ANITA BAKER ``Giving You the Best That I Got'' (Elektra 60897-1) - Anita Baker's eagerly awaited second album is easily as excellent as her award-winning ``Rapture,'' and, again, is a collection of mostly ballads - a feat few contemporary pop singers can pull off successfully - but Baker is a perfectionist. The songs themselves, - all love songs - are first-rate, and she sings them with great depth of feeling and sensitivity, not only for the lyrics, but for the music as well. Especially winning are ``Priceless,'' and the title tune - a Baker original. KEITH RICHARDS ``Talk Is Cheap'' (Virgin 90973-1) - The album deserves a healthy ``Bravo!'' Keith Richards proves that he's got his own non-Rolling Stone identity on his debut solo outing - a loose, freewheeling collection of songs. There's plenty of hard-kicking rock here, but the most satisfying songs of all are the R&B/ballad duet with Sarah Dash, ``Make No Mistake,'' and the captivating, sultry slow groove, ``Rockawhile'' - a potential rock classic. Richards's unassuming, rasping non-voice is, oddly, a plus throughout the album.
BANGLES ``Everything'' (Columbia OC 44056) - A more suitable title for this album might have been ``Not Much.'' With all due respect to the popularity of this all-female pop group, its latest release shows little improvement in its amateurish (and often off-key) singing. The songs aren't bad, and even the arrangements, while a bit over-produced, are listenable and sometimes catchy. But the absolutely essential ingredients - real vocal and musical ability - unfortunately seem to be lacking.
FISHBONE ``Truth and Soul'' (Columbia FC 40891) - Rock, R&B funk, reggae, jazz, pop, blues, even thrash metal - Fishbone continues to do it all without sounding fragmented on its latest release. And the group continues to defy musical and racial stereotypes in this collection of mostly original songs. The lyrics touch on a number of social issues, and include a song about Howard Beach (``Slow Bus Movin'''), another about divorce (``Ma and Pa''), and still another entitled ``Subliminal Fascism.'' The music is immensely appealing: memorable tunes and finger-snapping rhythms.
TAKE SIX ``Take Six'' (Reprise 9 25670-4) - Try to imagine a vocal group like the Hi-Los, except with six voices, all of them Stevie Wonder. That'll give you an idea of the magic and electrifying harmonies of this contemporary, hip, a cappella gospel group. Jazz and R&B influences give the music an edge, and the arrangements, by the group's own singer Mark Kibble, are mighty sophisticated. A real spine-tingler.
JOACHIM K"UHN, DANIEL HUMAIR, AND J.F. JENNY-CLARK ``From Time to Time Free'' (CMP CD 35) - Here's something refreshing from the international jazz scene. German pianist K"uhn, French bassist Jenny-Clark, and Swiss drummer Humair make up this adventurous trio. K"uhn is a muscular, passionate pianist with an impressive technique. He is neatly complemented, rather than just accompanied, by his talented cohorts. Elements of the European avant-garde are evident, but not overwhelming, in this fascinating set of mostly original compositions.