Several protopunks and many reggae collections are scattered below, the reggae representing a long investigation that left such eminences as U-Roy and Beenie Man in my Neither file. Wish there was a Pick Hit in the bunch.

BANG ON A CAN Terry Riley: In C (Cantaloupe)
In the '60s I loved Riley's gamelan-like semipop breakthrough A Rainbow in Curved Air, dismissing this earlier composition as too tinkly. Since the trippy minimalist lets players determine their own volume and duration, maybe the vibraphone and marimba guys were on the wrong drugs. Thirty-five years later, overall register has dropped, the music signifying loud and electric with comparable instrumentation. The moment that gets me every time comes 15 minutes in, when the cello surges to the front with the force of a Jimmy Page solo—relative force, that is. A MINUS

DILLINGER The Prime of Dillinger: Gangster, Prankster and Rasta (Music Club)
"My name is Ragnampaiza/And I don't eat fertilizer/I am the dub organizer/And I come to make you wiser." This not quite pioneering Kingston DJ scored one big '70s hit, the reconstituted, misguided, irresistible "Cocaine in My Brain," and cuts deeper than U-Roy three decades later. He had some of Big Youth's humanity with more of a sense of humor. He named a song for the "three piece suit and thing" line that Althia & Donna picked up. Say it fast, "Killer Man Jaro"—no no no, pronounce it "mon," not "man." B PLUS

After two major-label efforts that I doubt made a cent, this is unabashed art for art's sake—a subsidized hobby, only it's a label rather than a papa laying out the cash and expecting personal fulfillment through creative expression in return. Pop isn't an ambition for these smart people with other things to do, it's a discipline—the tunes strong, the beats solid, the vocals lightly yearning and pungently sweet. As if they've actually been listening to the radio (watching MTV, more likely), they bear down on the rhythm tracks, which I hope doesn't mean they think the whoos and handclaps on "Baby" will get buzz-binned in this day and age. They'll tour, fill small venues, sell some T-shirts. And to what end? The chance to make yet another album this near-perfect right on schedule, in 2005. A MINUS

ALANIS MORISSETTE Under Rug Swept (Maverick)
Once dissed as the voice of pseudofeminist exploitation, Morissette was in fact a thinking original in a showbiz context she had the stuff to make something of. The pop-rock here lacks the faux-punk edge Glen Ballard got on the debut and the expansive grandeur he manufactured for the follow-up. But Morissette instantly demonstrates her gift for the catchy, crunching out a guitar riff and then revealing 21 "not necessarily needs but things that I prefer" in a lover. Stretching out il-lu-si-on and for-med to suit scansion or mood, opposing capital punishment and coming out for sex "more than three times a week," topping memorable verse with indelible chorus, she's a self-actualized nut who goes for what she wants, exactly as pretentious as the college girls she represents for. Whatever the biographical details, I hear love songs to a narcissist, an old flame, an "employee" (has anyone used that word in a song before?), plus a self-doubt anthem for perspective and gorgeous regrets for pathos. Even when the forced pronunciations turn gauche, she remains a good egg who's not afraid to put herself on the line. A MINUS

First Elizabeth Elmore left a great band to go to law school. Now she leaves a great law school to start a better band, bringing a dark, intense fury to Sarge's runaway jangle. You'd think she'd be proud of herself, and from the way she talks you can tell she is. But is she happy about her accomplishments? Au contraire. Friends and lovers fall away on all sides, so that she would leave this town tonight if she could think where to go—not law school, damn it. One begins to wonder whether beneath her reasonable exterior lurk impossible demands. After all, when guys spend albums complaining about how nobody's good enough for them we figure they're trying to kid somebody. She goes out covering Elvis Costello, who is not my choice to replace Ann Landers. A MINUS

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ El Danzon de Moises (Tzadik)
From the Prosthetic Cubans' percussionist comes—it's his roots—Jewish son: klezmer con salsa if not the unattainable pernil pastrami. Rodriguez doubles on trumpet, the indefatigable David Krakauer mans the clarinet, Matt Darriau plays both, Craig Taborn ripples the ivories, and what comes out is less wedding than chamber or dinner music. Because there's accordion, it often recalls another triumph of Latinized European cosmopolitanism, tango—as bent and elegant as Astor Piazzolla, and suppler. The last track is the wildest and most African and has the heartrending title "Jerusalem Market." Would it could be so. Would it could be so. A MINUS

PATTI SMITH Land (Arista)
Tacky though the best-of-plus-outtakes gambit may be, especially with another best-of filling out the box set, this is the same artist who's never released a concert album, not even as a profit taker when her income dried up during her seclusion. And though she's scattered live cuts here and there, the five-track sequence on disc two, dominated by post-1996 material that's never sounded better and capped by the inexhaustible "Birdland," is a welcome taste of the real live one she can put together next with no complaint from me. She recites a Blake poem, a Ginsberg poem, a Prince poem. She blows clarinet. She sings "Tomorrow" for her mom. And by the way, the best-of never quits. A MINUS

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