Zero Option – Absolute Zero – 1988

Zero Option was actually just one guy, Ralph Ward. I guess you could call him the Thomas Dolby of Christian music. Well maybe more the Howard Jones due to his vocals. This is actually his second album, his first album was titled “Ralph Ward” but using the artist name Zero Option. Does that qualify as a self titled album? When asked why he didn’t refer to his work by just his name he said “…..people expect you to be one bloke standing there with an acoustic guitar!” He took the name Zero Option from the nuclear disarmament policy of the same name which I guess was big in the U.K. in the early 80’s. He played anywhere he could including pubs, schools, and Churches. The album is a synth affair with upbeat vocals. At times I hear Harold Faltermeyer, Howard Jones, and even Men Without Hats. Speaking of Men Without Hats the album cover looks like it’s right out of the music video for “Safety Dance”. This is the style of music I loved i the 80’s and it’s too bad I had to wait until 2021 to hear this album because I really like it.

1 – Throwing It All Away – 5:32
2 – Let Me Die On Platform 9 – 6:09
3 – Still In Love With You – 3:31
4 – Let Go And Let God – 5:43
5 – The Telephone Song – 5:30
6 – Caught Up On The Wrong Side – 3:42
7 – In My Dreams Tonight – 5:47
8 – For Eternity – 4:33
9 – Love Looks Down – 3:19
10 – Hold Out Forever – 5:00

Instruments, Vocals, Producer, Songwriter – Ralph Ward
Producer, Engineer – William Jackson

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Jacob’s Trouble – Knock, Breathe, Shine – 1990

The second release from Jacob’s Trouble was also the one most clearly influenced by producer Terry Scott Taylor, and in a very good way. Of the three “retro” sounding albums in the JT catalog it remains the strongest and most consistent. Strong from start to finish and filled with very memorable hits. Wisely chosen covers, some help from a few legends and some brilliant original material combined for a wonderful project. The first two cuts (Look at U Now & Little Red Words) were co-written by Terry Scott Taylor and Randy Stonehill, respectively. Both received a good amount of Christian rock radio airplay. The cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Believe In You” is nicely paced not to sound too much like the original while keeping the strong contemplative feel of the original. These more straight ahead classic acoustic rock numbers are interspersed by great originals like Dreamaker, Further up & Further In (taken from CS Lewis’ The Final Battle), There Goes My Heart Again and the semi-controversial, “About Sex Part 2.” Taylor’s influence can be felt throughout both musically and creatively. The album’s closer should have been a hit. A huge it! And it was. Unfortunately for the band “These Thousand Hills” would become a hit for Third Day when the band covered it several years later.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Look At U Now – 3:04
2 – Little Red Words – 3:40
3 – Dreammaker – 4:20
4 – Further Up & Further In – 2:33
5 – Beggars And Kings – 3:43
6 – Is It True? – 2:58
7 – Islands, Buildings And Freeways – 2:50
8 – I Believe In You – 4:44
9 – There Goes My Heart Again – 3:18
10 – Bad Lick & Gun Shot – 0:06
11 – Mr. Hitler – 4:10
12 – I’m A Little World – 2:33
13 – About Sex (Part II) – 4:02
14 – Wounded World – 3:40
15 – These Thousand Hills – 3:07

Art Direction – Ed McTaggart
Backing Vocals – Jerry Chamberlain, Riki Michele, Sharon McCall, Terry Taylor
Bass, Backing Vocals – Steve Atwell
Cover [Cover Design] – Court Patton
Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Backing Vocals – Jerry Davison
Electric Guitar – Greg Flesch
Electric Guitar [Electric Lead], Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mark Blackburn
Harmony Vocals – Randy Stonehill (tracks: 4), Terry Taylor (tracks: 4)
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Rob Watson
Mastered By – John Matousek
Photography By – Jimi Stratton
Piano – Ojo Taylor (tracks: 9)
Producer, Directed By – Terry Taylor
Recorded By – Gene Eugene
Saxophone – Dan Michaels (tracks: 13)
Written-By – Bob Dylan (tracks: 8), Jerry Davison (tracks: 1 to 7, 9 to 15), Mark Blackburn (2) (tracks: 2 to 4, 6, 11, 13 to 15), Randy Stonehill (tracks: 5), Steve Atwell (tracks: 2 to 4, 6, 11, 13 to 15), Terry Taylor (tracks: 1, 5, 7, 9, 12, 13)

