Posts Tagged ‘ 1980s ’

Suzanne Ciani “Lixiviation”

Suzanne Ciani is probably best known today for her grammy nominated new-age records. That legion of fans may not be prepared for her latest comp from B-Music/Finders Keepers which explores her earlier, pioneering work composing synthesized soundscapes and logos. It’s this part of Ciani’s career I find most interesting and Lixiviation 1968-1985 curates a fine selection of tracks that will appeal to fans of early electronic experiments and electronic music in general.

Not a typical record, but rather a selection of cleverly sequenced tracks combining short audio logos with lengthy soundscapes for an album-like listening experience. Sprinkled with brilliant sonic logos like the famous “Coca Cola Pop & Pour” and “Atari Corporate Tag,” 30-60 second spots for adventurous sponsors like “Clean Room ITT TV” and “Almay Eclipse,” and four or five non-commercial pieces teetering between psychedelia and ambient music. The title track swerves from introductory blips and effects to a beautifully filtered odd meter sequence. “Paris 1971″ explores droning pads and softly shifting wind sounds a full six minutes without becoming a bore. The buzzy “Princess With Orange Feet” finds her improvising with tape delay and using full range of the Buchla’s unique touch plate keyboard. It’s Ciani’s ability to guide listeners so delicately through each track, maintaining interest with the simplest changes in timbre and never rushing, that seems to define the masterful touch in these tracks.

Her commercial works really take off in the mid 70s as evidenced by “Discovery Magazine TV Spot,” which sounds especially indicative of electronic music’s future, a fresh sound made with tight delays and sharp sawtooth chords. “Inside Story PBS TV Spot” layers tape edited sound clips over some fancy sequence work; I wish I could hear 4-minute versions of these tracks especially. The spots are indeed short, but merely deserve some repeated listens.

Ciani’s career in synthesized music began after meeting Don Buchla and one of his fantastic modular machines. In the synth world, there is no machine I can think of more imaginative in design, complex in architecture, or more grandly exploratory in sound than any of Buchla’s rare machines. In her interview with the LA times, Ciani recalls her first encounter with its sound:

“Your ears woke up. The frequency spectrum was so much bigger. It had the high end and the very low end, and you could go to the very top and the very bottom. After hearing that, acoustic music seemed to occur along a very narrow path. It wasn’t alive.”

After listening to the full nine minutes of the droning, rich-frequency laden “Second Breath” I was surprised how much waking up my own ears have left to do. Suzanne has since become one of Buchla’s most famous users, as well as helping to make legendary tools such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5Roland’s MC-8 sequencer, as well as various voice synth/vocoder technology. While the album runs slightly short, it stands as the best introduction to Ciani’s illustrious, one-of-a-kind career. It’s even available on vinyl with detailed liners. If you like what you hear, make your next find the new-age classic Seven Waves.

mp3: Princess with Orange Feet
mp3: Discover Magazine (TV Spot)

:D CD Comp | 2012 | B-Music | buy from Finders Keepers | amazon ]
:) Vinyl Comp | 2012 B-Music | buy from Finders Keepers ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Tree People “Human Voices”

Human Voices, the Tree People’s second album from 1984, is a solid dose of American folk-rock.  The group hailed from Eugene Oregon, releasing their debut LP in 1979.  Human Voices was a limited edition cassette only release, of which only 300 copies were pressed.  Stephen Cohen (guitar and voice), Jeff Stier (recorder, flue, bells and percussion) and Denis Mochary (drums) recorded the album at The Recording Arts Center.  It’s an album that sounds wonderfully out of step with the post-punk times. refers to the album as a “mini gem” while notes that Human Voices is “a very strong album, that should be regarded as a classic for the genre.”  A few songs, such as the album opening title track, have an English folk influence (early 70s) but the rest of this LP is original American folk/folk-rock music.  Highlights include “Grandfather,” a moody singer-songwriter number, “Thomas,” a great, ahead of its time indie sounding composition, the freeform “If That’s Entertainment” and a superb folk instrumental titled “Opus III,” which delves into spacy soundscapes.  Human Voices is evenly divided between instrumentals and vocal arrangements.

