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Review: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, “Riding Your Way: The Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music 1946-1947″

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Bob Wills - Tiffany Transcriptions“Pull another chair at the table,” comes the invitation that opens Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ Riding Your Way, the new deluxe 2-CD set from Real Gone Music (RGM-0244). “Make room in your heart for a friend,” goes the second song on this collection featuring 50 of the never-before-released Lost Transcriptions for Tiffany Music circa 1946-1947. You’ll want to pull up that chair, and make room for Wills, with this remarkable (and remarkably entertaining) historical find filled with good, old-fashioned cowboy music. Real Gone has given the royal treatment to the King of Western Swing.

Songwriter, fiddler and bandleader Bob Wills carved out his niche in the realm of western swing, playing the music before it even had a name and continuing to do so until his death in 1975. Wills and his band The Texas Playboys flourished in the era of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Sammy Kaye, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. They fused acoustic and electric country-and-western guitars, fiddle and banjo with prominent steel guitar, drums, piano, horns and reeds to create music that combined the excitement of urbane big-band with the rural, downhome charm of country and folk – and above all, was danceable.

1940’s “New San Antonio Rose,” written by Wills, propelled his group to widespread fame.   A recording by Bing Crosby – onetime band singer for Paul Whiteman – sold over one million copies. Wills and the Playboys travelled to Hollywood to star in films like Take Me Back to Oklahoma opposite singing cowboy Tex Ritter, and challenged conventions by bringing horns and drums onto the hallowed stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1946 and 1947, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded almost 400 full songs for Tiffany Music, Inc., a body of work that came to be known simply as “the Tiffany Transcriptions.” (Wills was a partner in Tiffany Music.) These recordings were distributed only to radio stations on 16-inch transcription discs, intended for airplay as part of a syndicated radio program featuring Wills and his band.

Recorded by the busy band on Mondays in between tour stops, these recordings consisted of largely on-the-spot arrangements of a wide variety of material from familiar Wills hits to standards, ballads, blues and swing instrumentals. In addition, the 16-inch, 33 1/3 rpm recording format allowed the arrangements room to breathe beyond the standard, three-minute limitation of the era’s typical 10-inch, 78 rpm commercial records. Many of these “Tiffany Transcriptions” were uncovered over the years. Vinyl LPs arrived from the Kaleidoscope label, followed by CDs from Kaleidoscope and Rhino. Then, all of the material on those discs was released in box set form by Collectors’ Choice Music in 2009. The 10-disc box, the label’s first, has since become so rare that a second-hand copy can’t even be found on the usually-redoubtable Amazon.com!

Before 2014, however, less than half of Wills’ transcriptions had been released. For Record Store Day 2014, producers Gordon Anderson, Patrick Milligan and Mike Johnson unveiled a limited-edition EP with ten never-before-released sides – yes, its tracks were never even pressed on transcription discs! Six of those songs appear on Riding Your Way, plus 44 more, drawn from thirteen sessions in 1946 and 1947. (Four songs remain exclusive to the EP, at least for now.) All are sequenced chronologically and grouped by session, with the sessions having taken place between March 25, 1946 and December 30, 1947.

Swing along with us after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 26, 2014 at 10:38

Posted in Bob Wills, Compilations, News, Reviews

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Turn It On Again: New Genesis Anthology Features Greatest Hits, Solo Tracks From Collins, Gabriel, More

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Genesis - R-Kive

Earlier this year, the BBC confirmed plans for the feature-length documentary film Genesis – Together and Apart, chronicling the ups and downs of the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.  On the heels of that project which featured the cooperation of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett, Rhino (for North America) and Universal (for the rest of the world) have announced the September release of R-Kive, a 3-CD collection continuing the “together and apart” theme.  R-Kive will present a selection of Genesis’ greatest cuts alongside solo and band tracks from each member.  If you were ever looking for one compilation with “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” alongside “Easy Lover,” this is the release for you.

