OFRA HAZA ``Fifty Gates of Wisdom'' (Shanachie 64002) - Israeli singer Haza has taken Yemenite Jewish songs - both sacred and secular - and placed them against a compelling musical background that employs both traditional instruments and modern technology. The result is enchanting, with Haza's beautifully modulated voice punctuated by some percussion produced on petrol cans and tin trays. A superlative example of ``world beat,'' or ``ethno-pop'' music. PETER CETERA ``One More Story'' (Warner Bros. 25704-4) - Cetera continues his solo vocal career with a new release featuring many original songs and aimed, at least to a degree, at fans of dance music. Somehow Cetera's nasal, pinched delivery has a charm of its own, and this is a well-crafted pop album, with punchy, tight arrangements and appealing backup vocals.
THE ROBERT CRAY BAND ``Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'' (Mercury/Polygram 834923-1) - With an album every bit as good as his compelling major-label debut, ``Strong Persuader,'' blues singer Cray continues to sing about love and deception in an appealing combination of traditional blues and contemporary rhythm-and-blues.
MICHELLE SHOCKED ``Short Sharp Shocked'' (Mercury/Polygram 834924-1) - This feisty, rebellious folk singer/ guitarist/songwriter emerges from the underground to make her first album for a major label. The cover photo shows her being bullied by cops at a political demonstration, but the songs - notably ``Anchorage'' (a letter from an old school friend) and ``Memories of East Texas'' - are rather sweet and nostalgic, for the most part.
VARIOUS ARTISTS ``A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly'' (Columbia OC 44034) - Bob Dylan, U2, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Brian Wilson, Little Richard, John Cougar Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, and others contribute to this album to help raise funds to keep the Folkways catalog and the Woody Guthrie Archives at the Smithsonian Institution open to the public. A worthy project, of historical significance.
WHITEHOUSE CONNECTION & FRIENDS ``Power House Music'' (AJK Music A 667-2) - This is a sampler of the high-tech dance beat that started in Chicago clubs (now known as House Music) and has become the staple of dance and exercise clubs around the world. The Whitehouse Connection is made up of four techno-musicians, who created these pulsating dance grooves, overlaid with electronically produced voices and background laughter.
DIANE SCHUUR ``Talkin' 'Bout You'' (GRP GRD-9567) - Until now, this extraordinary vocalist has been known mainly as a jazz singer, although her rhythm-and-blues tendencies have always come through. This time she's gone all out for R&B, singing some great old songs like Ray Charles's ``Talkin' 'Bout You'' and ``Ain't That Love?''