Guerssen Records, a reissue company based in Spain, reissued this very impressive title on vinyl and cd – it’s well worth a spin and highly recommend to those who are into freakier folk sounds.

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:) Reissue | 2009 | Guerssen Records | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2009 | Guerssen Records | get it here ]

Jimmy Arnold “Southern Soul”

Given that Jimmy Arnold may just have been the finest five-string banjo player on the planet in the 1970s, there’s precious little written down about him, and little more available to listen to. The best write-up I’ve managed to unearth is Eddie Dean’s sleeve notes to the Arnold best-of CD RidingWith Ol’ Mosby. Born in the cotton mill country of Fries, VA, the teenage Arnold emerged as a banjo prodigy in the bluegrass idiom of his native Blue Ridge Mountains, but he was never destined to become a country rock legend or an indispensable Nashville A-teamer. His maverick personality resulted in a wanderlust, possibly born out of his Cherokee lineage, that took him randomly over the US and Latin America and as far as Australia; a drive to widen his talents that saw him become similarly virtuosic on guitar and fiddle; a regime of alcohol and substance abuse that put the likes of Johnny Cash in the shade; and a refusal to stick with any one project that saw him release just three albums during a ten-year solo recording career.

The first two, Strictly Arnold and Rainbow Ride, are low-key instrumental expositions of banjo skills of astonishing quality and great variety, comprising traditional and original tunes sparely recorded with a respectful rhythm section and just the limpid Dobro of longtime musical companion Mike Auldridge as a foil. The third and final album is a rather different work, the product of an obsession that Arnold developed whilst resident in Fredericksburg at the age of 31, surrounded by the battlefields and graveyards of The War Between The States. Southern Soul is a song cycle dedicated to the Confederate cause.

As far as possible from the redneck rebel rawk’n’roll of the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Arnold’s opus presents us with a series of wistful, occasionally maudlin paeans to heroes and generic figures of the South. We get five traditional ballads and instrumentals, eight original Arnold songs which mostly echo that same downhome feel, and a cover of Robbie Robertson’s lament “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” which ought to sound out of place amongst the rustic simplicity of the other tracks but which fits almost seamlessly due to Arnold’s unforced delivery and the gorgeous, restrained Dobro work of Mike Auldridge. Jimmy multi-tracks on lead guitar, fiddle and banjo, combining the most conservative of traditional licks with unexpected jazzy and modal flourishes. For the first time he vocalises on record, and his sweet, slightly cracked Southern accent is perfect for these lyrics.The three most immediately striking songs are “Jesse James” which recounts the adventures of that individual during and after the conflict, the self-explanatory “General Lee” and the traditional “My Home’s Across The Blue Ridge Mountains”, and these three tracks can also be found on the Mosby compilation. However that record concentrates mainly on Arnold’s earlier instrumental work, hence for the full flavour of Southern Soul hearing the actual album is a must. My personal favourites are the violin-drenched “Heroes”, the nostalgic waltz “The Dixon Line” and the traditional “Lorena” on which Auldridge and Arnold swap exquisite lines on Dobro and guitar.

After completing this album Arnold’s career veered wildly; he became a tattoo artist, a drug dealer (subsequently convicted), a painter and finally a musician in Pentecostal churches. However, continued severe alcohol abuse weakened him fatally and at 41 he was dead. A number of incomplete projects are rumoured to be still around, and the Mosby compilation also includes three previously unreleased instrumental tracks. Both albums are recommended, but the atypical Southern Soul will surely remain his masterpiece.

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:D CD Reissue | 1994 | Rebel Records | buy here ]

The Golden Palominos “Visions of Excess”

I must admit to a certain naivety when first picking this one out of a bargain bin some ten years ago. The artists’ name and the album’s title implied a retro country rock/psych crossover, perhaps “Son of Gram”, though the cover art suggested otherwise. The album turned out to be a splendid art-rock artefact featuring a host of well-known names as guests, some of them operating well outside their usual parameters, and with a peculiarly timeless quality. I’ve played it several times recently and it still stands up twenty-five years after its release.

