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Album Cover Various Artists - Divas Exotica (Capitol Records)

From the perfectly-suited opening track sung by Ann-Margaret ("Let Me Entertain You") to Nina Simone's bawdy and anachronistically gutsy "Forbidden Fruit", this disc is one compilation that truly lives up to its name. The best of the film, musical and even literary divas are all represented here, from Brigitte Bardot to Yma Sumac to a track sung by Maya Angelo, recorded when she was a mere calypso dancer back in '57.

A great many of the songs here more than knock Madonna off her pedestal of "reverse exploitation" - April Stevens' blacklisted "Teach Me Tiger" predates the Material Girl by almost 30 years (and, according to the liner notes, was the song the astronauts on the ill-fated Challenger requested as their morning wake-up call). And we all know the power Marilyn Monroe had on stage, fronting a band or otherwise. This is an expertly assembled collection that may have finally found a time that's ready to accept and appreciate it.

by Holly Day.