R-Kive is culled from a 42-year period (1970-2012) in which the members of Genesis racked up 14 No. 1 albums in the U.K. alone, and some 300 million records sold worldwide.  The chronologically-sequenced anthology is the first to combine band and solo tracks, but the third overall for the band following 1999’s Turn It on Again: The Hits (reissued and expanded in 2007) and 2004’s three-disc Platinum Collection.  (Mention should also be made of Starbucks’ career-spanning Opus Collection volume, 14 from Our Past, which arrived in 2007 to coincide with the Banks/Collins/Rutherford reunion tour.)  It surveys the band’s entire prog-to-pop journey.

In addition to 22 songs pulled from all of Genesis’ studio albums, each member is represented with three “side” tracks.  From Collins, you’ll hear the hit Philip Bailey duet “Easy Lover” plus “In the Air Tonight” and more surprisingly, “Wake Up Call” from 2002’s Testify.  Gabriel’s solo catalogue has yielded “Solsbury Hill” plus “Biko” and “Signal to Noise.”  Hackett is represented with “Ace of Wands” (1975), “Every Day” (1979) and “Nomads” (2009); Banks with “For a While” (1975), “Red Day on Blue Street” (1991) and the collection’s most recent track, “Siren” (2012); and Rutherford with three songs from Mike and the Mechanics: “Silent Running,” “The Living Years” and “Over My Shoulder.”

Hit the jump for more details including the complete track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 25, 2014 at 11:25

Release Round-Up: Week of August 25

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Kinks - Lola

The Kinks, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround: Deluxe Edition (Sanctuary/BMG, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

The Kinks’ 1970 classic is expanded with a second album – 1971’s Percy – plus an array of bonus tracks (many previously unreleased) on a new 2-CD set!

Mary Poppins 50

Mary Poppins: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – The Legacy Collection (Walt Disney Records) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. )

Walt Disney Records’ deluxe Legacy Collection unveils its second release – a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 3-CD expansion of Mary Poppins that promises to be the most comprehensive presentation of the Sherman Brothers’ score yet!

Randy Bachman - Vinyl Tap

Randy Bachman, Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells a Story (ILS)

Randy Bachman of Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive renown, is “shakin’ all over” with this new release of his 2013 hometown concert at Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse Theatre!  This greatest hits-centric set – featuring “Undun,” “No Time,” “Laughing,” “No Sugar Tonight,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Takin’ Care of Business” and more – updates a similarly-titled program of Bachman’s from over a decade ago, and melds music with Bachman’s stories behind the songs!  It’s available in a DVD/CD set as well as a standalone CD.  Features Bachman’s band including Marc LaFrance on drums and vocals, Brent Howard Knudsen on guitars and vocals, and Mick Dalla-Vee on bass and vocals.

CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Blu-ray:  Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Esther Phillips - Black-Eyed and Capricorn

Esther Phillips, Black-Eyed Blues/Capricorn Princess (Soul Brother) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Two of Esther Phillips’ CTI/Kudu LPs – including the long out-of-print Capricorn Princess – are combined on one CD from the U.K.’s Soul Brother label!

Switch - Switch BBR

High Inergy – Turnin’ On / Switch – Switch (BBR)

High Inergy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Switch: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Big Break continues its series of Motown reissues with 1977’s Turnin’ On from High Inergy and the self-titled 1978 set from Switch!  Full rundowns of both titles are coming soon!

Wild is the Wind

Dimitri Tiomkin, Wild is the Wind: Music from the Motion Picture (La-La Land)

La-La Land is now shipping its 2-CD expansion of the original soundtrack to the 1957 Hollywood drama, and this set features both the original film recordings composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and the re-recorded Columbia Records soundtrack release including the title song performed by Johnny Mathis!

