NO. 1 IS THE NUMBER
Deskee (RCA 2429)
Ask the average pop fan for a term to describe the sound of German pop music, and the word he chooses probably won't be "funky." But frankly, there's no better way to describe "No. 1 Is the Number," the debut album of German rapper Deskee. His wordplay is rarely adventurous, relying mostly on short, choppy phrases and simple, straightforward rhymes, but what he lacks in verbal agility is more than made up in rhythmic acuity. Unlike other house acts, which try to humanize their high-tech instruments, Deskee and crew enjoy the tension that develops when mechanized beats brush up against a human pulse, a sound they exploit to excellent effect in the likes of "Dance Dance" and "Let There Be House."
BACK FROM RIO
Roger McGuinn (Arista 8648)
After all the excitement stirred up by last year's Byrds box set, it would be hard to imagine a better time for Roger McGuinn, the band's founder, to make a comeback. Even so, there's little about "Back from Rio" that could be construed as an appeal to nostalgia. Though McGuinn's voice and chiming, 12-string guitar still seem timeless, the material he applies them to is solidly contemporary, from the wry "Car Phone" to the ecologically aware "The Trees Are All Gone." Add in a set of all-star cameos, including a biting Elvis Costello appearance in "You Bowed Down" and Tom Petty's smoldering "King of the Hill," and this definitely seems a return to form.