Andre Previn: From Ordinary Things; McNair/Ma/ Previn. (Sony, CD). Previn the conductor we all know. Previn the composer surfaces less often and not always happily, sharing with Bernstein and other Americans of his generation a schizophrenic uncertainty about the sort of music he should be writing. At best, his music ventures boldly where it pleases, disregarding barriers of taste. But listen carefully and you catch an apologetic self- consciousness in the way the language wavers between options - as though every off- limits foray into jazz, pop or American vernacular needs to be paid for with a dose of avant-garde sobriety. And Previn's idea of the avant-garde can be insufferably sober. On this disc you get the whole picture: a substantial cello sonata played by Yo-Yo Ma with a virtuosity that sails through the obesiances to modernism and leaves no doubt that the true heart of the music lies in the plaintively lyrical middle-movement Adagio. The rest of the disc is given to songs, mostly with texts by the black American poet Toni Morrison whose work Previn has set before. Their tone is a contemporary variant on Americana: cleanly lyrical but with the unresolved harmonic tartness that translates, in writing of this kind, into nostalgia. Sung with style, sophistication and a lightly drawn but truthful sense for text by Sylvia McNair. Michael White


Morrissey: Maladjusted (Island, CD/LP/tape). Left a million pounds poorer by a courtroom scuffle with Mike Joyce, the Smiths' drummer, Morrissey reacted by poison-penning Joyce a song, "Sorrow Will Come In The End". And Morrissey's record company reacted by snipping it from this album. The only sense of Smiths-related bitterness left on Maladjusted, is that it doesn't sound as much like his old band as most of his solo albums do. "Alma Matters" is admittedly Smithsian, but it's also Morrissey's most sparkling single in years. The rest roams between the brutal grunge of the title track, and the nostalgic jazz balladry of "Trouble Loves Me". And by the sounds of "Papa Jack" and "Roy's Keen", Morrissey has been listening to the Who's rock operas recently. A solid album of distinctive, winningly sung tunes, then; so, it's a shame about "Ambitious Outsiders". On first listen it appears to be a Jarvis Cocker-style revenge-of-the- nerds piece, but later reveals itself to be a child-molester's anthem - a cheap, unpleasant way of generating controversy. If Island left this song on the album, what can the one they took off be like? Nicholas Barber

Meredith Brooks: Blurring the Edges (Capitol, CD). Two parts Alanis Morissette, one part Sheryl Crow, one part Joan Osborne, half a part Garbage - Meredith Brooks is just asking to be hated by the British press and loved by the British public. The former's hatred is not entirely unjustified, as Brooks's writing can slip towards the pat and sloppy occasionally, and the production can slide towards over-slickness. But the latter's love makes more sense. Brooks belts out smart, straightforward rock songs with clear-eyed, confessional lyrics. What's the problem? NB


Time and Love: The music of Laura Nyro (Astor Place, CD). Though singer- songwriter Nyro died after this album was completed it becomes, perforce, a moving memorial to her idiosyncratic genius for deep-soul songs of catholic guilt, fragmented relationships and simple celebrations of love and domesticity. Phoebe Snow sings "Time and Love", Jill Sobule covers the wonderful "Stoned Soul Picnic", and there are further covers and tributes by the likes of Suzanne Vega, The Roches, Dana Bryant, Jane Sibbery, Roseanne Cash and Sweet Honey in the Rock. Affecting as it is, nothing compares to Nyro's own work, especially her great tribute to Tamla Motown and soul, "Gonna Take a Miracle". Phil Johnson