The Golden Palominos was a long-running musical franchise centred on former jazz-rock-fusion percussionist Anton Fier and bassist/producer Bill Laswell. The Palominos’ first album was a genuine band debut and combined jazzy sensibilities with the semi-tuneless punk-funk experimentalism of the early eighties “no-wave” genre. For the follow-up, bandleader Fier dismissed all but Laswell and recruited guitarist Jody Harris to form a new core trio, around which he assembled a remarkable collection of guest vocalists and instrumentalists. Has any other album boasted a guest list of the stature and variety of Michael Stipe, Jack Bruce, John Lydon, Richard Thompson, Henry Kaiser, Carla Bley and Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell and Michael Hampton? This naturally resulted in a more approachable album with wider sonic and stylistic scope than the debut, though still packing the same punch.

All the tracks are powered by Fier’s muscular drumming – with heavily gated snare, in the manner of the times – Laswell’s elastic bass and Harris’s scratchy rhythm. All but two songs are Fier compositions, mostly in partnership with Harris; of the two covers, one is a relatively straight take on the Grape’s “Omaha” featuring Stipe on lead vocal, and the other is of Robert Kidney’s howling “The Animal Speaks” for which Fier appropriately recruited John Lydon, who from his introductory belch onward gives one of his most corrosive performances ever. “Silver Bullet” is a throbbing update of the Bo Diddley rhythm with Jack Bruce on vocal and hypnotic harmonica, while “Clustering Train” has Stipe vocalising over a backing that sounds like REM on uppers, plus a fine wailing stadium guitar solo from Hampton. The one new name is that of Syd Straw, whose powerful contralto is further warmed by her own double-tracked harmony as she sings lead on “(Kind Of) True” and “Buenos Aires”, the album’s two most commercial offerings; Straw would become a featured vocalist on future Palominos releases. Thompson provides springy lead guitar on the Bruce and Straw songs and uncharacteristic screeches over the fadeout of the ferocious riff-laden opener “Boy (Go)”, on which Stipe follows Lydon’s noisenik template. Bley offers simple, soulful Hammond on the Straw songs and Worrell a more exploratory version on the harsher numbers. The comparatively restrained closer “Only One Party” reunites the core trio with original member Arto Lindsay on guitar and vocals. All in all, not all of this is easy music, but the whole rewards attentive listening.

Fier and Laswell continued to record as the Palominos with various guests and in various styles until 1996. Surprisingly, perhaps, given their limited appeal, most – if not all – of their releases still appear to be in print. Visions remains arguably the best of the series.

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“Boy (Go)”

:D CD Reissue | 2001 | Import | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1985 | Celluloid | search ebay ]

The Dawn of Punk-Blues

Few periods in pop music have a more distinctive and immediately identifiable sound as the ’80s. And after hearing most of the garbage that choked up the airwaves (and still on those nostalgic 80s shows/stations) it seems that’s about the only thing it had going for it. But well buried in the gut wrenching cesspool of cheesy synthesizers, lifeless drum machines and teased hair an ugly breed of bottom feeders worked in futility to claw their way out of the muck. Among them was one particularly grotesque strain – an ungodly rocknroll hybrid that can be best described as Punk-Blues. Don’t ask if it’s even a real genre (for what it’s worth, All Music is now using it), but there was a rash of like-minded roots-bashing bands in the 80s that would aptly fit that tag. Of course the origins can be traced way back to Howlin Wolf’s earth shattering electrified blues onto the cranked-up snarl of the Pretty Things, CCR and Capt. Beefheart—and so on…

Some essential albums:

Gun Club Fire of Love (1981)

Fire of Love

The first album to successfully wed the harrowing delta howl of Son House with the intensity of punk rock. Basically they did to the blues what Cramps did to rockabilly. Brimming with reckless slide guitar and twisted southern gothic lyrics that’ll have the PC crowd pulling out their hair, this is an original and utterly astounding blast of pure energy.

