Sunday  August 15th, 2004


New CD's this past week:

- Teedra Moses – Complex simplicity


Music news stories this week:
Aretha Franklin To Form "Aretha's Records"

Variety reports that Aretha Franklin is forming her own record label
called "Aretha Records." Aretha is due to finalize the deal with two
financiers next month in her hometown of Detroit. "The Queen of Soul" told
Variety that, "When you're signed to a major label you always have to give
up some creative control... With 'Aretha's Records', I will have 100%
creative control." The singer went on to say that when her label gets
started she will "Sing what I feel is the hottest and best." Aretha's
label is being set up primarily for her own releases but she told Variety
that if her son Teddy White Jr. -- who also plays in her band -- is
without a record deal by the time the label is up and running, that she
may release his discs too.
Aretha's next album for her former label will feature her duetting with
special guests on classic material as well as three new songs. Aretha
declined to give any further information explaining that, "Surprises are
always better." No release date is currently scheduled.
Aretha will be performing on Tuesday night, August 17th, in Prior Lake,
Minnesota at the Mystic Lake Casino. Her concert in Los Angeles at the
Greek Theatre on September 17th will be her fist L.A. performance in 21
Aretha told Variety that after her current tour, she intends to cut her
performances down two or three a month from as many as five.

Earth, Wind & Fire Ink Deal With Sanctuary Records

Legendary R&B and pop group Earth Wind & Fire has just announced that it
has signed a new recording deal with Mathew Knowles' Sanctuary Urban
Records Group. The band's long-awaited new album will now be released on
the SURG label on October 5th. The still untitled set will feature
production by hit-making production team Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and
recent Grammy winner Raphael Saadiq. There are also guest vocal
appearances by Saadiq, Floetry, and Musiq.
In a press release announcing the deal, EWF bassist and co-founder Verdine
White noted: "Mathew Knowles' tireless enthusiasm matches the spirit and
elements that we have built with Earth, Wind & Fire. We look forward to
working with the Sanctuary Urban team." Brother and co-founder Maurice
White simply added: "We are thrilled at this milestone in the life of
Earth, Wind & Fire."
Knowles, who guided the successful careers of his daughter Beyonce Knowles
and her group Destiny's Child before joining Sanctuary as president of
SURG last year, noted: "Earth, Wind & Fire has provided the soundtrack to
the lives of many generations, and their musical brilliance has inspired
legions of contemporary artists. For SURG to play a part in continuing the
legacy of one of the best bands of all times is enormous."
Earth, Wind & Fire, established in 1978, has racked up numerous Number One
albums and singles in the course of a three-decade career. Their
best-known songs include "That's The Way Of The Word," "Serpentine Fire,"
"Sing A Song," "Getaway," "Let's Groove Tonight," and "Reasons," among
others. The group has earned six Grammy Awards; four American Music
Awards; honors from the NAACP and BET; 2000 induction into the Rock & Rock
Hall of Fame; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame among other
The group has spent much of 2003 and 2004 working on the new album, and
earlier this year Verdine told LAUNCH: "We're working with people like
Raphael Saadiq on the record, and Jam & Lewis. We really like the record.
We really feel pretty good about it. Floetry wrote a song, Musiq Soulchild
wrote a song with us -- these are pretty hot artists."
The veteran band is currently wrapping up dates on its tandem tour with
fellow veterans Chicago.

Janet Jackson To Guest Star On “Will & Grace”'

Janet Jackson will guest star on an episode of the NBC comedy Will &
Grace, set to air on September 23rd. Access Hollywood reports that
Jackson, who admits she is a "big fan" of the show, will play herself. In
the episode, "Jack," who is played by Sean Hayes, tries out to be a
dancer. Jackson told Access that Hayes is actually a very good dancer.
Jackson said, "I thought he studied dance. I really did." She explained,
"There's a little bit of a routine and they go on to do their thing from
there. It's so funny. I have to catch myself because I'm cracking up in
rehearsals. It's just funny to watch them. It's hilarious."
The last time Jackson appeared on a television series was as "Cleo Hewitt"
on the '80s hit, Fame.
Jackson made her television debut as "Penny Gordon" on Good Times when she
was just 10 years old. She also had a steady role as "Charlene DuPrey" on
television's Diff'rent Strokes.
Many musicians have appeared as guests on Will & Grace over the past few
years, including Cher, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna and Elton John.

