Music News of the World: Oasis Storm
PUFF DADDY STILL #1 AS CHART HOLDS STEADYSean 'Puffy' Combs and his LP reign for at least another week as industry awaits Oasis' newest release.Addicted To Noise Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports: Call it the calm before the Oasis storm.The latest album chart from Billboard reflects what is likely to be the initial lull in new album activity before England's pop-rock sensations release their third album, one of the most highly anticipated of the year.With a majority of consumer and industry eyes focused on the Aug. 26 U.S. release date for that band's Be Here Now, the top 200 chart remained relatively stable this week. And don't expect next week to be much different as Billboard begins compiling sales numbers for the Oasis debut.As a sign of the slow-down in upper level activity on the charts, only one album dropped out of the top 10 this past week with the highest debut barely scraping the top 15. The most noteworthy developments were the reappearance on the chart of the Insane Clown Posse's newly labeled Great Milenko, and the Prodigy's holding strong in the top 10 for a seventh consecutive week.Meanwhile, hip-hop artists continued to claim the Billboard upper registers. For the second consecutive week, Sean "Puffy" Combs sat as king of the hill. His No Way Out album, credited to his Puff Daddy pseudonym, captured the #1 position based on sales of 186,000, according to SoundScan. The discs behind it flip-flopped positions as rapper-cum-actor Will Smith and the Men In Black soundtrack took the #2 slot on sales of 130,000 and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony dropped to #3, having sold 123,000 copies of The Art of War.Although the Insane Clown Posse's #66 chart position was far from a stupendous showing, the group interestingly played out the next step of what may someday be their footnote in music history. The Clown's Great Milenko album was recalled by the Disney-owned Hollywood Records in June only six hours after it was released due to what that label said was inappropriate lyrical content, prompting a feeding frenzy of other labels eager to sign the controversial white rappers from Detroit, Mich.The winner was Island Records, which this week re-released The Great Milenko with several songs originally expurgated by Disney. The new Milenko sold 18,000 copies this week, a few hundred units shy of what its predecessor moved when it debuted at #63. Ironically, the recalled album continues to sell, moving 800 copies this week and proving that retailers hot for controversy-generated sales were none too ardent in obeying Hollywood's retraction.While the Posse were busy finding their way back on the charts, Britain's hardest rocking electronica stars, the Prodigy, stayed at #10 by selling 79,000 more copies of Fat of the Land. The activity brought the album's total sales to 795,000, on its way to the million-selling platinum mark.Other debuts this week were lackluster. Grammy-winning Mexican sensation Luis Miguel hit the highest mark at #14 with Romances (57,000), while the media hoopla surrounding the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death propelled his new four-CD box set Platinum: A Life In Music to #155. SWV's Release Some Tension reached #26 and Morrisey's Maladjusted made it to #61.But no new album captivated buyers as the Prodigy, Puff Daddy, The Notorious B.I.G. or the Wu-Tang Clan did during their initial weeks of release in recent months. Such stagnancy is likely to repeat on next week's chart, which will reflect the final period of pre-Oasis sales and report on less than dynamic openers such as Fleetwood Mac's The Dance and Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion 2.When Oasis does see the light of day, its impact on the chart is expected to easily crowd out other debuts by artists such as Sweet 75 (with Krist Novoselic), Ric Ocasek and the Kelley Deal 6000.In other activity, the successful live match-up of Rage Against the Machine and Wu-Tang Clan apparently spurred mixed results on the charts, as Wu-Tang Forever dropped three spots to #30, while RATM's 1-year-old Evil Empire jumped from #189 to #181. Meanwhile, Smash Mouth continued its steady rise, with Fush Yu Mang bouncing 12 notches to #74, and Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness reappeared in the top 200 at #198.The rest of this week's top 10 featured usual suspects of late: the Spice Girls (#4), Hanson (#5), Matchbox 20 (#6), Jewel (#7), Sarah McLachlan (#8) and Def Jam's How to Be A Player (#9).NEW LOVE SPIT LOVE ALBUM ROCKS HARDLooking to escape Psychedelic Furs stigma once and for all, Love Spit Love leader Richard Butler breaks with brother and piles on guitars.Addicted To