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Frontline Music Group
Distributed By – The Benson Company, Inc.
Copyright (c) – Broken Songs

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The Reach – Under The Same Sky – 1989

Before “In Reach” there was “The Reach”. They were essentially the same band with some slight personnel changes. Though they had 2 demo’s this is their first real album. The album was produced by David Zaffiro (Bloodgood). I don’t know if that’s why Image Records picked them up or if it was because Image picked them up. I really can’t find out too much information about the band so I guess I’ll talk about the album. I was really surprised at how good this album was considering it’s relatively unknown. It has a great 80’s pop sound though I have seen some writers refer to it as an AOR album but I actually beg to differ. The album if anything leans rock but is definitely a pop album. Maybe I’m splitting hairs here but the AOR title just doesn’t seem appropriate to this album for me. The lead track makes you want to listen to the whole album and I would have played it when I was a secular DJ. It definitely could have held it’s own on the Billboard charts. I’m not saying a top 10 but it could have made top 100 no problem. So if you missed this one in the 80’s you should give it a listen now and see what you missed, I think you’ll like it.

1 – Vogue – 3:15
2 – Rightful One – 3:27
3 – Big Time – 2:40
4 – 1 Lufthgir – 0:22
5 – Under The Same Sky – 4:05
6 – Tonight – 4:01
7 – B-4-I-Go – 4:14
8 – You Are The Light – 3:02
9 – 1000 Candles – 3:00

Arranged By – The Reach
Backing Vocals – Dave Schuller, Paula Meserole
Bass – Scott Burell
Consultant [Mixing Consultant] – Terry Shelton
Design [Album Design], Art Direction – James Jacobson
Drums, Percussion, Sound Designer [Sounds Effective], Text By [Sleeve Text Layout Assistant] – Vince Grant
Engineer, Mixed By, Edited By, Guitar [Additional] – Charles Meserole
Executive-Producer – Dorn Reppert
Guitar – Ken Mesford
Keyboards – Brooke Lizotte, David Hubbard
Producer, Arranged By, Engineer, Mixed By, Edited By, Backing Vocals, Sound Designer [Sounds Effective] – David Zaffiro
Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals – Brett Williams

Companies, etc.
Copyright (c) – Image Records
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Image Records
Recorded At – Extra Sensory Productions
Mastered At – Motown/Hitsville U.S.A. Recording Studios

The Echoing Green – Defend Your Joy – 1994

Named after a poem by William Blake, The Echoing Green is a pop/synth/techno band that made great inroads into the world of Christian dance music and electronica with a decidedly more commercial and pop approach. That to say that band leader Joey Belville knew how to write a pop song and infuse it with modern technology without losing the song amongst the computers and synthesizers. The genre has also been noted for highly sexual and depressing themes. But Belville was one of the most positive songwriters in any genre, heavily influenced by his faith and the joy it creates. The purpose of this album was a call for christian to defend the gift of joy they are given and to walk by the Spirit. These same theme repeat over and over on this wonderful project. I was a sales rep for Frontline/Diamante in the 90’s and for a short while they needed someone to cover the New Mexico area for the company. It was a quick flight from LA to Albuquerque, so I added it to my territory. My first appointment was with some kid named Joey who knew everything about Christian music. I remember pitching him this album and he lit up and ordered a truck load. He saw the shock on my face and started to laugh – something he often would do. Laugh that is. I did not know that he was the same Joey that is the Joey of The Echoing Green. He remained one of my favorite accounts not because of his music knowledge or large orders, but because Bevlille has an infectious and joyful personality and it clearly permeates the music he creates. Even the melodies are upbeat with a clearly positive feel. 2nd Chance deals with God’s grace and forgiveness despite our failings and our penchant for being the prodigal.. Defend Your Joy, a Depeche Mode like tune, is a call to Christians to stand up for truth and not to let the world take their joy away. Riki Michele makes an uncredited appearance on the chorus. In every cutting edge genre someone will come along and claim the mantle of taking it to the masses by making it more palatable and accessible. The Echoing Green does just that with this release as melody remains front and center and the song remains the key.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Ocean Chorus – 1:21
2 – 2nd Chance – 4:10
3 – Son In My Eyes – 4:21
4 – Terra Firma (Stand) – 4:56
5 – Enter Love – 4:18
6 – Defend Your Joy – 4:24
7 – Pray – 5:08
8 – Brand New Day – 3:29
9 – Arrival – 3:53
10 – Stay Awake – 4:21
11 – Deep Inside Your Heart (Remyx) – 4:34
12 – Terra Firma (Stand) (Remyx) – 6:17

