By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Estudando O Pagode
This exploration of a sexism fueled by the more blatant injustices of class and race doesn't cohere, but what "rock opera" does? Anyway, Zé prefers the term "operetta," and with his avant-garde credentials is free to embrace episodic method. Much of the songs' philosophical punch is lost i n the superb translations, a shortfall that probably reflects Zé's special interest in the male chauvinist samba subgenre "pagode," the emotional resonances of which can't impact those who haven't lived with them. But no other Brazilian composer defies cultural boundaries so eloquently. Whether or not I absorb these songs' meaning when I read along, at any level of attention I feel the way they straddle pop and avant-garde, natural and mechanical, Brazil and the rest of the world. Those not-quite-metallic scraping noises you keep hearing? They come from one of Zé's inventions, an instrument crafted from the leaf of the ficus trees that grow all over São Paolo. You blow into it. A MINUS
Dud of the Month
Juvenile gives better interview than former N.O. labelmate Lil Wayne and appears to be a better guy, but he's also one more bore whose idea of entertainment is threatening to kill people. A few moments seem real enoughnot just "I Know You Know," in which he reminds his wife that, actually, he doesn't fuck all those hoes he raps about, but the street-mystique primer "Way I Be Leanin'." And even there Mike Jones, Paul Wall, and Wacko provide welcome relief from the nasal, constricted, humorless flow he's gotten on. Later, Fat Joe does the same. I mean, reallyFat Joe? B MINUS
You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker
He owns the title tune now too ("Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age," "Dusty Skies").
A Blessing and a Curse
Includes title song directed at a trust fund baby I personally am sorry they ever met ("A World of Hurt," "Goodbye").
BUILT TO SPILL
You in Reverse
Like Uncle Neil says, "It's all one songexcept for that flamenco thing" ("Conventional Wisdom," "Mess With Time").
Club carnaval of the mind ("De Dar Dó," "Azougue").
Alive & Wired
Their rough and rowdy waystwo CDs worth ("Time Bomb," "Barrier Reef").
Sees all the colors of the Cadillac at the Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden, hitchhikes on the Stinson Beach road ("My Baby Love the Western Violence," "Link Wray's Girlfriend").
(Putumayo World Music)
Sweet and stretchy in its commercial version, just like the taffy (Bendeniz, "Kirmizi Biber"; Nilgül, "Pis Pisla").
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO URBAN LATINO
(World Music Circuit)
A noisy mess from rock to ska to hip-hop, with catchy politicos prominent and a German for spice (Zona Marginal, "No Mas"; Yerba Brava, "Sos Un Cheto").
The best of these songs are so perfectly put they thrive solo acousticbut could still use a band ("Ballad of Bitter Honey," "I Wasn't Really Drunk").
THE NEW ORLEANS SOCIAL CLUB
Sing Me Back Home
Mix winning sincerity with formal nostalgia, much like the Cuban franchise holder (Cyrille Neville, "This Is My Country"; John Boutt "Why").
Never mind the wimp beatsif he were my son I'd be so proud ("Internet Relationships," "Download This Song").
The B. Coming
Scared straight enough to rap about being paranoid ("I Can't Go On This Way," "Feel It in the Air").
Music for some occasions ("Workingman's Palace," "Lost in America").
HANK WILLIAMS III
Straight to Hell
"Kid Rock don't come from where I come from"and, oh yeah, "if you thought so goddamn you're fucking dumb" ("Pills I Took," "Thrown Out of the Bar").
"Something Clicked and I Fell Off the Edge"
(Retreat, Dim Mak)
"Keys," "The Cool Thing to Do"
(Things Go Better With RJ and AL, Rhymesayers Entertainment)
(Symbionese Liberation Album, Disgruntled/Amalgam Entertainment)
"There Stands the Glass"
(Pay the Devil, Lost Highway)
En Este Momento
This Old Road
The Minstrel Show
RAY PARKER JR
Crammed Discs, 43 Rue General Patton, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, crammed.be;
Epitaph, 2798 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood CA 90026, epitaph.com;
Horris, c/o Nettwerk America, Suite 304, 8730 Wilshire Boulevard,
Beverly Hills CA 90211, nettwerkamerica.com;
Hyena, 250 West 57 Street, Suite 725, NYC 10107, hyenarecords.com;
K, PO Box 7154, Olympia WA 98507, krecs.com;
New West, LLC PO Box 33156, Austin TX 78674-0156, newwestrecords.com;
ROIR, PO Box 501, Prince Street Station, NYC 10012, roir-usa.com;
SpinArt, PO Box 1798, NYC 10156-1798, spinartrecords.com;
What's Your Rupture?, whatsyourrupture.com;
World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England, email@example.com;