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March 12, 2000

There are a few acts who are coming back after a little layoff expected to have an easier time with it than Hanson, Chumbawamba and Aqua. At the top of the list is No Doubt, about which there seems to be, well, only a little doubt.

* No Doubt's "Return of Saturn" (due April 11). Gwen Stefani and the guys hooked up with Glen Ballard, Alanis Morissette's producer, and have pushed further beyond the ska-pop roots. "We're having great success with [the single] 'Ex Girlfriend,' " Worden says. "We want to embrace the band as our own, but you never know what the audience will think. So it's great that our audience in this time of the rock dominance of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit still is into this."

* Toni Braxton's "The Heat" (tentatively scheduled for April 25). It's been four years since "Unbreak My Heart" put her among the top-flight divas, but this one may get the momentum going again. "She has a song called 'Spanish Guitar' on it, written by Diane Warren, that's going to be the wedding song of 2000," Steele says.

* Don Henley's "Inside Job" (due May 23). When Henley's last album, "The End of the Innocence," was released in 1989, most of the kids on the charts today were watching "Sesame Street." While not bearing a Santana-like roster of guest stars, it does feature appearances by Stevie Wonder and Randy Newman, with Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers) sitting in and ex-Heartbreaker drummer Stan Lynch the primary collaborator and co-producer.

* The Wallflowers' follow-up to 1996's "Bringing Down the Horse" (due date to be announced). Jakob Dylan's putting the finishing touches on his band's first album since becoming a bigger-selling artist than his dad. The group's manager, Andy Slater, riding the acclaim for Macy Gray's debut, produced along with singer-songwriter Michael Penn.

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