Art Direction – MSB, Thom Roy Backing Vocals [Uncredited] – Riki Michele Cover, Illustration – Chris Howland, Kristy Anderberg Design – Kristy Anderberg Engineer – Drew Aldridge Executive-Producer – Michael Sean Black Mastered By – Doug Doyle Mixed By – Drew Aldridge (tracks: 1, 3 to 5, 10), MSB (tracks: 2, 6 to 9), Thom Roy (tracks: 2, 6 to 9)
Mixed By [Assistance] – Joey B* (tracks: 1, 3 to 5, 10)
Photography – David Dobson
Producer – Joey Belville, Ronnie Martin
Written-By – Joey Belville (tracks: 1 to 6, 8 to 12)

Companies, etc.
Mastered At – Digital Brothers
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Myx Records
Copyright (c) – Myx Records
Distributed By – Diamante Distribution
Pressed By – Disctronics USA – 128750

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Haven – Age Of Darkness – 1991

This is the second album from Haven and in my opinion they kept their style but corrected the problems with the first album. First of all they kept their quality vocals and continued to avoid screaming. They also didn’t commercial up the sound with keyboards as so many metal bands are tempted to do on second release. There is piano but it is well done and respectful to the style of music they were doing. I always respect a band that stays true to their style on a second album. I believe that often record companies want to “commercialize” up a second album but not here. R.E.X. Music let the guys do what they do well. You will notice that several tracks are quite long and usually a record label tries to talk bands out of doing that but not here. It really looks like they let the guys just do their thing. The one area that things were greatly improved on this album was the engineering and production. So here it is, an honest straight forward metal album that you will enjoy.

1 – Tenacious Volition – 1:14
2 – Divination – 4:46
3 – When You Said Goodbye – 5:30
4 – Holly – 5:15
5 – Exaltation – 1:06
6 – The Witching Hour – 7:00
7 – Seance – 5:17
8 – Spend My Life With You – 5:21
9 – Unchanging Love – 4:57
10 – Blood Of The Lamb – 4:42
11 – Once Upon A Time – 3:10

Acoustic Guitar – Ed Bruner, John Farrell, Kevin Ayers
Artwork – Jeff Spencer
Bass Guitar – Ed Bruner
Engineer – Johns Thomson, Tom Tatman
Executive-Producer – Doug Mann
Guitar – Andrew Bruner, John Farrell, Kevin Ayers
Mixed By – Tom Tatman
Piano – Ed Bruner
Producer – Kevin Ayers, Kurt Bachman
Vocals – Kevin Ayers

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – R.E.X. Music Inc.
Copyright (c) – R.E.X. Music Inc.
Glass Mastered At – DADC – DIDX-011615

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Marty McCall & Fireworks – UP – 1981

