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Ofra Haza - Desert Wind (Sire) +++ Ofra Haza's first steps onto the international music dance floor were so lightweight that she seemed in danger of floating up to the ceiling like a helium-filled balloon. With Desert Wind, her second American release, Haza vaults forward to become a contender of substance. Haza is a pop diva in her native Israel, and many of Desert Wind's songs are tales of Middle Eastern culture set to a driving beat.

Haza's rich alto is most appealing when she sings of life continents away, as on Yaw Shi, a Japanese love ballad. Liner notes helpfully explain the national origin and meaning of each song.

Haza still lacks the intensity to be promoted from dance-pop to the more dynamic world-beat department, but Desert Wind is a decisive move in the right direction.

- JEAN CAREY Peter Murphy - Deep (RCA/Beggars Banquet) ++++ As front-man for the pioneering gloom-rock band Bauhaus, Peter Murphy secured a rather dodgy artistic reputation. For all of its originality, Bauhaus often wallowed in obscure lyrical images and repetitive, bombastic riffs. When the band broke up in 1983, the transition saw three-quarters of the unit hit as Love and Rockets while Murphy became a solo act.

Deep is Murphy's third, most ambitious, solo album. It achieves a

remarkable sense of unity through recurring images and sounds. His pointed lyrics form a powerful exploration of human spirituality.

Grand, sweeping chord changes, liquid bass lines, bittersweet strings and Simon Rogers' warm, epic production hold things together musically. Murphy shows his artistic maturity by bringing off such drama with ease.

- STEVEN VOLK Steve Jordan - El Huracan (Rounder) +++ One of popular music's true eccentrics, Steve Jordan lives a nomadic existence in the Southwest and Mexico, playing gigs, partying for days on end, and vanishing for weeks.

The singer/accordianist records sporadically, but his verve and virtuosity never diminish. El Huracan is another charged-up installment of Jordan's progressive Tex-Mex conjunto.

Jordan traverses heady harmonic territory on button accordian, which has a more biting sound than its piano counterpart. Streaking through polka-inspired Tex-Mex, sizzling Latin grooves and lilting waltzes, and singing with earthy soul, Jordan makes romantic music that retains the edge of his free-wheeling lifestyle.