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Gun Club – For the Love of Ivy

:) Vinyl | 1981 | Ruby | ebay ]

Gun Club Miami (1982)

Extremely dark with a more pronounced country feel than its predecessor, no other rocknroll album has captured the unsettling eeriness of pre-war blues/country. Complaints abound regarding the mix, but it never bothered me in the least. Ranging from haunting, desert-road-weary C/W of “Mother of Earth” to unforgettably fierce covers of “John Hardy” and Jody Reynold’s “Fire of Love.” One of the greatest albums ever. Really.

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Gun Club – Mother Of Earth

:) Vinyl | 1982 | Animal | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Also recommended: Death Party EP, the Las Vegas Story

Poison 13 s/t (1984)

Poison 13
Led by guitarist Tim Kerr (Big Boys, Jack O Fire etc), Austin’s Poison 13 were like a snottier version of the Gun Club with equally slicing slide guitar wreckage and buzzsaw power chording. “Biggest Mistake” may be the quintessential punk-blues cut. Their reworking of Willie Dixon’s The Seventh son is nothing less than genius. Not a weak cut.

This album, along with their fine 1985 EP First you Live and early demos, was released on the Subpop collection Wine is Red, Poison is Blue.

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“Poison 13 – My Biggest Mistake”

:) Vinyl | 1984 | Wrestler | ebay ]

Alex Chilton Like Flies on Sherbert (1979)

Like Flies On Sherbert

Chilton strung out on smack slobbering over a stack of Chess and Sun 45s. It may be an acquired taste, but this charming disaster of a roots-rock album is loaded with amazing tracks like “Hey, Little Child” and “My Rival.” This album’s endured a far longer residence on my turntable than any Big Star release.

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Alex Chilton – My Rival

:) Vinyl | 1979 | Aura | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Also recommended: Tav Falco and the Panther Burns Behind the Magnolia Curtain (Chilton on guitar) and Blow Your Top EP

The Scientists Heading for a Trauma (1985)

Heading for a Trauma
Off-kilter, noisy swamp-rock from this crew of Aussie minimalists. Funhouse era Stooges violates CCR while Suicide pukes in their faces. Something like that. Frontman Kim Salmon groans and shrieks over barrages of hypnotizing fuzz guitar. “Murderess in a Purple Dress” is a force to be reckoned with. Also includes a nice rendition of Beefheart’s “Clear Spot.”

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The Scientists – Swampland

The Scientists The Human Juke Box (1987)

The Human Jukebox
Human Jukebox shows the Scientists willfully wiping away any last trace of commercial potential they might have had by unleashing this severely damaged six song album. Making their earlier recordings almost seem polished, this masterwork of trash shifts from the grinding, cheap-piano-driven “Brain Dead” to the delightfully droning blues crawl of “Shine.”

Since their songs appeared on different albums, often overlapping, Sympathy for Record Industry’s CD collections are a perfect source for their best tracks.

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The Scientists – Human Jukebox

:D CD Reissues | Sympathy for the Record Industry | search amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Alan Vega S/T (1980) / Collision Drive (1981)

Alan Vega Collision Drive

Speaking of Suicide (Vega actually described his former band as “New York City Blues”), the headband-clad madman released two great solo albums with (gulp) drum machines. No need to fear, in Vega’s able hands it works brilliantly. It’s more on the rockabilly side (I’ve heard it described as electro-billy), but tracks like “Bye Bye Bayou” show him sloshing around in the same swampland the Scientists inhabited (Scient. even covered Vega’s “Raver”). Raw guitars (albeit rather mechanical – in a good way) managed to sneak on board, but Vega keeps a foot firmly grounded in the bleak territory Suicide roamed.

