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Michael Jackson Accused of Not Paying Neverland Employees; Chicago Releases New Album


Michael Jackson left the United States last year after being acquitted of child molestation charges. Since then, the pop singer has been living in Bahrain. He continued to employ a staff at his Neverland Ranch in California, but new reports say he hasn't paid his employees since December 19. California labor officials ordered the employees to stop working after it became known that their workers compensation insurance had lapsed. Jackson paid back wages to his staff on March 16, then, according to his spokesperson Raymone Bain, "closed his house and reduced his work force." His animals' caretakers were allowed to continuing working because they've been placed on the payroll of a local veterinarian, who can offer workman's compensation insurance.

The new musical Elton John wrote with lyricist Bernie Taupin will begin Broadway previews on March 25. Lestat is based on novelist Anne Rice's vampire characters. Rice says, "This musical is the fulfillment of my deepest dreams. Elton's music and Bernie's lyrics have captured the pain and the passion of the characters perfectly, and the entire adaptation has re-created the very essence of the books." Lestat is scheduled to open to the public on April 25.

On March 21, Capitol Records released Kenny Rogers' first album in three years. Water & Bridges features his current hit "I Can't Unlove You," which has spent the past 16 weeks on the Country chart. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Kenny is the fourth best-selling male artist of all time.

The horn-driven pop band Chicago will have a new album in record stores on March 21. XXX (30) marks the group's first album of all original material since 1991. The collection was produced by Jay DeMarcus, who performs in the multi-million-selling Country trio Rascal Flatts. The three members of Rascal Flatts guest on XXX. Its first single, "Feel," debuted at Number 31 on this week's Adult Contemporary chart (week ending March 25).


On March 23, Country star Kenny Chesney will begin his "Road & The Radio" tour in Dayton, Ohio. Dierks Bentley and Sugarland will open shows through May 27. The second leg of the tour begins on June 1. Dierks Bentley will continue on the summer run of dates, which will also feature American Idol Carrie Underwood in an opening slot. In 2005, Chesney played to 1.2 million fans. Irish rock group U2 was the only act to draw a larger audience last year.

The Black Eyed Peas will kick off their first headlining tour on March 23. Concerts begin in Fresno, California. The Black Eyed Peas will be promoting their latest album Monkey Business, which has sold three million copies since its release in June 2005. Labelmates The Pussycat Dolls will open shows on the 36-city tour.