News on Richard Marx, Fela Kuti, Wainwright

MarxIn addition to a new album due Aug. 10 on Manhattan/EMI and continuing to write and produce for a number of artists, Richard Marx is now working with Sony to develop acts. First up is new Columbia act Valli Girls, a pop group whose members are 13- to 19-year-old females.

"They were playing for me in this little conference room, and this girl was singing like she's at the Grammys. I was like, 'Sign me up!' " Marx tells Billboard. He doesn't know whether his role will be as producer, writer or both, but such fluidity is one benefit of the Sony arrangement.

Marx has had tremendous success as a writer and/or producer over the last few years for such acts as 'N Sync, SheDaisy, Emerson Drive and Luther Vandross, with whom he snared song of the year honors at this year's Grammy Awards for "Dance With My Father." It was after that Grammy win that Sony Music U.S. president Don Ienner approached Marx about working with Sony's A&R staff.

The deal allows Marx to continue to write for and produce non-Sony artists. The only exclusive angle is on signing acts. "Donnie said to me that if I got my ears on any new talent, that he wanted to hear them before anyone else does," Marx says.


-- Melinda Newman, L.A.







BlackAs tipped here in December, Quannum will on Sept. 7 release "The Underground Spiritual Game," a mix CD of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti's music spearheaded by Blackalicious' Chief Xcel. The project was previously released internationally on French label Barclay.

According to Xcel, organizers originally wanted him to remix Kuti's entire catalog, which spans 30+ albums. "So rather than do it all at one time, I decided to chop it off little by little," he says. "Hopefully this will be the first in a long list of remixes I do of Fela's music."

In addition to working on the next Blackalicious record, Xcel is eyeing an Oct. 5 release for "Ambush," the debut album from his Maroons project with Lateef.


-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.







WainAs the U.S. presidential campaigns get into full swing with today's start of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III has posted a new politically charged song on his official Web site. Available as a free download, "President's Day" is a decidedly anti-George Bush song recorded recently at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif.

"It is my sincere hope that those of you who like the song and approve of my plan will assist me in spreading the word about 'Presidents' Day' in order to inform and/or inflame any swing voters out there who remain ambivalent or apathetic about the current administration and its reckless, dreadful policies," the artist writes on the site.

Wainwright's most recent release is last year's live set, "So Damn Happy," released by Sanctuary Records.


-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.