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Returns, Reunions Will Mark 2009 Music Scene

Of the Oakland Press

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Guess who's back?

That will be the theme for the music business in 2009 as we turn the page from the diminishing CD sales, the burgeoning online business and the Britney Spears comeback to a new year that will be highlighted by -- well, the continuing Britney Spears comeback but also the return of some favorite names, several of whom made late decisions to hold back expected 2008 releases and put them out in the new year instead.

So make space on your shelves or hard drives for the likes of Eminem, U2 and Green Day, and clear a little room on your credit card for the touring returns of Spears, Fleetwood Mac and some permutation of Led Zeppelin. Here's a look at 15 of the biggest stories in music for 2009...

Eminem: Even during the holidays the Detroit rapper was busy working with producer Dr. Dre to finish work in "Relapse," his first new album in five years, which is expected out in the spring after Eminem opted against a late 2008 release. One of the new tracks, "Number One," leaked online before Dre added his own vocals, and Eminem has confirmed that at least one song will deal with the death of his good friend and musical partner Proof. Eminem has described the music as "definitely more upbeat. I feel like myself again...Within the last year I started learning how to not be so angry about things, learning how to count my...blessings instead. By doing that, I've become a happier person, instead of all this self-loathing I was doing for a while."

Motown 50th Anniversary: It will be the party that continues throughout the year, starting Jan. 12 with the Motown Historical Museum's In Their Own Words series and continuing with a just-opened Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit, a Marvin Gaye display at the Historical Museum in April, a feature film documentary in the fall, a gala Detroit concert in November and special retrospective album releases and online features throughout the year. A Broadway musical and Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit are expected to follow in 2010.

Von Bondies: The Detroit rockers spent much of the time since 2004's "Pawn Shoppe Heart" dealing with personnel changes and business concerns with their record label. But mainstays Jason Stollsteimer and Don Blum kept the band going, financing the 2008 "We Are Kamikazes" EP and the recording of the new album "Love, Hate, and Then There's You," which finally comes out Feb. 3.

The White Stripes: After spending 2008 with his other band, the Raconteurs, and in the world of James Bond, collaborating with Alicia Keys on the theme for "Quantum of Solace," Jack White is expected to return to the fold that made him famous this year. With ex-wife Meg White recovered from the "acute anxiety" that forced the duo to cancel dates in 2007, White has confirmed the Stripes are working on their seventh album, though no other information has surfaced. He's also acknowledged working on a duet with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.

U2: After deciding against a fall of 2008 release for its 12 album, the Irish rock quartet has set a March 3 release date for "No Line On the Horizon," which will come out in five different formats, including a boxed set featuring the CD, a DVD of an Anton Corbijn film about the band and a 64-page hardback book. U2 worked on "No Line..." -- it's first new material in five yeas -- with three of its longtime producers -- Steve Lillywhite, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois -- while the Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am appears on the track "Crazy Tonight." The group shot a video for the first single, "Sexy Boots," in London, and a world tour is expected to follow the album's release.

Whitney Houston: The once dominant pop and R&B singer's last new album came out in 2002, but executive producer Clive Davis says her career, interrupted by domestic and substance abuse issues, will resume in 2009. "The process has begun," Davis says of Houston's next album, which reportedly includes collaborations with Ne-Yo, Akon, will.i.am. R. Kelly and John Legend, among others. "We've always said we were looking towards the end of the first quarter of (2009). I do feel good about the material we have and what's been going on."

Britney Spears On Tour: Oops, she'll do it again...The career-revived pop star's first full-scale tour in five years is expected to be a lavishly produced three-ring affair patterned after the title of her latest album, "Circus." A loose storyline will follow Spears running way to join the circus, experiencing pitfalls and coming out of them, literally, on the other side of the rainbow following an indoor rainstorm. Her dancers, by the way, are being subjected to drug tests so there are no negative influences around Spears during the tour. Things get underway March 3, and look for an as-yet-unannounced date in these parts later that month. "American Idol" is also making a play for a Spears-themed episode, with a guest appearance, this season.

