For The Record: Quick News On Ashanti, Usher, Phil Spector, Taking Back Sunday, Kanye West, Jay-Z & More

Lions and tigers and Kermits, oh my?! A Muppets version of “The Wizard of Oz” has landed Ashanti to play the lead role of Dorothy, while Queen Latifah will be her Auntie Em. Other key parts of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Wicked Witch of the West will be played by Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie and Miss Piggy. The made-for-TV movie also features a cameo by “Kill Bill” director Quentin Tarantino. …

The recording industry is instituting new awards to recognize downloads. Beginning Monday, artists who have sold at least 100,000 downloaded singles will earn a gold award, while 200,000 or more downloaded tunes will receive a platinum award. Among those presently eligible are Outkast, Beyoncé, Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z, Usher, P. Diddy, Jessica Simpson, D12 and No Doubt. … And while it applauds the artists who do legitimate business in the digital world, the recording industry continues to take aim at those who traffic in copyrighted files on the wrong side of the law. A new round of copyright-infringement lawsuits target 744 users of peer-to-peer platforms including eDonkey, Limewire, Grokster and Kazaa. …

Producer Phil Spector, charged with the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, has a new legal team again. Bruce Cutler, best known for representing mob boss John Gotti, has replaced Leslie Abramson, who told reporters, “If we wanted to be ethical and competent, we had to resign.” … The World Music Awards, usually held in Monte Carlo, are moving to Las Vegas this year and will be broadcast live September 15 on ABC. Usher, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Celine Dion and Josh Groban have all signed on to perform. …

Ruben Studdard and Kimberly Caldwell will guest on the new FOX sitcom “Related by Family.” Their episode, which airs in January, stars the former “American Idol” contestants as employees at a fast-food restaurant who break out into song praising the food. … Just coming off the Warped Tour, Taking Back Sunday will continue to pound the pavement in support of their second album, Where You Want to Be. Following a few European shows, a fall tour will begin September 12 in San Francisco and end November 28 in Philadelphia. …

The Beastie Boys have added a dozen dates to their fall tour, including shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta. The outing now runs until October 23 in Dallas, but more dates are still expected to be announced. The New York rappers will perform at an MTV2 Lifebeat benefit in Miami on Saturday before the tour kicks off on September 8 in Morrison, Colorado. … A cross-section of artists and musicians, including Pearl Jam, Queensrÿche, comedian David Cross, Mudhoney, X‘s John Doe, and Grant-Lee Phillips are on board for the No Vote Left Behind Festival, taking place September 23-26 in venues all around Seattle. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Democratic National Committee and other political action groups. …

Want the Material Girl to get your cell phone into the groove? Madonna‘s now offering ring tones for sale on her Web site, along with other licensed mobile content like pictures of her striking a pose. Credit cards aren’t necessary for the $2 tones, just a mobile phone number and handset type. Currently available tones include “Lucky Star,” “Open Your Heart,” “Beautiful Stranger,” “Live to Tell” and “Frozen,” among others. … Fountains of Wayne, Godsmack, Guster, Howie Day, Aerosmith, Dropkick Murphys and Mission of Burma scored nominations for Album of the Year at the 17th annual Boston Music Awards. The ceremony will be held September 29 at the Avalon Ballroom in Boston. …

U.N.K.L.E.‘s second album, Never, Never, Land, will finally see a U.S. release on October 26. Queens of the Stone Age‘s Josh Homme, Pulp‘s Jarvis Cocker, Massive Attack‘s 3D, South‘s Joel Cadbury, Ian Brown and Brian Eno are among the guests on the album. … Ben Kweller is slated to open for Incubus on the band’s A Crow Left of the Murder tour, beginning September 24 in Memphis, Tennessee. His three-week stint ends October 12 in Richmond, Virginia. … Mos Def and the Spirit Music Sextet will be performing at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater in New York on Friday. The Emmy nominee will feature special guest Me’Shell Ndegeocello. …

Kyle Gass, one half of Tenacious D, will be taking his side project Trainwreck out on the road starting next month. The band, which also features “Alias” actor Kevin Weisman on drums, kicks off its tour September 5 at the Moe Down Festival in Turin, New York. … Fresh from their set at Little Steven‘s Underground Garage Festival, the New York Dolls will release a live album as an import on September 27. Pre-Crash Condition was recorded at London’s Meltdown festival earlier this year. A DVD will complement the concert LP. … Iconic rocker Bob Dylan will release “Chronicles: Volume One,” the first in a planned three-book series of first-person narratives about his life and career, on October 12, according to Reuters. The first installment, which is 304 pages, will be followed one week later by a new edition of the collection of lyrics to almost every Dylan song, “Lyrics: 1962-2001.” …

