Dr. RICHARD NILES is a prolific composer, producer, songwriter, arranger, conductor and musical director whose career spans pop, R&B, rock and jazz. Records featuring his work have sold over 250 million copies worldwide.
Niles has worked in the recording industry, feature films, in theatre and television. He has performed worldwide. He has written, produced and presented acclaimed music documentaries for BBC Radio. He is a published author, journalist and music educator. Niles was awarded a PhD from Brunel University for his thesis “The Invisible Artist – Arrangers in Popular Music (1950 – 2000)”. It is now an acclaimed book published by Niles Smiles Music, available through Amazon.
Richard Niles has produced, arranged and composed music for some of the world’s most acclaimed artists including Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Cher, James Brown, Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Joe Cocker, Lulu, The Troggs, Deniece Williams, Michael McDonald, Dusty Springfield,
Pet Shop Boys, Cat Stevens, Grace Jones, Tears For Fears, Swing Out Sister, Boyzone, Westlife, Michael Ball and Take That.
He has maintained a parallel career in jazz having worked with Pat Metheny, Martin Taylor, Bob James, Michel Legrand, Ray Charles, Jane Monheit, Guy Barker, Bob Mintzer, The Yellowjackets, Silje Nergaard, John Patitucci, Jim Mullen, Janek Gwizdala, Nelson Rangell, Gwylim Simcock and Gary Husband.
He has also arranged and conducted for classical artists Kiri Te Kanawa, Placido Domingo and Montserrat Caballe.
Dr. Niles has lectured internationally. He is currently living in California, active as a composer, producer, arranger, educator and performer.
Highlights of his life as a music professional follow:
Richard Niles was born (1951) into a creative Hollywood family. His father Tony Romano was a singer, songwriter, arranger and guitarist who worked with Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Tony Bennett. “tonyromano.info” His mother Pat Silver-Lasky is an actress, author, teacher and screenwriter for film and television. (Her book Screenwriting for the 21st Century is considered a definitive text.) http://www.patsilver-lasky.com/ His stepfather Jesse Lasky Jr. was an author, poet, playwright and screenwriter of over 60 films including The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah. This background gave Niles invaluable training in music and language.
Growing up in London in the 1960’s allowed Niles to see artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Who and Ten Years After in sweaty clubs. This added a love of rock to his love of jazz. After touring Britain as a teenager with his band Pure Wings (1969-1971) Niles got his degree in Composition from the Berklee College of Music in 1975 where he studied with Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Michael Gibbs and Herb Pomeroy.
The picture shows (l-r) Mike Stern, Jay Azzolina, Mitch Coodley and Pat Metheny performing Niles’ EMPATHY QUARTET for four guitars at the Berklee graduation concert 1975. The piece was commisioned by Metheny, and the word “empathy” is an anagram of ‘Pat Metheny’.
After signing a publishing contract four months after graduating from Berklee, Niles began his professional career in 1976 in London as staff arranger for EMI MUSIC. He quickly became a fixture of the London studio scene. His first pop work was as arranger/conductor for Cat Stevens. He soon became Musical Director on TV series for Leo Sayer and David Essex. On these series he arranged & conducted for such stars as Twiggy, Kate Bush, Ronnie Spector and Denny Laine (of Wings). Niles also arranged for the great American jazz singer Marion Montgomery.
In 1978 he arranged the hit “I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper” for Sara Brightman & Hot Gossip (#5 in the British charts). Niles discovered Brightman and recommended her for this record, her first recording and the beginning of her illustrious career.
In 1980 Niles produced and co-wrote “Space Invaders” for Arlene Phillips’ Hot Gossip which became a cult hit among players of the early video game of the same name, and lovers of the rather naughty dance group.
Niles co-wrote “Sunset on Sunset” with producer Dave Courtney recorded by Tina Turner for her Love Explosion album (1978).
In 1979 Niles Pat Metheny asked Niles to co-produce the album “American Garage” for the Pat Metheny Group. The album was recorded at Longview Farm and featured Lyle Mays, Danny Gottlieb and Marc Egan.
