Fans of the Jazz Passengers' theatrical style will undoubtedly enjoy Live in Spain, and the album does have a few moments. But Debbie fans are better off waiting for the Blondie reunion album, No Exit, due out early next year -- or, better yet, snatching up the few remaining copies of last year's limited-edition Picture This Live, a collection of Blondie concert performances from '78 and '80.

-- Paul J. MacArthur

Alpha Yaya Diallo
Aduna the World

Composer, singer and guitarist Alpha Yaya Diallo -- who was born in Guinea-Conakry, and now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia -- may well be the harbinger of a new kind of international pop music, a mellow hybrid that combines African, Caribbean, Arabic, Black American and European elements in a seamless manner that will appeal to listeners no matter where they come from -- musically or geographically. Diallo is part of a new generation of African musicians, folks like Angelique Kidjo, Wasis Diop and Youssou N'Dour, who are able to retain their African roots, even as they take the traditional sounds they grew up with and blend them with global influences. Diallo's father was a traveling doctor who exposed his son to the various tribal rhythms of Guinea, as well as the music of Cape Verde, Senegal, Cameroon and Cuba. When Diallo began playing, all these currents flowed effortlessly into his music, giving his style a bright, cosmopolitan feel.

On Aduna, Diallo uses both acoustic and electric guitars, but his playing is always subtle and understated, each note ringing as clear as a bell, even when he's tackling the syncopated leads that mark the fretwork of most African guitarists. The tracks here, culled from the two albums Diallo has released in Canada, are all gems. Highlights include "Gogha," on which Diallo plays with the gentle percussive quality of a kalimba (thumb piano), picking out a melody that sounds like it could have come from Zimbabwe; "Dewe," a tune that combines the rhythms of black and Arabic Africa; and "Debo," a quiet acoustic-guitar showcase that mixes bluesy bent notes with subtle flamenco flourishes. Diallo's singing is never less than astonishing throughout, rife with grace notes and ululating ornamentations. The way global hit-making ought to sound.

-- j. poet

New West

Modern living has a way of making even the simplest stuff complicated -- especially things like God and love. So leave it to Billy Joe Shaver, the musical bard of common Texas folk, to bring it all back home with firm eloquence. Victory is just Billy Joe and his son Eddy, a couple of guitars and a dobro. You could call it unplugged, but "unfettered" better describes the music within. The presentation is about as simple as it gets, yet for all its unpretentious back-porch ease, Victory is hardly subtle. The songs here glow like embers lit by the filigree of Eddy Shaver's tasty picking.

Ostensibly a "gospel" album, Victory has a spirituality that's as artless and direct as a sermon in an old clapboard church just at the end of a dusty country road. And though the deity is liberally evoked here, the tunes are as much about how life is lived -- and maybe how it ought to be lived -- as it is a celebration of the power and glory of God. "Live Forever," "If I Give My Soul" and "When Fallen Angels Fly" -- all from Tramp on Your Street, Shaver's most musically adventurous album -- lose nary an ounce of their power in this stripped-down mode, proof positive of the solid-oak strength of Billy Joe's writing.

-- Rob Patterson

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