Classic Fusion

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The Classic Fusion genre at JMA includes those jazz artists who added rock, funk and world beat influences to jazz in the late 60s and 70s, and also to those artists who continue to play in this original fusion style today. Some important leaders in this genre include; Larry Coryell, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, Soft Machine, Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and Return to Forever.

Rock musicians who use jazz as part of their musical language can be found in the Jazz Related Rock genre. Other more modern style jazz fusion artists can be found in the (Post 70s) Eclectic Fusion genre.

classic fusion top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.80 | 74 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.84 | 19 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Crossings Album Cover Crossings
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.73 | 43 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall Album Cover Dark Magus: Live at Carnegie Hall
MILES DAVIS
4.77 | 20 ratings
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MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA The Inner Mounting Flame Album Cover The Inner Mounting Flame
MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA
4.67 | 54 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bitches Brew Album Cover Bitches Brew
MILES DAVIS
4.65 | 69 ratings
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HIROMI Time Control Album Cover Time Control
HIROMI
4.83 | 13 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Pangaea Album Cover Pangaea
MILES DAVIS
4.79 | 15 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time Album Cover Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970): It's About That Time
MILES DAVIS
4.96 | 7 ratings
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BILLY COBHAM Shabazz Album Cover Shabazz
BILLY COBHAM
4.74 | 11 ratings
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PAT METHENY The Way Up (PMG) Album Cover The Way Up (PMG)
PAT METHENY
4.58 | 20 ratings
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HIROMI Voice Album Cover Voice
HIROMI
4.67 | 11 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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classic fusion Music Reviews

THE WRONG OBJECT After The Exhibition

Album · 2013 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
To be honest, by the start of the last calendar year ('13), after a four to six year silence, I thought that TWO was a dead thing. It sure seems like the project certainly went through a delicate phase, since there remains only two members from the line-up that had recorded the awesome Stories From The Shed. Indeed only leader Delville and drummer Delchambre remain, the main change being the addition of Antoine Guenet (ex-PaNoPTiCoN and presently also in the new Univers Zero line-up). Actually, if memory serves, most of the newcomers come of PaNoPTiCoN, which never had a fixed line-up anyway, due to the concept of the project. Elsewhere Pollard gave way to Mottet on bass, and Melia and Lourtie are now blowing the horns, and the always excellent vibraphonist Benoit Moerlen appears as a guest on no less than four tracks. So, something did happen, and TWO's rebirth six years after is a sweet gift, courtesy of the great Moonjune label.

Despite the heavy line-up changes, you'll have no problems recognizing instantly TWO, but I would not call ATE just another Wrong Object album. This is probably the band's most "prog-rock" album, despite retaining its heavy JR/F and Zappa atmospheres. The heavy Detox Gruel is a mix of riffs and gypsy jazz music. The three-parts and almost 17-mins Jungle Cow is the centrepiece of the album, but hardly the most accessible, as the first two movements are often bordering on dissonance, but it remains reasonable, and the third really delivers the good with some cool dramatics. The following Glass Cubes features female vocals, and though it brings a breath of fresh air, though the start has a "déjà-entendu", but the second part sounds like a cross of Gong meets Kate Bush.

A fine return to affairs from a group most of us thought dead (or at least dormant), although it doesn't reach the perfection of Stories From The Shed. While ATE might not be the most representative of their usual soundscapes (given the important line-up changes), it's still very much a worthy TWO album, and ranks in my top 5 album of 2013, among with Maalouf's Illusions and Setna's Guérison. Definitely worth investigating

THE WRONG OBJECT Stories from the Shed

Album · 2008 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Third or fourth album (depending whether you consider the Elton Dean session as a TWO album) from this Liège group, still with the same line-up as before, but this time the album was released on the great Moonjune label. Once again guitarist Michel Delville is the main songwriter, though all four other members have at least two credits or co-credits. There is no real explanation for this very forest- infested album title and artwork, and to be honest, the dominance of green on the digipak doesn't match the music, which tends to red hot, even more so than the woman's red hairs ion the artwork.