8.24.2004

Though Gwen Stefani had originally planned to release her debut solo album this summer, she’s now looking toward a mid-November release for the record, which is no longer called What You Waiting For? No title has been announced yet as its replacement, according to her label, but Stefani is planning to release the song “What You Waiting For?” as the lead single, for which she’ll shoot a video in September. The single will hit radio in October. …

Britney Spears‘ mother, Lynne, wrote in to the singer’s Web site on Monday to give an update about her superstar daughter’s wedding plans. Though some tabloids have reported that Spears has already bought a home with her fiancé, Kevin Federline, her mother reports that the couple are still searching for “the perfect home” now that they’re back from a trip to Lake Tahoe. … Mason Betha returned to a New York stage Monday night for the first time in five years. At a party at Webster Hall to celebrate the arrival of his Welcome Back LP, Mase started his set with the title track and also performed some of his most famous verses from such records as “Mo Money, Mo Problems.” …

Phish, Kid Rock, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., the String Cheese Incident, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and a host of other artists have donated items to an auction benefiting people affected by the fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, on February 20, 2003. The auction is the third in a series raising money for the Station Family Fund, with the previous two auctions raising more than $27,000. Interested buyers can check out www.mimifishman.org. … Before they left for a short European festival tour, Velvet Revolver had begun recording covers of Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender,” Aerosmith‘s “No More, No More” and Queen‘s “Tie Your Mother Down” while in Los Angeles. The tunes, which will be finished overseas, are expected to surface as B-sides for upcoming singles. …

Jimmy Eat World, Yellowcard and New Found Glory head up the soundtrack to “Burnout 3: Takedown,” a new racing video game for the PS2 and Xbox platforms, due next month. With more than 40 songs, the game boasts the biggest soundtrack of any Electronic Arts game since the company launched its EA Trax music initiative in 2002. … Metallica are putting out a box set, but this one has a twist — all the albums are on vinyl. Vinyl Box, due out October 26, will contain the band’s first four albums along with the long-out-of-print Garage Days Re-Revisited EP and the Creeping Death picture disc, which was previously unavailable in the U.S. …

Queen Latifah has set a September 28 release date for her debut singing effort, The Dana Owens Album (Dana Owens is the Queen’s real name). The album was co-produced by Arif Mardin (Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin) and Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Carlton) and features soul and pop songs from the 1920s to the 1970s, including a cover of the Mamas & the Papas‘ “California Dreamin’.” … After staying relatively quiet in the wake of his ousting from Queens of the Stone Age, ex-bassist Nick Oliveri has shot back at his former bandmate Josh Homme on the new record by his former group the Dwarves. The track “Massacre” on the disc Dwarves Must Die features Oliveri cackling in the background as lead singer Blag Dahlia sings the lines “This one goes out to Queens of the Trust Fund/ You slept on my floor and now I’m sleeping through your mother—-in’ album.” …

The New Danger has a new release date. Mos Def‘s LP will now come out on October 12, according to his label. The actor and rapper, who is currently filming “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” is also mapping out a tour to follow the album’s release. … Five years after releasing their debut album, So … How’s Your Girl?, Handsome Boy Modeling School (a.k.a. Dan the Automator and Prince Paul) will release their follow-up, White People, on November 9. The disc contains a cavalcade of guest stars including Linkin Park‘s Mike Shinoda, Mike Patton, the DeftonesChino Moreno, Cat Power, RZA, Tim Meadows of “Saturday Night Live” and John Oates from Hall & Oates fame, among others. The first single, “The World’s Gone Mad,” features Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand and Del Tha Funky Homosapien. …

Actors Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson and Martin Sheen and directors John Sayles (“Sunshine State”), Doug Liman (“Swingers,” “The Bourne Identity”) and Rob Reiner are among a host of Hollywood celebrities teaming up with MoveOn.org for a series of 10 new anti-Bush ads, according to The Associated Press.Patti LaBelle is releasing a jewelry collection, which will be available starting August 31 on the Home Shopping Network. The sterling-silver jewelry line, which contains 21 pieces, is designed to complement her apparel line, which debuted last fall. “My jewelry, combined with my fashion collection, will make every woman a star,” LaBelle said in a statement. “Every piece is fun and flirty and offers a new look for any outfit … and will bring out the Patti that every woman has deep inside.” …

The man responsible for making famous the phrase “Elvis has left the building” has died. Al Dvorin, 81, died Sunday in an auto accident in California. Just the night before, Dvorin had delivered his signature send-off at an Elvis impersonator concert. … Big Bad Voodoo Daddy spent a rare night off the stage together last week to watch Carly Patterson win the Olympic gold medal after her near-flawless floor-exercise routine to their song “Mr. Pinstripe Suit.” The big band is capitalizing off the Olympic exposure by appearing as the house band next week on “Last Call With Carson Daly.” BBVD also released the CD/DVD set Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Live earlier this month and will drop Everything You Want for Christmas next month. …