Madonna, Carly Simon, and the Carpenters made news this week

Material Whirl
Madonna’s first tour in three years kicks off in Japan at the end of April and is expected to hit the U.S. by summer. No dates or venues yet, but expect more choreography (by dancer Karole Armitage), more costume changes, and more elaborate stage sets than on her previous jaunts.

Non-Smoking Guns
Although reports have it that Guns ‘N Roses finally have begun recording their long-delayed new album in L.A., their label disagrees. According to a Geffen spokeswoman, guitarist Slash has come up with ”rough ideas” for songs, but Axl Rose has yet to finish his lyrics. Geffen also denied reports that the results will be a double album. As for a release date? ”Sometime this year,” the spokeswoman says wearily.

He’s Just a Screamer in a Rock & Roll Band
Comedian Sam Kinison sings and plays guitar on his new album, Leader of the Banned, due next month. Among the tunes he covers are ”Highway to Hell,” ”Under My Thumb,” and ”Mississippi Queen.” Guest musicians include members of Guns N’ Roses and Poison.

Willie Nelson, Neil Young, L.L. Cool J, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, and John Cougar Mellencamp will perform at Farm Aid IV April 7 in Indianapolis.

Carly Simon has recorded her second album of standards, My Romance, which includes ”In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and the gender-corrected ”Little Girl Blue.” It will hit stores March 13.

Yesterday Once More
Would you want a 12-CD collection of the Carpenters? Maybe not, but residents of Singapore do. According to Billboard, the just-released compilation is expected to be the best-selling boxed set ever there, outdoing the recent Rod Stewart and Rolling Stones sets. But, shucks, no U.S. release is scheduled.