The whole naming of “Fireworks” is an issue for me. One album they are called “Fireworks Featuring Marty McCall” but this album they are called “Marty McCall & Fireworks” and of course a couple albums they were just “Fireworks”. So I decided to do some research on who Fireworks were. This is when I discovered that on this album the entire band was replaced from the previous. So essentially the whole Fireworks thing should have just been released using Marty McCall’s name. I am actually quite mystified why they kept trying to represent that their was a band called Fireworks. While researching this story I was reading some writing by Marty and I have to admit it was hilarious. He was talking about the band taking risks by doing Rock & Roll. Marty if you ever read this no offence man but this is not Rock & Roll. Nothing you ever recorded even approached Rock & Roll and their was NO risk in what you were doing as bands such as the Imperials were selling hundreds of thousands of records. Now that I’ve had my poke at Marty lets get to the album. It is good, I can’t take that away from Marty. He was/is an excellent musician and songwriter and quite frankly the stuff he was doing was as good as the Imperials and it is sad he never saw the same sales numbers. So if your a easy listening kind of person this is an excellent album for you to listen to.

1 – Givin’ It Up – 3:00
2 – Let Me Be The One – 3:58
3 – Legal Now – 2:45
4 – Adam – 3:54
5 – Cleanin’ Up Our Act – 3:02
6 – Can’t Stop Running – 3:29
7 – Frontrunner – 3:47
8 – Maybe I’ll Trust You Now – 3:54
9 – Unless God Builds Your House – 3:07
10 – Thanks To You – 4:55

Art Direction – George Osaki
Backing Vocals – Gary Pigg, Gwen Moore, Jackie Cusic
Bass – David Hungate
Concertmaster – Anshel Brusilow, Steve Hall
Design – John Georgopoulos
Design Concept [Cover] – Vickie McCall
Drums – Mark Hammond
Engineer [Basic Tracks & Vocals] – Brian Tankersley
Engineer [Mixdown] – Bill Deaton
Keyboards – Shane Keister
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Marty McCall
Management – Dharma Artist Agency
Percussion – Russell Dunlap
Photography By – Jim McGuire
Producer, Keyboards, Horns – Fletch Wiley
Saxophone – Bill Tillman

Companies, etc.
Copyright (c) – MCA Records, Inc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – MCA Records, Inc.
Manufactured By – MCA Records, Inc.
Produced For – Chris Christian Productions
Produced For – Home Sweet Home Productions
Recorded At – Gold Mine Studio East
Recorded At – January Sound Studio
Recorded At – Sumet-Bernet Sound Studios
Recorded At – Rivendell Sound Recorders
Mixed At – Gold Mine Studio East
Mastered At – MCA Recording Studios
Pressed By – MCA Pressing Plant, Pinckneyville

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Petra – On Fire! – 1988

The 10th studio album from Petra turned it up to 11 on the Hard Rock scale. Well OK maybe not 11 but then a strong 10 out of 12. Only one personnel change for this album, Ronny Cates replaced Mark Kelly on Bass and this marked a return to some stabilization of band members which was well relieved by fans. This album also closed out their contractually obligations with Star Song but I don’t get the feeling that they just put out an album due to contractual obligations. I really feel they put a lot of effort and time into this album. The mix/engineering is dead on but that’s not surprising from the Elefante brothers. But even for them this album is very well mixed and produced. The lead track “All Fired Up” sets the tone for the album with a sound that almost has a commercial Metal feel. All in all an excellent album.

1 – All Fired Up – 4:30
2 – Hit You Where You Live – 4:20
3 – Mine Field – 4:28
4 – First Love – 4:10
5 – Defector – 4:30
6 – Counsel Of The Holy – 3:37
7 – Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name – 4:02
8 – Open Book – 4:28
9 – Stand In The Gap – 4:10
10 – Homeless Few – 4:33

Arranged By – Bob Hartman, Dino Elefante, John Elefante, John Lawry
Art Direction, Design – Dave Rogers
Backing Vocals – Bob Carlisle, John Elefante, John Lawry, John Schlitt, Riki Michelle*
Bass Guitar – Ronny Cates
Drums – Louie Weaver
Keyboards – John Lawry
Lead Guitar – Bob Hartman
Lead Vocals – John Schlitt
Engineer [Asst. Engineers] – Greg Parker, Jeff Simmons, Mannie Parker
Engineer – Dino Elefante, John Elefante, Mike Mierau
Illustration – Ken Westphal
Mastered By – Steve Hall
Keyboards, Programmed By [Programming] – John Andrew Schreiner
Programmed By [Programming] – Tim Heitz
Producer – Dino Elefante, John Elefante
Programmed By [Computer Programming] – John Lawry