Boyz II Men Love Growing Older In The Genre

Boyz II Men, now a trio, are preparing for the August 24th release of
their new album Throwback, on their own MSM label. One of the
biggest-selling pop and R&B groups of the 1990s, Boyz II Men's Nathan
Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris are hoping that their album of
classic R&B tunes will make them hits with the smooth jazz and urban adult
"Getting older in a genre is beautiful, because people tend to look at you
in more ways than just a guy that can sing," the 31-year-old Stockman told
the San Jose Mercury News. "They look at you as a source of knowledge and
The first singles aimed at the smooth jazz format is a cover of Hall &
Oates' "Sara Smile," while the group's take on Bobby Caldwell's "What You
Won't Do For Love" was most recently Number 17 on the national urban adult
airplay chart.
Stockman says that Boyz II Men have always been about making good music,
while many of the pop acts of today are often just as famous for their
activities outside the recording studio. "We've come to grips with the
fact that, no, we didn't get shot, no, we didn't sell no drugs, no, we
don't have a drug problem, no, I don't go out with Britney Spears. You
know, I'm me; that's all I can be," he says. "I don't know how many
records that'll sell, but I can't be anybody that I'm not. I just have to
be myself and do the music that feels important to me."
Though the group is missing the bass voice of Michael McCary, who retired
after dealing with chronic back ailments, their new album still
demonstrates the shimmering harmonies that pushed "End Of The Road," "I'll
Make Love To You," and "On Bended Knee" to the top of the pop chart.
Throwback includes unique versions of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," Al
Green's "Let's Stay Together," the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand
New,"' and the Dazz Band's "Let It Whip."
Boy II Men are currently on tour with fellow '90s hitmakers En Vogue and

R. Kelly Takes Home Seven Billboard Awards

It was almost a clean sweep for R. Kelly at the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop
Awards on Friday night (August 6th). Kelly led the field going into the
awards with eight nominations, and he cleaned up with seven wins -- in the
categories of Top Songwriter, Top Producer, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artist, Top
R&B/Hip-Hop Male Artist, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Artist, and two
additional awards for "Step In The Name Of Love," which won Top
R&B/Hip-Hop Single and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single (Airplay). The only category
in which the singer and producer surrendered was Top Album, which went to
Outkast for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Outkast also won Top Artist (Duo
or Group), Album and Rap Album.
Beyonce snagged two awards -- Top R&B/Hip-Hop New Artist and Top
R&B/Hip-Hop Female Artist.
American Idol runner-up Ruben Studdard won Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single (Sales)
for "Superstar/Flying Without Wings."
Lil' Jon & The East Side Boyz took home the award for Top Rap Track Of The
Year for "Get Low."

Staying In Detroit Kept The Four Tops Together

The Four Tops co-founder Duke Fakir claims that the group's longevity is
due in part to staying based in Detroit. In the late '60s Motown founder
Berry Gordy moved the record label out to California. Most of the label's
acts followed soon after, yet the Four Tops chose to stay in Detroit. The
Pennsylvania newspaper the Times Leader quotes Fakir as saying, "In L.A.
you don't come home -- you're always on stage. (In Detroit) we had the
stability. Our kids could be together. We stayed a family. The group
probably wouldn't be together today if we'd moved out west."
The Four Tops will be performing with the Temptations on August 18th at
the Historic Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California
From The Heart: The Four Tops 50th Anniversary Concert Special, was taped
last month in Detroit. It will air later this year and feature
performances from the Tops' original lead singer Levi Stubbs, Mary Wilson
and Aretha Franklin. The special will also be released on CD and DVD.
The Four Tops are planning a US tour next summer with the Temptations and
the Beach Boys.
Plans are currently underway for the Four Tops to record their first new
studio album in 16 years.

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