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Joan Osborne - Relish
(Blue Gorilla/Mercury): This major-label debut was released a while ago to rave reviews. Only recently, however, has it been topping the charts with singles "One of Us" and "Sister Theresa." The Kentucky singer-songwriter offers a soulful mix of blues and rock, sounding a bit like Bonnie Raitt on "Right Hand Man" and especially on "Dracula Moon." But the songs "Get Naked" and "Help Me" may leave you wondering why they were ever recorded. Overall, Osborne's songs are appealingly thought-provoking.
- Deb Purington
Steve Reich - The Cave
(Nonesuch): To assemble the libretto for this unconventional opera, composer Reich and video artist Beryl Korot asked people to share their opinions and insights regarding five Old Testament figures. Pursuing his longtime interest in the melodies our voices produce when we speak, Reich then arranged the recordings into an elegant structure - the first act focuses on Israelis, the second on Palestinians, the third on Americans - and composed music that underscores the beauty of the spoken words. The piece is more impressive in its multimedia stage version, but this two-disc recording is lithe and lively enough to be a major entry in Reich's brilliant body of work.
- David Sterritt
King Sunny Ade - E Dide (Get Up) (Mesa Records): This Nigerian guitarist introduced the joys of "Juju music" to the the world. After years spent solidifying a business empire, Ade has returned with his first US studio recording in 10 years. Accompanied by his African Beats Band, he plays complex, rhythm-heavy songs (with lyrics in his native Yoruba language). The result is music infused with such American influences as contemporary blues and country, delivered in crisp, modern arrangements using electronic instruments and the pedal steel guitar.
- Frank Scheck