Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week's alternative CD releases.

"An Introduction to Martin Simpson" (Topic Records)- The contents of this enthralling anthology were personally selected and sequenced by Martin Simpson himself and supply an eloquent overview of this peerless folk performer's recording career to date. The award winning singer and guitarist brings his instrumental expertise to bear on a typically wide-ranging selection of songs which encompass everything from the deeply autobiographical "Never Any Good" to covers of Cat Stevens' "First Cut is the Deepest" and Bruce Springsteen's "Brothers Under The Bridge" and a string of majestic traditional ballads led by "Clerk Sanders," "Dives and Lazarus" and "Sir Patrick Spens."

Fatima and the Mamluks,"The Hammer And The Heart"(Angel Air)-This newly assembled Angel Air anthology focusses attention on the short-lived project masterminded by George Kajanus of Sailor fame in 1983. The bizarre, dance orientated results were certainly a far cry from his former outfit's chart successes such as "Traffic Jam" or "A Glass Of Champagne," but diehard Kajanus completists should welcome this opportunity to add some of the great man's most obscure creative outpourings to their collections.

"The Best of Kenny Rogers & The First Edition Vol.1" (Wienerworld)- This easy on the ear audio retrospective shines a nostalgic spotlight on hirsute country balladeer's early musical exploits with the eclectic First Edition. Their consistently commercial repertoire struck a carefully judged balance between melodic charm and barbed social comment, with Mel Tillis' daring anti-war anthem, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" emerging as the cream of their hit-making output from the late sixties and early seventies.

The Flaming Lips, "Scratching The Door : The First Records of the Flaming Lips" (Rhino)- This interesting historical document showcases the earliest tracks recorded by future Grammy Award winners The Flaming Lips, with Wayne Coyne's brother Mark handling the vocal duties as the band launch into energised covers of everything from Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown" to the theme song from the gloriously kitsch sixties TV series, "Batman." The results may be a little less quirkily memorable than their subsequent Warner Brothers' output but joyous weirdness remains the order of the day throughout a package which should become required listening for Flaming Lips devotees everywhere.