Niles had worked with songwriter/producer Steve Coe previously for a project called Monsoon, a combination of Indian music with pop. Now Coe had a new project, EXILED, and he asked Niles to arrange the song “Miles Away” sung by one of Niles’ favorite singers, Colin Blunstone (from the Zombies). Niles arranged the beautiful song for the multi-tracked guitars of Laurence Juber, later to join Paul McCartney’s Wings.
The ’80s continued with co-writing songs with comedian Spike Milligan for his album “Unspun Socks from a Chicken’s Laundry”. He later worked with Milligan on a TV commercial for Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
Niles arranged and co-produced the cult hit “The Disco Sound of Music”, again featuring a performance by Sara Brightman. The record was championed by broadcaster Terry Wogan. Interestingly, Julie Andrews threatened to sue the producers for using her voice until she learned that the singer was a brilliant sound-alike, session singer Sharon Campbell.
In 1981 Niles formed his first jazz combo Hi-Tek featuring future saxophone star Chris Hunter, drummer Pete Van Hooke, bassist Dill Katz and guitarist Mitch Dalton. He also produced and wrote two albums for the group Hubbard’s Cubbard featuring bassist/composer Joe Hubbard, Hunter and British trumpeter Guy Barker.
In 1982 Niles produced and wrote songs for The Morrissey-Mullen Band album “It’s about Time”. Dick Morrissey (sax) and Jim Mullen (guitar) were ex-members of The Average White Band and seminal figures in British jazz-funk. The album featured the vocals of Tessa Niles.
Niles also produced Jim Mullen’s solo album “Thumbs Up” and would go on to produce many more albums for the Scottish guitar genius including “Burns” and “Animation”.
In pop, Niles arranged the Randy Edleman album “On Time” and the Gilbert O’Sullivan album “Life & Rhymes” produced by Edleman.
1985 was a busy year beginning with producing & arranging “Like Butterflies” for Dusty Springfield.
Niles began his association with producer Trevor Horn arranging the song “Date Stamp” for the ABC album “Lexicon of Love”. Niles then arranged Why Does it Have To Be This Way?” for Horn’s production of Anne Pigalle. Horn then asked Niles to arrange the Horn/Lipson production “Slave To The Rhythm” for Grace Jones.
For this still groundbreaking album, Niles assembled an 85-piece orchestra and a full jazz big band, dubbed “The Strictly Unreasonable Big Beat Colossus”. This later became Niles’ own ensemble, a monster of a band named Bandzilla.
Other hit pop arrangements followed including Jaki Graham’s hit album “Breaking Away” and the hit duet single “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” for Graham and David Grant. Both were produced by Derek Bramble.
1986 saw hit arrangements for Holly Johnson (“Americanos”), Berlin (“Sex Me Talk Me”), Curiosity Killed The Cat (“Ordinary Day”) and Frankie Goes To Hollywood (“Liverpool”).
In 1987 Niles arranged the US/UK #1 album “It’s Better To Travel” by Swing Out Sister featuring the #1 hit single “Breakout”.
Niles was asked by SOS to write and perform a rap for an extended mix of “Twilight World”.
Niles arranged albums for Roger Daltrey (“Can’t Wait To See The Movie”) and Sheena Easton (“Madness Money and Music”).
Along with albums for Anita Baker and the boy-band Five, ’88 also saw the beginning of a long association with the Pet Shop Boys. Niles arranged “Left To My Own Devices” produced in a typically excessive manner by Trevor Horn. “How many strings do you use?” Horn asked. Niles replied, “My usual studio section is 20.” Horn: “But doesn’t 40 strings sound better than 20?” Niles: “It depends what I’m writing.” Horn: “No, no, I mean, doesn’t it sound better for me to say I’ve got 40 strings on the record, rather than just 20?”
Niles also arranged and co-produced the track “Prove To Me” sung by Perri for the Spike Lee film “Do The Right Thing”. Niles arranged new versions of many current hits for the Gloria Gaynor album “The Hit Collection”.
In 1989 Niles discovered the brilliant young singer Clive Griffin and produced and co-wrote his debut album “Step By Step”. Griffin went on to record the duet with Celine Dion “When I Fall In Love” featured in the film “Sleepless In Seattle”.
Niles also arranged the worldwide hit “Sowing The Seeds Of Love” for Tears For Fears.
