RECORDS NEW RELEASES

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The Independent Culture
Faur: Complete Piano Music. Katherine Stott (Hyperion, four CDs). If ever there was a great composer waiting to be found it's probably Faur, who is known for his Requiem and Dolly Suite (aka Listen With Mother) but not for very much else. Wigmore Hall audiences cherish his songs and a few chamber scores; pianists acknowledge the mastery of his piano music without actually playing it. But Katherine Stott does, and has been a tireless Faur champion for years. Now, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Faur's birth, she has re-recorded the complete works on Hyperion (including the Dolly Suite duet with Martin Roscoe); and the result is one of the most purely pleasurable releases of the year so far. The playing is intelligent, persuasive, loving; and the music reaches far beyond the standard boundaries of fin-de- sicle French salon style where casual critics tend to place it. These are four outstanding discs, recorded in a concentrated period of time and registering a real authority. They ought to win some converts. Michael White

Mavis Staples: The Voice (NPG, CD, out tomorrow). Those who are peeved by the shaky quality of recent Prince-related releases can console themselves with The Voice, recorded a couple of years ago but previously unavailable here. Like Mavis Staples' "Time Waits for No One" in 1989, it features members of the New Power Generation, and is co-written and co-produced by the artist now Formerly Known as Prince. In terms of both the material and the burnished production, the man's on form. This is jumping gospel funk, touching upon some of his preferred subjects - love, Jesus, urban deprivation - though not his favourite - sex. But the star of the record is Staples' larynx, providing a feisty, street-smart vocal that overflows with warmth and maturity. Watch out Aretha. Nicholas Barber

Various Artists: Routes From the Jungle (Virgin, CD/LP/tape). For experienced ex-plorers or bewildered tourists, this is the clearest jungle route-map yet. And for those who crave impenetrability, questions remain: like how music as heroically diverse as Nicolette's sensual "Waking Up", DJ Ed Rush's gloriously silly "Bludclot Art-attack" and Jo's darkly thrilling "Apollo 9" ever got corralled within a single conceptual clearing. Drums chatter; loops unwind; erudition and excitement mingle in breathless sleeve- notes - "There are no rules and no one is driving" - and the music-makers' own thoughts add a dimension. "If everyone could start again on another planet," says 4Hero, creator of "Wrin-kles in Time", "then we might have a chance. But we're just stuck here." Ben Thompson

Marianne Faithfull: A Secret Life (Island, CD/tape). The first new album in eight years from the celebrated Sixties survivor. "After a certain age," Faithfull sings, "every artist works with injury." A memorable line; and a memorable record. Tim de Lisle

Bob Dylan: MTV Unplugged (Columbia, CD/ LP/tape). As pointless exercises go, a very pleasurable one. NB

Blumfeld: L'Etat et Moi (Big Cat, CD/LP/ tape). Title in French; lyrics in German; guitars in Esperanto. BT

Vic Chesnutt: Is the Actor Happy? (Texas Hotel, CD/LP). Rich, dreamlike country/folk ballads from Michael Stipe's mate. NB

Powder: 20th-Century Gods (Parkway, single). The new wave of the new wave of the new . . . oh, forget it. A divine dbut. NB

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