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Star Song Records
Copyright (c) – Star Song Records
Record Company – Jubilee Communications, Inc.
Distributed By – Sparrow/Star Song Distribution
Recorded At – Pakaderm Studios
Recorded At – Woodland Studios
Mixed At – Pakaderm Studios
Mastered At – Future Disc
Glass Mastered At – Nimbus, Virginia
Published By – Petsong Publishing
Published By – Uncle Pitts Publishing
Published By – Birdwing Publishing
Published By – Shepherd’s Fold Music

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Mad At The World – Boomerang – 1991

Mad At The World continue their new Rock sound for their 4th album. I have to admit that the sound and style is growing on me and they are much better at it on this album than their previous. I guess no discussion of this album would be complete without discussing or at least pointing out the controversy over the track entitled “Isn’t Sex A Wonderful Thing?”. However as were all grown up now and know that the title of a song does not represent the message of the song I’m not going to explain my interpretation. You are all adults and can listen to it and figure it out on your own. That said this silly controversy did effect the distribution of this album but hey, it was the 80’s and remember a lot of people in Christian music were terrified of controversy. I found it interesting that they rerecorded “No More Innocence” in their new style as I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done before. Both versions are great.

1 – House Of Sin – 2:34
2 – If You Listen – 3:19
3 – Back To You – 3:21
4 – Don’t Give Up – 3:07
5 – Ballad Of Adam And Eve – 3:33
6 – Sunday – 3:08
7 – Draggin’ The Chains – 4:11
8 – All These Question – 4:31
9 – Isn’t Sex A Wonderful Thing? – 4:47
10 – No More Innocence (Reprise) – 4:04

Arranged By, Engineer [Engineered By] – Roger Rose
Art Direction – Ed McTaggart
Bass – Mike Pendleton
Design – Joe Potter
Illustration – Brent Gordon
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – Brent Gordon
Mastered By – John Matousek
Photography By – Wayne Armstrong
Producer [Produced By] – Roger Rose
Vocals, Drums – Randy Rose
Vocals, Guitar – Roger Rose
Written-By – Roger Rose

Companies, etc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Alarma Records
Copyright (c) – Alarma Records
Record Company – Frontline Music Group
Distributed By – FMG Distribution
Recorded At – MATW Studios
Mixed At – MATW Studios
Mastered At – Soundworks West
Published By – Broken Songs
Glass Mastered At – Nimbus, Virginia

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Jon Gibson – Jesus Loves Ya – 1990

It is with “Jesus Loves Ya” that many believe Jon Gibson found his artistic center. Though it may not be his best album it remains his most consistent and completely Jon Gibson. Longer and more progressive songs without fear of needing to create three minute radio friendly singles, Gibson here explores more musical diversity and allows the songs to be rather than editing them for record company suits. The result was the longest running number one single in CCM history clocking in at over 6 minutes with no “radio edit” ever released by the record company. The single stayed at number one despite its length and the album also hit number one on the CCM sales charts. Too bad more record companies and radio stations never learned this lesson in artistic freedom and the listeners’ desire for real good songs no matter the length. The album remains Gibson’s “grittiest” and most “street sounding of his career. The quiet soulfulness of Body and Soul is gone and the slick pop of the follow-up Forever Friends had not yet surfaced. Here Gibson’s penchant for scat, improvisation and “vamping” is given free reign and results are stellar. As the song continues and builds Gibsons’ passionate soul draws the listener in. The album also contains more rap than any other album with several guest appearances as well as Gibson’s own blue-eyed rap style. But the most important influence on this album is clearly the late Gene Eugene (Adam Again) whose production help and funk grooves gave Gibson more a polished platform to perform. The drum and bass sounds are unmistakably Eugene. Along with title tracks claim to fame, Love Come Down also reached Number one and Preacher Man made it to the Top 5. The latter really stands out as something wonderful from Gibson with the rousing brass section and sounds like something off of “Songs in the Key of Life.” This album may not be Gibson’s best or most popular but it clearly may be the most important album in his career.

