 | ABKCO | search ]
:D Reissue | 2002 | ABKCO | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Timbercreek “Hellbound Highway”

Timbercreek, a young band of ruffians who hailed from the small town of Boulder Creek (pop. 4081), nestled deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, recorded this lost country-rock gem with a for-real-not-ironic-rural-vibe in 1975. The small California indie label Renegade Records released the lp, and depending on who’s story you choose to believe, somewhere between 100 and 3,000 copies of Hellbound Highway were pressed. Needless to say, this record is very rare, and very, very good. If you’re a fan of The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Band, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, or Workingman’s Dead/American Beauty era Grateful Dead then today is your lucky day.

Larry Ross, Jon Hicks, Carl Holland, Bill Woody, and Frank Gummersal met in the Santa Cruz Mountains area and began, along with the help of lyricist Frank Andrick, writing tunes not unlike those being churned out some fifty miles north by the great songwriting team of Garcia/Hunter. Before long they were playing the Bay Area circuit, hitting clubs from Santa Cruz to Palo Alto to La Honda, the one time home of The Merry Pranksters and the site of numerous acid tests. By the time the group of friends entered The Church in San Anselmo, Ca to record their debut record they had developed a solid rural country-rock sound complete with twanging telecasters, bluesy benders, Big Pink harmonies, and tales of life on the road and the fight to take it easy.

The title track is the highlight of the bunch, the story of a highway kind enjoying the finer pleasures in life–jukebox tunes, honky tonk saloons, and of course the midnight special with the truck stop girl. The narrator seems to know that the life will kill him eventually, but he’s trying to make the most of the cards that he’s been dealt. Complete with a few sounds of the road, a killer opening and closing riff, and a nauseous phased out bridge, this song surely delivers. “Nobody on the Streets” has that funky backwoods bootcut sound, complete with wah-wah guitar and a groovy bassline–played by bassist Jon Hicks on his completely homemade bass guitar no less! “Hell in the Hills” is a wonderful album closer that really shows off the band’s jammier side.

After working the circuit, opening for groups like Kingfish and The Sons of Champlin, and even receiving radio play in the San Francisco Bay Area, the members went their separate ways. Fortunately we have Hellbound Highway to remember them by. If you’re looking for a tasty tonic to satisfy your craving for more laid-back West Coast country-rock, Timbercreek’s Hellbound Highway will get you drunk on funky rural vibes straight from the backwoods hill country of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Avoid the unlicensed Radioactive Records bootleg cd release and score an original pressing on vinyl, you won’t regret it!

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“Hellbound Highway”

:) Original | 1975 | Renegade Records | search ebay ]

Bob Carpenter “Silent Passage”

Bob Carpenter’s Silent Passage was a Warner Brothers release from 1984. Supposedly, the sessions for this album were cut between 1971 and 1973 but the Riverman Records reissue OBI strip dates Silent Passage at 1975.  Artists as diverse as Tom Rush, Billy Joe Shaver and Emmylou Harris have covered Carpenter’s material.

Bob Carpenter’s rustic, gritty vocals will probably be an acquired taste but don’t let this deter you from listening to this fine album. There’s a certain spirtual vibe that cloaks Silent Passage, also, it’s not the cheeriest record but not many country-rock albums are. The lyrics usually deal with depression, isolation, loss and the occasional religious overtone but these themes are common among many early 70s country rock/Americana/singer songwriter releases. It’s closest cousin is probably Bob Martin’s classic Midwest Farm Disaster.

Key tracks are the great, eerie Americana of “Gypsy Boy,” a spiritual highlight titled “Morning Train,” the desolate “Down Along the Border,” and the depressing but strangely optimistic “The Believer.” Some tracks such as “Miracle Man” and “Old Friends” offer up a more commerical rock sound while “First Light” is a folk gem with strings and organ.

Overall this is a very good, overlooked LP with many strengths. A quiet gem for the folk-rock and country-rock fans.

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“Gypsy Boy”

:D Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | buy here ]
:) Original | 1975 | Warner Reprise | search ebay ]

Space Opera “Safe At Home”

It’s quite a challenge for me to write a good, subjective review on these guys.  I’ve been a big fan of their music for some time now, probably since the first time I heard the opening chords of “The Viper” from Whistler, Chaucer, Detroit and Greenhill’s 1968 album, The Unwritten Works of Geoffrey, Etc - I was hooked.  That album was more of a collection of studio experimentation/tracks whereas Space Opera (1973) was conceived as an actual album – the band played lots of live festivals/gigs during the Space Opera years.  The Space Opera LP shares many of the same characteristics that made the WCD&G album so enjoyable but in place of psychedelia (or psych pop) are the more structured, studied sounds of a good progressive rock band.  It’s a classic record too, very different from the majority of  “progressive rock” and “country-rock” albums being released at the time.   Not many unknown groups who release one album in their lifetime have this many quality tracks lying around the cutting room floor.  Therefore, I was shocked and excited to find out the release of these early demo tracks from the group’s prime years.

