A look at the season's latest crop of releases, including Janet Jackson's ''The Velvet Rope'' and Green Day's ''Nimrod''


Kevin Kline’s In & Out character might think he’d died and gone to Diva Heaven if he looked at the album-release schedule for fall ’97. His heroine, Barbra Streisand, will unveil her first full album of new material in four years, which will compete with projects from Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Janet Jackson. (Best bet for ballad you won’t be able to avoid: the Streisand-Dion duet, ”Tell Him.”) Pickings are a little slimmer on the guys’ side. In the man’s man’s world only Will Smith and Metallica look like multiplatinum shoo-ins. But Green Day and Everclear might help keep the alt-rock torch alive. And the Stones and Dylan hope their new offerings will stuff the stockings of rock’s boomer set. Because as Streisand and the boys would probably agree, people who need people — to buy their records as holiday gifts — could end up the luckiest people in the world.

Janet Jackson

Jackson’s first album in four years has been so closely guarded, it wasn’t even played at the lavish release parties her label threw for her in New York and Hollywood. The relaxed groove of the first single, ”Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” is certainly an enigmatic teaser, leaving some fans wondering ”Nice Q-Tip-Joni Mitchell collaboration — but where’s Janet?” Guess we won’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s here. (Oct. 7)


Afterglow kicks off with a surprising waft of Beach Boys-style harmonies, but never fear — the power chords kick in soon enough. Is Everclear’s follow-up to 1995’s platinum Sparkle and Fade the Great Clear Hope for alt-rock’s fading fortunes…or will we be saying ”So much for the aftergrunge”? (Oct. 7)

Green Day

Eighteen tracks and not a one over four minutes (with most well under three). If brevity is the soul of punk rock, Green Day remain the Buzzcocks’ true heirs. Their last album (Insomniac) sold ”only” about 2 million, after its nine-times-platinum predecessor, Dookie; Nimrod, their third major-label effort, should ”only” do so well. (Oct. 14)

LL Cool J

Even the semi-old school isn’t safe from Sean ”Puffy” Combs, who has his ubiquitous coproducing hands all over LL’s seventh. Guests, including Busta Rhymes, Kirk Franklin and the Family, and New Edition’s Ricky and Ralph, join the party. But — and we can’t stress this too much, kids — don’t call it a comeback, okay? (Oct. 14)


”There’s a song for everybody — I’d think you’d have to like at least one,” laughs Sandra ”Pepa” Denton, describing SNP’s ”well-rounded” new album, their first following a bout over which label they belonged to. ”We go through a spiritual song, talk about abuse and relationships, and then we have our good old funky booty giddyap songs!” Kirk Franklin and Sounds of Blackness guest on the spiritual (”Hold On”), Queen Latifah shares a lament about back stabbers (”Friends”), and Sheryl Crow sings on the anti-racism anthem ”Imagine.” Sisters are doing it…? Working without their longtime producer, Denton says, ”feels good because it’s really us.” (Oct. 21)

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