By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
B.Y.O.B., B.Y.O.B. (Rykodisc). Basehead's Michael Ivey gives his highly individual version of rap some new twists. Tracks meander in unexpected directions, giving the album as a whole a feel that's lazy but right.
Fugees (Tranzlator Crew), Blunted on Reality (Ruffhouse/Columbia). The frequent "interludes" here are lame, but the songs are worth waiting for. The Crew has three able rappers able to balance blunts and brains.
Kokane, Funk Upon a Rhyme (Ruthless). With a name like his, Kokane would seem likely to spew nothing but nonsense. Fortunately, his real focus is funk as pungent and relentless as any made by Dr. Dre's Long Beach cronies.
Manu DiBango, Wakafrika (Giant). The rare musical summit conference that works. Famous people such as Peter Gabriel and Sinead O'Connor drop by, but DiBango is the man in charge.
Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders, The Trance of the Seven Colors (Axiom). Fusion in the truest sense, Trance unites Moroccan Ghania and American Sanders for a disc that enriches the work of both.
Salif Keita, The Mansa of Mali...A Retrospective (Mango). In spite of intrusions by Joe Zawinul and Steve Hillage, Mansa is still a vigorous showcase for Keita, a masterful arranger and performer.
Rara Machine, Voudou Nou (Shanachie). The Machine blends rara (a Haitian musical hybrid) with Afro-Cuban influences. The combination is joyous, compulsively danceable and as easy on Western ears as anything by Fela Kuti.
The Skatalites, Hi-Bop Ska (Shanachie). Subtitled The 30th Anniversary Recording, the disc is a golden opportunity for this group (aided by David Murray, Lester Bowie and Toots Hibbert) to strut its stuff.
Al Green, Explores Your Mind (Hi/Right Stuff). Consider Explores a stand-in for the entire Green catalogue now on CD. Green's early- and mid-Seventies work contained the best soul music of the Seventies.
Herbie Hancock, The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (Warner Archives). These three Hancock albums (on two CDs) sounded watered down when they appeared twenty years ago. Today they seem danceable and very, very cool.
The Monkees, Head (Rhino). Of all the newly reissued Monkees CDs, Head is the most demented. The soundtrack to a film intended to remake them as Sixties trendsetters, it's a crazed time capsule from days gone by.
Prince, The Black Album (Warner Bros.). This rare recording sounded astounding when it was bootlegged seven years ago. With its reappearance, it's become a symbol of a direction Prince should have taken.
Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, The Complete 2000 Year Old Man (Rhino). A boxed set of the four Reiner/Brooks comedy CDs, Complete is off-the-cuff borscht-belt humor that's even funnier than you remember it.
C.C. Adcock, C.C. Adcock (Island). Rockabilly that's less extreme than the Reverend Horton Heat's but just as propulsive. Adcock's reverence (and his irreverence) keeps this rocking from beginning to end.
Lisa Germano, Geek the Girl (4AD). While Geek is neither rock nor pop, Germano's harrowing truth-telling follows in the footsteps left by artists such as Lou Reed. Like him, she slays her demons with fearlessness.
Latin Playboys, Latin Playboys (Slash/Warner Bros.). A Los Lobos side project that's as good as any Los Lobos album. David Hidalgo, Louie Perez and compadres have made a Basement Tapes for the Nineties.
Moe Tucker, Dogs Under Stress (Sky). After the first demise of the Velvet Underground, Tucker began releasing intermittent dispatches from her rural home. This is easily the most charming of the bunch.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Sleeps With Angels (Reprise). Far more than an elegy to Kurt Cobain, Sleeps is Young on fire as he hasn't been for years. May he keep on burning--and never fade away.