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The Independent Culture

Peter Maxwell Davies: The Lighthouse. BBC Philharmonic/Davies (Collins Classics, CD only). As Decca was to Benjamin Britten, so Collins Classics is to Maxwell Davies: dogged champions whose commitment deserves - and will maybe one day get - its reward on earth as well as heaven. This addition to their Davies catalogue is a landmark, timed for the composer's 60th birthday next month; and its quality leaves no doubt that The Lighthouse, although compactly written into a single-act format, is an opera of stature that really does deliver the chill of its ghostly narrative. The orchestral writing is immaculately caught in all its (sometimes lurid) vividness; the vocal roles delivered with conviction by Neil Mackie, Ian Comboy and Christopher Keyte; and the whole recording - conducted by Davies himself - has a forensic sharpness that relives the tensions of the score with a judicious mix of clarity and atmosphere. A sure contender, I would have thought, for someone's record-industry award list. Michael White

Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live (Virgin, double CD/tape). Muffled production and background cheers are the only indications that this is a live album: spontaneity, and indeed fun, are lacking. Upbeat tracks such as 'Red Rain' and 'Sledgehammer' are saved by some funky, tribal drumming and slippery bass. Then come the ambient numbers, which have little to offer but incomprehensible wails, sustained synth chords and audience roars which suggest that something big was going on in the visual department. These segments could have been cut from the 100-minute package. As Dr Johnson said, no one wished it longer. Nicholas Barber



Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Sleeps with Angels (Warner, CD/LP/tape). Just when you think you've heard him at his best, he goes and gets even better. Archetypal Young, but still full of surprises. NB

Marvin Gaye: In Our Lifetime (Motown, CD/ tape). Gaye's favourite theme - the struggle between sacred and profane love - examined in an often magnificent blend of stripped funk and stoned swirl. Richard Williams

Rheostatics: Introducing Happiness (Sire, CD/ tape). Canadian art rock or a Beach Boys sonic experiment? There's never a dull moment either way. NB

Shy FX featuring UK Apachi: Original Nuttah (Sound of the Underground, single). Exhilarating biscuit-tin/reggae crossover anthem: pop goes the jungle] Ben Thompson

Leonard Cohen: Cohen Live (Columbia, CD/ tape). Touching, funny and poetic: a good record in more than one sense, as it shows how the old songs sound in Cohen's new deep voice. Catch him before he slips beyond the range of the human ear. Tim de Lisle