By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
HONORABLE MENTION: The Asylum Street Spankers, Spanker Madness (Spanks-a-Lot): fun with reeferit's so relaxin' ("It's Dry Down Here," "Beer"); Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Lost Trident Sessions (Columbia/Legacy): from before John McLaughlin discovered Barney Kessel and Jan Hammer discovered Jan Hammer ("John's Song #2," "Trilogy"); Fela Kuti, Stalemate/Fear Not for Man (MCA): the old ways are best, in sound and story ("Palm Wine Sound [Instrumental]," "Don't Worry About My Mouth O [African Message]"; Graham Haynes, BPM (Knitting Factory): Miles in the sky of drum'n'bass ("Telluride," "Tristan in the Sky"); Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca, San Salvador (Putumayo Artists): diasporan pansalsa, the next levelmeaning ready for the cruise ships and good clean fun ("Boom Boom Tarará," "Ave Maria [Por Dios]"); Tony Allen, Black Voices (Comet import): left to himself, Fela's Jabbo Starks is more juju than Afrobeat ("Asiko," "Black Voices [We Are What We Play Mix]"); Big Pun, Yeeeah Baby (Loud): anthemic pop-metal thuggism con salsa ("Wrong Ones," "Laughing at You," "Nigga Shit"); Alvin Youngblood Hart, Start With the Soul (Hannibal): first acoustic bluesman to cover the Cornelius Brothers and Black Oak Arkansas, but probably not the first garage rocker ("Fightin' Hard," "Manos Arriba"); Fela Kuti, Shuffering and Shmiling/No Agreement (MCA): worthwhile really long one, good 15-minute one, vamp-plus instrumental ("Shuffering and Shmiling"); Fela Kuti, Opposite People/Sorrow Tears and Blood (MCA): from defiance to defeat, and guess which has the beats and solos ("Opposite People"); Pearl Jam, Binaural (Epic): rock as inner struggle, eternally externalized ("Of the Girl," "Insignificance"); Fela Kuti, Shakara/London Scene (MCA): early funk experiment more interesting, early Afrobeat excursion more satisfying ("Shakara," "Egbe Mi O [Carry Me]"); John Hiatt, Greatest Hits: The A&M Years '87-'94 (A&M): tuneful, what else, but beware: Capitol cherry-picked these already ("The Rest of the Dream," "Real Fine Love").
CHOICE CUTS: Sisqó, "Thong Song" (Unleash the Dragon, Dragon/Def Soul); Buckcherry, "Lit Up" (Buckcherry, DreamWorks); Dilated Peoples, "The Platform," "Triple Optics" (The Platform, Capitol).
DUDS: Ray Condo and His Ricochets, High and Wild (Joaquin); Hanson, This Time Around (Island); Fela Kuti, Expensive Shit/He Miss Road (MCA); Femi Kuti, Shoki Shoki (MCA); Princess Superstar, Last of the Great 20th Century Composers (The Corrupt Conglomerate); Rah Digga, Dirty Harriet (Elektra).
ADDRESSES: Hannibal, c/o Rykodisc, 530 North 3rd Street, Minneapolis MN 55401; Heliocentric, 69 Cooper Square, NYC 10003, heliocd.com; Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, NYC 10013, knittingfactory.com; Putumayo, 324 Lafayette Street, NYC 10012, putumayo.com; Quannum Projects, 436 14th Street, suite 212, Oakland CA 94612, quannum.com; Spanks-a-Lot, Box 49799, Austin TX 78765-9799, asylumstreetspankers.com; V2, 14 East 4th Street, NYC 10003, v2music.com.