All That Jazz - Criterion

The Criterion Collection: All That Jazz (Dual-Format BD/DVD Edition) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

The Criterion Collection has a lavish new edition of Bob Fosse’s 1979 film All That Jazz on tap!  The deluxe BD/DVD edition includes a variety of special features illuminating just how the innovative director/choreographer/auteur turned the movie musical on its ear with the shocking, and shockingly autobiographical, motion picture.

Written by Joe Marchese

August 25, 2014 at 08:25

You Gotta Have Faith (Hope, and Charity): Real Gone Reissues Lost R&B Gems

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Faith Hope and CharityReal Gone Music is moving to the sound of a disco beat! In conjunction with SoulMusic Records, Real Gone has tapped the vaults of RCA Records to present two world-premiere CD reissues, both with rare bonus tracks.

Perhaps no other genre has inspired as many songs imploring listeners to suppress their inhibitions and put their dancing shoes on as disco has. “Let’s Go to the Disco/’Cause I feel like dancing tonight/Let’s go to the disco/Where the music is outta sight!” The call to arms “Let’s Go to the Disco” opened the self-titled 1975 RCA album by Faith, Hope and Charity, which was produced, arranged, conducted and largely written by Van McCoy. Brenda Hilliard (“Faith”), Albert Bailey (“Hope”) and Zulema Cusseaux (“Charity”) first teamed as The Crystals (not those Crystals) and then as The Lovelles before canny producer Bob Crewe (The Four Seasons, “Lady Marmalade”) rechristened them Faith, Hope and Charity. They first worked with McCoy – in his days as a top purveyor of sophisticated, sultry soul, pre-“The Hustle” – in 1970, and their hit “So Much Love” gained them entrée to the Top 20 of the U.S. R&B chart and the Top 100 Pop. McCoy took the trio from Maxwell Records to Sussex Records, and although Zulema split from the group in 1971 after a couple of albums, the remaining two members stayed in contact with the producer. (Bailey and Hilliard had even sung on McCoy’s Disco Baby LP, from which “The Hustle” was drawn!) With the addition of new member Diane Destry filling the role of Charity, Hilliard and Bailey reteamed with McCoy and snagged a deal at RCA just as disco was continuing its ascent in the mainstream.

The gleaming, upbeat Faith, Hope and Charity followed the lush, string-laden orchestral disco approach that developed out of the Philadelphia soul sound emanating from that city’s Sigma Sound Studios. McCoy wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s nine tracks, with the remaining two slots going to cover versions. Each cut found the arranger-orchestrator at the top of the disco game, surrounded by top NY session pros including Steve Gadd on drums, Eric Gale and David Spinozza on guitars, and Leon Pendarvis and Richard Tee on electric piano and clavinet. George Devens filled the Vince Montana role on the vibes.

Like “Let’s Go to the Disco,” “Disco Dan” reveled in the very sound of the new dance music, unabashedly celebrating it: “Disco Dan/He’s the latest, he’s the greatest…Makes you wanna move your feet and clap your hands…The man is really something!” Faith, Hope and Charity also found room to revive classic songs in disco versions. “Disco-fying” songs, from standards to recent hits, was par for the course; in 1975, Gloria Gaynor famously took The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” to the Top 10. For FH&C, McCoy remade two vintage R&B hits. Both “Rescue Me,” Fontella Bass’ 1965 hit, and “Just One Look,” Doris Troy’s 1963 classic, featured lead vocals from Brenda Hilliard and respectably updated the beloved songs. Hilliard also lent her urgent vocals to the uptempo “Find a Way” from McCoy and his songwriting partner Charles Kipps, Jr.

