Stevie Wonder | Reese Witherspoon | Ray Charles | Geoffrey Rush
Surprise! Stevie Wonder Album at Last
Surprise! Stevie Wonder decided to make next Tuesday's Grammy deadline after all.
After endless stalling, "A Time 2 Love" will be released digitally next week and probably make into stores a week or so after that.
This should be a relief to Motown president Sylvia Rhone, who's been waiting patiently for Wonder to give the go-ahead. The album was mastered and delivered to her for release just a few days ago, my sources tell me.
Stevie's last album was the phenomenal "Conversation Peace," released in 1995.
The addition of "A Time 2 Love" to the fall schedule throws a monkey wrench into the short list for Grammy Best Album nominees.
Wonder, of course, already has three Best Album Grammys for "Innervisions," "Fulfullingness' First Finale" and "Songs in the Key of Life." He also has a number of Grammys in other categories.
If "A Time 2 Love" lives up to expectations, Wonder could join likely candidates Mariah Carey, U2, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Green Day and Kanye West in the top positions. Stay tuned.
Reese's 'Heaven' Is Hell for Studio
Reese Witherspoon may get a lot of award attention soon for her work in "Walk the Line."
But the diminutive "Legally Blonde" star is taking the heat now for the poor performance of her current release, "Just Like Heaven."
She's not the only one.
I'm told that the folks at DreamWorks are livid over the weekend take for "Just Like Heaven," which was a paltry $16.5 million.
The ghost story romantic comedy, co-starring Mark Ruffalo, was tracked for an opening of $25 million. It has a hefty $58 million price tag, not counting marketing costs that would set the total coast to around $65-$70 million.
The anger internally at DreamWorks over "Heaven"'s take is compounded by a couple of things.
First, the studio is in the midst of trying to sell itself to Universal.
Second, its most recent release, "The Island," has been a total write-off, a very expensive flop.
At $126 million — plus those nasty marketing costs, which would take it to $150 million — "The Island" sank domestically with not quite $36 million in the till.
Box-office receipts from other countries helped soothe the pain, but "The Island" is still a disaster.
"The Island" has become such a fiasco that I'm told director Michael Bay was recently at the DreamWorks offices complaining loudly about what happened.
Bay is no Martin Scorsese, but his previous outings — "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon," "Bad Boys" — were all big money makers.
Bay is said to be taking a lot of control of the DVD release of "The Island," although probably not much can be done at this point.
Expect to see some bitter fallout soon at DreamWorks from the miserable performances of these two movies.
Ray Charles Sequel a Flop
If there's such a thing as karma, then the late, great Ray Charles is influencing it from above.
Charles' "new" album, "Genius & Friends," released on Tuesday, is a flop. Charles is no doubt cheering in heaven.
The album, as I told you a few weeks ago, is something of a fraud. It's a bunch of vocals that Charles recorded seven years ago with other artists.
Those artists' voices have been erased and replaced with new vocals.
Some of the new artists are people Charles may not even have heard of, and certainly did not know.
They include John Legend, "American Idol"'s Ruben Studdard, Idina Menzel (from "Wicked" on Broadway), R&B singer Leela James, the tonally deprived Mary J. Blige and a singer named Laura Pausini.
The remaining "new" tracks were provided by the immortal Gladys Knight, as well as Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Alicia Keys, Chris Isaak and Angie Stone.
The project is so cynically conceived that the record label, Rhino, has not even offered the usual 30-second samples on Web sites like Amazon.com.
As far as I can tell, "Genius & Friends" is also not available on iTunes or in the MSN Music Store.
Apparently, being able to sample the music online might turn potential customers off. Rhino might be right about this.
As of last night, "Genius & Friends" was hovering around No. 150 on Amazon.com's bestseller list.
Last year's Grammy-winning "Genius Loves Company," which the "new" CD is supposed to be a sequel to, was lodged at around No. 65.
Interestingly, a brief listen to the new CD shows a lot of audible edits where the new vocals by the guest artists have supplanted the old ones. As well, the new CD apparently still carries some credits from the original, now much rearranged, sessions from 1998.
The truly sad part of this exploitation of Charles is that the whole origination of the "genius" thing has been lost.
The real album to own is "The Genius of Ray Charles," which was released in 1959 on Atlantic Records and features Quincy Jones and David "Fathead" Newman.
This album also contains the greatest of all Ray's recordings, "Come Rain or Come Shine."
So it's nice to see the public reject the "new" CD. Maybe it will teach the vultures responsible for this project a lesson about how they'll handle his future releases.
Geoffrey Rushes In
Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush and his wife Jane — two of my favorite people — certainly enjoyed Emmy night.
Rush won the Best Actor prize for "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" — and most deservedly.
The HBO movie would have been good enough to release in theaters, and Rush most certainly would have been nominated for an Oscar.
Now the Rushes are in New York, where Geoffrey is doing some filming for Steven Spielberg's "Munich" movie, due in December.
I asked Geoffrey whom he's playing in this highly anticipated film.
"If I told you," he said, clutching his Emmy to his chest at HBO's delicious after-party, "I'd have to kill you."
As any good columnist would, I readily said, "OK."
But that didn't matter. Rush remained silent, and gave no hints of what happens.
According to imdb.com, he's listed as an agent of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. For anything else, we will have to be patient, I suppose.