Lisa Marie PresleyDiana Ross Best Books of 2002 | Other Good Books  | The Bad Books  

Elvis' Daughter to Make Recording Debut

Lisa Marie Presley's long-awaited debut album is coming to us on April 8. That's the word yesterday from sources at Capitol Records, where Presley evidently has a contract.

So what would a Lisa Marie album be like?

For one thing, Presley has written all the lyrics on the album for songs titled: "The Road Between," "Gone," "Indifferent," "Excuse Me," "To Whom It May Concern" (which I guess she could perform as a medley with "Return to Sender"), "So Lovely," "SOB" and a few others.

One song, called "Savior," Presley co-wrote with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Another, the closer, called, "Better Beware," she co-wrote with her first husband, Danny Keogh.

There's no indication from the liner notes if Lisa Marie's songs address issues such as her late father, Scientology, her marriages to Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage, or Graceland. But one song, "The Road Between," is supposedly about her hometown of Memphis, Tenn.

Nearly all of the self-titled album was produced by Eric Rosse, an up-and-coming European producer. One track was worked on personally by Capitol Records boss Andy Slater. None of them were produced by Glen Ballard, Alanis Morissette's producer, who had worked on and off with Presley for years on the project. Nevertheless, a couple of the songs Ballard co-wrote with Cliff Magnes are included, and one the pair wrote with Keogh.

Also missing from the album is the one song credited to Presley in the BMI music database, "You Made Me Love You."

The long-aborning project has been the subject of much discussion, particularly since it was once rumored that Presley had a deal with Michael Jackson to record an album in exchange for marrying him. That project, produced by David Foster, never came to fruition, although miracle-worker Foster did record tracks with her.

Diana Ross: Why Is She So Unhappy?

Here's where Diana Ross is at these days: She's been busy making a fool of herself while trying to kick alcoholism. After spending time in rehab, she evidently drove herself out of the Canyon Ranch Spa in Arizona over the holidays. The rest, with all the swerves and curves, is history.

Why, everyone asks, is Diana Ross so unhappy?

For one thing, Ross is only recently divorced from a Norwegian billionaire named Arne Naess. He is always described as a "shipping magnate" but in fact Naess' greatest claim to fame is that his uncle, Arne Naess Sr., is a famous Norwegian philosopher and ecologist. The older man turns 90 this month, and he's still climbing and hiking the great peaks of the world. He is the author of many books including Is It Painful to Think?

Diana's ex-husband, Naess Jr., is also an inveterate climber, hiker and adventurer. As for shipping magnate, there is little evidence of that. It's hard to imagine Diana, with her high heels and fur coats, throwing that pick thing into the side of a mountain, isn't it?

Naess Jr. is also the father of Leona Naess, an up-and-coming pop singer who's put out a couple of albums. In an interview, the singer let on that she was one of 10 half-siblings from her enigmatic father. Counting Diana's two sons by her father, that leaves seven more kids from other stepmothers.

A couple of years ago I met Ross and her brood at a big Hollywood party. They were all dancing together very happily, although there was no father or man in the group. Ross looked lost, like a queen who'd lost her court. But she was more pleasant than I'd imagined she'd be considering her terrible publicity.

Her marriage to Naess had to have been a financial decision. Even though Ross lives large and looks fantastic all the time, she was nonetheless not a wealthy woman when she married for the second time in 1987. Like most pop stars of the pre-songwriter era, she did not author her Motown hits.

Songwriting and publishing is where the money is; performing hits is not. Like her contemporaries Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Patti LaBelle, Ross' earnings are directly tied to touring. When you hear a Supremes song on the radio, Diana does not get paid for it.

As for record sales, Ross' last big hit came 20 years ago when Nile Rodgers produced "Upside Down." Since then, she has made records, but they've had little impact on the charts.

So what next for Diana Ross? How about making up with former Supreme Mary Wilson, and appearing on Feb. 20 at the Rhythm and Blues Foundation awards in New York? The Supremes are supposed to pick up the Pioneer Award that night and sing a song. If Ross could get past her longtime hatred of Wilson, she'd be on the road to getting her career back, and being independent.

Breaking the Spine

Since the first two items in today's column are so completely shallow, I thought I'd include a list I got from my friend and former teacher Clayton Curtiss of the best and worst books of 2002. I've only been able to read The Lovely Bones, Atonement and Everything Is Illuminated in the last few months. Since I trust Clayton's judgement on such things (as well as that of his wife and colleague Mary), I pass these thoughts on to you, dear readers.

Atonement Ian McEwan. A classic. Makes me happy I met him.

The Crimson Petal and the White Michel Faber. Dickensian. Your arms will get a workout from these 800-plus pages. A great read.

Wish You Were Here Stewart O'Nan. A family gathers for a last time at their New York state summer home.

City of Bones Michael Connelly. My favorite thriller of the year. Harry Bosch rules.

Other Good Books

The Adversary Emmanuel Carrere. A true story that is almost too fantastic and disturbing to be believed.

Roscoe William Kennedy. Albany again. This guy never fails.

Austerlitz W.G. Sebald. A new, disturbing way of looking at the Holocaust.

Tishomingo Blues Elmore Leonard. Re-enacting takes on a whole new meaning.

Seabiscuit Laura Hillenbrand. How can a story about a horse be so interesting?

Hell to Pay George Pelecanos. George Bush should read this to learn about where he lives. Disturbing.

Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides. Not just for fans of WWII in the Pacific.

One Step Behind Henning Mankell. A Swedish thriller writer who also never disappoints.

The Story of Lucy Gault William Trevor. There is no better Irish writer at work, unless it is By the Lake's John McGahren. Maybe the best Irish novel there is that doesn't spend very much time on the troubles. This is really good writing.

Blessings Anna Quindlen. Not a great book but it is good to see she can still tell a good story.

The Last Kashmiri Rose Barbara Cleverly. A very "cleverly" written thriller. An Englishman confronts a series of murders in 1923 India.

The Kiss of Death

Whatever you do, don't read these books:

The Dream Factory Janet Leigh. I loved her in Psycho. But somebody break her typewriter, I beg of you.

Chasing the Dime Michael Connelly. Certainly the most disappointing book of the year. Not only badly written but totally uninteresting. And I love Michael Connelly.