Some more similar-minded bands: the Birthday Party and Nick Cave’s early work – Pussy Galore – Blood on the Saddle –  the Gibson Bros – Tav Falco and the Panther Burns – Honeymoon Killers – the Fall – Charlie Pickett — and of course the Cramps.

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Alan Vega – Bye Bye Bayou

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

The 90s was also redeemed by a largely unnoticed (that is until the White Stripes came around) resurgence of the style, with great bands like the Gories, the Oblivians, The Chrome cranks and the Cheater Slicks giving the stale US punk scene a much overdue kick in the ass. Stay tuned for part 2.

uReview: Neil Young “Trans”


I was a late bloomer to Neil Young’s music and still no expert. But I’m curious about this synthesized 1982 departure called Trans. What’s the score on this one?

12345678910 (54 votes, average: 6.89 out of 10)
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“We R In Control”

:D CD Reissue | 1999 | Polydor | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1982 | Geffen | ebay ]

The Long Ryders “Native Sons”

One of the best from the 80s underground, right up there with top albums by the Dream Syndicate, the Wipers, the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen and the Replacements. The Long Ryders had more of a genuine 60s sound though and this record, Native Sons, was their first album (not counting their debut ep, 10-5-60). This group hailed from Los Angeles California and was led by Kentucky native Sid Griffin, a man well versed in the history of rock n roll. Griffin headed out to LA when he heard about the city’s thriving punk scene. Over time Griffin would meet up with guitarist Steve McCarthy, bassist Barry Shank, and drummer Greg Sowders. Prior to the Long Ryders Griffin and Shank had been in garage revival band the Unclaimed. Over time Tom Stevens would become the group’s full-time bass player and this period would see them gain a respectable live following. The group would eventually become the Long Ryders and fuse 60s style garage rock and folk-rock with a country-rock feel. Native Sons was a brilliant debut lp and in some ways similar to the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, in its unique fusion of folk, country, pop and psychedelia. Also, Native Sons’ album cover strongly recalled Buffalo Springfield’s shelved album, Stampede.

There is real importance in Native Sons though, as the Long Ryders among others, put country-rock back on the map and made the style credible again. In the mid 70s groups like the Eagles were responsible for tarnishing the genre’s reputation, turning something that was intelligent and underground into glossy creampuff pop. So it took a few years and a couple of great albums by groups like Jason and the Scorchers and Rank and File to restore country-rock’s credibility among the underground. On Ivory Tower, Griffin managed to get Gene Clark in the studio to provide backup vocals. Ivory Tower ended up being one of the great lost 80s tracks, downbeat and moody, sounding like a really terrific fusion of mid 60s Byrds and the early 70s solo work of Gene Clark. Sweet Mental Revenge, the album’s only cover (Mel Tillis), was an excellent reading notable for its appealing vocals and fuzz guitar work – a style that is referred to today as cowpunk. Another superb track, the humorous Fair Game, is closer in spirit to blue grass and foreshadowed Griffin’s work with the Cole Porters. I Had a Dream and Wreck of the 809 are underrated gems that listeners often forget about. These tracks display the Long Ryders’ garage band roots and are full of jangly guitars, aggressive vocals, feedback and lots of fuzz. This album is an absolute joy and a must for paisley underground fans and 60s rock junkies.

The Long Ryders were one of the great American underground groups of the 80s. They made recordings that have proven to be timeless and inventive, records that balanced intensity with humor. Besides writing great songs, their talent lies in the ability to take from the past and create something totally fresh and original. Their live shows were spectacular and the group garnered much respect from their peers. All three of their original albums are highly recommended.

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“Ivory Tower”

:D CD Reissue | 1993 | Frontier | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1984 | Frontier | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download at amazon ]

Bobb Trimble “Iron Curtain Innocence”

Iron Curtain Innocence

There is nobody quite like Bobb Trimble in the world of rock n roll. Trimble released two great underappreciated records in the early 80s (private press – real lo-fi). His vision is very deep, personal, and absolutely original with a strong outsider, late night feel. His music was totally out of sync with the times but Bobb waved the psych flag high and proud and managed to find an audience among 60s record collectors.

