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2. The Persuasions, Sincerely (Bullseye/Rounder) Stalwart a cappella group releases one of the best albums of its long career; four middle-aged men who put all young harmony groups to shame.

3. Otis Clay, The Hi Records Years (The Right Stuff/EMI) In which a great soul singer finally gets out from under the shadow of his former labelmate, Al Green. A generous collection.

4. Robert Gordon and Danny Gatton, The Humbler (NRG) According to the liners, this live recording circulated in bootlegged form among awed guitarists for years (hence the name). It captures late axman Gatton with neorockabilly singer Gordon at a Berkeley, California, club in '78.

5. Various artists, Slow 'n' Moody Black & Bluesy (Pointblank/Virgin) Thrilling slices of deep soul music from the '60s and early '70s that were all but lost until this set, despite the wave of reissue projects. All that, plus a brilliant Little Richard side. But why are the Brits still giving us back our culture?

Paul Rubin (Jazz)
1. Joe Sample, Old Places, Old Faces (Warner Bros.) Veteran jazzster surprises with kick-ass excursion of simple, sweet tunes.

2. John Scofield, Quiet (Verve) Gil Evans-style horn arrangements and acoustic guitar equals welcome change of pace for this prolific axman.

3. Cassandra Wilson, New Moon Daughter (Blue Note) Spawned from Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell, this woman is sparse, pure and original.

4. Sun Ra, The Singles (Evidence) Doo-wop, bebop, space-age hip-hop and no slop, this 48-song set from Mr. Ra and the Arkestra is a mind-blower.

5. Josef Zawinul, My People (Escapade) A dash of Weather Report, a sprinkling of Cannonball Adderley and more than a touch of the Third World make for a spirited outing by this keyboard master.

Chris King (World Music)
1. Various artists, Indonesian Music, Volumes 11 and 12 (Smithsonian/Folkways) Field producer Philip Yampolsky has recorded 12 outstanding volumes and counting. This year's mind benders bring us Sumatran gong songs and Melayu bands.

2. Djivan Gasparyan, Apricots of Eden (Traditional Crossroads) Majestic Armenian flutework.

3. Kudsi Erguner Ensemble, Middle Eastern Roots Music (Traditional Crossroads) Near-perfect opus of works by Ottoman Empire court composer Tatyos Efendi.

4. Various artists, Capoeira Angola From Salvador Brazil (Smithsonian/Folkways) Perfectly captures this manic, African-Brazilian martial art-dance music.

5. Pandit Kamalesh Mitra, Tabla Tarang-Melody on Drums (Smithsonian/Folkways) Mitra puts poetry in motion, asea in relentless rhythm.

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Serene Dominic
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David Holthouse
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Brendan Joel Kelley
Chris King
Robert Meyerowitz
Mr. P-Body
Paul Rubin
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Ted Simons
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