Opening on a few bars of a Klezmer-Manouche tune (like we've all hear a thousand times before), Sonic Riot veers a tad Gong-esque with an excellent closing passage with spacey electronics and trons. 15/05 is building on that feeling and the electronic gizmos are gaining in importance. As the album progresses with every new rack, one can only be captivated with the typical British jazz and JR/F scene of the 70's. Indeed, the shadows of Elton Dean, then Harry Beckett and Annie Whitehead (all participants to the band's previous efforts) seem to hover all over the album, much to our delight. There is a real tension that gradually builds up through tracks like Sheepwrecked (Crimson circa Lizard meets Wyatt) and following blistering Acquiring The Taste and Lifting Belly, where a Canterburian feel seep through via fuzzed-out instruments. The adventurous explorations continue, from the trashy Matching Mole-ish Malign Siesta to the lava-boiling Waves and the out-of-this-world Saturn. The album ends with a rework of Delville's Unbelievable Truth from the Elton Dean session album of the same name.

If you must own only one album from TWO, it would be a die-hard choice between the Dean collab and this one, but if you're into a more classical progressive, their latest album After The Exhibition, which is some kind of rebirth (given the important line-up changes, we can almost guess the band came close to a term) is also quite an awesome realisation. Personally, Shed is my personal fave from these guys

IBRAHIM MAALOUF Illusions

Album · 2013 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
As with his predecessor Wind, Maalouf decides to continue to explore away from his trad Arab-jazz music he had developed on his first three “Dia” album (Diaspora, Diagnostics and Diawhatever), and indeed Illusions is yet another totally different departure from his “usual stuff”. If his preceding Wind album was a mix of trad jazz and fusion, Illusions is a much rockier affair, somewhere between JR/F and progressive rock and even nearing metal music at times. Recorded in the greater Paris, with a mix of French and Belgiabn musicians ‘Woeste and Delporte) and a trio of trumpet players to accompany his flugelhorn, Ibrahim chose once more for vintage instruments in the KB department. Released under the same kind of single-disc boxset as Wind had been, with a bunch of photos, lengthy liner bilingual notes that don’t reallt shed much light on the compositions (IMHO, of course) and a “digibook” casing inside (with that foam stud in the middle, one can only wonder at the utility of these extra costly features, despite the excellence of the album.

Opening on an almost Post-rock title-track piece with the usual gradual build-up crescendo, it segues directly in the wild and dramatic 8-mins+ Conspiracy Generation, where the fantastic trumpets add plenty of suspense and intensity behind Delporte’s wild electric rock guitar. You could almost believe this was a modern progressive rock album, with constant tempo changes, tricky time sigs, plenty of moods developed. Breathtaking if you’re a rock fan, probably not nearly as much if you’re a jazz-buff and early Maalouf discography addict. The following InPressi enters a trilogy of tracks where three or four ideas are exploited multiple times, mixed, shredded, torn apart and glued back for utmost excitement (and a few goosebumps along the way): the joyful and exuberant call & response between Maalouf and the trumpet section, the three descending notes, and more.

Nomade (No Man’s Land) Slang reprises the theme and takes it to yet another level of excitement and jubilation, only to end inexpectedly calmly… But despair not, because the following 10-mins+ Busy composition exploits the three descending notes again and hovers solemnly around for a while, slowly crescendoing into the chaotic dissonance halfway through, then reverting to the slow start thing. You can clearly hear Maalouf’s “Arabitude” in his interventions, though the title of “lead trumpet” falls onto Yann Martin’s horn. Woeste’s Rhodes opens the funky fusion piece Be A Woman , but once the horn come back, the fantastic theme is again reprised and accommodated with bass and drums glory moments and other solos, but we’re nearing the overdose and the “déjà-entendu” but the riffs are hugely dramatic and overpowering. Unfaitful is actually fairly faithful to its predecessors and tends to redeploy once more the themes and ideas exploited in the four previous tracks, this time almost overstaying their welcome.

