RECORDS

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ROCK

Popsicle: Popsicle (Warner, CD/tape). Popsicle are no more substantial or nourishing than their namesake. Though they have the distinction of being one of Sweden's biggest bands, they stick to Britain's fluttering indie-pop formula: the biggest sonic surprise here is the ping of a triangle on "Sadly Missing". None the less, fans of Teenage Fan Club and Ash could do worse than to have a listen. The breezy choruses are consistently tuneful, and Andreas Mattsson's mewled lyrics of unrequited love betoken a grasp of the English language more sure than that of a few British bands I could mention. Nicholas Barber

Sun Ra: Singles (Evidence, 2xCD). Given that much of it appeared in editions as small as 50, ignorance of the wealth of material released in seven-inch-single form by outer- national galactic-jazz eminence Sun Ra's Saturn label between 1954 and 1982 can hardly be counted a source of shame. But not to mortgage all available heirlooms and perhaps a great aunt's reputation in order to get hold of this spell-binding 150-minute agglomeration of cosmic doo-wop and performing meteor fragments would be to bring the family name into eternal disrepute. Those who feel that songs like Yochannan's "Message to Earthman" are too intense to actually listen to will find them very useful for frightening away stray dogs. Ben Thompson

Black Sabbath: Under Wheels of Confusion, 1970-87 (Castle, 4xCD). Credit for cutting through the seemingly inextricable mesh of personal animosities ensnaring the Black Sabbath back catalogue goes to Ozzy Osbourne's formidable wife Sharon - a woman whose omission from the recent shortlist for United Nations secretary general was an error the world has already had cause to regret. But this monument to the West Midlands' most convincing harbingers of the post-industrial apocalypse suffers from rather an excess of even- handedness. The impact of two and a half discs' worth of ecstatically maudlin proto-grunge (check "Iron Man", "NIB", "War Pigs" and "Sweet Leaf" before you even think about "Paranoid") is sadly mitigated by the inclusion of an hour and a half of post-Ozzy material. And as everyone knows, Sabbath without Ozzy - like cheese without onion, or Ren & Stimpy without John Kricfalusi - just wasn't happening. BT

CLASSICAL

Schubert: A Voyage of Discovery. Various singers/ Graham Johnson (Hyperion, CD). This is a compilation album and presumably gets classified under the new record- industry chart listings as middle-of-the-road crossover. But nothing could be less middle of the road or more serious in intent; and as compilations go, it belongs in a category all its own. For 10 years the scholar-pianist Graham Johnson has been amassing a complete edition of Schubert's 700 songs on disc, accompanying a cross-section of some of the finest Lieder-singers in active service. This release, timed for the bicentenary of the composer's birth next month, collects together highlights from the first 27 discs (the final total will be 36!), and for sheer density of excellence it bears comparison with angels dancing on a pin. Peter Schreier, Janet Baker, Ian Bostridge, Matthias Gorne, Margaret Price, the late Arleen Auger ... the list runs on, and it amounts to an irresistible advertisement for the whole series - which is of course what it's meant to be. But more than that, it makes a statement of where Lieder-singing stands today: on a superlatively high peak of achievement. Michael White

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