Led Zeppelin: We know that Zep founders Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, along with Jason Bonham, son of the late drummer John Bonham, will hit the road to give fans a "Whole Lotta Love" in 2009. We also know that singer Robert Plant will not be part of the project, however, so the song will obviously [i]not[/i] remain the same. Up in the air -- what the ensemble will be called, when it will go out and who will be singing (Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge has been working with the trio during rehearsals in England). Stay tuned.

Creed: If Myles Kennedy does wind up touring with the Led Zep facsimile, it could lead to a reunion of Creed, which disbanded in 2004. Sources at the group's label, Wind-Up, confirmed to Billboard that there are "significant dollars" for a Creed tour, though it called reunion reports "premature." Mark Tremonti, Creed/Alter Bridge's Detroit-born guitarist, says that the Creed members "have to be real hush-hush about it" but also contends that "Alter Bridge is our number one priority." Until the Creed rumor pans out, however.

The Faces: Rod Stewart, Ron Wood and company, who broke up in 1975, got together for rehearsals in November and decided to stay with each other for some live shows in 2009. How many, and when, is still being determined. Guitarist Wood told Rolling Stone that "we just have to sort out when and where and drop all of the management egos and just do what we can. We know we can do it. It's just a matter of getting everyone's availability sometime next year." Keyboardist Ian McLagan, meanwhile, posted a note on his web site saying that "things are looking good for a gig or two next year, but these things take time to work out...so I'm not getting excited just yet...I'm holding my breath." Whatever happens, bassist Flea of the in-hiatus Red Hot Chili Peppers, is expected to step in for the late Ronnie Lane.

Fleetwood Mac: It really hasn't been that long since we last saw Fleetwood Mac; the group toured extensively in 2003-2004 behind its last album, "Say You Will." When it hits the road again on March 1 -- coming to the Palace of Auburn Hills a week later, on March 8 -- the lineup will feature Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, but still no Christine McVie, who remains retired, and no Sheryl Crow, who had told reporters she might be merging with the Mac. There won't be any new material, either, though Buckingham says that may well be in the offing. "There was no sense we had to jump right in the studio," he says. "I think maybe there was even a sense that we would make a better album if we went out and hung out together first on the road...maybe even sowing some seeds musically that would get us more prepared to go in the studio rather than just going in cold."

Bruce Springsteen: The Boss has fans' heads spinning with the Jan. 27 release of "Working on a Dream," which follows 2007's "Magic" by just 15 months -- the quickest turnaround since the very beginning of his career. Springsteen and his E Street Band recorded the set in Atlanta with producer Brendan O'Brien, In a note on his web site Springsteen explains that at the end of the "Magic" sessions "I found there was more than enough fuel for the fire to keep going" and heeded O'Brien's suggestion to make another album immediately. A new "Greatest Hits" set is due as a Wal-Mart exclusive on Jan. 13, while Springsteen and the E Streeters will play the Super Bowl XLIII halftime show on February 1st in Tampa, Fla. A tour is expected, but no details have yet been announced.

50 Cent: LIke his Shady Records "boss" Eminem, the New York rapper decided to push back his fourth album, "Before I Self Destruct," which is now due out in February. He's been spotted in town recently to work with Eminem and Dr. Dre, and other collaborators include Scott Storch, Play-N-Skillz, Sha Money XL and Swizz Beatz.

Dr. Dre: As per usual, the former N.W.A. mastermind's production work with Eminem, 50 Cent and others has made his third -- and, he claims, final -- solo album, "Detox," a perpetual work in progress. But it's expected to finally make it out this year, only 10 years after "2001," and feature performances and production by Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, RZA, Warren G., and, undoubtably, Eminem.

Robert Randolph: Bet on the sacred steel virtuoso for 2009's under-the-radar smash. His third studio album is being produced by T-Bone Burnett, hot off his "Raising Sand" triumph with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and features guest appearances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Doyle Bramhall II, Peter Case and Tonio K, as well as Detroit sacred steel pioneer Calvin Cook. Besides his originals, Randolph also takes on covers of Bob Dylan's "Shot of Love" and Otis Redding's "I Got the Will."

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