LOS ANGELES – Eight days after Hurricane Katrina hit, Michael Jackson announced he would release an all-star charity single within two weeks.
Nearly six months later, after questions about exactly who would be participating, the prince who has been hosting Jackson during his self-imposed exile in Bahrain says the song will come out by the end of this month.
In a telephone interview from Dubai last week, Sheik Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of Bahrain's king, told The Associated Press, "The record is coming along great. We've been taking our time to perfect it and mix it."
The song is currently titled "I Have This Dream," and it includes Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, Ciara, Keyisha Cole, James Ingram, Jackson's brother Jermaine, Shanice, the Rev. Shirley Caesar and the O'Jays, the prince said.
Missing are James Brown, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott and Lenny Kravitz, who Jackson spokeswoman Raymone Bain said in September had agreed to participate.
At the height of his fame, in 1985, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones brought dozens of superstars together to fight famine with his "We Are the World" anthem.
But while there are some platinum-selling stars on this record — Ciara, R. Kelly and Snoop Dogg — it's a far cry from the luminaries and legends who made 'We Are The World" a classic. The release of the song also had been repeatedly delayed.
"We were wondering whether or not it was ever coming out," Andy Gibson, co-manager of the O'Jays, told the AP this week. "They recorded their part of it two or three months ago."
The prince said the release has been delayed because additional artists wanted to contribute. But he declined to name those artists — "I'd like to keep that as a surprise" — or to name the company he claimed to have secured to sell the song via CDs and the Internet.
Prince Abdullah, 30, plans to release the song on his own 2 Seas label. "Michael did a wonderful track," he said. "His voice was phenomenal."
He said the song, which Jackson wrote, "is a message of peace and help and caring. It's a song of total oneness."
Jackson has been living in Bahrain since his acquittal in a harrowing molestation trial last year, and now has a house there, the prince said. He didn't know if Jackson plans to settle in the country permanently.
Several of the participating artists recorded their portions of the song Nov. 1, gathering at a Los Angeles studio, Bain said.
"James Ingram, Ciara, Snoop Dogg and Shirley Caesar were all there," said Eddie Levert, lead singer for The O'Jays. "Michael produced it on the phone from Bahrain. He talked to Shirley Caesar, he talked to James Ingram. He talked to everyone except me."
"Overall, it came out very well," Levert said. "It had a strong gospel feel. I think it's really a great song. If radio plays it, it could do very well."
"To work with him on this project was such a privilege and a blessing," Caesar said. "Michael is a true humanitarian."
Asked if the song's release was a harbinger of a new Jackson album, Prince Abdullah laughed and said, "I will just say we've been very busy."
"This is a raindrop before the thunderstorm,' he said. "He's getting ready to come out with a lot of bells and whistles. He's so energized. It's explosive."