Morrissey - Southpaw Grammar (Reprise): Famous for singing about loathing people because they are beautiful and for shedding tears because nobody loves him, mopey singer Morrissey has recorded a new eight-song CD that is anything but dull. He has deviated from his low-key style of rock and come out with a heavy-on-guitar, hard-rock album. Not that he's abandoned his whining: In ''Boy Racer,'' we hear, ''He's just too good-natured and/ he's got too much money and/ he's got too many girlfriends/ I'm jealo us.'' Listeners will find themselves singing right along, however.
- Lisa Leigh Parney
Vanessa Rubin Sings!
(Novus): Rubin is so comfortable with her voice that she can alter her phrasing to songs from all eras, and without a hint of pretense. She borrows heavily from her influences, no doubt Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald, but it's not imitative. Here are 12 songs - standards and not so standard, from ''Our Love is Here'' to ''It's Not Easy Being Green'' (Kermit the Frog's philosophical lament). The best is her version of Sting's ''It's Probably Me.'' Rubin used to be an English teacher in New York, which accounts for her cheerful and hopeful attitude.
- Jeff Danziger
* WORLD BEAT
Cesaria Evora - Cesaria Evora (Nonesuch): Listen to the ''barefoot diva'' and you'll recall life's tougher times. This is the remarkable gift of the morna, a musical style that comes from Evora's homeland, the islands of Cape Verde off the coast of Senegal. Mornas (or songs of mourning) combine the sadness of the blues with a touch of the samba. Some standouts from this all-acoustic release include, ''A Limit to Everything,'' where Evora taunts those who deride her country as backward, and the bouncy '' Consedjo,'' where she offers her daughter some bitter advice. Evora has already taken Paris by storm, and she's selling out houses in a current US tour.
- Scott Baldauf