Sound Check

Send If You Will a Summons

AS IF THE lawsuits against his own fans weren't embarrassing enough, is The Artist Formerly Known as Prince taking a small Minneapolis world-music club to federal court? Let's review the evidence: On May 4 a copyright infringement suit was filed in Minneapolis on behalf of the Artist's Controversy Music against Fahmi Katabay, one of the owners of the Blue Nile Restaurant at 2027 Franklin Ave. E. in Minneapolis. According to the complaint, on the evening of July 24, 1997, Prince's recording of "When Doves Cry" was played at the club--an "unauthorized performance" in violation of copyright law. The lawsuit contends that the Blue Nile is guilty of infringement because it doesn't have a licensing agreement from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). (Clubs typically pay fees to ASCAP or Broadcast Music Inc. for blanket licenses covering any music they might play.) The second plaintiff the complaint lists, Gold Hill Music Inc., alleges that Stephen Stills's "Love the One You're With" was played the same night.

ASCAP attorney Richard Reimer says the suit is a last resort after years of failing to persuade the Blue Nile to buy a licensing agreement. He says the songs named in the suits were chosen at random, and that it's mere "coincidence" that a Chanhassen-based icon would be among those cited in a suit against a local club. ASCAP handles the policing of copyright issues for its members, says Reimer, so don't expect the Artist to make any court appearances in the matter. ASCAP's local attorney, Felicia Boyd of Faegre and Benson, says cases like this are routine--"We do about 15 or 20 of them a year"--but notes that the potential penalties are nothing to scoff at: Damages can range from $500 to $20,000 per song.

Reached by phone, Katabay says he didn't even know he was being sued. His club does have a licensing agreement with BMI (Broadcast Music International), he says, and he assumed that he didn't have to join both groups. On the night in question, Katabay adds, the club--which books everything from Middle Eastern groups to jazz and R&B--was playing Digital Music Express, provided through a cable-TV package. "I'm perplexed, and kind of confused," he says about the ASCAP suit. "To me, it is a shark getting greedy." (Burl Gilyard)

The Right (and Wrong) Stuff

Former Artist employee and sometime Spice Girls producer Jimmy Jam made a brief appearance onstage at KDWB's May 23rd Star Party, a Target Center extravaganza closed to all but an elect gaggle of contest winners. Jam was on hand to introduce the latest supplement to Flyte Tyme Studios' bank account, New Kids on the Block alum Jordan Knight, whose surprisingly high-grade, self-titled new album on Interscope was recorded in part at Jam's Edina recording mecca, co-run by Terry Lewis. Knight performed his current single, the Jam/Lewis-crafted gem "Give It to You," and recast Prince's "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" as a remarkably moving slow jam. The singer had it all over former New Kid and fellow headliner Joey McIntyre, who flopped around between poses like a deluded Star Search contestant. A survey of nearby females confirmed my suspicion that Knight was oodles yummier than McIntyre, who marshaled his own cover tune, Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music." Go, white boy, go, white boy--and don't come back.

Said survey of the double-X chromosome set also revealed that the lower-body gyrations of Semisonic's Dan Wilson were as gruesome as I feared. Amid the spanking-new boy-toy pop of the former New Kids, the live guitar-bass-drums attack of Semisonic sounded almost quaint. For "Closing Time," the trio not only paused a full 30 seconds to allow for a cheer before rocking back into a rousing coda but slammed the song home with a deliberately stuttered four-note finale worthy of a cornball professional like Billy Joel, if not Garth Brooks himself. Rock on. The only real shocker of the protracted evening came when the Goo Goo Dollsneedlessly interpolated a snippet of the Replacements' "Left of the Dial" during one of their acoustic power dirges. Johnny Rzeznickis a closet 'Mats fan? At last it can be told. (Keith Harris)

Every Dog Has His Day

Speaking of using 'Mats fandom as a credibility ploy: Dogstar singer Bret Domrose claimed the Replacements as his fave band before tinkering with a few bars of "Skyway" near the end of his putrid set at the Quest on May 23. By that late hour, the atmosphere in the Artist's former club had the evaporated excitement of a Waterworld premiere. Which was fitting, since the bulk of the inordinately female and squealing audience was there to see Keanu Reeves, the band's bass player. While the actor did his best to bow his head and downplay his star power, the shrieks were slow to subside, although there was a notable absence of applause for his limp bass solos. When the initial humor of the spectacle wore off, it gave way to that enemy of every self-respecting rock star: pity. (Miki Mosman)

 
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