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January 17, 1992|By BRUCE BRITT, Los Angeles Daily News

It`s time for our annual look at the whereabouts and actions of certain conspicuously absent pop stars.

Top honors this year go to Bruce Springsteen, who has been on hiatus since 1987 (not counting his 1988 Chimes of Freedom). Columbia Records has no release date scheduled for the Boss` new album. The company has yet to release the album by Springsteen`s wife, Patty Scialfa, which was promised last year. So it may be a while before the Boss gets around to releasing his own record.

Runner-up in the missing-in-action sweepstakes  is jazz-pop chanteuse Sade. The Nigerian singer enjoyed a spate of platinum albums during the 1980s but has not released a record since her 1988 album Stronger Than Pride. Fans may be waiting a long time. The singer has no album slated for release so far this year.

Though Springsteen`s and Sade`s absences would be considered lengthy by most people`s standards, they pale in comparison to Lionel Richie`s. The singer, who has become a regular in this annual roundup of procrastinators, hasn`t released anything since his 1986 Dancing on the Ceiling album.

According to Michael Mitchell, vice president of communications for Motown Records, the singer`s new album will be a greatest-hits package with three new tracks. Mitchell predicts the album will be in stores in spring or early summer.

Some notable holdovers from last year include Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Perry. Buckingham`s album has been in the it`s-almost-finished stage for nearly two years now, but Warner Bros. Records publicity director Bob Merlis said it is slated for a mid- to late-March release.