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L.A. revs up for the Grammys

LOS ANGELES TURNS on to the Grammys this week, as the city starts to gear up for the 35th annual awards show on Feb. 24, which will be televised from 8-11 p.m. from the Shrine Auditorium on CBS.

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences kicks off its Grammy in the Schools program tomorrow and Thursday, hosting the National Grammy Concerts for Children at Hollywood High School.

Interactive concerts will introduce students to musical instruments and big band music. Cheech Marin hosts the program, which is sponsored by the Community Redevelopment Agency, with assistance from the American Federation of Musicians. The Grammy All-American High School Jazz Band, under the direction of Branford Marsalis, will perform at the school on Friday.

A five-day film festival, “Sound and Vision: Hollywood Salutes the Grammys,” opens Thursday, with a screening of “El Mariachi” at the Directors Guild of America. Such films as “Something Within Me,””Fly By Night” and “Stepping Razor — Red X” will be screened at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 from Feb. 19-23.

MusiCares, the NARAS health and human services branch, will hold its first benefit dinner Saturday at the Hilton Hotel; honoree Natalie Cole will perform with a 30-piece orchestra.

Sunday finds the Hollywood Athletic Club hosting an afternoon of billiards to raise funds for Grammy in the Schools and MusiCares. On the same day, the Hard Rock Cafe will be the site of KLOS-FM’s Hard Rock Auction Block, another fund-raiser for MusiCares with past Grammy winners’ memorabilia on the block.

Next week, Capitol Records will host a Grammy in the Schools recording studio tour for the Hamilton High School Academy of Music, while students from Santa Monica High School will get to play “Executive Intern for a Day” at Rhino Records.

Additional information on the events is available from the L.A. Host Committee, (310) 288-5379.

BASSIST TOMMY STINSON spent half of his 26 years in the Replacements. Now, like the other three ex-‘Mats, he goes it alone.

Stinson fronts his new band, Bash & Pop, and has written all the material for its Sire/Reprise debut, “Friday Night is Killing Me,” which was released last week.

His effort is the latest solo excursion from the Replacements, one of the underground wonders of the ’80s who became known as much for their self-destructive partying and unpredictable stage shows as for making records combining raw power with sensitive and sometimes-brilliant songwriting by guitarist Paul Westerberg.

Stinson admits he never had the courage to step into the spotlight and go head to head with Westerberg’s songwriting skills.

“Paul always encouraged us to do our own stuff,” he said. “But it was hard knowing your best thing wasn’t even a throwaway to him.”

There are no throwaways on “Friday Night is Killing Me,” a frisky little rocker propelled by Stinson’s endless energy and peppy, raspish vocals. Stinson paces his on-the-money speed bullets with a couple of well-placed ballads, the most touching of which, “First Steps,” closes the work with wistful reflection.

Bash & Pop, whose name evolved out of a contest hosted by New York radio station WDRE, features “replacement” Replacements drummer Steve Foley (hired for the “All Shook Down” tour following Chris Mars’ departure), his brother, Kevin Foley, on bass, and Steve Brantseg on lead guitar and backup vocals.

NEIL YOUNG’S SECOND try at taping an “MTV Unplugged” went better than his first. The set, recorded last week in L.A., follows a New York taping last month that Young rejected for artistic reasons.

Young, sporting a full beard, performed only one solo song in New York; he played eight at the L.A. taping, but varied his selection only slightly. Young also stopped the show only twice, compared to his constant starting and stopping in New York.

Highlights of the set included Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul,” Young’s version of “Like a Hurricane,” performed on organ, and acoustic versions of “Transformer Man” and “Sample and Hold,” both songs previously unveiled as hi-tech electronic numbers on the album “Trans.”

The show will be broadcast by MTV in the spring.

REGINA BELLE WON’T be faking it on her third Columbia album, which is in stores today.

The title, “Passion,” reflects both the tone of the record and Belle’s view of what’s wrong with the music scene today, which she feels is over-populated with undertrained, undertalented “singers.”

“I sometimes have a problem with some of the artists, because I feel like they haven’t studied,” Belle said. “In terms of vocalists, this industry has a big relationship to a microwave oven. It’s like, 30 seconds and add water.”

Say what?

“You can fine-tune in the studio,” Belle explained. “It goes on quite a bit. I’ve had producers ask me if I wanted to do that. I know that I have a voice, so I out and out refuse. It’s one thing to fix an imperfection, maybe a crack in yourvoice. But to actually say you don’t have to be able to sing an entire song in tune, that’s ridiculous.”

Belle’s resume includes one gold album, 1990’s “Stay With Me,” and the currenthit single “A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme),” a duet with Peabo Bryson that’s in the top-10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart.

“Passion” veers from dance to ballads, pop to jazz.

Disc highlights include the jazz-flavored “Love,” featuring a sax solo from fellow Columbia artist Kirk Whalum, and “Quiet Time,” with a rap by Barry White. Belle also has a hand in the album’s title track, listed as co-composer with producer Narada Michael Walden.

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