Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week's CD releases Tom Russell, "October in the Railroad Earth" (Proper Records)- Painter, author,acoustic troubadour and all round Renaissance man Tom Russell may have been widely acclaimed as one of the finest songwriters of his generation but for some inexplicable reason he remains a fairly obscure figure as far as the vast majority of record buyers are concerned. This compelling new album represents an excellent addition to the impressive body of work that the gifted Californian has assembled during the past half a century or so, and if you'd like to reassure yourself about the enduring emotional power of the popular song you'd be well advised to lend an ear to affecting narratives such as "Isadore Gonzalez," "Red Oak Texas" or the Jack Kerouac inspired title track.

Simon Stanley Ward, "Songs From Various Places"-This superlative set was the surreal brainchild of London based songwriter Simon Stanley Ward, who brings his unique worldview to bear on topics as diverse as interstellar visitation and the sad plight of the beluga whale. Ward's sterling efforts are expertly underpinned here by his versatile backing band The Shadows of Doubt, blending rock, country and Americana to excellent effect as they deliver memorable ditties such as "Jurassic Park," "Water" and "Wow," with guitarist Paul Lush in particularly eloquent form throughout.

"Poetry in Motion II" (Union Square Music)- The contents of this action packed anthology may have been recycled umpteen times since the first appearance of the CD format in the early eighties but they've lost little of their potency in the process. This sixty track celebration of the delights of pre Beatles rock and pop boasts contributions from many of the leading lights of the era , including Chuck Berry , The Everly Brothers and one-time Drifter Ben E.King, who chips in with his timeless 1961 hit, "Stand By Me."

Third Ear Band, "Music From Macbeth" (Esoteric/Cherry Red)- This challenging outfit were one of the more cerebral signings to EMI's prog-rock imprint, Harvest Records, when it began operations in 1969, and this absorbing package focusses attention on the music that they created for the soundtrack of Roman Polanski's typically controversial adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy "Macbeth" three years later . The evocative and eerie contents draw on elements of Indian music, early electronic fare and jazz, expanded here with the welcome addition of four hitherto unreleased tracks recorded by the band during the early seventies.