The Goddess of Hip-Hop

Neneh Cherry Man (Virgin)

In my opinion, "7 Seconds," Neneh Cherry's and Youssou N'Dour's duo from a few years back rates as one of the most beautiful pop songs of the '90s. Now, finally, we've got a whole album built around this song. Neneh Cherry is the Eartha Kitt or Shirley Bassey of the hip-hop era: She's got an incredibly rich and flexible voice, which can soar from operatic highs to roaring lows, and given appropriately varied music -- as appears on this album -- listening to her becomes an aural experience of rare intensity. In the league of singing kids of famous musicians (Neneh is the daughter of Don Cherry, the great jazz trumpeter) she wins hands down.

Snooze The Man in the Shadows (Crammed)

Snooze is the alias of Dominique Dalcan, a French pop singer and composer, and there are at least three good reasons he hasn't used his real name on this album. First, the record is in English. Second, it's not pop, but pure trip-hop. Third, Dalcan barely sings here, using vocal samples instead. It's a wonderful record, interpreting the hi-tech genre in a charmingly continental way.

The Residents Have a Bad Day (Euro-Ralph)

For a less appealing approach to modern technology, you can check out the latest release by The Residents. These San Franciscan veterans of avant-rock have been on the cutting edge of musical experimentation since the mid-1970s. Since electronic gizmos and weird sounds have become common musical tools, these pioneers have gone even further, using multimedia. Their last three albums are actually just soundtracks for visual productions available on CD-ROM format. I can't judge the work as a whole, but its musical part, released on a normal CD, is definitely unsatisfying. Well, this means I have to buy a CD-ROM drive for my wife's computer (I rarely use one) and listen with my eyes on the monitor. It's hard. And I don't mean the disk.

Whitney Houston Preacher's Wife (Arista)

Another soundtrack, but of a very different kind. "Preacher's Wife" is the Hollywood movie starring Houston, and, judging by the disc's booklet, a very shmaltzy one at that. But the record itself shows a slight deviation from the mainstream soul-pop blandness that made young Whitney famous: The film's heroine sings in a church choir, so there are some quite impressive gospel numbers. In one of them, Whitney's mother, Cissy, excels. Then again, if you're look for a classy black spiritual LP, you're better off buying something by the Blind Boys of Alabama or the late Mahalia Jackson.

Many of the records reviewed can be heard on A.K. Troitsky's weekly radio show "FM Dostoevsky" on Europa Plus, Sundays at midnight.