Madonna will try to rebound from the first CD bomb of her career with a striking return to dance music. The sixtysomething Rolling Stones will try to prove they can make new music that rocks as hard as their classics. And Ashlee Simpson will address the scandal over whether she can actually sing – in the lyrics of a new song.
As always, the fall season features the music industry’s densest downfall of releases. Hundreds of fresh CDs are poised to clog record store bins (the few that are left) and cram downloading sites (the many that keep expanding).
Lots of acts that broke huge with their debuts will face the dreaded sophomore curse this season, including The Darkness, Jet, Sean Paul, Scissor Sisters, Gretchen Wilson and Franz Ferdinand.
Do they have the goods to establish real careers? Or will some end up going the platinum-to-poof route of Joan Osborne and Paula Cole?
We’ll soon find out. Among the week-by-week highlights, and curiosities (release dates subject to change):
“George Clinton, “How Late Do You Have 2 B B 4 U R Absent?”: In a bid to bring numerical spelling to new heights, Clinton teams up with the guy who reduced language to math to begin with: Prince.
“Ray Davies: A new solo album from the lead Kink.
“The Rolling Stones – “A Bigger Bang”: Their first studio album in eight years (since “Bridges to Babylon”) rates as the Stones’ first pretty good one in sixteen (1989’s “Steel Wheels”).
“Ben Taylor – “Another Run Around the Sun”: A new solo album from the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon.
“Bonnie Raitt – “Souls Alike”: A more ruminative album from the veteran blues-based singer.
“B.B. King – “80”: Pulling a Santana, the blues icon duets with a host of big names in honor of his 80th birthday, including U2, Sting, Elton John and Van Morrison. Couldn’t he have gone with younger, over-exposed stars? Like, say, Kanye West?
“The Dandy Warhols – “Odditorium or Warlords of Mars”: The recent rockumentary “Dig,” in which the Dandys do battle with their crazed nemesis, Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, could give this cult band the commercial boost they need.
“Paul McCartney – “Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard”: It’s been four years since Sir Paul’s last original studio work – and his last tour. At least he’ll have a few new songs to play live alongside ditties from some band you may remember from the ‘60s.
“Everclear: The astute, alterna-rock chroniclers of family dysfunction release their first album of new material in five years.
“David Gray – “Life in Slow Motion”: A more grandly arranged, and produced, work from the Welsh chanteur.
“ Iron & Wine/Calexico – “In the Reins”: It’s just an EP, but this one brings together two of the hottest indie rock bands of the moment.
“Patty Loveless – “Dreamin’ My Dreams”: The new disc from the country mainstay features guest appearances by Emmylou Harris and Dwight Yoakam.
“Queen + Paul Rodgers – “Return of the Champions”: A live album with Paul Rodgers (of Free and Bad Company fame) filling in for the late Freddy Mercury. Am I the only one who has a hard time picturing mucho-macho Rodgers squealing through “Bohemian Rhapsody”?
“Simple Minds – “Black & White 05”: Their big song was “Don’t You Forget About Me,” but most people have.
“Lil’ Kim – “the Naked Truth”: The soon-to-be-imprisoned rapper (on a perjury conviction) lashes out at those who snitched on her for this fiery fourth CD.
“David Banner – “Certified”: Mississippi’s main rapper issues the follow-up to his national breakthrough, “Baptized in Dirty Water.”
“Bon Jovi – “Have a Nice Day”: The perpetually chirpy Bon Jovi may be the only group around these days who could use this title without irony.
“Sean Paul – “The Trinity”: The man who helped Caribbean music break through to the mainstream returns with his first release since the groundbreaking “Dutty Rock.”
“Ryan Cabrera – “You Stand Watching”: The second album from the teen-pop cutie pie and (hands off, girls!) boyfriend of Ashlee Simpson.
“Def Leppard – “Yeah!”: A collection of covers including MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” and Bowie’s “Drive In Saturday.”
“Earth, Wind & Fire – “Illumination”: The ‘70s funk-pop band returns on collaborations with promising guest stars like Musiq, Big Boi, Kelly Rowland and Rapheal Saadiq.
“Barbra Streisand – “Guilty Pleasures”: The diva reunites with producer Barry Gibb for the first time since their “Guilty” album more than 25 years ago.
“Buddy Guy – “Bring ‘Em In”: The most solo-prone of the old-time blues artists, Guy lets it rip with guests Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Keb Mo and secret six-string hero John Mayer.
“Korn – “Souvenir of Sadness”: These heaving metal huns work with unexpected producers this time, including Linda Perry (who more commonly toils with the likes of Pink).
“Twista – “The Day After”: Rap’s most fleet tongue puts out an album that could make him as rich as he is famous.
“Neil Young – “Prairie Wind”: The wobbly-voiced icon’s first album since his disastrous hippie musical “Greendale,” recorded while he was being treated for a brain aneurysm, harkens back to his “Harvest” days.
“Ryan Adams – “September”: The prolific alt-country rocker returns with his second CD of this year (and the first was a double set).
