Midnight SyndicateFans of World Music stars Ravi Shankar and Harry Belafonte can now get compilations of each of those formative artists' key work.

Shankar's The Essential Ravi Shankar is out on Columbia Legacy and includes two CDs of the sitar-player's recordings, ranging from classical Indian ragas to experimental East- West fusion. Chicagoans can catch the legend playing live Saturday at the Chicago Symphony.

Meanwhile, Legacy in collaboration with RCA, offers The Essential Harry Belafonte, another two-CD set that includes his ubiquitous hits "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song," "Jump in the Line," "Mary's Boy Child" and 34 more.

 

Hilary DuffHilary Duff
Most Wanted
(Hollywood)


Duff has won the teen queen crown from former holders Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, by driving a dual career of movie roles and soundtrack contributions.

Most Wanted collects songs from her first two CDs and soundtrack appearances, plus adds new material.

It's a great introduction to her chimey, happy pop sound, and opens with the bubbly "Wake Up" (which parents will recognize from shoe commercials), and includes the crunchy pop rocker "Girl Can Rock," along with her take on the Go-Go's' "Our Lips Are Sealed," as well as 2005 remixes of "Come Clean," "Rock This World" and "Why Not."

She competes a little with Ashlee Simpson on "Mr. James Dean," the rowdiest song on the set. But most of her tracks are pure bubblegum feel-good pop for adults and kids.

 

Emma RobertsEmma Roberts
Unfabulous and More
(Columbia/Nick Records)


Parents who remember Jill "I Kissed a Girl" Sobule might be curious to check this teenbeat disc out for themselves and their kids, as Sobule contributed several of the tracks. Emma Roberts is a peppy guitar-playing girl who stars in "Unfabulous," a show on the Nickolodeon network. In her first season of the show, she recorded Sobule's "Punch Rocker," "New Shoes" and "Mexican Wrestler." All appear on this collection, which also offers the upbeat pop single "I Wanna Be."

Unfabulous and More is a great disc for kids and young teens, as, unlike many teen queens, Roberts' songs deal with non-adult issues such as the heartache that comes when you have to "Say Goodbe to Jr. High" and wearing braces "94 Weeks (Metal Mouth Freak)."

It's all light and catchy, with crunchy guitar riffs and soaring harmonies. Even if you don't remember junior high anymore, you may still find yourself singing along when she sings, "Hello love, hello life/hello pain, say goodbye to Jr. High."

 

Ashlee Ashlee Simpson
I Am Me
(Geffen)


Simpson's sophomore release is a big letdown, after the promise of her debut, Autobiography. Her first album combined solidly catchy songwriting with cheeky, teasing lyrics. I Am Me has little of either, though its cover does its best to emphasize her assets.

Simpson's raspy vocals still sound good, but the lyrics are insipid, rather than clever, and the music equally forgettable. The disc's first single and title track actually has some catchy guitar work, but the lyrics are, at times, nonsensical.

"Beautifully Broken," the disc's "big ballad," opens with acoustic guitars that sound vaguely like an Oasis hit as she sings of the horrible experience of being exposed on "Saturday Night Live" for lipsynching.

In the end, there's just nothing as memorable on this disc as tracks like "La La" and the title track from Autobiography.

Given the Simpson media machine, that probably won't stop the disc from being played to death on the radio this winter.

Cover your ears.