JOAN ARMATRADING ``The Shouting Stage'' (A&M CS 5211) - Armatrading's 13th A&M album is a remarkable achievement for several reasons - the deep, unmistakable quality of her voice; a group of excellent original new songs (including ``Did I Make You Up,'' ``Stronger Love,'' and ``Straight Talk''), which deal with relationships in a realistic way; and her own superb pop arrangements. The fine backup musicians include guitarist Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) and drummer Manu Katche (Peter Gabriel). PUBLIC ENEMY ``It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'' (Def Jam FC44303) - On their follow-up to ``Yo! Bum Rush the Show,'' Public Enemy once again transcends the tired ``I'm the biggest, baddest so-and-so,'' and instead raps social and political consciousness. While the Beastie Boys fight for their right to party, Public Enemy raps: ``Party for Your Right to Fight.'' The group's mission is to bring back black power, but its tough, sometimes brutal lyrics speak unabashedly to both blacks and whites. ``Night of the Living Baseheads'' is a chilling indictment against blacks selling drugs to blacks. These guys have taken the time to research their subject matter - listen up.
JEFFREY OSBORNE ``One Love/One Dream'' (A&M CS 5205) - Osborne is soul/pop music's ``sleeper.'' He hasn't yet gotten the attention of a Billy Ocean or a Lionel Richie, but he's one of the strongest, most musical voices of the genre. As in the past, the ballads here are the strongest material, especially ``Family'' and ``My Heart Can Wait Forever.''
PATTI SMITH ``Dream of Life'' (Arista AL-8453) - Smith's first album in nine years is more interesting lyrically and emotionally than it is musically (mostly basic three-chord rock), with its many political and biblical references and its dark, moody feel. There's not much of Smith's rep as a punker here - most of the music has a smooth quality rather than a sharp edge, although songs like ``People Have the Power'' and ``Up There Down There'' pack some punch.
CINDERELLA ``Long Cold Winter'' (Mercury 834 612-1) - ``Glam'' metal seems to be losing ground these days to the thrash, speed, and hard-core bands, and it's easy to see why. Cinderella, a favorite glamour metal band, shows its bluesy side on this latest release, but despite its massive guitar walls of sound and screaming vocals, this stuff is just too slick and almost antiseptic.
STANLEY CLARKE ``If This Bass Could Only Talk'' (Portrait RK 40923) - The man who helped make the electric bass a solo instrument has produced an excellent album that's a collage of all the styles he's played over the years: jazz, pop, fusion, and R&B. It includes a fresh new jazz/rock fusion approach to Charles Mingus's chestnut ``Goodbye Porkpie Hat'' and a couple of bass duets with tap-dancer Gregory Hines.