“Toni Braxton – “Libra”: The sultry R&B singer’s attempt at a comeback after suing Arista Records (now she’s on Universal).
“Sheryl Crow – “Wildflower”: Her first release since finding true love with Lance Armstrong.
“Gretchen Wilson – “All Jacked Up”: The crucial second CD from country’s most popular new singer since Shania.
“India.Arie – “India.Arie’s Song”: A double CD from the self-righteous soul folkie.
“Jet: The second stateside CD from the best ‘70s retro band of the last two years.
“Ric Ocasek – “Nexterday”: The ex-Car singer/producer’s first solo album in eight years.
“System Of A Down – “Hypnotize”: The followup to “Mezmerize,” the Armenian-metal band’s hit from earlier this year.
“Roger Waters – “Ca Ira”: Inspired by the French Revolution, the brain-trust behind Pink Floyd tries opera. Hey, it worked for Elvis Costello – sort of.
“Fiona Apple – “Extraordinary Machine”: The biggest leak since the Titanic occurred when Apple’s third CD trickled out via the Internet. Now a reworked version finally comes to market – legally, this time.
“Cream – “Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005”: A much-anticipated live recording from the first concerts by Eric Clapton’s legendary power trio since, gasp, 1968. Ten-minute drum solo, anyone?
“The Darkness – “The Painstaking”: The return of caterwauling cornball rock. Will the Darkness finally become the next big thing they’ve long claimed to be?
“Franz Ferdinand – “You Could Have It So Much Better”: The best, and best-selling, of the ‘80s revivalists returns for CD No. 2.
“Sinead O’Connor – “Throw Down Your Arms”: The always contrary singer cuts a collection of reggae protest songs.
“Liz Phair – “Somebody’s Miracle”: On her last album, she sold out, and she doesn’t care. Which is good because Phair’s commercial material whips the bejesus out of her indie stuff.
“Jackson Browne – “Solo Acoustic, Volume 1”: The poetic songwriter’s first album on his own indie imprint.
“Dashboard Confessional: Emo’s biggest heartthrob goes upscale, with production from the prestigious Daniel Lanois.
“Outkast – “10 the Hard Way”: The soundtrack to the hit duo’s upcoming HBO flick.
“Dolly Parton – “Those Were the Days”: An all-covers album highlighted by the Mary Hopkin title track.
“Red Hot Chili Peppers: Their first release since the group forsook its early churning funk for crooning ballads.
“Scissor Sisters: The second CD from the campy New York rockers, beloved by the Brits, who have yet to hit in their own country.
“Depeche Mode – “Playing the Angel”: With the ‘80s back, why not go for the real thing?
“Dr. Dre – “Detox”: His production work, and influence, may be everywhere in hip-hop, but Dre hasn’t had an album of his own in over half a decade. Expect a (commercial) monster.
“Ashlee Simpson – “In Another Life”: Jessica’s little sister’s first release since her “SNL” debacle will directly address the controversy, which seems only to have enhanced her image as a scamp.
“Brian Wilson – “What I Really Want for Christmas”: A holiday album from the Beach Boy who’s on a roll since finally issuing his lost “Smile.”
“Aerosmith – “Rockin’ the Joint”: A live work from the hardest-working band in show business.
“My Chemical Romance – “Life on the Murder Scene”: The New Jersey punk-pop group, which struck gold last time, now shoots for platinum.
“Mary J. Blige – “The Breakthrough”: She already declared that “No More Drama” will affect her life. So, what will modern soul’s most celebrated sob sister sing about now?
“Bryan Adams – “Stripped”: An all-acoustic affair from the Canadian rocker.
“Fefe Dobson – “Sunday Love”: The second album from one of teen-pop’s better Avril wanna-bes includes songs written by Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett and Rancid’s Tim Armstrong.
“Diana Krall – “Count Your Blessings”: A holiday nod.
“Santana “All That I Am”: Another run through his collaborative formula pairs Carlos Santana with Big Boi, Mary J. Blige, Black Eyed Peas, Los Lonely Boys, Sean Paul and anyone else who can help him get on the radio.
“Wilco: A live CD from the ultimate critical darlings.
“Big & Rich: The creators of country’s Music Mafia return with a follow-up to their smash debut.
“Kenny Chesney – “The Road & the Radio”: His first since getting hitched to Renee Zellweger.
“Neil Diamond: The lounge smoothie gets the Rick Rubin production treatment. Could he become the next Johnny Cash?
“Bob Seger – “Face the Promise”: The Detroit rocker’s first new studio album in a decade.
“Madonna – “Confessions on a Dance Floor”: Maddy attempts a comeback by axing the politics and the pretension to take us back to the place she knows best.
“Shakira – “Oral Fixation 2”: The English half of an album released earlier this year by the Colombian bombshell.
“Carrie Underwood: The newest “American Idol” vamps and wails through her first solo CD.
“Hoobastank: The anti-Incubus releases the follow-up to its sellout/breakthrough.
“P.O.D. – “Testify”: The world’s hardest Christian rock band records with everyone from Gwen Stefani to Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu.