RECORDS / New Releases

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Dave Stewart: Message from the Gutter (East-West, CD/tape). Breaking the strange convention that is currently leading many otherwise sensible people (Boz Scaggs, Aimee Mann, Bryan Ferry) to open their CDs with the worst track, the former Eurythmic launches his first solo album with a perfect pop song. 'Heart of Stone' sounds like a meeting between Bowie's 'Modern Love' and Odyssey's 'Native New Yorker', and it goes on to make the most of that duality: buried beneath its many hooks, beneath a wispy veil of strings and the funky stabs of a Hammond organ, lies a coded meditation on the eternal conflict between uptown and downtown, between microchips and valves, between science and nature. The rest of the album can't live up to that level of dialectical intensity, but the craftsmanship is unfailingly good and the rhythm section, with former P-Funkateers Bernie Worrell on keyboards and Bootsy Collins on bass, is always up to something behind Stewart's Bowiesque singing. All rather more satisfying, in fact, than you might expect from someone who spends time with Damien Hirst. Richard Williams

Cranberries: No Need to Argue (Island, CD/LP/tape, out tomorrow). In the sleevenotes, the Cranberries thank those who 'enjoyed and understood' their debut. 'Here's hoping you will understand this one,' they add. This emperor's-new-clothes tactic does not hide the fact that there are some wishy-washy ballads here with nothing to recommend them other than Dolores O'Riordan's plaintive yodel, and lyrics which are a lot easier to understand than to enjoy: 'Baby I can't be with you / Cause you're not here', for instance, and the social commentary: 'I don't know what's happening to people today / When a child, he was taken away.' No Need to Argue is not a great album, but it is half a great album. Skip past the weak material to the title track, a weary, ingenuous lament, and on to 'Zombie', a track from the place where Sinead O'Connor meets the Smashing Pumpkins. Nicholas Barber

Evan Parker/Anthony Braxton/Paul Rutherford: Trio (London) 1993 (Leo, CD only). In Britain, there is no audience to speak of for the practitioners of free improvisation. Since several of the world's best free improvisers are British, that seems more than a shame. The saxophonist Evan Parker and the trombonist Paul Rutherford are among those who discovered new voices for their instruments and a new way to play together, yet must visit Germany or the US to receive any sort of unstinted validation of their revolutionary efforts. Parker and Rutherford have worked together since the beginning, in the days when the earliest versions of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble held forth in semi-clandestine sessions at the Little Theatre Club. Here, in company with the distinguished American saxophonist Anthony Braxton, they demonstrate how far this music has come in the past 25 years: no longer compromised by paranoia, it is intimate, detailed, passionate, varied in texture and trajectory, supremely confident, and utterly compelling. RW