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New albums by Ariana Grande, Jeezy, and others highlight the late summer season

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Traditionally, the late summer months are a slow time of the year in terms of the number of new music albums released. It's the lull before the storm, as the fall marks the start of the busiest time of the year for major album releases, leading up to the holiday shopping season. This year however, there are a number of notable big-name albums in all musical genres dropping late in the summer season. Here are eight albums to look forward to now through the first week of September.

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Ariana Grande, “My Everything” (Republic Records) Aug. 25 – Ariana Grande has one of the biggest Top-40 hits of the summer of 2014 with “Problem” (Feat. Iggy Azalea) the advance single from “My Everything,” the 21-year-old pop star's sophomore album. Grande has said that she didn't want her second album to simply be “an extension” of “Yours Truly” (her 2013 debut), but more of “an evolution.”

The 11 song collection features guest appearances by Zedd, Big Sean, Childish Gambino, The Weeknd, and others, as well as a wide array of writers and producers. Expect a polished collection of R&B, pop, and hip-hop that will keep Grande’s fans happy well into 2015.

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Avenged Sevenfold, “Waking the Fallen: Resurrected” (Hopeless Records) Aug. 25 – Still riding high with the success of their 2013 commercial breakthrough album, “Hail to the King,” the members of Avenged Sevenfold are looking backward for their next release. It's an expanded edition of the band’s landmark 2003 release, “Waking the Fallen” featuring the album in its original form, as well as a second CD of demos, unreleased tracks, and live versions, and a DVD documentary on the making of the album.

In a March interview with Loudwire.com, vocalist M. Shadows talked about the project.

“We’ve been trying to think of something we could put together and we found some old demos that we did with Teppei [Teranishi] from Thrice before we even did that record,” he said. “We also found some old footage with [late drummer] Jimmy [Sullivan] playing some old shows at The Henry Fonda Theater in L.A., and the Ventura Theater. We’ll put together a cool DVD and some demo tracks and re-release ‘Waking the Fallen’ for newer fans of the band that haven’t gotten that or don’t know about the history of the band.”

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Smokey Robinson, “Smokey & Friends” (Verve Records) Aug. 19 – Duets albums have remained a staple in pop music for years. In the currently popular incarnation, an established artist usually revisits his or her repertoire accompanied by other established or up-and-coming performers. That formula seems to have struck a chord with the listening public. Legendary Motown icon and Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson is set to release his foray into the duets genre, “Smokey & Friends” on August 19.

Helmed by music producer and "American Idol" mentor Randy Jackson, the project draws from Robinson’s extensive catalog of hits as a member of the legendary Miracles, as a solo artist, and as the writer of classics the Motown icon penned for other acts, including Marvin Gaye and the Temptations.

In addition to an exceptional collection of songs to pick from, what distinguishes “Smokey & Friends” is the caliber of talent performing with the 74-year-old Robinson. Guests include Elton John, Steven Tyler, CeeLo Green, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, John Legend and many others.

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Ace Frehley, “Space Invader” (eOne Music) Aug. 19 – Former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley returns with “Space Invader,” his first new solo album in five years. In a press release, Frehley said that fans can expect an album that harkens back to the sound of his million-selling 1978 solo debut.

“Over the past couple of months I’ve been listening to my old records and trying to find that formula that I’ve captured so many times in the past,” he said. “I recently played some of my new music for a few people at my label and they were blown away. It reaffirmed in my mind that I’m on the right path and I think my fans are going to love the results. It’s gonna be a great record.”

The 12-song collection features a cover of Steve Miller's “The Joker” and 11 original Frehley tracks. Determined to remind fans that he's the original “Space Ace,” songs on the album include such interstellar titles as “Past the Milky Way,” “Inside the Vortex,” “Starship,” and the title track.

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DragonForce, “Maximum Overload” (Metal Blade Records) Aug. 19 – DragonForce is a British power metal band based in London. Formed in 1999, the group is known for its long and fast guitar solos, fantasy-based lyrics, and a retro, video game-influenced sound. In fact, it was the band's appearance on several video game soundtracks coupled with YouTube exposure that led to its rise to fame.

As of June 2014, DragonForce has released five studio albums and one live album. “Maximum Overload” will be the band’s seventh album overall. According to the band's website, the album features 10 tracks, plus the five bonus songs for a special edition and a DVD.

“We have our own style and sound,” says Herman Li, who founded the group in 1999 with fellow guitarist Sam Totman. “And we didn’t want to move away from that. Once you’ve got your trademark approach in place, that’s what fans come to expect from you. But we also wanted to challenge ourselves. We didn’t want to rehash what we’d done before, but take it all in a fresh direction.”

Part of that fresh direction is a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

“Every band member wrote down three songs each and we compared them all, just for a laugh,” Totman says. “I wrote down 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash, an idea which the rest of the band loved, so we've DragonForce-ized it!”

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Randy Travis, “Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am” (Warner Bros.) Aug. 19 – Country star Randy Travis nearly died a year ago following heart failure and a subsequent stroke that required surgery. While there's been no official release detailing his condition, it has been a topic of great speculation in the tabloid press, with multiple unnamed and named sources leaking conflicting information about Travis’s health status. Some suggest that he continues to make progress in his recovery; others say that even now he remains unable to speak.

Ironically, that hasn't stopped Travis from releasing new music. “Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am” will be released August 19, a year after “Influence Vol. 1.” Like its predecessor, it is a collection of covers that Travis recorded before his illness. Among its 13 songs, “Influence Vol. 2” features country classics like “For the Good Times ,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and “I'm Movin' On.”

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(Young) Jeezy, “Seen It All: The Autobiography” (Def Jam) Sept. 2 – Since Jay Wayne Jenkins turns 37 in September, it's appropriate that he finally dropped the “Young” from his stage name last year. Jeezy is suggesting he's also taking a more seasoned, reflective attitude on his forthcoming “Seen It All: The Autobiography” album, which drops September 2.

“My fifth album is entitled ‘Seen It All’ because I feel like I’ve been through a lot and I’ve seen a lot, and I’m still standing here and I’m still standing tall,” the rapper said during an interview with Atlanta radio station V-103. “That’s what it is, man.”

So far 12 tracks have been confirmed, including “4 Zones,” “Black Eskimo,” “Holy Ghost,” and “Beautiful.” Guests include The Game, T.I., Wiz Khalifa, and Jay-Z.

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Nick Carter and Jordan Knight, “Nick & Knight” Sept. 2 – Nick Carter's and Jordan Knight's singing groups, Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block respectively, previously made a collaborative album titled “NKOTBSB” and went on a joint tour that ran from May 2011 until June 2012. Now, Nick Carter and Jordan Knight have formed a duo called Nick & Knight. Their self-titled debut album will be released September 2.

Thus far, the duo has posted two songs from the album – “Just the Two of Us” and “One More Time” to YouTube. They're hoping that two-song sample will be enough to entice fans of the '90s boyband era to buy tickets to an already-announced North American tour that starts September 15 in Nashville Tennessee and runs through late November. The tour stops in Philadelphia October 11 and 12 at the Trocadero.

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