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FALL PREVIEW / A Guide to the Season in Arts and Entertainment

Eclectic Lineup Expected to Continue Sales Rebound

Pop music: New releases from the Rolling Stones to the Spice Girls have retailers anticipating a big second half.

September 06, 1997|STEVE HOCHMAN

Retailers aren't relying on just Janet Jackson, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey to drive the market. After two years of slowed growth in the music business, they point to the 5% increase in sales during the first half of the year and welcome with cautious optimism what they see as a deep, balanced field of sales contenders.

That lineup includes strong representation from hip-hop (the already released Combs and Coolio packages), pop-rock veterans (the Rolling Stones to Elton John), younger rock forces (Oasis to a re-formed Jane's Addiction), country (LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna) to novelty pop (the Spice Girls).

"There's always a need to get people in the stores, and the path is significant new product from superstar acts coming to the marketplace," says Gary Arnold, vice president of marketing for the Minneapolis-based Best Buy chain. "Given the release schedule we've seen, this will be one of the premier years for music sales."

Here are looks at some of the most-anticipated albums coming in the next months:

* The Rolling Stones' "Bridges to Babylon," due Sept. 30, raises the perennial question: Are the Stones still relevant? Don't bet against them. Each of the band's last two studio albums, 1989's "Steel Wheels" and 1984's "Voodoo Lounge," sold more than 2 million copies in the U.S.

* Jane's Addiction is finishing the second of two new tracks to include--along with rarities and previously unreleased concert recordings--on its "Relapse" album in October. Retailers are uncertain about the long-range prospects for the album, but the band's enduring influence and fan obsession signals a high level of interest.

* Elton John returns with "The Big Picture" on Sept. 23, marking 30 years of partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin. John reasserted his place at the top of the charts with his and Tim Rice's songs from Disney's 1994 animated feature "The Lion King" (a soundtrack that sold more than 10 million albums) and in his own right with "Made in England," which sold more than a million copies.

* Paul Simon's "The Capeman," due in November, will be only his second studio album since 1985's landmark "Graceland." That alone will draw his legion of fans, but the album is also the preview of his move to Broadway, with his versions of the songs that will be contained in the musical he wrote with Derek Wolcott.

* Will Smith's album, due Nov. 11, comes hot on the heels of his huge success with "Men in Black"--both the film and his hit single.

* Babyface showed himself as a major soundtrack force with "Waiting to Exhale" two years ago. With "Soul Food," he not only produced and performed on the album, due Sept. 16, but he's one of the film's producers.

* The Spice Girls, striking while the fickle teen-pop iron is hot, have a November album that will include songs from their upcoming movie debut, "Spiceworld." No one's picking them for career longevity, but there's little doubt that the millions who have bought "Spice" will want the new one, too.

* Pearl Jam, continuing its history of on-again, off-again projects, is now on again for a new album in November. Retailers, though, are wary after last year's "No Code," in which the band explored some new musical and emotional territory, barely passed the million mark in sales and failed to generate much Christmas season heat.


Calendar Weekend: Thursday offered an eight-page supplement of events and profiled arts up-and-comers

Friday: How Seattle influences L.A.'s theater scene

Sunday: Sneaking the coming movies

Monday: An early look at the TV season

Sept. 14 and 21 TV Times: Our complete season preview

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