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Patti Austin and James Ingram Together at Last for Duets Album/Filmmaker Linda Yellen Weighs in on Newsweek Pic Controversy

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Patti Austin reveals that after 10 years of trying to line up James Ingram to do a duets album, it's finally coming together. "He kept saying, 'No, no, no, no, no.' But finally the stars aligned," says the Grammy-winning songstress with a laugh.

Part of the reason Austin and Ingram are joining forces for a full album is that they now have a producer they're happy with for the job — Keith Thomas, who has worked with CeCe Winans and Amy Grant, among others. Another reason is that the entire recording industry has changed. "That makes it a different kind of project. We have to get this thing financed, but that also means we own it," she points out. "We already have people ready to book it, and we haven't even recorded it yet."

According to Austin, preliminary plans call for a mix of original songs and covers of some of the great male-female duets of the past. As for any sure things? "I can semi-guarantee Marvin and Tammy happening," she says, referring to the classic hit-making duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. "We'll probably record more than we need and pick out the best."

The duet album release is a ways off — late next year, she reckons — while Patti has her own "Sound Advice" pop-soul-R&B album just now coming out. Having focused on the jazz side of her career the past several years, she's enjoying the response she's getting to the record that takes her back to her pop-soul-R&B roots. The songs range from a gospel-inspired take on Des'ree's "You Gotta Be" to Patti's rousing take on the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" to her tribute song to another past collaborator, the late Michael Jackson.

She tells us she wanted to do a "Mikey" song in his honor, but "I wanted to do something very obscure, because everybody does the same five songs. I wanted something people didn't know or forgot they knew." She heard producer Greg Phillinganes "doodling around on the piano" one day and asked what he was playing — it sounded familiar. "He said, 'Oh, you don't know it.' And I said, 'It's driving me crazy. ... I know it's Michael. ... It's Jackson Five. Play it from the top.'" It turned out, the song was "Give it Up," for which Phillinganes did the original arrangement.

"I used to listen to that song every morning. It was my wakeup song. But I hadn't heard it in 30 years," marvels Patti.

She and the producer decided to "give it a Brazilian sendoff, but I said, 'Greg, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There's not a heck of a lot you should do with this.'" Thus, some of the arrangement stays intact.

ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW: Many media types and consumers have been finding a lot not to like about Newsweek's controversial, computer-generated depiction of Princess Diana as she might have looked at 50 had she not perished in that Parisian automobile accident almost 14 years ago. But producer Linda Yellen asks, "Why shouldn't people be allowed to play out their fantasies? It's sort of bold and makes you think."

Yellen is deep into the editing of her Aug. 27-debuting Hallmark Channel Original Movie, "William and Catherine: A Royal Romance," which she has described as a tribute of sorts to the woman known as "the people's princess," as well as to the royal newlyweds. Having created the highly successful "The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana" in 1982 and met Diana several times, Yellen is among the unofficial keepers of the flame of her memory. She tells us she was intrigued by Tina Brown's essay on what Diana would be doing today and agrees she might well have moved to the States. "She had no excess baggage here."

As far as THAT picture, Yellen laughs and says, "We all have our own projections of what she would be like. She was her own iconic person. I don't think she would have worn the hat. She was striving so hard to simplify her life." And in Yellen's view, the computer image doesn't "capture her luminosity, her inner glow."

Of her "Royal Romance" (starring Jane Alexander as Queen Elizabeth, Victor Garber and Jean Smart as Charles and Camilla, and newcomers Dan Amboyer and Alice St. Clair as Prince William and Kate Middleton), Yellen says she feels fortunate that it will debut months after "all the craziness of the wedding ... now that people have had some time to reflect. ... Diana's presence loomed large at that wedding, thanks to her son. Perhaps even larger than Prince Charles'."

A QUICK PAUSE: With "Cars 2" in theaters, his "Only in America" on the History Channel and "Tooth Fairy 2" in the can, you'd better believe Larry the Cable Guy is feeling relieved that his long stretch of intense multitasking is over for now. As much as he loves the big- and small-screen work, "I've got mixed feelings about it" — because of having to spend so much time away from his wife, Cara, and their 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. "I've traveled with my kids a lot out on tour. They go, and my wife. It's pretty cool, you know. They both pretty much grew up on a tour bus the first two years."

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM



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