Having heard “Slave To The Rhythm”, Paul McCartney asked Niles to produce two tracks as a present for his wife Linda McCartney’s 45th birthday. The song “Linda” had been written for her when she was seven and had been a hit for Buddy Clark. McCartney was accompanied by Niles’s 19-piece big band, Bandzilla in both a swing and a latin version of the song. The recordings were never released but were played at her funeral.Niles then produced and arranged a number of tracks for an as yet unreleased McCartney album “Cold Cuts”. One song, “Blue Sway” was released on “McCartney II” in 2011.
Niles’ 19-piece jazz orchestra Bandzilla had been featured as the resident band on Don’t Miss Wax, the British Channel 4 TV series presented by Ruby Wax (1987). Niles wanted to blend the latest technology (synthesizers, sequencers, electric drums) with the traditional big band featuring the finest young jazz players in Britain.In 1990 Niles released the band’s only album Blue Movies playing Niles compositions and new versions of “Breakout” and “Slave To The Rhythm”. Singers Clive Griffin and Tessa Niles were featured on the album along with the cream of London’s young session musicians such as Guy Barker and Peter Vetesse. The expensive band performed two sellout gigs at London’s Jazz Café with guest singers Pat Kane and Richard Darbyshire (from the band Living In A Box). Niles conducted with a selection of root vegetables, especially leeks.
Niles discovered the Norwegian singer Silje Nergaard, introduced to him by Pat Metheny. The album Tell Me Where You’re Going produced and co-written by Niles, reached #1 in Japan and Norway with the 1990 hit single “Tell Me Where You’re Going”. The album featured a version of the song performed as a duet for Silje and Pat Metheny. Niles went on to produce a further two albums Silje (1991) [featuring a “Where You Are”, duet with Morten Harkett (of AHA) and Cow On the Highway (1992). All three albums were released by Lifetime Records co-owned by Niles and partner Graeme Perkins.
In 1991 the Pet Shop Boys asked Niles to compose and produce “Overture To Performance”, a medley of eight PSB hits arranged for 85-piece orchestra, recorded live and featuring American bassist Nathan East. The recording was used as the overture to their world tour featuring 20 dancers staged by David Alden. Instead of using these phenomenal dancers, PSB staged the “Overture” with a single spotlight shining on a red couch. As Neil Tennant explained to a confused Niles, “When the piece begins, the noisy audience quiets down when the see the spotlight because they are expecting something to happen. By the end of the piece, something HAS happened: they’ve listened to your fantastic Overture!”
That same year Niles arranged “World in Union”, the theme for the Olympics sung by Kiri Te Kanawa. He also wrote the lyrics for an album by Russian singing star Valeriya, “The Taiga Symphony”. In 1992 he produced, arranged and co-wrote Valeriya’s Russian hit “Merry Christmas To The World” featuring the Moscow State Symphony and the Russian National Folk Orchestra. The recording included a spoken introduction by Uri Geller and was shot in Red Square. The music was featured in the Ken Russell film “Alice in Russialand”.
In 1992 he produced the frankly bizarre record “Wild Thing” for The Troggs featuring actor Oliver Reed and Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. This track alone serves as proof that no artist is too emotionally volatile for Niles’ production skills! The video was voted one of the worst ever made but Niles is quick to remind critics of the depraved circumstances of the sessions. Reed & Reg Presley cavort below.
Niles also arranged the album Grrr! It’s Betty Boo for pop beauty Betty Boo. For “I’m On My Way” Niles was asked to write a sax section to sound like The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”. As Niles was working for McCartney at the time, he asked his office who had played on the original track, and reassembled the section: Ronnie Scott, Harry Klien, Bill Povey and Bill Jackman. As the four men sat down together for the first time in 24 years, jazz legend Ronnie Scott quipped, “Oh no! Not This bloody thing again!”
Niles arranged Clive Griffin’s 2nd album Clive Griffin, most of the songs written by Niles/Griffin.
In 1993 he arranged Through the Years for Cilla Black featuring duets with Barry Manilow, Cliff Richard and Dusty Springfield. He also produced and arranged “The Michael Ruff Band” for American singer/songwriter Michael Ruff who had worked with Chaka Khan, Bonnie Raitt and David Sanborn.