After the jump: more on Faith, Hope and Charity, plus The New York Community Choir! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 22, 2014 at 10:18

Review: Nils Lofgren, “Face the Music”

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Nils Lofgren - Face the Music Contents

I. See What a Love Can Do

Nils Lofgren was just seventeen years old when Neil Young called upon him to play piano on his third solo album, After the Gold Rush. The guitarist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and onetime child prodigy joined Jack Nitzsche and the men of Crazy Horse – Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina – on an instrument which was largely unfamiliar to him. He added the understated, stark and raw piano parts that Young and producer David Briggs were looking for, and also supplied harmonies and acoustic guitar to the Top 10 album. Young had discovered Lofgren with his band Grin, and Lofgren would parlay his credits with Young into a deal for the band. Though Grin disbanded in 1974 after just four albums, Lofgren’s prolific career hasn’t let up since. Over 20 solo records have followed, as well as guest appearances, soundtrack recordings and various one-offs, not to mention membership in Bruce Springsteen’s legendary E Street Band since 1984. The Detroit native hasn’t yet penned an autobiography, but as a chronicle of the story of his life, chances are one wouldn’t top the massive new box set from Concord Records dedicated to his singular career. Face the Music encompasses 9 CDs and 1 DVD, all in service of an artist whose own music has long taken a supporting role to higher-profile music with the likes of Young and Springsteen. The limited, numbered edition, compiled and annotated by Lofgren, is a quirky yet personal journey with a true musician’s musician.

By the numbers, Face the Music features 169 audio tracks, 40 of which are previously unreleased, and 20 video clips, along with a 132-page softcover book – in other words, a whole lotta Lofgren. It’s far too sprawling to serve as an effective introduction to Lofgren’s art and career, but then, that isn’t the point, is it? For longtime fans who have followed his career, with and without Grin, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, Face the Music is manna. Those fans should carve out the time to explore this set in depth, as it’s not designed for casual listening and is best experienced in chunks, one disc at a time. Following Dave Marsh’s introduction, Lofgren provides comprehensive liner notes – blending autobiography (“I was born in Chicago, on the south side, June 21, 1951,” they begin) with recollections about each and every album represented, plus track-by-track commentary. Testimonials from Lofgren’s famous friends – many of whom are, of course, present on Face the Music – are also included.

Sensibly, the set is organized in chronological fashion beginning with a disc of 21 prime cuts from Grin. (This would be the most comprehensive single-disc Grin compilation available, though there’s one notable omission.) The second CD chronicles the beginning of his solo career and collaborations with producers Briggs, Al Kooper and Andy Newmark from 1975-1977, with the third CD covering 1979-1983 and notable works with co-writers Lou Reed and Dick Wagner, producer Bob Ezrin, and even a guest appearance by Del Shannon. Disc Four commences in 1985, around the time Lofgren began his tenure with E Street, and continues through his two Rykodisc albums from 1991 and 1992; Young, Springsteen, Levon Helm and Ringo Starr all drop by. The next three discs feature the least well-known material, recorded independently of the major labels between 1993 and 2011. Lofgren was completely free to follow his muse, releasing film soundtracks, live albums, and studio efforts including a tribute to Neil Young. Bonnie Bramlett, Willie Nelson, Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm, Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave) and the duo of David Crosby and Graham Nash show up along the way. The final two discs are dedicated to completely unreleased music – “songs, demos, obscure tracks left behind from recording sessions, back rooms and basements,” as Lofgren describes it. These odds and ends date as far back as the Grin days and feature oddities like tributes to Yankee Stadium and The Washington Bullets from the longtime sports fan, and a song inspired by Lofgren’s close pal, the author Clive Cussler. As is always the case with anthologies, it’s not inconceivable that a favorite track might be missing, but Face the Music admirably covers all of the bases.

