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The Independent Culture

Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow (A&M, CD/LP/ tape). Those who might be lured by the refrain, "All I wanna do is have some fun," should be warned - Crow is now singing a different tune: "If it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?" On this eponymous follow-up to her hit debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, the cast of characters is betrayed, bruised and disappointed. The trouble is that the record captures their mood a little too well: the music, produced by Crow herself, could do with more cheer and spontaneity. It opens deceptively with the mechanical clank of a trip-hop beat, but soon settles into the electric piano and scratchy slide guitars of traditional, Dylan-Stonesy country rock. Not a great deal of fun, but there's enough talent and social conscience to make for a consistently strong album. Nicholas Barber

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Now I Got Worry (Mute, CD/LP/tape). Fresh from backing Southern bluesman RL Burnside on his triumphantly low- down and dirty A Ass Pocket of Whiskey (Matador), Jon Spencer's New York delta-stomp trio hammer home that hard-won advantage with a new record of their own. If it lacks some of the unexpected pop thrill of 1994's sparkling Orange, Now I Got Worry still packs a pretty mean punch. And if it sounds like Spencer's microphone might be lodged somewhere deep in his lower colon, it probably is. Ben Thompson


Leaving Home: CBSO/Rattle (EMI, two CDs). As seen on TV, this is the music of the series Simon Rattle is fronting for C4: an attempt to plot some kind of reasoned path through the unreasonable, fast-turnover plurality of 20th-century music. What you find on the discs is effectively a sampler survey of Rattle's greatest hits, grouped under seven basic headings to illustrate abstract developments in rhythm, tonality, colour and the like. And yes, the illustrations are in many cases merely extracts from Sir Simon's old recordings. But as aural lectures they make fascinating (though contentiously selective) listening - if you can recall the TV arguments they hang on. The pretentious liner notes won't get you very far. Michael White


Freddie Hubbard: The Body and the Soul (Impulse, CD only). Absolutely outstanding reissue from 1963 of trumpeter Hubbard with a septet including Wayne Shorter, Eric Dolphy and Cedar Walton, and a big band and string orchestra arranged by Shorter. The title track was never played slower, as Hubbard's melancholy trumpet scaled it down to 48 bpms (Louis Armstrong rocked it along at a jaunty 120). Now Dolphy's dead, Hubbard's lost his lip and Shorter's fusion: what a world is gone. Phil Johnson

Ike Quebec: Soul Samba (Blue Note Connoisseur, CD only). A reissue from 1962 that is so relaxing that it almost counts as a form of massage. Blue Note's musical director Quebec - a workaday, breathy tenor saxophonist - coils out big, fat, sonic smoke rings against the lazy bossa-nova rhythms of Kenny Burrell's guitar, and the so-funky-it-hurts drums and percussion of Willie Bobo and Garvin Masseaux. Part of perhaps the best reissue programme in jazz. PJ

Keith Jarrett: Mozart Piano Concertos (ECM New Series, CD only). Beautifully recorded, further classical excursions from the abundantly gifted jazz pianist, played with rare decorum. So arresting that it made a passing cyclist knock on my door to ask who the soloist was. PJ