Michael Jackson Nearing Completion Of New LP

Producer says pop superstar will unleash an energetic new sound on upcoming album.

After years of painstaking recording sessions, Michael Jackson is nearly ready to unleash a raw, energetic new sound on his first album of original material in a decade, his producer says.

"He's definitely making a comeback with this one," R&B hitmaker Rodney Jerkins, who's worked closely with Jackson on the project for two years, said Tuesday. "When you play his new CD, compared to somebody else's CD, you may have to turn it down 'cause it's banging so hard. That's what I went for."

The new album, which the singer's spokesperson said is slated for release in the summer, will be among his greatest works, Jackson promised during a rare public appearance on Tuesday.

"The best is yet to come," Jackson said onstage at Radio City Music Hall, where he appeared briefly at dance/R&B station WKTU-FM's annual holiday show. The singer did not perform at the event, citing a case of laryngitis.

Jackson, who is still recording new tracks for the album, according to his spokesperson, is also selecting and mixing already-completed songs from previous sessions.

Jerkins' accomplishments include writing and producing Brandy and Monica's hit duet "The Boy Is Mine" as well as working with a laundry list of today's biggest pop and R&B stars, including Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, the Backstreet Boys, Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton. He said Jackson pushed him to create music different than anything he'd previously done.

"Michael is such an inventor of sound," Jerkins said. "I think he wanted some new stuff that the ears haven't heard yet, that radio hasn't heard yet, that people haven't heard yet."

Jackson recorded at least one rock-flavored track with Jerkins for possible inclusion on the album, as well as a ballad written and produced by R. Kelly, Jerkins said.

A young New Jersey rapper named Fats — a Jerkins protégé — raps on two tracks recorded for the album. "Michael [said] we need a rapper on a song, and he says he didn't want a known rapper, he wanted an unknown. So I said I got the perfect person. ... And he liked him so much he made him rap on another song."

Jackson has worked with several other producers on the project, including Kelly and former Jodeci member DeVante, and the final lineup of the album remains uncertain, the singer's spokesperson said.

Controversies surrounding Jackson's personal life and career have overshadowed the singer's music in recent years. In 1994 Jackson reached an out-of-court settlement with a boy who alleged that Jackson molested him, though the singer has always maintained his innocence.

Jackson, whose 1982 blockbuster Thriller is one of the best-selling albums of all time, has not released a full-length album of new music since 1991's Dangerous, which featured the hit "Black or White."

Jackson began his career as a child prodigy on Motown Records with his brothers in the Jackson 5, singing lead on such hits as "I Want You Back." Though Jackson released solo albums early on, his solo career began in earnest with the disco-influenced Off the Wall(1979).