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XTC ``Skylarking'' (Geffen GHS 24117) - This artsy rock outfit has broadened its concept on this latest album with arrangements that expand the boundaries of the idiom. There is a striking resemblance here to some of the work that George Martin did on the later Beatles projects, especially in the harmonies and the string arrangements. WHITESNAKE ``Whitesnake'' (Geffen GHS 24099) - Derivative but powerful hard rock with heavy blues overtones on the second album from this popular British band. Lead singer David Coverdale's vocals are raw and fervent, and the songs are lyrically banal but musically strong, especially the emotionally charged ``Crying in the Rain,'' and the melodious yet driving ``Here I Go Again.''

SUZANNE VEGA ``Solitude Standing'' (A&M SP-5136) - Outstanding follow-up to her debut album. On this one the uncategorizable Miss Vega has her own band and sounds less like a folk singer, but not really like a pop singer, either. Her lyrics concern the human condition and are similar to those of Latin singer/composer Ruben Blades, while her gentle, understated style resembles that of Canadian singer Jane Siberry.

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DWIGHT YOAKAM ``Hillbilly Deluxe'' (Reprise 25567-1) - Yoakam is the wise guy who blamed the Nashville powers-that-be for the commercialization of country music. Now a leading practitioner of the back-to-basics approach, Yoakam offers his second album of down-home country tunes, sung in an appealing twang that sounds as if it might break into a yodel any minute. Great guitar, pedal steel guitar, and fiddle backup.

THE LOUNGE LIZARDS ``No Pain for Cakes'' (Island 7 90592-1) - Zany weirdness and outrageous eclecticism - avant pop/jazz/rock - from the Lurie Brothers & Co. Saxophonist John Lurie, who was the star of the popular cult films ``Stranger Than Paradise'' and ``Down by Law,'' is a talented musician and composer, as is his keyboardist brother, Evan.

MICHAEL BRECKER ``Michael Brecker'' (MCA/Impulse MCA-5980) - This is tenor saxophonist Brecker's first album as leader, and it's a winner. He's joined by drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Charlie Haden, guitarist Pat Metheny, and pianist Kenny Kirkland in a selection of jazz originals by himself and others. Brecker plays with authority and inspiration throughout, and he introduces the fascinating EWI (electronic wind instrument), which harmonizes with itself!

CECIL TAYLOR ``For Olim'' (Soul Note SN 1150) - It's been said that this is one of avant-garde jazz pianist Taylor's most ``accessible'' records. Though his music demands concentration from the listener, the rewards are there. Here he leaves no stylistic stone unturned, from cacophonous clusters to repetitive polyrhythmic patterns, to bluesy licks, to sheer romantic lyricism.

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