Noise Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports : Try as he might, former Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler can't seem to shake the specter of the popular 1980s band he fronted with his brother Tim.But he keeps trying."I don't think it sounds so much like the Psychedelic Furs. Really," Butler said about Love Spit Love's sophomore album, Trysome Eatone (Sept. 9).Even if Butler is convinced about LSL's divergent sound, and even if he is right, fans will surely recognize his signature cigarettes-and-alcohol voice and his narcotically seductive lyrics about love and loss.Butler said LSL's first album was lost in the shuffle due to the collapse of Imago, the label Butler was signed to at the time of Love Spit Love's release. The new album is coming out on Madonna's Maverick label, and Butler said he feels things are looking up. "My manager was just sending some demo tapes out and Guy [Oseary, Maverick's hotshot A&R man] asked for one. He immediately wanted to go into the studio for some proper demos and he loved what he heard."Butler said he's glad to work with someone who's so decisive, and to be on a label where "everybody knows what's going on."The results are a harder-edge sound than the first LSL record, especially on the almost punk "Little Fist" and the heavy, slide bass track "Believe." "I guess that harder sound just sort of happened," Butler said. "I must just be in an angrier mood about something."Witness the classic Furs-sounding, dark power ballad "It Hurts When I Laugh," during which a resigned-sounding Butler unleashes a litany of pains, groaning, "It hurts when I laugh/ It hurts when I speak/ It hurts when I talk/ And it hurts when I breathe."Butler wouldn't discuss the "everything hurts" song, saying only: "That's a bit personal, right? It was a particularly sad part of my life."With some vocals that sound as if they were recorded from a great distance, or perhaps through a poorly-miked megaphone, the song manages to be both dour and upbeat at the same time, with the jangly music uplifting the downer lyrics. Butler will only offer that the lyrics in question are not about a physical pain, but a mental one.In addition to jettisoning Butler's brother and Psychedelic Furs partner, Tim Butler, who played on the first LSL, the band has also picked up new bassist Chris Wilson, a former member of the Indians. Butler said the break with his brother came mainly because of his need to distance himself from the Furs sound and to try to establish a unique identity for LSL. "It's like a new goldrush," he said, "a chance to make new fortunes."On the sneering, aggressive "Sweet Thing" and the reflective, cello-assisted "7 Years," during which Butler sings "I want to be wanted in my time/ I want to think time is on my side," his voice sounds almost as ragged as on some of the Furs' earliest albums, a fact he said he relishes. "I was listening to [1981's] Talk Talk Talk the other day and I realized I'd always had a hard voice," Butler said. "And my wife Annie said she thought my voice sounds very different now. But what's funny is that in those days I wanted my voice to be hoarser than it was; now I have the voice I always wanted. Be careful what you wish for, right?"Even though Butler said he's not so involved with the upcoming two-CD Furs retrospective Should God Forget (Oct. 21), a 33-track collection covering the band's entire career (1980-1991), he does expect to pull out a few Furs songs when LSL hit the road. "We didn't play any on the last tour," he said, "because we wanted to establish this band's sound. But this time we'll play some, but not the obvious ones."Butler said he and the band, which also includes guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer, might pull out more obscure songs such as "Mr. Jones" and "I Want to Sleep With You," but he hopes people don't come to their shows expecting to hear "Heartbreak Beat" or "Pretty in Pink," because they will go home disappointed.And though the first single, "Long Long Time" and the almost industrial "More Than Money" have some electronic effects on them, Butler assures fans that most of what you will hear is "guitar-oriented.""The Furs used a lot of keyboards," Butler said about the decision to stick to more traditional rock instruments. "And I didn't really care that much for it. When you listen back to that stuff, it tends to sound dated. I like music to be timeless to a certain degree. Trying to absorb trends of the moment tends to date you. There's less keyboards on this record than you'd imagine. Just a lot of guitars. That's how I like it."SUIT CHARGING INDUSTRY DEFRAUDED ARTISTS WILL PROCEEDCurtis Mayfield wants his health and pension benefits.Addicted To