Coolio: My Soul (Tommy Boy, CD/LP/tape). If it's uncompromising, violent gangsta rap you're after, you've come to the wrong place. Next to Spearhead's Michael Franti, Coolio must be just about the most likeable rapper around, his tumbling rhymes shot through with gruff humour and a mature, responsible attitude. On "Let's Do It" he takes issue with most of his contemporaries by preaching the virtues of taking your relationship seriously and slowly: "Tell me about your innermost thoughts, wants, needs and your desires and I'll tell you about mine ... it's a whole lot more than your average bump'n'grind." My Soul is lighter than Gangsta's Paradise, 1995's ruminative audio-movie. This is a party record, built on tight funk and enriched by soulful refrains and warm instrumentation. And Coolio shouldn't be criticised for being too mainstream. While the Fugees have hit singles by covering Bob Marley classics, Coolio goes the more scenic route of reworking Pachebel's Canon, a 280-year-old school-orchestra favourite. This is pop music with brains and heart as well as soul. Nicholas Barber


Schumann: Piano Sonata No 1 in F sharp minor; Fantasy in C. Leif Ove Andsnes (EMI, CD). As a pair of extended love-notes to the adolescent Clara Wieck, with a shared five-note motif that represents her in each score, these two supreme examples of German Romantic keyboard writing fall naturally together. There's a Pollini recording, for example, on Deutsche Grammophon which offers playing of incomparable technical refinement; and if that's what you demand in Schumann, it's the one to buy. But Andsnes - a superb technician too - has other qualities. His playing is heavy and so closely recorded that you hear every grunt and sniff, of which there are enough to fill a doctor's waiting room: Andsnes is worryingly adenoidal for so young a man. But don't be put off. These are minor irritations in an otherwise entirely brilliant and exhilarating show of strength. Alight with passionate intensity, it comes with grandeur in its scale of vision, stinging fierceness of attack, and a profound musicianship that gauges the proportions to (I think) perfection. It's the sort of pianism that could never for moment slip into routine procedures. But it's not perverse or wilfully eccentric either: the composer has been well-served. So has EMI, in Andsnes's first solo recital disc for label (all his others have been modest Virgins). You can safely bet it will be the first of many. Michael White


Various: Serialement Votre (Concrete, CD). Self-consciously hip, and very hit-and- miss, re-working of kitsch movie and TV themes from The Avengers, Hawaii Five-O, Mission Impossible, The Saint, The Prisoner and more, coupling a drum and bass, dance and trance engine to the carriages of heavily sampled soundtracks, with cheesy synths a-go-go. "Space 1999" will never sound the same again. Phil Johnson