Plug in with us after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 21, 2014 at 13:32

Gentlemen, Please! Croydon Collects “Mid-Century Minx,” “Soho Blondes” and Other Pop Pleasures

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Mid Century MinxBob Stanley’s Croydon Municipal label has carved out a niche as part of Cherry Red’s label roster with its eclectic compilations and album reissues from the 1950s and early 1960s focusing on dusty corners of classic American pop ripe for reevaluation.  Three of Stanley’s latest projects continue that mission with the compiler’s usual flair for the unexpected.  The anthology Mid Century Minx focuses on many of the lesser-known ladies of vocal jazz along with some still-beloved (if underrated) performers like Jo Stafford, Anita O’Day and Broadway’s Dolores Gray.  Soho Blondes and Peeping Toms lives up to its subtitle of “Saucy Vocals and Piquant Pop from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” while Croydon’s reissue of Corky Hale reintroduces listeners to the titular harpist and the jazz sextet she led for one “lost” album.

Stanley, whose wonderfully ambitious Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop surely contains enough opinions to delight and anger most readers of this site, begins his notes for Mid Century Minx with a truthful admission: “Some days, it isn’t hard to see why rock ‘n’ roll pissed off so many people.  Here is a collection from an era of urbane, sophisticated music, taken from a bunch of captivating albums by female jazz singers made in the 1950s and the early ’60s, after which time this luscious American art form was swept aside by self-sufficient guitar bands.”  Indeed, rock and roll gave a shot of adrenaline to popular music and empowered the burgeoning youth culture – but at what cost?  Mid Century Minx answers that question with 20 well-chosen tracks from an eclectic array of the ladies of vocal jazz.   The likes of Jeri Southern, Stafford, O’Day and Gray are still known to many, but most of the women here are ripe for rediscovery.

There are collaborations with other famed musicians such as Miles Davis’ great orchestral collaborator Gil Evans on Lucy Reed’s “No Moon at All” and Marcy Lutes’ “Travelin’ Light,” Oscar Peterson on Toni Harper’s “Can’t We Be Friends” and “Mack the Knife” arranger Richard Wess on Sallie Blair’s “Better Luck Next Time.”  These cool, smoky tracks bring to mind the urbane soundtrack to a cocktail party for the swells; the only major liability here is the complete lack of songwriter, producer and arranger credits along with any kind of discographical annotation.  (Stanley does provide biographical details in his entertaining essay.)   Alas, the lack of credits extends to our next title, as well.

Soho BlondesSoho Blondes and Peeping Toms! takes listeners back to the Soho described by Stanley as “the bohemian epicenter of London,” the place which writer Colin Wilson once boasted had “the futile fascination of forbidden fruit, the heady intoxication of a bogus Baudelairean romantic evil.”  Today, Soho is rather less seedy, though some licensed sex shops still flourish among the trendy restaurants and clubs, fashionable retail, record shops, West End theatres, LGBT-friendly venues, and the like.   This 25-track compilation follows up Stanley’s It’s a Scandal! Songs for Soho Blondes, released on the Fantastic Voyage label.  Whereas that release “explored the songs and saucy instrumentals built to accompany strip shows in clubs where the champagne tasted like cherry cola,” this sequel focuses instead on pop songs that conjure up the patrons of such establishments.

Personnel here are expectedly eclectic.  A few American artists have made their way into this mixture including Peggy Lee and her onetime husband Dave Barbour on “Sweetheart” and “Bu Bam,” respectively, as well as Kay Starr (“Bossa Nova Casanova”).  Famed Brit arranger Johnnie Spence (Matt Monro, Tom Jones) is represented with “Sugar Beat.”  Johnnie Scott, who played saxophone for Goldfinger and flute on The Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” appears here on the George Martin-produced “Hi Flutin’ Boogie.”  Welsh singer Ricky Valance’s “Lipstick on Your Lips” was written by Sherman Edwards (1776, “See You in September”) and Hal David, while Bob Hilliard – another Burt Bacharach collaborator – co-wrote The Friday Knights’ “Don’t Open That Door” with future Tonight Show and Gong Show bandleader Milton DeLugg.  Campy, jazzy, and brassy, the music of Soho Blondes and Peeping Toms might leave you asking the question performed by Kenny Day on a 1960 Top Rank single included here, “Why Don’t We Do This More Often?”