Contributor David Lowman –

1 – Enough Is Enough – 4:32
2 – Love Come Down – 5:45
3 – Jesus Loves Ya Intro – 0:10
4 – Jesus Loves Ya – 6:26
5 – From Heaven – 5:34
6 – Call On My Love – 4:59
7 – Everlasting – 6:08
8 – Straight On – 3:09
9 – Preacher Man – 3:26
10 – In Too Deep – 4:25
11 – Forever Now – 4:32
12 – His Love Is Strong – 5:08
13 – Watching All My Days Go By – 6:51

Bass [5 String Bass] – Myron Dove
Clavinet – G. Eugene
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Electronic Drums, Programmed By – Jon Gibson
Organ [B-3], Strings – Rob Watson
Rap – Jon Gibson, M.C. Peace
Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar – Dave Koval
Drums, Congas – Cubby Ingram
Rhythm Guitar – Rick Zunigar
Saxophone – Doug Webb
Vocals (Kids) – Kumari Lewis, Vivian Lewis
Backing Vocals – Ray Sidney, Shelly Penir, Vivian Lewis
Lead Guitar – Tony Palacios
Arranged By [Clavinet] – Gene Eugene
Arranged By [Drum, Piano, Synth And String] – Jon Gibson
Arranged By [Horns] – Rob Watson
Arranged By [Rhythm Guitar] – Rick Zunigar
Arranged By [Saxophone] – Doug Webb
Art Direction, Design – Ed McTaggart
Mixed By – G. Eugene
Photography By – Michael Seeley
Recorded By – G. Eugene
Written-By – Jon Gibson

Companies, etc.
Recorded At – The Mixing Lab
Mixed At – The Mixing Lab

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Mark Heard – Fingerprint – 1980/1995

The story goes that in 1980 Mark was having difficulties with Larry Norman and Solid Rock Records. As he was on contract in the USA he went to Europe to record and release this album. However there is a secondary story that is much simpler and in my opinion more possible. It is that Mark was essentially living in Europe and as such chose to release his next album there. The album was originally released on his own label in Switzerland which is a relatively odd business decision. All that aside this album was missed by most Mark Heard fans as it wasn’t released in the US until 1995. By now he was free and clear of Larry and Solid Rock Records so he released it on VIA Records. The album is about three quarters Mark’s signature acoustic guitar work but there are a few 70’s style rocking tunes. Mark rerecorded a few of these tracks between 1980 and 1995 to put on his North American releases so some of these versions may surprise you.

1 – I’m In Chains – 3:30
2 – Nowadays – 3:25
3 – One More Time – 3:03
4 – Epistle – 2:57
5 – Just The Same – 3:16
6 – Well-Worn Pages – 2:48
7 – Gimme Mine – 3:51
8 – All The Sleepless Dreamers – 3:33
9 – Negative Charge – 3:58
10 – Brown-Eyed Sue – 3:20
11 – Es Tut Mir Leid – 2:04
12 – Remarks To Mr. McLuhan – 2:02
13 – Threefold Amen – 0:20

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bass, Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Mandolin, Synthesizer [Moog], Percussion, Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mark Heard
Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Lead Vocals, Slide Guitar – Jon Linn
Backing Vocals, Photography By – Janet Sue Heard
Drums – Peter Johnson
Piano, Synthesizer – Tom Howard
Producer, Engineer, Mixed By, Written By, Photography By – Mark Heard

Companies, etc.
Distributed By – King’s Records
Recorded At – Peace In The Valley Recording
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Palmfrond Communications
Copyright (c) – Palmfrond Communications
Manufactured By – King’s Records
Pressed By – Turicaphon AG

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1995 Cover