Whole lotta shakin' on the duet CD front


Death hasn't stopped Ray Charles from inspiring yet another musical trend.

In the wake of the legend's recent Grammy-grabbing success with Genius Loves Company, two other well-seasoned artists are trying to stage comebacks by mimicking that album's canny strategy.

The duets on Genius saw Charles bonding with a host of well-worn names, including Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Norah Jones and Willie Nelson.

Currently, Jerry Lee Lewis and Herbie Hancock are recording albums in that format. Lewis' as-yet-untitled CD - his first studio work since 1995 - will feature Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Neil Young, B.B. King, Little Richard, Don Henley, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Kid Rock, Rod Stewart and Kris Kristofferson.

The 69-year-old rock 'n' roll pioneer revealed the project backstage at this year's Grammys, where he picked up a Lifetime Achievement Award. After hearing his producer reel off the long list of stars participating, Lewis quipped, "Wow, is there any room for me on there?"

Lewis' album is slated to arrive in stores around the end of May on the Dreamworks/Nashville label.

Meanwhile, jazz touchstone Herbie Hancock is busy recording an album of duets with Sting, John Mayer, Annie Lennox, Carlos Santana, Damien Rice and Trey Anastasio. His CD arrives Sept. 13.

Hancock's album imitates another aspect of Genius - it will be marketed at Starbucks.

Of course, Charles' duets disc wasn't the first CD to become both a commercial smash and Grammy magnet. Eight years ago, Santana made similar hay with Supernatural, netting him multi-format radio hits and eight Grammys. And Frank Sinatra's two Duets CDs had as strong a commercial impact in the early '90s.

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