Gloria Estefan (Epic 53807)
However much this collection of Cuban music might look like a homecoming, Gloria Estefan's "Mi Tierra" could just as easily be considered a voyage of discovery. Even though Estefan has long been a staple on the Latin charts, her music rarely delved into the Afro-Cuban idioms celebrated here, tending instead toward sentimental ballads and salsa-fied dance pop. This album makes up for lost time, however. Not only is the music wonderfully authentic in its blend of richly rhythmic dance tunes and gently percolating ballads, but Estefan herself has never sounded better, lending luster to the sad, insinuating melody of "Volveras" and navigating the call-and-response chorus of "Hablemos el Mismo Idioma" as confidently as Celia Cruz ever could.
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Epic Soundtrax 53764)
LAST ACTION HERO
Music from the Original Motion Picture (Columbia 57127)
Some soundtracks stand as albums in their own right, owing little to the movie they accompany, while others exist mostly as mementos, meaning a lot to those who've seen the film and almost nothing to those who haven't. "Last Action Hero" is a classic example of the former, being essentially a hard-rock collection that just happens to have Arnold Schwarzenegger's picture plastered across the jacket. Like most such compilations, it's uneven, but features solid work from AC/DC ("Big Gun") and Alice in Chains ("What the Hell Have I"). "Sleepless In Seattle," on the other hand, is strictly souvenir stuff, a pleasant (if sometimes incoherent) hodgepodge of love songs topped off by a predictably overwrought Celine Dion duet.
SONS OF SOUL
Tony Toni Tone (Wing/Mercury 314 514 933)
Given how much hip-hop bubbles through its music, it's hard to think of Tony Toni Tone as a retro act. But at the same time, it's hard to deny the amount of old-fashioned R&B; audible on the group's third album, "Sons of Soul." Although the Tonies sometimes quote directly from their sources, as with the Sly and the Family Stone-style vocal break in "My Ex-Girlfriend," the best moments here draw from a more generalized sense of tradition.