An occasional update of music releases

FOLK - Richie Havens - Cuts to the Chase (Forward/Rhino): After the glossy overproduction of his last album for a major label, this legendary troubadour returns on a new independent label, and it's his best work in years. Recorded without extensive use of overdubs, it captures the qualities that distinguish Havens - deep, sandpaper voice, propulsive guitar strumming - and it returns him to the material he does best. He sings folk and blues songs, many politically tinged, by the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Sting, Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, and, of course, Bob Dylan (``The Times They Are A-Changin' ''). ROCK/POP - Love Spit Love (Imago): Richard Butler, the raspy-voiced lead singer of the seminal '80s rock group the Psychedelic Furs, returns with this debut album for his new band, composed of guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer, and Butler's brother Tim (also from the Furs) on bass. The music is a definite improvement on the later work by the Furs, with a harder sound that features strong melodies and driving, crunching guitars. This could break out of the alternative-rock pack. JAZZ - Jazz Passengers - In Love (High Street): The Jazz Passengers, who were originally part of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards, are an experimental jazz group that have been making a name for themselves in the music scene based in New York's Lower East Side. This is their first vocal album, and it is a humorous, witty, and often elliptical commentary on the state of modern relationships. The vocals are provided by a cast of the famous and not-so-famous; examples of the former are Mavis Staples, Jimmy Scott, Freedy Johnston, and Deborah Harry (who is currently touring with the group to selected cities). Some of the lyrics are provided by acclaimed playwright-monologist David Cale.

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