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ANUTHA ZONE DR JOHN

(PARLOPHONE CDP 060)

FOR HIS best studio album since 1992's Goin' Back To New Orleans, Dr. John returns to the swamp-voodoo of his legendary Gris-Gris debut, territory he's rarely revisited in the intervening three decades.

This may be due to his young British collaborators, most of whom probably consider that album as the quintessential Dr. John experience. "Voices In My Head" features representatives of Supergrass and Portishead, while Paul Weller and Ocean Colour Scene bassist Damon Minchella sit in for "Party Hellfire" and "I Don't Want To Know", and Primal Scream's Martin Duffy on "Sweet Home New Orleans". Jason Pierce returns the Doctor's favour on last year's Spiritualized album by collaborating on "Hello God" and "John Gris", two of the better tracks here and certainly more characterful than either of the forgettable cuts featuring Weller/OCS.

To tell the truth, the Brits don't really make that much difference to the Doctor's sound, which remains inimitably sui generis whoever's sitting in with him. He works effortless variations on the voodoo style while offering only intermittent demonstrations of his other modes, It deserves to insinuate the Doctor's unique presence into another, younger generation, for if we must have retro-rock, let it at least revive those ancient spirits that are most deserving.

TRY WHISTLING THIS NEIL FINN

PARLOPHONE (4951392)

NEIL FINN - on his own for the first time - tries to find some common ground between his own songwriting gifts and the new textures and sounds that are available through samplers and computer recording techniques. It's very a brave move, but not a wholly successful one, Finn only partially solving the problem of incongruence: essentially, the two modes tend to lead in opposite directions. For a natural songwriter such as Finn, this is a contrary process, so it's no surprise that the most appealing tracks - notably the single "She Will Have Her Way" - sound more like Crowded House out-takes than openings on to a brave new world of sound.

GLEE BRAN VAN 3000

CAPITOL 823 6042

WITH THIS debut offering, Bran Van 3000 attempt a similar bridging exercise between programmed and played music as Neil Finn, but from the opposite direction, starting out with the programmes and trying to find the appropriate song stylings. In most cases, this means raps or soul-diva croonings, but there's also room for rock guitars and even a stab at country. The group is based around Jamie "Bran Man" Di Salvio, a DJ and director who used the $10,000 he earned helming a Branford Marsalis video clip to set up a studio. Current single "Drinking in LA" is typical of the sound in the way it mixes breakbeats, loops, fuzz guitars and rap awareness. An enjoyably dotty exercise in eclecticism that deserves to be heard.

THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE VAN MORRISON

POLYDOR 531 789-2

GIVEN THE opportunity to compile a retrospective compilation of unreleased Van Morrison material, most of his fans would, I imagine, want to hear something more from the sessions that resulted in Astral Weeks or, failing that, Moondance or St Dominic's Preview, the three albums which this grandly-titled double-CD package actually manages to avoid. Instead, there's a huge tranche of the fairly mundane stuff that was recorded during the three-year hiatus in the mid-Seventies between Veedon Fleece and A Period Of Transition.

JBO: A PERSPECTIVE 1988-1998 VARIOUS

JUNIOR BOYS OWN JNR 1001782

THIS RETROSPECTIVE of Junior Boys Own output over the last 10 years serves virtually as a potted history of the acid house sound. It starts right out on the fringes where Eighties indie-rock shaded gradually over into the new club style through a number of crossover hits by the likes of New Order and Pete Wylie. It matured via seminal Andy Weatherall remixes of such as Primal Scream ("Loaded") and My Bloody Valentine. Finally it developed into a Nineties, mainstream avant-garde through the rise of Underworld and The Chemical Brothers.

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