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Honorable Mention:

Missy Misdemeanor Elliott,Da Real World (The Gold Mind, Inc./EastWest): no more Missy Nice Girl ("Busa Rhyme," "Smooth Chick"); Bottle Rockets, Brand New Year (Doolittle/Mercury): bitchin rock move, but any band that boasts about not using a calculator cares less about history than it believes ("Gotta Get Up," "Headed for the Ditch"); African Salsa (Stern's/ Earthworks): in Wolof, both the consonants and the clave are harsher (Pape Fall, "African Salsa"; Super Cayor de Dakar, "Xamsa Bopp"); Los Lobos, This Time (Hollywood): chewing their cud for one album too long ("Oh, Yeah," "Corazon"); Candido Fabré, Poquito a Poco (Candela): violins loud like horns ("Bailando con Otro," "La Mano en el Arazón"); Éthiopiques 1 (Buda Musique import): notes from an aborted pop scene (Mulequèn Mèllèssè, "Wètètié maré"; Sèyfu Yohannès, "Tezeta"); the Pernice Brothers, Overcome by Happiness (Sub Pop): if the Hollies had created pop so pretty and morbid it would have been genius, but these sad sacks are just doing what comes naturally ("Monkey Suit," "Chicken Wire"); Ibrahim Ferrer, Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer (Nonesuch/World Circuit): at 72, he has the right to take it easy— and luckily, also the ability ("Marieta," "Bruta Maniguá"); Beth Orton, Central Reservation (Arista): so she wasn't techno after all— glad we got that straight ("Stolen Car," "Central Reservation [Original Version]"); Éthiopiques 4 (Buda Musique import): Booker T. and Ramsey Lewis trade concepts over a drummer who first laid eyes on a trap set last month— Ethiopian-style, mais oui (Mulatu Astatqué, "Yèkèrmo sèw," "Mètché Dershé"); Éthiopiques 2 (Buda Musique import): barest, craziest, sexiest, least melodic, least grooveful, most Arabic (Tigist Assèfa, "Toutouyé"; Malèfya Tèka, "Indè Lyèruzalèm"); Linton Kwesi Johnson, More Time (LKJ): most poetic when he's most quotidian ("If I Waz a Tap Natch Poet," "Reggae Fi Bernard"); Freedy Johnston: Blue Days Black Nights (Elektra): Sinatra he's not— maybe not Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen either ("Depending on the Night," "Changed Your Mind").

Choice Cuts: Tsèhaytu Bèraki, "Aminèy" (Ethiopiques 5, Buda Musique import); Lunachicks, "I'll Be the One" (Luxury Problem, Go-Kart); Jack Knight, "Who Do You Love" (Gypsy Blues, Universal).

Duds: Toumani Diabate With Balaka Sissoko, New Ancient Strings (Rykodisc); Gloria Estefan, Gloria! (Epic); Irakere, La Collección Cubana (Music Club); Mase, Double Up (Bad Boy); Mu-Ziq, Royal Astronomy (Astralwerks); Mu-Ziq, Urmur Bile Tracks Volume 1 Volume 2 (Astralwerks); Ned Sublette, Cowboy Rumba (Palm Pictures).

Addresses: Buda Music, Dakar Sound, Stern's/ Earthworks, c/o Stern's, 71 Warren Street, NYC 10007; DCC, 9301 Jordan Avenue, Suite 105, Chatsworth CA 91311; Hannibal, c/o Rykodisc, 530 North 3rd Street, Minneapolis MN 55401; Music Club, c/o Koch, 2 Tri-Harbor Court, Port Washington NY 11050; Stax, 10th & Parker, Berkeley CA 94710; Sub Pop, Box 20645, Seattle WA 98102; Ultra, 588 Broadway, Suite 10003, NYC 10003.

Pick Hit

Alos Van Van
La Collección Cubana (Music Club)
These dozen tracks from the decade-plus following Milan Latino's comp, including two redone on Mango's Songo, reinforce my suspicion that Cuba's essential postcharangists only got better as they went along. The songs roll their hips for an extra minute or two, which never hurts when the grooves are so sexy, and the comedy comes through even if you don't understand one word in 50 ("Hey, playa, I know that one, and they sure say mas a lot, must be what they want"). I also appreciate the synth splats on "De La Habanas A Matanzas." And the two minutes of percussion— most definitely including their secret weapon, vocal percussion— that is "Llegada." a

Dud of the Month

Juan Carlos Formell
Songs From a Little Blue House (Wicklow)
I knew he was the son of Los Van Van's big man first time I played his blandly pretty folk-jazz and chalked its bloodlessness up to "world music"— the suburban New Age crap first harbingered when Kenny Rankin discovered chromatic chords in Marin County 30 years ago. Not until later did I read that the younger Formell had "literally re-defined the concept of Cuban music," only the Commies wouldn't let him so he went into exile, only then he suffered "rejection" "in some communities here in America too." Self-pity being folk music's universal solvent, my own suspicion is that said communities, if they exist at all, didn't like his clave. Really, JC— I don't care whether you like Castro. I'm a major El Duque fan. I just think you're a wimp. b minus

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