The album ends in a very WTF manner with a late-70’s type of AOR track ala Toto or Foreigner with FM-rock vocals that kind of ruins an otherwise perfect album. The lyrics allude to Be A Woman, but this doesn’t make it a True Story. Maybe if there was a tad more guitars, you could think of a Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart collab in 75 or something of that ilk. Outside that obviously ill-advised inclusion (the track in itself is ok, but just not fitting the rest of the album); Illusions is clearly Maalouf’s best and most consistant album, and definitely of one the best surprise of 2013. But to be honest, just like for Wind, the cardboard “Digibook” format casing would’ve been plenty enough, instead of this luxurious (and ultimately bombastic) package. Let this not ruin my overall appreciation of an amazing oeuvre that should bring Maalouf another public, at the risk of maybe losing his old one.

NEIL ARDLEY Greek Variations

Album · 1970 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
After contributing to the Rendell-Carr Quintet and founding the seminal New Jazz Orchestra, a centrepiece of the Singing London jazz scene, Ardley started working on his first solo album, when it became obvious that NJO was nearing its end. But it’s like Neil went far to find collabs for his project, as most of the cast for Greek Variations played in the NJO at one point or another. We’ll find Rendell, Carr, Gibbs, Jenkins, Barbara, Clyne, Ricotti Marshall, Tomkins, Whitehead, but a bit more surprising Spedding and Jack Bruce. Some writers (and Ardley himself) tend to present Variations as the first chapter of a trilogy that also include Amaranths (Ok, that makes sense musically) and oddly enough Kaleidoscope Of Rainbows - I’d have named the flawed Will Power instead. So this album is attributed to Ardley, but to Ian Carr and Ron Rendell as well, (all three were part of the RCQ’s first line-up), but Ardley’s composition takes the whole first side, while Ian’s and Don’s share the flipside

The sidelong instrumental title track is based on Greek folk tunes, but given the heavy-handed jazz and classic arrangements, it’s not that easy to spot them - not that I’m any kind of expert in Greek music, much less ancient themes. Yup, I could hear certain intonations or motifs reminiscent of the Greek heritage in each of the six movements, but the whole concept is explained in the original liner notes (better find your looking glass though, because of the small print) much better than I could. Ian Carr’s quarter album is a very quiet and calm one, despite the fact that the line-up is of the first Nucleus – Spedding included – and you won’t find much of the fire and volcanic activity on their own fusion albums. Surprisingly enough Don Rendell’s tracks are a little more upbeat than Ian’s, but remain jazzy and lighthearted like the rest of the album.

Generally regarded as Neil Ardley’s first solo chef d’oeuvre, Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises is indeed quite a semi-lost classic of 60’s & 70’s British jazz, one that would deserve a lot more interest both among specialist and casual jazzheads. The only CD reissue I’m aware of is the Impressed-Re-pressed label one, under the Universal patronage, which might appear odd, since the vinyl was released on the Columbia-UK label, but let’s leave it the benefit of the doubt, since it’s Greek Variations is simply too stunning to be ignored on pure honesty principles. Definitely one of Britain’s best jazz albums, GV is the living proof of Neil Ardley’s extraordinary composition and directing talents.

HIROMI Time Control

Album · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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siLLy puPPy
Although HIROMI UEHARA looks like a J-pop star posing on the cover of her first album as “Hiromi's Sonicbloom,” the fact is she is one extremely talented virtuoso piano player who keeps extremely good company with her peers. I am in agreement with everyone else who thinks that this is some of the freshest contemporary jazz-fusion gracing the planet these days. TIME CONTROL is supposedly a concept album about time but since it totally instrumental who would ever know! I guess it's all those time signature changes that not only keep this album bopping and hopping but the entire theme as well.

I see this as an all encompassing celebration of all things jazz with many things prog rock and some classical and avant-garde thrown in for good measure. The brilliance is not only that every member is a virtuoso on their respective instrument but also that the interplay between these musicians is outstanding and impeccable. The trio of HIROMI (piano), Martin Valihora (drums) and Tony Grey (bass) found the addition of David Fiucynski on guitar to add a whole wealth of sounds to the former trio's soundscape. He is a self-described jazz musician who doesn't like to play jazz, so he takes all that jazz training and adds a wealth of funk, microtonal and ethnic inspiration to the mix.

