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Los Zafiros: Bossa Cubana (Nonesuch)

This gem of a reissue by Los Zafiros (The Sapphires) truly shines. Comprising 17 songs cut from 1963 to '67, Bossa Cubana just percolates with hipness,

This gem of a reissue by Los Zafiros (The Sapphires) truly shines. Comprising 17 songs cut from 1963 to ’67, Bossa Cubana just percolates with hipness, zest and simple beauty. The group combined doo-wop, electric guitar, bolero, calypso and bossa nova in refreshing tunes that captured the hopeful, youthful atmosphere in revolutionary Havana. Ignacio Elejalde warbles like the best of his influences-namely The Platters and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers-on “Dichoso Mar.” “La Caminadora” speeds along with the sassy rhythms of the “lovely mulata” Eduardo Elio “El Chino” Hernandez seranades to, and “La Luna en tu Mirada” slows down to shimmer as Hernandez sings about the “blue madness” of the night, the moon and you. This album’s immaculately romantic ballads and pristine production belie the untimely deaths and pop star excesses that the group fell prey to: Only two, Miguel “Miguelito” Cancio and Manuel Galban, are still alive, and they continue to work in music in Miami and Havana respectively. But this document will always be true, ready to revive memories of their brief moments of brilliance.

Original recordings produced by EGREM, Cuba. Studio: EGREM Studios (Havana, Cuba). Reissue compiled and produced by Nick Gold. Mastering: Jerry Boys and Tom Leader/Livingston Studios (London).

Ann Dyer & No Good Time Fairies: Revolver-A New Spin (Premonition)

By now, it’s hardly shocking to hear strange arrangements of Beatles tunes. After all, if “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” could survive William Shatner, nothing is too weird. On this disc, singer Ann Dyer and a crack band that includes guitarist Jeff Buenz, the very European-sounding accordionist Rob Burger and sax player Peter Apfelbaum, have radically reimagined nine songs from The Beatles’ trippy 1966 masterpiece Revolver, plus the Revolver-era single “Rain.” What this far-ranging group has come up with is a fascinating melange of styles and textures. Tempos, lyric phrasing and instrumentation are all light years from the Beatles originals. There are Middle Eastern and Indian influences in some of the arrangements, along with dollops of jazz and modern trance music flavors. Dyer has a pleasing, well-controlled voice and, generally speaking, she sticks to the original melodies-though you’ve never heard anything like the hypnotic dirge she constructs out of “Eleanor Rigby.” Not all of the arrangements work for me-“I Want to Tell You” is annoyingly mannered-but on the best tracks, such as “Taxman,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Rain” and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Dyer and her cohorts have come up with something new and exciting. Revolver will survive this, too.

Producers: Brian Bacchus and Ann Dyer. Engineer: Dan Brandon. Remixes on two tracks: Rob Vlack. Studio: The Hut (Berkeley, CA). Mastering: Kurt Lundvall.Blair Jackson

Hank Williams III: Risin’ Outlaw (Curb)

He even looks more like him…The debut album from the great one’s grandson is certainly more rock ‘n’ roll than Hank Williams’ records were, but the songs are totally authentic in a raw and real country way. And his voice has that wonderful, mournful hillbilly quality that hearkens back to the sound of perfect songs like “Cold Cold Heart.” Williams III also acknowledges Wayne “The Train” Hancock-who until now, has been the neotraditionalist’s favorite rocking Hank soundalike-by covering a couple of his songs and recommending his albums in the Risin’ Outlaw liner notes. This is about as for-real as country gets these days: rhythmic guitar playing, spirited fiddling and great singing. Guess sometimes genius skips a generation.

Producer: Chuck Howard. Engineer: Bob Campbell-Smith, Jeffery Wood (mixing on four tracks) and Jim Demaire (mixed three tracks). Recording Studios: Curb, Woodland, and KD Studios (all in Nashville, TN). Mixing Studios: Fantasy Studios (Berkeley, CA), Curb and Hum Depot (Nashville). Mastering: Denny Purcell/Georgetown Masters (Nashville).