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Santana, Rod Stewart Storm the Charts

Santana and Rod Stewart  | Julianne Moore  Two Legends Pass On

Santana, Rod Stewart Storm the Charts

Is it a reaction against five years of junk on the charts? I think so.

Rod Stewart and Carlos Santana, two names more closely associated with the 1970s than with the new millennium, sold albums like they were going out of style last week.

Santana, coming off his gazillion-selling No. 1 comeback album, Supernatural, is a cinch at No. 1 this week with the follow up, called Shaman. With only half the record stores counted, Hitsdailydouble has Shaman at over 190,000 and climbing.

By the time all the sales have been tallied up, Santana will have sold around 250,000 copies -- or maybe more.

It doesn't hurt that Santana's first single, with Michelle Branch on vocals, is a big hit. "The Game of Love," written by New Radicals pop genius Gregg Alexander, follows a pattern Santana set three years ago with Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty singing on "Smooth."

But it's Rod Stewart 's story that really has an impact this week.

Rod the Sod was dropped by Warner Records after a hundred years because they thought he was too old and out of it. Then sister label Atlantic picked him up, and dropped him too, right on his bushy blonde-highlighted head.

Around that time, Richard Perry -- the great producer who made hits for Harry Nilsson, Carly Simon and Ringo Starr -- started recording standards with Rod on a lark.

Now those tapes, along with some added by Phil Ramone, make up Rod's new album. He's going to sell over 100,000 copies this week and land somewhere in the top five.

What label is Rod on? Say it slowly, because it had to be ... J Records, Clive Davis ' two-year-old startup. And who executive produced Santana's Shaman, after making Supernatural a hit? That would be Clive Davis, the 70-year-old impresario who three years ago lost his position as head of Arista Records because his whippersnapper bosses thought he was too old.

In a very short time, ol' Clive is going to be reinstated at Arista and J's parent company as a super-power broker. He's about to run a whole division.

Now, Clive doesn't do everything -- he has minions who are smart and handpicked. But he's personally very proud of "The Game of Love."

Why? "I had that song for two years!" he told me excitedly the other night. "I held onto it." Davis, unlike just about everyone else in the record business, still hangs around his home and office listening to demo tapes of songs, hundreds of 'em, and gives them to artists who don't write their own material.

Of course, Clive's longest shot of the season is Liza Minnelli, whose live album he's just released.

But something tells me this was more of a licensing deal for him than an outright purchase. After all, Liza's career has been colder than an Arctic freeze, and she hasn't been on a regular label in quite a while. So it's probably a covered bet, with Clive hopeful that Liza and hubby David Gest's VH-1 show takes off like The Osbournes, thus triggering CD sales.

It could happen. It probably won't. But never bet against Clive.

Julianne Moore Not Far From Oscar

All right: The sometimes-annoying Todd Haynes has made a sort of brilliant movie that veers from one-note joke to full-out satire and winds up becoming its own peculiar piece of art.

The movie is called Far From Heaven, and it's technically an homage to '50s big-screen pulp soap opera director Douglas Sirk.

German-born Sirk's overwrought, melodramatic films included Imitation of Life, All That Heaven Allows, Magnificent Obsession, and Written on the Wind. He favored a kind of B actor like Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, the kind who weren't Shakespearean but elicited a certain sympathy from the audience.

It's no coincidence that Wyman wound up having incredible success on Falcon Crest years later, or Hudson with MacMillan and Wife, all on TV.

Haynes -- who has made one interesting film called Safe and one awful one called Poison -- is a critics' darling and festival pet. He also wrote the script for Velvet Goldmine, one of the most over-hyped pieces of self-indulgence ever produced. He's rested comfortably in a zone of kitsch and homosexuality, mostly irritating mainstream audiences.

So very little in his past gave an indication that Haynes could pull off something as fully formed or as huge as Far From Heaven.