HIROMI started playing piano at the age of 5 and was under the tutelage of Chic Corea so it's no wonder that there is a strong classic 70s jazz-fusion sound as the template here, but how these musicians improvise is where the magic lies on this one. It is thrilling and chilling and there isn't a dull moment on the whole thing. With all this talent it would be wrong to assume that every moment is about trading off solos. There is plenty of nice and slow breathing periods to let the music regenerate its intensity. My first HIROMI experience but certainly not my last.

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WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Well if the world still has to find some live recording from the very first studio all-star line-up (not likely, though), at least we've got now something very close to and we can even see the quintet at work with this just-as-famous version in the form of a German TV show called the Beat Club. With only Airto Moreira gone, replaced by Brazilian countryman Um Romao, the other four being Vitous, Shorter, Mouzon and Zawinul, Weather Report embarked on this TV show adventure not knowing that Alphonse Mouzon would leave the band in a while.

As you'd expect this broadcast consisted mainly of tracks from the debut album, but some are fairly different as WR always made improvisation their force. So you'll recognize 'Umbrellas generic structure, but drafted fairly differently, not just because of Romao's constant change of percussions instruments - he's one of the visual focus of the group, who otherwise remains fairly static and even blows a flute (and later some whistles) for a short while. One of the big difference between the studio album and this broadcast is that Miroslav has taken up the electric bass (his contrabass is still very present but mainly played with a bow), thus allowing even more energy to invade the quintet's shared space. The group's steaming-hot improvised fusion is simply awesome and flows naturally from your speakers like a river of fresh lave spewing out from your volcanic woofers.

Clearly the gravitational centre of the band is Zawinul's Rhodes, but it is clear that it is the group's tightness its main force. Morning Lake is much needed breathing space, starting out slowly with Shorter's sax signalling the dawn for Romao's birdsongs. Just past that Dom pulls an Brazilian berimbau . Drummer Alphonse sings funkilly (rather well, too) a rare sung track in the closing medley, but it's will veer into the Dr Honoris Causa - later on the Body Electric album.

A while later, Mouzon would leave the band and be replaced by drummer Erik Gravatt and this line-up would go on to record Body Electric and the Tokyo concert (released in 77, but part of it in the ISTBE album) and in the process become the definitive line-up of the Vitous- era Weather Report But for now, this German TV broadcast is an inestimable witness of the group's almost original line-up, and is just as essential as their debut album, the Tokyo concert or Body Electric.Too bad it's relatively short, though. Run for this baby...

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Abstract Logix Live! / The New Universe Music Festival 2010

Movie · 2011 · Classic Fusion
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js
Abstract Logix’s New Universe Festival of 2010 was probably one of the more significant fusion concerts in recent history, and it is all captured in excellent form on this concert video. Many of the top names in current fusion are here and what a great varied and colorful approach they all bring to this music that will always be associated with its 70s roots. Ranjit Barot fuses fusion with Indian flavors and orchestral music, Human Element bring back the beautiful noise and chaos that has been absent since the early days of jazz-rock, Wayne Krantz takes on the modern NYC flavor with his harsh jarring free funk, Jimmy Herring plays sentimental, sometimes delicate, progressive rock flavored fusion, and of course the great John McLaughlin rounds it all up with high speed post bop mixed with funk and contemporary fusion. Every single performance is top notch and very convincing in letting us know that there is still plenty of life left in this sometimes maligned genre.