That year saw another hit arrangement for the Pet Shop Boys, “Go West”. Niles performed the song with PSB at the Brit Awards conducting 300 Welsh miners showing off their shiny helmets. He also performed it at the 1993 Equality Show at the London Palladium conducting the London Gay Men’s Choir. Oddly enough, no helmets were in evidence at this performance.
He also arranged “Dangerous Game” for Kylie Minogue. This was to be the beginning of a long and (unfortunately) strictly professional relationship with the singer. (Niles’ relationship with her producer Steve Anderson was much naughtier.)
In 1994 Niles produced, arranged and co-wrote the Hue & Cry album Showtime featuring the radio hit “Just Say You Love Me”, co-written by Niles. This began a long relationship with singer Pat Kane who was the featured singer on many Bandzilla concerts.
That year marked a very proud moment in Niles’ career as he arranged and co-wrote three songs (“Everybody’s Handsome Child”, “All She Wants To Do is Love Me”, and “No Time To Waste Time”) for Ray Charles’ album Strong Love Affair. Niles later conducted concerts for Charles accompanied by Bandzilla in Paris (The Louvre), Holland, London (Earls Court) and Glasgow (Clyde Auditorium).
As Musical Director for The Michael Ball Show, (Carlton TV) Niles arranged & conducted for Michael Ball and his guests James Brown, Joe Cocker, Lulu and Montserrat Caballe.
In 1995 the Pet Shop Boys asked Niles to produce and arrange two songs, “If Love Were All” and “Can You Forgive Her” featuring Neil Tennant and Bandzilla. He also arranged “Decadence” for their album “Alternative”.
Niles began broadcasting for BBC Radio 2 in 1996. Since then he has created, written produced and hosted many acclaimed radio documentaries and series. “Niles pushes the ear and imagination to encompass the workings of other people’s minds”. [London – Daily Telegraph] Niles’ series “New Jazz Standards” ran for 3 years.
Niles wrote a musical with soul diva Deniece Williams, “Follow Your Dream”, performed and broadcast on BBC Radio 2 June 1996. Williams was accompanied by the BBC Big Band arranged and conducted by Niles.
Working with hitmaker-producers such as Steve Mac and Tommy D, Niles continued to arrange hits for boy bands such as Damage (“Forever”), East 17 (E17) and Right Said Fred (Smashing). He also arranged Tina Turner’s album “Wildest Dreams” and Cher’s album “It’s a Man’s World”. His arrangement of the title track features a solo by British trombone virtuoso Mark Nightingale.
That year Niles also arranged the hit album “Between The Lines” for Five, the hit “Somewhere” for the Pet Shop Boys, the album Alphabet City for ABC (including the #1 hit “When Smokey Sings”) and the album Much Afraid for Jars of Clay. In 1998 he arranged the #1 album Where We Belong for Boyzone. For producer (and ex-Bandzilla keyboard player) peter John Vetesse, Niles arranged the single “What A Fool Believes” for Peter Cox and “Soul Rising” for Joe Cocker.
Niles produced and composed his first album as a guitarist/bandleader.
Santa Rita featured Danny Gottlieb and Mark Egan (from the first Pat Metheny group), Nelson Rangell, Steve Hamilton, Chris Hunter and Hamish Stuart (of the Average White Band).In 1999 Niles produced tracks for Gary Husband’s album From the Heart.That year he also arranged the hit singles “I Love The Way You Love Me”, “You Needed Me” and “When The Going Gets Tough” for Boyzone. Niles later arranged “Bright Eyes” for singer Stephen Gately and performed as his guitarist and musical director on the Chris Evans TV show TFI Friday.
2000 was also a very busy pop music year for Niles. He arranged the #1 single “Proud” for Heather Small which became the theme for the London Olympics 2012. He also arranged the hit “Lately” for Samantha Mumba and the #1 Westlife album, Westlife. The Niles arranged song “I Don’t Wanna Fight” was featured in the film Maybe Baby. For Westlife solo projects, he arranged “If I Don’t Tell You Now” for Ronan Keating featured in the film Boys & Girls and “I Believe” for Steven Gately for the film Billy Eliot.