Noise Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports : A lawsuit aimed at recovering union health and pension benefits for artists such as soul legends Curtis Mayfield and Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) will proceed, a district judge in Georgia has ruled."It's spectacular," said Joyce Moore, manager and wife of Moore.Last week U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper issued a pre-trial ruling that will allow a civil suit against record companies brought by recording artists including Sam Moore and Mayfield to proceed. The action charges that several major record companies have for years acted to defraud artists of union health and pension benefits by under-reporting money the artists have generated.While plaintiffs in the suit now include individuals such as Sam Moore, Mayfield, and the beneficiaries of the Jackie Wilson and Mary Wells estates, attorneys hope to expand the case to a class action suit that would include all eligible members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)."There's a long way to go," said Joyce Moore. "Obviously this does not prove the case at this point. But a lot of people thought this suit would never go this far."Richard Perlman, lawyer for the plaintiffs, predicted that the 3-year-old suit would continue to a drawn-out proceeding, comparing it to recent state litigation against the tobacco industry. "It's a class action, and you're dealing with a large industry control group defending practices of the industry."AFTRA spokesman Dick Moore said he had not yet seen the ruling and thus would not comment on it. Calls by ATN to the attorney for Norman Samnick, a defendant in the suit whose role in the AFTRA audit process is under question, were not returned.The money allegedly denied to members of AFTRA comes from the union's Health and Retirement Fund, established in 1954. According to a set of regulations known in the music industry as "the Phono Code," record companies are required to make contributions to the Health and Retirement Fund, based on compensation (record royalties) paid to performers.The suit brought by Sam Moore and others accuses AFTRA and record companies -- including Sony Music, Warner Bros., Rhino, Capitol, MCA, Bertelsmann (BMG), Motown, PolyGram and others -- of submitting and reporting inaccurate, untimely contributions that resulted in a loss of pension and health benefits for the artists.If it is proven during this case that artists were denied benefits because of under-reporting of compensation, that would open the door for a second suit focusing on the underpayments. One industry lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "The underpayment of royalties by the record companies is endemic to the business."Together, the suits could result in millions of dollars in liabilities for the record companies. "That certainly is one of the reasons the industry has fought this case from going forward as voraciously as it has," Joyce Moore said.The record companies attempted to dismiss the artists' claims from proceeding on a variety of legal grounds. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper granted some motions, such as dismissing particular counts of the complaint because they did not meet requirements to be pursued under ERISA, or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.But Cooper upheld the bulk of the artists' complaints, clearing the way for the suit to proceed according to both ERISA and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statutes.Included in the judge's decision were findings that the artists had attempted in good faith to comply with AFTRA's procedures, but had seen their complaints unresolved for years; that the plaintiffs may be able to support their claim that record company actions barred them from uncovering payments due to the Fund; and that "genuine questions of fact" exist regarding the record companies' involvement in the audit process as well as that of AFTRA trustee Norman Samnick.A key next step for the plaintiffs is to have their case certified by the court as a class action suit. Perlman said the case aims to collect compensation for "anyone who was or should have been a beneficiary of the AFTRA fund." The number of artists affected, according to Perlman, could be as high as 70,000.Don Engel, an L. A. -based attorney who counts both artists and record companies among his clients, said that a class action suit is the most effective way for financially "marginal" artists to address their AFTRA grievances. "For only $50,000 (compensation), you can't afford to sue. That's always been a shame in the industry. These artists who are deprived of health and pension benefits don't make a million dollars. They get cheated at the bottom end."