The music on here is great, but the video itself is even better. Its amazing how far concert videos have come over the years. This one is clear as a bell and features lots of accurate close-ups of the musicians as they display their virtuoso skills. They say that fusion is a musician’s music, if that is the case, then this video is a great learning tool for the aspiring player. Much of the footage on here goes right to the source and features the musician’s hands as they work their scales and fret boards. Any aspiring fusionist can pick up a lifetime of high speed licks and extended technique by studying this video and even stop-starting it it frame by frame. Long gone are the days of vague camera angles from way far away and pointless shots of musicians grimacing while they play, this video is all about accuracy and showing you exactly how this music goes down. This is a spirited and enthusiastic concert and highly recommended for fans of modern fusion.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live At Montreux 74/84

Movie · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
The 1984 appearance of the MO was a lineup that didn't have any of the previous MO lineup of musicians except for John. Still there was a pretty impressive roster. Jonas Hellborg, on bass, steals the show. I suspect he's been rather influenced by Jaco at this point. Also, we also have Bill Evans, fairly fresh out of his stint saxing with Miles Davis. There's also a fine drummer, Danny Gottlieb, who'd played with Pat Metheny prior. Don't know much about Mitchell Forman. With John experimenting with the Synclavier Guitar so much, the keyboards are almost redundant in this ensemble. I had a hard time sitting through this at first. It definitely has that '80's taint, if you know what I mean. But I've warmed up to it. It's a bit like an attempt to return to the magic of the original lineup that doesn't quite get there. Still, if you judge it in the context of the time, it's not too bad.

I got this for one reason and one reason only, it was the two video bits from the Apocalypse lineup of Mahavishu Orchestra. Actually calling them bits isn't quite accurate. Wings of Karma and Hymn to Him are actually decently long pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some actual orchestra musicians with them there at Montreaux. The first inkling I got that there was some live footage from this MO lineup was a poor quality video of Smile of the Beyond on a certain video clip web site many of us know of. It's very disappointing that we only get two clips from the show with video and the rest are audio only. I'm guessing the rest of the original footage has been lost. One can only hope that it will resurface. The performance is a bit more structured than the more compact MO's could be live, but that's to be expected due to the larger number of musician's involved. Still the core band does get to work in some improvisation, McLaughlin in particular.

This release is all in all a pleasant surprise for 2007, but there's more video out there from the older Mahavishu Orchestras, and I hope to see that material surface soon. It gets a four on the round up.

JEFF BECK Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scott's

Movie · 2008 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
Holy crap, there's a new Jeff Beck live DVD out there!.

...I thought as I saw this at the record store. This is why it's important to keep those local independent brick and mortar record stores open: you'll never know what you'll find browsing.

As near as I've been able to find out, Jeff Beck (THE Beck, not that other guy) hadn't been touring in a long time, but rather was sticking to special performances. To make up for it, sort of, he did a week's worth of shows at London's Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in late November 2007. I've never been there, but it looks a little large as some jazz clubs go but still reasonably intimate. I'm pretty sure you don't need binoculars to observe any performances there.

Jeff has assembled an interesting set of musicians, the oldest being Jeff himself (b. 1944), Vinnie Colaiuta (1956) on drums, Jason Rebello (1969) on keys, and Tal Wilkenfeld (1986) on bass. Vinnie I know best from association with Zappa, Jason's new to me but I found out has worked with Sting, Tal (new to the music scene) hails from Australia and judging from her performance she is someone to really keep your eye on. Guests appearances by Joss Stone, Imogen Heap, and Eric Clapton, heyyy.

The set list, not really the proper term as it must have been culled from all the shows, is an impressive collection of material spanning Jeff's career so far. Original stuff includes Beck's Bolero {is this not actually a cover?}, Led Boots, Scatterbrain, Angel, Blast From The East, Rollin' And Tumblin'. Also some nice covers thrown in for good measure including Eternity's Breath!, Cause We've Ended As Lovers {never really seemed like a cover to me}, People Get Ready, A Day In The Life, You Need Love). You also get some interviews as bonus material and the DVD booklet is a nice read. 21 tracks altogether, mixed in Dolby 5.1 and DTS surround sounds with a 16:9 video format, I might add.

Wish I was there but this is the next best thing. It's one hell of a way to experience one hell of a guitarist. It's a live assortment, but due the quality and quantity I am rounding this one up.

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