Not forgetting the jazz world in 2000, Niles released his 2nd album as a guitarist/leader “Club Deranged” featuring Danny Gottlieb, Steve Hamilton, Nigel Hitchcock and vocals on the title track by Kid Creole (lamentably without Coconuts, although the picture below shows Niles in his studio with the Kid and a full compliment of Coconuts).
He also arranged Sooner or Later for The Hamish Stuart Band and produced and arranged the album Good Vibrations for Kate Dimbleby.
In 2001 Niles re-mastered and released an album close to his heart, Never Before, Never Again, available from Just A Memory records. This album had been recorded in 1954 by Niles’s father Tony Romano with the great jazz violinist Joe Venuti. He later edited and released a book of transcriptions of Venuti’s solos available from Mel Bay, “Never Before, Never Again”.
Niles arranged the hit single “All Or Nothing” for O-Town. He also produced another album for jazz guitarist Jim Mullen, Somewhere In The Hills. In 2002 Niles arranged the single “Email” for the Pet Shop Boys. In 2003 he arranged three songs for a BBC live broadcast by the superb jazz singer Jane Monheit with the BBC Big Band.
In May of 2003 Niles was asked to become Musical Director, Conductor, Arranger, Guitarist directing a 33-piece orchestra for Michael McDonald – Live at the Mermaid Theatre – broadcast by BBC Radio 2, June 16.
Bandzilla refused to die as Niles arranged “Better The Devil You Know” for Kylie Minogue, an arrangement used on her 2003 World Tour. In 2004 Niles did another Bandzilla arrangement of “The Locomotion” for Kylie’s Showgirl Tour and her 2006 Homecoming Tour. For Westlife’s 2006 Tour Niles wrote a big band version of their hit single “Uptown Girl” – a record he had arranged for their Children in Need release.
In 2006 Niles produced Laughing at Lonely for American jazz singer Kat Gang. Gang is accompanied by acclaimed British pianist Clive Dunstall. All songs on the album were penned by Niles whose writing Ms. Gang described as “songs of schism and blues”.
In 2007 he arranged and conducted for the superb Scottish pianist & composer David Newton’s album Portrait of a Lady. This unique album may best be described as “ravishingly gorgeous” and also features Jim Mullen.
For Russian composer Alexander Shulgin, Niles produced and arranged Triptych – Shulgin’s Songbook. The Richard Niles Quintet featured drummer Gary Husband, bassist Janek Gwizdala, British sax star Snake Davis and Niles on guitar. Guest soloists on this unique album include Billy Cobham, Bob James, John Patitucci, Bob Mintzer and Gregoire Maret. The album was released 2009.with Bob Jameswith Billy Cobham
Niles was contacted by excellent British pop band The Feeling in 2007 to do two arrangements (“This Time”, “Without You”) for their hit album Join With Us. In 2008 he arranged their Christmas single “Is It Christmas?” for chamber orchestra.
In 2009 Niles arranged the album God’s Apology for the talented pop phenomenon Marti Pellow (from Wet Wet Wet). Of Niles’ arrangements, Pellow said, “Frank Sinatra had Nelson Riddle, I have Richard Niles!”
In 2008 jazz pianist and composer Bob James recommended Younee, a Korean singer/pianist/composer to Niles. Niles produced and co-wrote the album True To You (available through CD Baby, and the artist’s website www.youneeversal.com. They later toured in Britain and performed in Los Angeles. The single “Home To You” was released to US radio September 2008 and reached the Top 20 of the Indie charts. Niles & Younee won the 2009 Music Aid Award for Best Songwriter.
2011 – 2012
Niles was featured in an interview in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection 2011 book for the re-release of McCartney II. “Blue Sway with Richard Niles Orchestration” is featured on CD2.
Composed & produced songs for The Pranker, a new Channel 4 programme starring comedian Ross Lee.
Production & arranging for a cappella vocal group The Swingle Singers.
Niles was a judge and performer at the 2011 International White Nights Of St. Petersburg Music Festival in Russia. There, he met German artist Mara Kim and they co-wrote two songs produced by Niles in London.
Niles has also been a judge of the British Songwriting Contest.
