Bob Marley

Before he became the dreadlocked messiah of reggae in the mid-'70s, Marley (1945-1981) yearned to expand his musical horizons beyond his native Jamaica. The big prize was America, and Marley saw the fervent rhythms of R&B and soul as his ticket to ride. So, in 1967-68, Marley and his backup singers, the Wailers, recorded these nine soul-based songs in Jamaica with some of Aretha Franklin's musicians. On this meticulous restoration of those sessions, producers Joe Venneri and Arthur Jenkins have remixed songs like "What Goes Around Comes Around," which has a deep, bubbling bass line, for the dance-club crowd. Others, like the modest R&B ditty "Splish for My Splash," just percolate along with the distinctive if then-nascent rhythm called reggae. It was not until Eric Clapton had a hit with Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" in 1974 that the rest of the world "discovered" the Rastafarian's musical gifts. But years before, as this collection of gems attests, Marley was sowing the seeds of greatness. (JAD)

Altan

Like the morning mist rising from County Donegal's Loch Altan, the music played by the band that bears its name reflects a beauty steeped in Irish mysticism. The band's first album on a major label is a heartfelt collection of stirring jigs, reels and hornpipes and of soulful folk ballads. It is sure to strengthen its reputation as one of the finest traditional bands in Ireland and solidify its growing following in the U.S.

It's also Altan's first album since co-founder and flute player Frankie Kennedy died of cancer in 1994. His wife and cofounder Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh (Ma-RAID Nee WEE-nee) plays lead fiddle on "A Tune for Frankie," a mournful but uplifting tribute to her husband. Ni Mhaonaigh grew up in stark and beautiful Donegal and sings ballads in both her native Gaelic (translations are provided) and English with such an angelic voice that the devilish twists in the songs take you by surprise. In "Blackwaterside," a traditional song written from a woman's perspective (a rarity), a maiden done wrong declares that she will only marry "When fishes can fly/ And the seas run dry."

Despite the loss of Kennedy, the group's inherent good spirits clearly remain. The melodic interplay of Ni Mhaonaigh's fiery fiddle with that of fellow fiddler Ciaran Tourish and accordionist Dermot Byrne drives "Johnny Boyle's" and "Dogs Among the Bushes" with such gusto that it's nearly impossible to keep from dancing. (Virgin)

Davis Daniel

Singing with romantic emotion, wit and intelligence—and in what may be country music's most plaintive male voice since Eddy Arnold—Daniel may finally get his due with this, his third album. The cleverly chosen tunes range from the straightforwardly playful and nostalgic "Ruth Ann" to the thoughtful irony of "It's Been a Pleasure (Not Knowing You)" and the poignant ballad "What I Wouldn't Give." Because Daniels's voice is so sweet and steady, he might consider a female duet partner once in a while to liven things up. Still, unaffectedness can be a pleasure in itself, especially with a singer as focused on his music and uninterested in gimmicks as Daniel. (A&M Nashville)

Various Artists

Looking for a natural high? If so, just crank up this sampler of semi-classics and previously unreleased goodies from the soundtrack of Trainspotting, the controversial British movie about junkies opening in the U.S. on July 19. Unlike the movie, which charts the grim adventures of its lowlife protagonists, this disc is one uplifting joyride. Blur and Pulp offer typically arty, eccentric pleasures, and Sleeper rips through Blondie's "Atomic" with crisp New Wave sass. While a pair of pumped-up Iggy Pop oldies, a gothic New Order groove and Lou Reed's uncharacteristically fragile "Perfect Day" provide veteran star-power, whippersnappers like Underworld and Bedrock (featuring KYO) give Trainspotting its biggest boost. (Capitol)

>Bo Diddley

BO KNOWS ROCK AND ROLL

"I made millions of dollars for record companies," laments rock and roll founding father Bo Diddley, "and I ain't got a dime." Diddley, who's 67 and lives in Gainesville, Fla., with wife Sylvia, says he is still bitter about years' worth of royalties he claims are owed to him. And while he admits that he's "not hungry," Diddley (born Ellas Bates in McComb, Miss.), still has to tour to earn his daily bread. Beginning late last year, however, he retreated to the studio to record A Man Amongst Men (Code Blue/Atlantic), a guitar-drenched effort with cameos by rock acolytes Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Richie Sambora. "I just hope the record sells," says Bo. "I want people to know that I'm still here, and I'm not finished by a long shot."

What surprises you most about how rock has evolved since you began?

That what they're doing today is not rock and roll. Call it any dang-gone thing you want, but it don't sound like Elvis, Chuck Berry, me, the Shirelles, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis. It don't sound like none of them. Nowadays I'll be playing, and some kids in the audience will yell out, "Play some rock and roll!" Those kids are being misled by radio stations playing songs that sound like a leak-over from the Jimi Hendrix days. Heavy-metal guitars and booster pedals is not rock and roll.

Is Hootie & the Blowfish rock?

I like those guys but they're just not rock and roll.

How about Nirvana?

Who are they?

  • Contributors:
  • Andrew Abrahams,
  • Lyndon Stambler,
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Jeremy Helligar,
  • Peter Castro.