Every single note of it is perfect, from the wonderful performances by Julianne Moore (expected) and Dennis Quaid (unexpected) to the look of the film, which is impeccably researched. Moore and Quaid seem on the surface to be the picture-perfect suburban Connecticut upwardly mobile couple. They are characters drawn from Richard Yates, John Cheever and John O'Hara.

And then, just as in the stories of those masters, all hell breaks loose. There's going to be a lot of talk about this movie when it's released next month, but for now I have to tell you that the support casting by Laura Rosenthal and the production design by Mark Friedberg is exceptional.

In the former case, Patricia Clarkson, James Rebhorn and Celia Weston buttress this film in unexpected ways. There is also an actress named Bette Henritze, who reminded me so much of the late Doris Packer (Milton Armitage's constantly outraged society mother from Dobie Gillis) that I thought I was hallucinating.

As for the set decoration and art design, so much of it is a miracle. They've managed to find the right architecture -- fake Frank Lloyd Wright, I guess you might call it. All the buildings and the whole look of the movie comes from existing edifices you might actually find in Connecticut, a state very much shaped in the post-war 50s.

And Haynes adds to this by setting the film in autumn and early winter. Leaves and then snow are constantly falling when the characters are outside. "The sky is falling" is an apt metaphor for what happens to this couple.

More about Far From Heaven next month. But now the picture of who might be nominated for Best Actress is clearing up. Julianne Moore will be competing with Salma Hayek (see Frida as soon as possible); Renee Zellweger (as Roxie in Chicago); and possibly Nicole Kidman, from The Hours.

And Dennis Quaid, humiliated by Meg Ryan in every tabloid, is having -- like the also-jilted Kidman -- the best year of his career. I guarantee you he will be in the Best Supporting Actor category this year. Brav-o!

Far From Heaven, by the way, is a film from Universal Focus, which used to be called USA Studios, and before that October and then maybe Gramercy Films or Polygram Films depending upon who you knew.

Singing, and Rocking, in the Rain

In the last few days, two legends of the music world have died, although they were quite different.

On Sunday, Tom Dowd -- one of the greatest rock producers of all time, bar none -- passed away. Dowd worked on all the great Atlantic releases with Aretha Franklin and other stars like Sam Moore, on the Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, you name it.

He was at the controls for Clapton's original "Layla" (not the soppy, sappy '90s version). In the '70s his Miami-based Criteria Sound was the hottest studio in the country. Ironically, he also produced Rod Stewart's "You're in My Heart" and "Hot Legs." So maybe he gave Rod a little push up the charts this weekend.

Adolph Green died on Friday, so many obits have been composed in his honor. With his partner Betty Comden, the inimitable Adolph wrote so many hits like "New York, New York" (the original one, with the Bronx up and the Battery down), and the glorious "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan.

He and Betty also wrote the screenplay for Singing in the Rain although -- and I would have lost a bet on this the other day -- they didn't write the famous song.

Sometime in the midst of about 18 months ago, the great photographer Jill Krementz and I went to see Kitty Carlisle Hart tape a PBS special at Times Square's New Victory Theatre. Adolph and Betty were there, too, with their pal Joel Connaroe.

After the show, the bunch of us stumbled through the slush to a god-awful fast food chili restaurant, where the 86-year-old Adolph ordered a martini and gobbled it down faster than I did mine. God bless him.

As we crossed the new Disney-fied Times Square that night I asked him how he liked it all cleaned up. After all, Adolph had really lived in Times Square his whole life, having written Broadway shows, plays, musicals, etc., every single day with Betty.

He looked around at The Lion King, and all the fake, busy neon, and squinted. "Eh," he said, giving the whole business the back of his hand, "I liked it better the other way, with the prostitutes."

After dinner, Jill took our picture out on the street, and now it's a collector's item, along with just about everything from a New York that exists only in our minds anymore. But just think: Every time someone purposely stamps a foot into a darkly lit puddle of rain, and then follows with their other one, they're recalling something that Adolph Green and Betty Comden concocted.

It's the highest tribute of all.