Space Opera are closer in sound to latter day Byrds or more distantly, Moby Grape.   They had a knack for mixing blues, rock n roll, country, folk, and psych/progressive rock into something that still sounds fresh today and uniquely American (they were from Texas).  Space Opera’s guitar sound leans towards the jazz/progressive end of the spectrum.  Also, some of the tracks like the trippy reprise of ”Singers and Sailors” feature vibes and David Bullock’s trance-like flute work.  The Exit 4 (named after Exit 4 studios) demos are the first 9 tracks (approximately 40 minutes) of this album, cut in 1970/1971, before Space Opera’s self title debut.  While the remaining 6 tracks, cut between 1975-1978 are very solid and musical (check out folk-rock gem “Snow Is Falling”), the Exit 4 demos are the real meat of the Safe at Home project.  Exit 4 should have been Space Opera’s debut album.  Both “Country Max” (their most popular song) and a heavily phased “Over and Over” make appearances on the Exit 4 album albeit in very good, early versions.  The remaining cuts are unique to this compilation and are nearly the equal of anything on Space Opera - these cuts sound like finished tracks rather than demos.

Every track is strong and worth multiple spins.  The album leads off with ”Singers and Sailors/Father,” a tough bluesy hard rocker  with spiraling guitar leads and gutsy vocals.  This track segues into the excellent “Journey’s End.”  This cut has a country folk intro that eventually morphs into soft, tuneful rock that would have been fine radio fodder.  The guitar playing throughout is outstanding.  These guys were intelligent musicians that could have played any style well.  Space Opera also knew how to balance out their instrumental prowess with quality songwriting.  Check out “Psychic Vampire”, another creative gem, which is similar to “Journey’s End” in it’s mixture of soft progressive sounds and fluid, expressive guitar work.  Songs like “Marlow” and “Fly Away” show off the groups country and folk origins (with interesting chord progressions) and are no less potent than the aforementioned tracks.  All in all, Exit 4 (and Safe at Home as a whole) is a superb album by one of America’s great lost bands.

Check out the excellent Cyber City Radio interview with Space Opera founder, David Bullock (2002).

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“Snow Is Falling”

:D CD Reissue | 2010 | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Ted Lucas “The Om Album”

Yoga Records, in collaboration with Riverman, are hitting it out of the park in their first year. It seems a shame I haven’t heard this record before, as it’s an easy new favorite. Ted Lucas got his start playing in a Detroit folk revival band called The Spike-Drivers, eventually leaving to form other groups The Misty Wizards, Horny Toads, and the Boogie Disease. While he was a respected figure in Michigan’s folk and rock scene, his self-titled solo album (recorded largely in his attic studio during 1974) failed to break beyond local recognition.

The promo sticker nails the sound, placing Ted Lucas next to legends John Fahey, Nick Drake, and Skip Spence. It’s a right on comparison when you hear what this album has to offer. Each side of the record is plainly its own thing; Side A being a suite of six perfectly sweet folk originals and Side B containing an instrumental, an extended blues jam, and an 8-minute raga. The first three tracks have melodies that seamlessly weave in your head on first or second listen. “I’ll Find A Way” is the sleeper knockout, tucking in after the record’s gorgeous three song opener: “Plain & Sane & Simple Melody,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Now That I Know.” These tunes are so easy to love and will have no trouble lodging comfortably in your head. I can’t contain how much I dig the side A closer “It Is So Nice To Get Stoned,” especially when “Sonny Boy Blues” on side B warns “you better stop drinking that wine.” Arrangements are sparse, an acoustic guitar gracefully ornamented with sitar drones (Lucas played uncredited sitar on the Tempations’ “Psychedelic Shack”) and delicate electric fingerpicking, with some auto-harp and tasteful percussion elsewhere. For a lost psych-folk record, the sound is remarkably current.

Comes in a faithfully reproduced LP-style package, with a facsimile of the original insert, new liners and a save-worthy protective cover. Yoga just might make the CD format cool again! Even so, I might have to spring for the vinyl. The insert, by the way, is wonderful, showcasing a badass t-shirt with Stanley Mouse’s cover design and contains the lyrics and chords to the songs on the first side. Got to be one of the best reissues of the year.

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“It Is So Nice To Get Stoned”

:D CD Reissue | Yoga/Riverman | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | Yoga/Riverman | at amazon ]

uReview: Tom Waits Discography

Tom Waits is one of the many legendary artists we have neglected to feature on these pages. His works seem to transcend time, seamlessly linking sound and style from decade to decade. But, for whatever reason, I only have a couple of his records.

So, calling all TW fiends: what’s overrated, underrated, and essential in the Tom Waits Discography?

Check Your Top 5 Tom Waits Albums

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