The sound of Iron Curtain Innocence is unique, but somehow timeless, and it defies much of the genre categorization I have often found simple. The songcraft takes a few spins to rest comfortably in your head (music that wants to belong deep in your psyche), but when they take hold they root in deep.

Bobb seems to craft his albums around one song; in this case it’s “One Mile From Heaven.” This track recently got to me in a way like my all time favorite, “God Only Knows.” It’s not the spiritual references, I don’t think, though both tracks indeed have ethereal qualities. It’s just one of those records that makes you want to cry for no reason at all, when it hits you in the right spot, at the right time.

On Bobb’s 1982 Harvest of Dreams it’s “Premonitions.” Both songs appear twice at the beginning and end of side 1, with separate, but similar versions. The effect of this technique is quite grabbing, and it gets you diving back into Bobb’s world whenever you get the chance.

Some consider Harvest of Dreams the greatest psych album after 1975. It’s full of beautiful dreamy tunes like “Take Me Home Vienna” and the killer opener “Premonitions – The Fantasy.” “Selling Me Short” is superb, and it’s exciting to hear Trimble explode in anger nearing the song’s chaotic fuzzy ending.

Before these records saw release on Secretly Canadian, they had been bootlegged by Radioactive Records, also known as Fallout Records (please do not buy Fallout or Radioactive!). But thanks to the work of good people like Kris Thompson and Douglas McGowan both of Bobb’s albums are finally legitimately available in CD and vinyl reissues. Excellent stuff and highly recommended.

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“One Mile From Heaven (Short Version)”

Aside: Is it just me, or are there Wizard of Oz references sprinkled throughout this record?

:D CD Reissue: 2007 Secretly Canadian | Buy From SC | Buy From Amazon ]
:) Vinyl Reissue (w/ free digital download) | Buy From SC | Search eBay ]

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The Soft Boys “Underwater Moonlight”

Underwater Moonlight

While we’re a little ahead of the era, I’d like to throw in this post-70’s classic from The Soft Boys. Full of great songs, that get to you slowly, and jangly guitars, Underwater Moonlight is their masterpiece 2nd record and (excuse my indulgence) it fucking rocks.

First off, any album that opens with I Wanna Destroy You would make the cut any day. A serious blast from the speakers and dual guitars stabbing all over the place, a great harmony line sings the title, but Robyn Hitchcock says the “You” part with an ‘F off’ sensibility, and thus bridges the gap between The Byrds and punk rock. By Kingdom of Love, we’re in for the ride. It may take a few listens to get used to these tracks, but they will become anthems to you; each track on Underwater Moonlight is a treat. There are Television-like bass and guitar runs, breakdowns and some gnarly licks like in the bluesy I Got The Hots. Lyrically, Underwater Moonlight is extremely weird and surrealist. Take this bit from Got The Hots for example: “When you see her your eyes awake, electric bulbs on a birthday cake. Would you care for a lump of steak?” But the lyrics never sound dumb and they won’t embarrass you, just don’t try figuring them out.

Insanely Jealous is a powerhouse track with an almost 80’s dance beat sound to its pulsating high-hat pinching rhythm. Tonight and the surf-inspired instrumental workout, You’ll Have To Go Sideways are personal favorites and Old Pervert beats with intense authority, showing some Capt. Beefheart influence. It’s an album that will slowly work its way into your psyche and eventually become a simple classic.

The 2001 Matador re-release includes a 2nd disc chronicling the rehearsal takes leading up to Underwater Moonlight. These are not throw-away tracks by any means (especially Only The Stones Remain) and it’s a beautiful reissue. This may not mean much to you, but this is an album that I carried around with me for a whole summer, dinging up the case, dripping paint on it somehow, and making it all the more VG+++ in my mind.

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“Insanely Jealous”

[ Buy from Amazon | Search eBay ]