Linda Ronstadt

The First Lady of country-rock has delivered a sweet and simple work—her finest, most focused to date. Ronstadt's voice is a consistent and precisely tuned instrument of vast range and feeling. Less reliable over the years has been her selection of material (she does almost no writing), but here she wisely sidesteps her weakness for bland pop commercialism. She does a Buddy Holly classic, It's So Easy, Warren Zevon's sardonically lachrymose ballad Carmelita and addictive Poor, Poor Pitiful Me and the Stones' Tumbling Dice. Ronstadt is strongest in the company of acoustic and pedal steel guitars, C&W harmonies with Dolly Parton and simple rhythmic arrangements. It's all here.

Bill Evans

The most introspective of pianists, Evans has mostly recorded solo or in tandem with bassist Eddie Gomez. Here he finds himself in the larger (and very good) company of guitarist Kenny Burrell, tenor saxman Harold Land, drummer Philly Joe Jones and that richly melodic bassist, Ray Brown. They turn Thad Jones's A Child Is Born into a quiet celebration, and Burrell's Bass Face into a bluesy ramble. The Second Time Around is five hearts in three-quarter time. It's not the new thing, but it's the real thing. Where's the melody in modern jazz? Find it in this essential Evans album.

Cher Bono Allman

Cher's collection of lyrical vignettes is redundant, with most of the songs lamenting love-stricken Indians, ne'er-do-wells and lay-around ladies. But this is Cher's style and her husky voice and trademark phrasing make them fly. Like her now defunct TV show, there's a lot of glitter—but unfortunately very little flash.