Tom Sinclair
December 05, 1997 AT 05:00 AM EST

SWEET CHARITY With visions of ”Candle in the Wind 1997” still dancing in their heads, music retailers are pondering a new question for the holiday season: Will consumers cough up for Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute now that Diana-mania has abated? The double CD — out this week, featuring Bruce Springsteen, U2, Puff Daddy, Annie Lennox, and Mariah Carey, among many others — comes with built-in problems. For one, more than half of the 36 tracks have been previously released. It’s also heavy with sad songs, many of which concern death. ”I’m not sure that’s what people want to hear around Christmas,” says one of many retail execs worried about Tribute‘s prospects.

Still, Steve Abbott, the album’s executive producer, is optimistic. He concedes the material is downbeat — ”We couldn’t very well celebrate her death, could we?” — but stresses that the hastily assembled album contains ”strong” new tunes from Aretha Franklin, Peter Gabriel, and others. He also believes that the charitable nature of the project (proceeds go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund) will generate sales: ”Diana’s death was the biggest event of the year, and I think when people are buying Christmas presents, they’ll want to make a contribution in her memory.” Ah, now, there’s an underutilized marketing strategy: guilt.

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