MUSIC / Records

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Rickie Lee Jones: Traffic from Paradise (Geffen, CD/LP/tape). For some reason half the adult-contemporary albums released these days start with their worst track (cf Aimee Mann, Michael McDonald etc). Jones's seventh album in almost 20 years suffers from the same syndrome, and is almost halfway gone before it begins to approach the depth of her best work. Proving that records are not like life, the subfusc style that served her so well in concert last year - all acoustic guitars, string bass and pitter-pattering conga drums - largely fails to do justice here to the drama that lies below the surface of her music, in which the mellow textures of West Coast rock circa 1974 are used to support a sensibility that revels in the unguessable boho moves of bebop. Her cover of Bowie's 'Rebel Rebel', with the Stray Cats' Brian Setzer on lead guitar, is no more than mildly diverting, and only in the final three songs, when the textures (mandolin, harp, choir, a distant electronic storm) start to blossom, does the listener feel truly in the presence of the creator of 'Last Chance Texaco' and 'We Belong Together'. The smoky, nasal voice retains its wayward-angel charm, though, and even some way below her best, she's more interesting than just about anyone else around. Richard Williams

Rossini: La Cenerentola. Bartoli, Matteuzzi, Chailly, Bologna Opera (Decca, CD). You'd think there would be plenty of recommendable Cenerentolas on disc, but not so. Neville Marriner's Philips version has the saw-voiced Agnes Baltsa - technically formidable but an acquired taste - while the Abbado recording on DG, with the glorious Teresa Berganza, is more than 20 years old. So this Decca release, which features two of the best new generation Rossinians around, Cecilia Bartoli and Riccardo Chailly, has a clear run. Brilliant, lightly textured, clean-cut, it's a beautiful performance: slightly diminished by Walter Matteuzzi's quavering Ramiro, but otherwise well cast. One of the most attractive opera issues of the year. Michael White



Vaughan Williams: Five Tudor Portraits etc. Bach Choir, New Philharmonia / Willcocks (EMI, CD). Classic choral recording from the Sixties reissued as part of EMI's superb British Composers series. MW

Howard Ferguson: Amore Langueo, Piano Concerto, etc. London Symphony Chorus, CLS / Hickox (EMI, CD). Another British Composers' release - newly recorded - of two of the best but, alas, rarely heard scores by a composer overdue for reappraisal. MW

B-Tribe: You Won't See My Cry (East West, track on Fiesta Fatal, CD/LP/tape). Imagine 'Je t'aime - moi non plus', 'Guantanamera' and Art of Noise's 'Moments in Love' all playing at once, with a bit of Manitas de Plata on top. Iberian disco-kitsch, deliriously diverting. RW

De La Soul: Buhloone Mindstate (Big Life, LP/CD/tape). A triumphant rebirth for the worldly wise ex-Daisy Agers. Ben Thompson

Apache Indian: Movin' On (4th & B'way, single). Apache gives the BNP what for with an authoritative protest remix. BT