GARTH BROOKS SAYS he has decided to take an eight-month break from performing or touring, rather than retiring, in order to spend more time with his family. But the country singer refuses to completely rule out the possibility that he may retire at the height of his success.“Right now, I feel like I’m doing music with my hands tied behind my back,” Brooks said last week, adding, “Once I get the family thing resolved, if I do, God willing, I can (return and) go at it 110%.” Brooks’ recently released album “The Chase” (Liberty) sits at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, having sold 403,000 copies in its first week. The disc topples country rival Billy Ray Cyrus’ 17-week reign at No. 1, which held off chart advances by new releases from Eric Clapton and Bobby Brown. Brooks’ Christmas album, “Beyond the Season,” currently holds the No. 5 spot on the pop charts. Brooks again has rewritten history by being the first artist to have two albums debut at No. 1. “The Chase” and Brooks’ third album, “Ropin’ the Wind,” both entered the charts at No. 1. And by having five discs in the top 50, Brooks tops a record held by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass since 1965. The country star’s decision to take some time off will result in plans for a world tour being scrapped, while a second NBC-TV special that had been set for filming at Texas Stadium during the summer has been postponed. Sources say, however, that a U.S. tour in the fall of 1993 is being planned. Brooks credits Capitol/EMI Music CEO Joe Smith with suggesting the eight-month time frame. “He said that instead of doing the world tour, which would have run from January to May, I should take that time off,” Brooks says, allowing that Smith said, “‘Don’t use the word retirement.’ ” Brooks will begin his time off following the Dec. 12 concert at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. IN THE LATE ’70s, the New York-based band Television became synonymous with such then-new terms as “post-punk,””alternative” and “new wave,” thanks to the release of two seminal albums, 1977’s “Marquee Moon” and 1978’s “Adventure.” A mere 13 years later, the self-same lineup–guitarist/vocalist Tom Verlaine, guitarist Richard Lloyd, bassist Fred “Sonic” Smith and drummer Billy Ficca–will release their long-awaited third album. Titled simply “Television,” it is set to hit the streets tomorrow. There were sparks between Verlaine and Lloyd that resulted in the splintering of the band in the late ’70s, though each member pursued solo careers with varying degrees of success. As for any bad blood behind or because of the breakup, the fact that Television is back together, with their trademark deadpan humor, spare spacy songs, intricate guitars and distinctive talk-singing intact, speaks volumes. Regarding the group’s collective history, Verlaine dryly quips, “We’ve got false memory syndrome. We’re all under different illusions.” Still, Verlaine and Smith stressed, when the band jammed together in 1990, that original chemistry was still there. The first two albums were on Elektra; the band now records for Capitol, where it was afforded complete freedom, with Verlaine and Lloyd sharing production credit for the new album. The first single and video from this pre-MTV band, “Call Mr. Lee,” lyrically describes a somewhat twisted spy story. Other songs prove that the band has lost none of the qualities that made them darlings of the neophyte CBGB’s scene that spawned other New York recording megastars such as Patti Smith, the Talking Heads and Blondie. IF LAST YEAR’S beat-heavy remix of “Tom’s Diner,” done by the group DNA, alienated some Suzanne Vega fans, just wait until they hear “99.9 Fahrenheit Degrees,” her new A&M disc. Pulsating with sounds far removed from her folkie image, thanks to the input of Vega and producer Mitchell Froom, the new album marks a stylistic departure, ranging as far as technotronic sounds with lead single “Blood Makes Noise.” The album sits at No. 103 on the Billboard 200 chart this week. “I wasn’t groping for anything specific,” Vega says. “I was pushing to change everything, to take a couple things and push them to the limit.” Vega calls the new sound, “a logical progression. I don’t feel the new things are wildly out of character. I just feel like releasing some things that have been lurking in my music for some time.” Vega promises that the increased danceability of some cuts won’t make her live show akin to Paula Abdul, even though Vega spent 10 years studying dance. As for acting, Vega has received numerous offers, including being approached to appear as one of the nuns in “Sister Act” and reading for the “Susan” role of “Desperately Seeking Susan.” “They think I look a certain way. I wouldn’t mind playing any of those roles, ” says Vega, who minored in theater in college.
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