Billboard Bits: McCartney, Willie Nelson, The Muppets

News on Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, The Muppets

PaulAlthough specific details aren't yet confirmed, a live album and DVD chronicling Paul McCartney's recent Driving USA tour are in the works for a November release. David Kahne, who produced McCartney's latest Capitol studio set, "Driving Rain," is in London with producer/engineer Michael Brauer mixing 36 live tracks for use on the projects. As previously reported, McCartney will return to tour North America Sept. 21 in Milwaukee.

Brauer says his objective is to put the listener 10 to 15 rows from the stage. Along with the concert experience the CD and DVD will replicate, he adds, mixing decisions are made in no small part by the songs as originally recorded by the Beatles. "I grew up with these songs, and I want to maintain their integrity," Brauer observes. "David also makes sure that the spirit of the song is again brought out. And Paul is here to listen to it. I've got all the original songs from the show on my iPod, so I'll listen to it, asking myself, 'What were the elements that made it so cool?' A classic is a classic -- you don't want to mess with it."

Before the new dates begin, McCartney will join Brian Wilson for the Open Hearts. Clear Minds benefit concert, to be held Sept. 18 in Los Angeles.

-- Christopher Walsh, N.Y.

Country legend Willie Nelson is coming to the aid of flood victims in his home state of Texas, just as he did four years ago. Nelson will perform at a $100-a-ticket concert on Aug. 5 at Gruene Hall, north of New Braunfels, Texas. The money raised will go to New Braunfels Rebounds, which repairs homes for owners without flood insurance. Nelson also performed at a benefit in 1998 for South Texas flood victims. "When Willie did the benefit show in '98, it not only raised a lot of money, it raised a lot of people's spirits as well," said Mattson Rainer, program director for KNBT Radio. Torrential rains have killed nine in Southern Texas and caused more than $1 billion in property losses from flooding over the past few weeks. Twenty-six counties have been declared federal disaster areas, with some of the hardest-hit areas being along the Guadalupe and Comal rivers in New Braunfels and surrounding Comal County.

Though silver and gold are the colors most often associated with big anniversaries, the entertainment industry is seeing green as it embraces the 25th anniversary of "The Muppet Show." In addition to a host of video releases, Rhino has compiled the album "The Muppets 25th Anniversary Celebration -- Who Let the Frogs Out," for a Sept. 17 release. The 27-song disc contains original songs from "The Muppet Show" and Muppets feature films, some of which have never been released on CD and/or have been out of print for almost a decade. Columbia, which picked up rights to the Jim Henson Co. home entertainment library in 1997, will bring two "Best of the Muppet Show" collections on VHS/DVD to retail for the first time Sept. 3. Until now, the titles -- which contain three classic episodes each -- have been sold only via direct response as part of a TV campaign orchestrated by Time-Life. Featured episodes include appearances by Julie Andrews, Elton John, Mark Hamill, and Paul Simon. "The direct-response campaign was a really successful one for Time-Life, and the videos have had so much exposure on television. So we thought it was the right time to bring them to retail," Columbia director of marketing Suzanne White says. "They really remind consumers of the great nostalgia of the show, and they have a variety of appeal to several markets."

Copyright 2002 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.