In pop music, the forecast for fall is superstars - particularly in the CD stores. Frankly, the recording industry could use a star-studded season. With sales sagging for two straight years, the business is in desperate need of hits. And if big names equal big sales, there should be lots of cheer in the corporate suites by Christmas.
Things on the concert front won't be so exciting, however. Most of the big acts either have put off touring until next year, or - as is the case with R.E.M. - are forsaking the road altogether. At this point, shows by Aerosmith, Blues Traveler, the Bare Naked Ladies and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince have been confirmed, while local visits by Depeche Mode, Maxwell and Liz Phair are likely.
The biggest news on the album front is a new disc by Alanis Morissette, whose "Jagged Little Pill" has sold over 16 million copies since its release in late '95. Morissette will deliver "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" in November.
Jewel is also expected to have a new album out that month, although it's unclear whether the disc will be a Christmas album or the long-awaited follow-up to her octuple-platinum "Pieces of You."
Because there's usually such a huge time gap between albums, many assume that Bruce Springsteen doesn't do a lot of writing. Wrong. He's just very choosy about what he'll release - a fact that will become eminently clear when he releases a boxed set of unreleased songs this November.
Marilyn Manson, either the smartest or scariest man in pop (depending on whether you're a fan or a parent), unleashes his latest assault on decency, "Mechanical Animals," on Tuesday.
Dru Hill, the Baltimore-bred quartet whose debut dominated the R&B charts last year, returns with "Enter the Dru" in October. Also that month, Beck, whose pop-savvy, sample-heavy "Odelay" knocked the alt-rock audience on its ear, tries for more with "Mutations," while R.E.M. debuts its new lineup on "Up."
Here is an overview of some of the fall season's most significant pop CD releases. Keep in mind that many titles are tentative, and that all release dates are subject to change.
Hootie and the Blowfish
"Musical Chairs" (Atlantic)
A tuneful, solidly-rocking album showcasing the band's ambition and intelligence. Sept. 15.
"King of the Delta Blues Singers" (Columbia/Legacy)
Reissued to include a recently discovered version of "Travelling Riverside Blues." Sept. 15.
Los Super Seven
"Los Super Seven" (RCA)
Mexican-American all-star band, including members of Los Lobos, the Texas Tornados and more. Sept. 15.
"Mechanical Animals" (Nothing/Interscope)
The scariest man in rock shifts gears, moving from industrial clangor to Bowie-style glam rock. Sept. 15.
"Bathhouse Betty" (Warner Bros.).
A typically Midlerian mix of heart-tugging ballads and over-the-top fabulosity. Sept. 15.
"Nuggets: Original Artifacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968" (Rhino)
A four-CD expansion on "Nuggets," the anthology that helped listeners make the connection between garage rock and punk. Sept. 15.
"Brothers Gonna Work It Out" (Caroline)
Work it again would be more like it, as this is mostly remixes. Sept. 22.
"The Globe Sessions" (A&M)
With this intensely personal album, Crow continues to prove her mettle as producer and performer. Sept. 22.
Kirk Franklin Nu Nation
This adventurous gospel/soul outing includes cameos by R. Kelly, Bono and Mary J. Blige. Sept. 22.
Goo Goo Dolls
"Dizzying Up the Girl" (Warner Bros.)
After finally tasting success with the single "Iris," the Goo Goos go for the big time. Sept. 22.
"Speak of the Devil" (Reprise)
An especially passionate effort from the master of moody retro-rock. Sept. 22.
"Psychic Circus" (Mercury)
The first studio recording by the original lineup since 1979's "Dynasty." Such a standard to maintain! Sept. 22.
"Step Inside This House" (Curb/MCA)
A 21-song tribute to the songwriters who influenced Lovett's sound and style.
"The Complete Hank Williams" (Mercury)
A mammoth tribute, this 10-CD set includes some 225 tracks, 53 of which are previously unreleased. Sept. 22.
"The Complete Country & Western Recordings, 1959-1986" (Rhino)
All of Charles' country recordings, from the "Modern Sounds in Country and Western" albums to the '80s Nashville sessions. Sept. 29.
Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach
"Painted from Memory" (Mercury)
Who said they don't write 'em like that anymore? A stunning collaboration from two of rock's most sophisticated writers. Sept. 29.
"If Women Ruled the World" (Savoy)
A mix of standards and contemporary pop tunes showing that the Baltimore jazz legend's magic can be applied to the music of any era. Sept. 29.
"Is This Desire?" (Island)
There's a stark, synthetic edge to the music that makes it seem cooler than Harvey's last album, but the emotions are blazingly intense. Sept. 29.