WENDY CARLOS ``Beauty in the Beast'' (Audion SYN 200) - Composer/synthesist Wendy Carlos has broken new ground in this experimental foray into synthesized alternate tunings and ethnic scales. So much the better that Carlos is a talented and visionary composer - what might have been only a fascinating exploration of new electronic techniques is also a haunting and beautiful musical journey, infused with influences from Java, Africa, and the Middle East. A must for anyone interested in new directions in music. VARIOUS ARTISTS ``'Round Midnight'' (Fantasy/Milestone M-9144) - Seven different versions of Thelonious Monk's magnum opus (referred to by Orrin Keepnews in the liner notes as ``the national anthem of jazz''): the classic Miles Davis version; the distinctive one with Wes Montgomery, plus organ and drums; also, interpretations by the Bill Evans Trio, the Ron Carter Quartet, and Monk himself on piano. Lesser known, but equally excellent is Art Pepper's version, backed by an 11-piece ensemble. THE BOOMTOWN RATS ``Greatest Hits'' (Columbia FC 40615) - Bob Geldof and company in a collection of Geldof originals from the late '70s to the band's breakup in 1985. Includes the raucous ``Rat Trap''; the snide, funny ``She's So Modern''; the reggae-ish ``House on Fire''; and seven others that show the Irish rock group's stylistic mix (blues, reggae, '60s rock, pop, country, etc.), humor, and heedless nonconformity. VARIOUS ARTISTS ``Rockabilly Classics,'' Vols. 1 & 2 (MCA 25088) - MCA has assembled an eclectic mix of rockabilly reissues from the '50s and '60s - drawn from the archives of Decca, Chess, Checker, etc., some of them previously unavailable for over 25 years. Every style from hillbilly to country blues is included in these two albums, featuring Buddy Holly, Clint Miller, Jo Ann Campbell, Brenda Lee, Roy Hall, and others. RUBEN BLADES Y SEIS DEL SOLAR ``Agua De Luna'' (``Moon Water'') (Elektra 9 60721-1) - Blades continues to weave his magical, rhythmic Latin crossover music in the same vein as his earlier ``Buscando America'' album. His songs (sung in Spanish, with English translations on the inner sleeve) are poetic, and deal with the human condition - love, hard times, the meaning of life, and so on. This time, though, in striving for a thicker, more orchestral sound, the synthesized background parts are sometimes obtrusive. DOLLY PARTON ``Best of Dolly'' (RCA 5706-1-R) - How you can have the ``Best of Dolly'' without ``Jolene'' or ``Here You Come Again''? This so-so collection contains songs from ``Real Love,'' ``The Great Pretender,'' ``Rhinestone,'' ``Burlap and Satin,'' and ``Heartbreak Express.'' Best of the lot are the cheery ``Tie Our Love in a Double Knot,'' and the C&W ditty ``Tennessee Homesick Blues.''

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