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TAJ MAHAL ``Taj'' (Gramavision 18-8611-1, also on cassette and CD) -- Taj Mahal's first album in eight years is a mix of pop, reggae, calypso, soul, and shuffle. His voice sounds pleasantly gravelly, and the songs are fun and catchy - mostly lighthearted, hand-clapping, sing-along stuff. This one will grow on you. -- Amy Duncan THE SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS ``Gun-Shy'' (Elektra 9 60488-1) -- The foot-stomping, aggressive sound of this emerging British rock band revolves around the driving drums of Kenny Harris and the Rolling Stones/Bob Dylanish half-talking, half-singing vocals of leader/guitarist Bill Carter and bassist Chris Thompson. The lyrics are mostly about survival and individuality. Raw and rough-edged, the ``Messiahs'' strip rock down to basics. --A.D. ANDY NARELL ``Slow Motion'' (Hip Pocket HP105; also on cassette and CD) -- Ye olde jazz/rock fusion gets a fresh face with Andy Narell's steel drums. The combination of guitar (Steve Erquiaga), synthesizers (Frank Martin), and percussion (Kenneth Nash) with the steel drums makes for a really nifty sound. Best of all, Narell, who wrote most of the songs, is a deft improviser and a fine tunesmith. --A.D. CROSSING POINT ``Listener Friendly'' (City Pigeon CP-5001) -- Multi-reedman Richard Reiter tired of backing pop singers, playing for Broadway shows, and scoring for films, so he formed Crossing Point as a vehicle for his ideas. This debut album is largely a forum for Reiter's writing - some of it quite clever - and his soloing. It's a soothing jazz/rock fusion with a happy, jaunty sound. --A.D. SPECIAL EFX ``Slice of Life'' (GRP-A-1025; also on CD) -- Slick, new-agey, cultural fusion from guitarist Chieli Minucci, percussionist George Jinda, and company. The emphasis is on percussion - jazz, rock, African, Latin, Asian, and Caribbean rhythms. On this, their third album, they're reaching out even farther for a melodic pop sound, while keeping their penchant for interesting colors and textures intact. --A.D. KEVIN EUBANKS ``Face to Face'' (GRP-A-1029; also on CD) -- Eubanks continues to develop as a jazz soloist while he delves more deeply into pop, funk, and rock. This is the guitarist's third album, and on it he shows both faces - jazz and funk, backed respectively by Ron Carter's acoustic bass and Marcus Miller's electric one, along with percussion. Dave Grusin plays the Yamaha DX7 and provides the gratuitous string arrangements. --A.D. L. SUBRAMANIAM ``Blossom'' (Crusaders CRP-5784) -- A showy mix of pop, rock, jazz, and classical styles from the Indian classical violinist, who becamse enamored of fusion after he toured with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. Subramaniam is an impressive technician and improviser, but the songs and arrangements are boring.


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