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The Independent Culture

Maria McKee: You Gotta Sin to Get Saved (MCA, LP/CD/tape). In which the twin stigmas of that horribly overblown Tom Cruise-inspired monster-hit 'Show Me Heaven', and those wasted years as an under-achieving teen prodigy in Lone Justice, are proudly shrugged off. This features several other members of that cruelly over-rated band, but it's distinctly McKee's baby. The number of Van Morrison songs here (two) suggests she's overdoing things a bit on the Celtic soul sister front, but the other cover version - Gerry Goffin and Carole King's 'I Can't Make It Alone' - is a scorcher, and her own songs more than measure up. McKee's voice is bold but not too brassy, and the slinky 'I'm Gonna Soothe You', the epic 'I Forgive You' and the Tammy Wynette- worthy 'Only Once' ('Only once did I think twice, and twice was once too late') are the work of a fully realised writing talent. Ben Thompson

Willie Nelson: Across the Borderline (Columbia, LP/CD/tape). At last, the most deserving of Old Country headcases gets the big money production treatment. The guest list is alarmingly hefty - Don Was, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Mose Allison all helped make tea in the studio - but the idiosyncratic nature of the performer who is being celebrated means that this avoids the predictability of most celebrity respect orgies. Across the Borderline is one feast of Americana that won't ruin your appetite. Nelson's unique voice - the breathless quaver of a man who has just eaten too many digestive biscuits - is in sublime shape, and shines in some unexpected contexts. His duet with Sinead O'Connor on Peter Gabriel's 'Don't Give Up' is one track that will live on in the memory for many an eon. BT



Sibelius: 2nd Symphony, Swan of Tuonela etc. Oslo Phil / Mariss Jansons (EMI, CD only). A combination that could hardly fail. Michael White

Hugo Wolf: Moricke Lieder. Brigitte Fassbaender / Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Decca, CD only). Full-bodied readings of sometimes reticent songs. MW

Donald Fagen: Kamakiriad (Reprise, LP/tape/CD). Smooth grooves, nifty guitar figures, impossibly fluid bass- playing, irresistible drumming, varied keyboard textures, subtle horn arrangements: almost as good as the sacred first side of Aja. Richard Williams

Freestyle Fellowship: Innercity Griots (4th & Bdway, LP/tape/CD). Rewarding rap-apella debut. BT

Baaba Maal: Yele (Mango, single). Senegalese heart-throb in deftly ragga-fied sound-clash with great British toaster Makka B. A massive summer hit? BT