Niles arranged, conducted and recorded the score for the London burlesque stage production The Hurly Burly Girls at the Garrick Theatre, London.
RECENT ACTIVITIES: Niles moved to California in 2012 and has reopened NuCool Studios offers Consultation, Production, Arranging, Web Design, Video Production and Master Classes. Niles, who has lectured internationally, is also available for clinics, masterclasses and private tuition.
2013 Niles has recently arranged for Paul Carrack new single “From Now On”. He went on to arrange Carrack’s new album, RAIN OR SHINE, recording strings and brass overdubs at Entourage Studio in North Hollywood. Carrack said, “Richard Niles brought another level of production, He’s a fantastic string and brass arranger… he did a brilliant job of adding that extra level of gloss to the rootsy sound … he really caught the flavor…”
Richard has been working on tracks for Carrack’s new album in 2015.
2013 Niles was commissioned to arrange the PET SHOP BOYS “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing” for the BBC Concert Orchestra, sung by South African vocalist Kate Winter.
2013 Niles wrote and produced his song LAST VEGAS for US X-Factor star Elaine Gibbs. See the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHKqMvvUZGI
2014 Niles published his book THE INVISIBLE ARTIST.
Niles will be appearing in the new reality TV series DREAM MAKERS.
The 2014 BBC PROMS concert will feature Niles’ “OVERTURE TO PERFORMANCE” as part of the Pet Shop Boys’ concert.
2015 – Niles has been enjoying becoming arranger/guitarist with THE WRECKING CREW ALL STARS joining legendary musicians from the original Wrecking Crew who created the classic hits of the 1960s and ’70s.
2015 – Niles is currently arranging the new PAUL CARRACK album
2015 – Niles became staff composer for a new music licensing company headed by Matt Einstien and Mark Canton of Atmosphere Ent.
2015 – Niles became U.S. Representative for German company INSTANT MUSIC LICENSING.
2015 – Richard is working on the rebirth of BANDZILLA in California. The album will feature contributions from Nigel Hitchcock, Ed Barker, Mark Nightingale, Ian Palmer and be co-produced by niles and long time trumpet master John Thirkell. Be very afraid!
SONGWRITER: Niles’ songs have been recorded by Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Deniece Williams, Clive Griffin, Kid Creole, Hue & Cry, Katherine Gang and Silje Nergaard.
RECORDING ARTIST: Hi Tek (1980), Bandzilla Blue Movies (1990), Santa Rita (1998), Club Deranged (2000), Katalyst (2005)
TV COMMERCIALS: Niles has composed, produced and arranged music for over 100 commercials for products including McDonalds, Max Factor, Euro-Disneyland, Toshiba, Nescafé, Texaco, Walls Ice Cream…
MUSIC FOR FILM: The Strike, Comic Strip Films (1988) starring Peter Richardson, Ade Edmonson, Rick Mayall, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Alexi Sayle, Winner of the Golden Rose Of Montreaux and Honorable Mention for Music – Christmas Carol: The Movie (Lyricist) – Do The Right Thing (1988) – Boys & Girls (2000) – Billy Eliot (2000) “Alice in Russialand” Ken Russell
PUBLISHED FEATURES & INTERVIEWS: Richard Niles has been the subject of the following featured articles: Sound On Sound – Richard Niles – The Professional Touch – Mike Senior (June 2000) Berklee Today – Richard Niles -Cover Story “England’s Jazz Crusader” – Mark Small (Spring 2000) La Porta Classica – Richard Niles El Procés de Composició de la Banda Sonora – Roger Juliá Satorra (2004) – Music Connection (2010) – Guitar International (2010)
TELEVISION & RADIO APPEARANCES: The Quincy Jones Story – BBC Radio 2 (2003) What Makes Pop Songs Work – BBC TV (2008) “So What” Radio 4 (2008) Key Matters – D Minor – BBC Radio 4 (2008) – Interviewed by Kate Winter for The Jazz Show on Blast Radio 2010
2014 THE INVISIBLE ARTIST was published by Niles Smiles Music. For more info and a video, click here: http://richardniles.com/the-invisible-artist/
2015 FROM DREAMING TO GIGGING – Jazz Guitar in 6 Months was published by Niles Smiles Music.
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