Sound Check: Aretha, Fuel, No Doubt

PUCCINI'S SOUL: Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin tells Reuters that she hopes to record an album of arias this year, saying that she has a particular love for Puccini, who penned La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly. Before she gets to her dream album, however, she will mostly likely cut an R&B LP with producers Babyface, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis.

RE-FUELING: Fuel will release a limited-edition version of the platinum-selling Something Like Human, adding an acoustic version of "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)," as well as covers of Elton John's "Daniel," Led Zeppelin's "Going to California," and the band's own "Walk the Sky," from the Godzilla soundtrack.

DOUBLE WYNN: Steve Wynn's Here Come the Miracles, recorded in Tucson, Ariz., with Giant Sand producer Craig Schumacher, is set for a June 5 release on his own Down There record label. The singer-songwriter said the collection stretches to two discs and 19 songs because of admiration for epic works like The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street and The Clash's London Calling.

SINGING GENES: Nona Gaye, daughter of Motown legend Marvin Gaye, is talking with record labels about recording a follow-up to her debut album, 1993's Love for the Future. In the meantime, however, she's filming Ali, with rapper-actor Will Smith, where she has a role as the boxer's second wife, Belinda.

HOPEFUL ENTRY: He sings in Spanish, he's a star in France, and now Manu Chao is taking on a new land mass. His Stateside debut, Proxima Estacion: Esperanza is due June 5 on Virgin Records. The 17-song album features rhythmic rock with socially and politically themed lyrics.

TRADITIONAL ELECTRONICS: Afro Celt Sound System is readying its third album, Volume 3: Further in Time, for a June 19 release on Real World Records. The 12 songs blend Celtic, African, and electronic music with lead vocal contributions from Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant.

JAMAICAN INSPIRATION: SoCal ska-pop act No Doubt is in Jamaica writing songs and working with producers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare on a new album. According to spokesperson Dave Tomberline of Interscope Records, the band's been listening to dance hall and reggae music, which may show its influence on the recordings. The release is tentively scheduled for fall.

SUGAR POP: Radio-friendly rock band Sugar Ray is finishing up the loose ends on its next, still-untitled LP. After the release, tentatively scheduled for June 12 on Atlantic Records, the band will hit the road for a headlining tour in July.

POST-RAP RAP: Grammy-nominated rapper DMX is working on his fourth LP after finishing his promotional work for Exit Wounds and serving a stint in jail. The album's spring release by Def Jam has been pushed to an undetermined date.

SHELLPHISH: Trey Anastasio's famed Vermont studio will have some visitors — but not Anastasio's bandmates from Phish. Primus frontman Les Claypool and ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland will head there this weekend to begin work on a studio album, tentatively due this fall on Elektra Records. The three performed together last year under the name Oysterhead.

NEW SURPRISE: Robert Bradley has shuffled the lineup of his Blackwater Surprise and is working on material for a new album. Billboard reports that part of the LP may be produced by fellow Detroit native Kid Rock, who has previously contributed vocals to Bradley songs.

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