After the jump: the scoop on Corky Hale, plus track listings and order links for all three titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 21, 2014 at 10:32

What’s Going On: “Motown 25″ Comes To DVD In New Box Set, Highlights DVDs

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Motown 25

On the evening of March 25, 1983, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium was alive with the sound of music – the Sound of Young America, to be more specific.  Motown Records was celebrating its 25th anniversary, and producer Suzanne de Passe wasn’t pulling any stops.  “Once in a lifetime” was as overused in 1983 as it is today, but the galaxy of stars assembled by de Passe couldn’t be described any other way: Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, Junior Walker, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and the Jackson 5 were all there.  And the moment Michael Jackson broke out of the shadow of his brothers, once and for all, to show America the moonwalk, the evening billed as Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever entered into the annals of history.  With host Richard Pryor presiding over reunion performances ranging from the warm (The Miracles) to the seemingly contentious (The Supremes), a Temps/Tops “battle of the bands” and even tribute performances from visiting stars like Adam Ant and Linda Ronstadt, Motown 25 was an event the likes of which wouldn’t be seen again.  The program aired on NBC-TV on May 16, 1983, and was subsequently issued on MGM/UA Home Video in 1991, but DVD release had eluded it…until now.  On September 30, the Emmy Award-winning Motown 25 will arrive from Time Life/StarVista (in conjunction with de Passe Jones Entertainment and Berry Gordy’s West Grand Media) in a variety of formats echoing Time Life’s lavish treatment of The Midnight Special and other titles.

The crown jewel of this campaign is the 6-DVD box set, which – in Time Life/StarVista tradition – will be an online exclusive at MOTOWN25DVDS.COM. It’s available there now for pre-order.  The release features an extended version of the show, with over 20 additional minutes not seen on the original broadcast, as well as a brand-new 5.1 surround sound mix. The 6-DVD set also includes nine newly-produced featurettes and additional bonus features including:

  • “Signed, Sealed, Delivered – The Making of Motown 25,” which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the making of the program, and offers new insights into the rise of Motown and its roster of super stars
  • “What’s Going On: Marvin Gaye”
  • “Come and Get These Memories: Inside Hitsville”
  • “Dancing In The Street: History of Motown”
  • Rare footage of Marvin Gaye ad-libbing at the piano prior to a soulful version of “What’s Going On”
  • Stevie Wonder rehearsal footage
  • A two-part Motown 25 Performers Roundtable featuring Smokey Robinson and Duke Fakir (Four Tops), Otis Williams (The Temptations) and Executive Producer Suzanne de Passe, taped at the location of the original concert, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium
  • A “Yesterday-Today-Forever” Production Roundtable with de Passe, Director/Producer Don Mischer and others
  • Over 25 exclusive interviews with performers and crew, including Claudette Robinson (The Miracles), Martha Reeves (Martha and the Vandellas), Smokey Robinson, Nelson George, Gloria Jones, Adam Ant, Ashford and Simpson, Buz Kohan (Head Writer), David Goldberg (Executive in Charge of Production), Mickey Stevenson (Former Head of A&R/Songwriter), Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Songwriters/Producers) and many more.

The box set, pictured above, is packaged with an exclusive 48-page booklet packed with information about the show and artists, production materials and never-before-scene photos from the production, essays on Motown performers, a copy of the original Motown 25 program, and more.

Two versions – a 3-DVD set and a single-disc release – will arrive to retail on September 30.  The 3-DVD set features the concert and over six hours of extras including four featurettes, the Marvin Gaye rehearsal footage, the Performer and Production Roundtables and more.  The single DVD features the newly-remastered concert and over one hour of bonus features.

About the only thing missing from this comprehensive campaign is an audio component, such as a new reissue of the 1983 version of the Grammy-nominated The Motown Story audio documentary or a first-time-ever actual soundtrack of the evening’s performances.  After the jump, we’ll break down the contents of each release for you! Read the rest of this entry »

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