'Idol' Score: Randy Jackson's Hit

'Idol' Score: Randy Jackson's Hit | Can Michael Jackson Find 11th-Hour Help? | Julia Fordham Jazzes It Up; Amy Adams Cleans Up

'Idol' Score: Randy Jackson's Hit

One of the many surprises on Randy Jackson’s "Music Club" album will shock fans of the group Bon Jovi: Richie Sambora can sing.

Hello! This is a Jackson who works, gets it and knows his music. He is not related to Michael Jackson.

There are a lot of surprises on "Randy Jackson’s Music Club, Vol. 1," which will be released next month. You already know about Paula Abdul and her lead-off single, "Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow."

But Jackson, the kindly judge from "American Idol," knows voices. On "Music Club," he’s gathered up all the best ones he’s heard. The result is a 12-track album that sounds like the best radio station that doesn’t exist. Clear Channel, are you listening?

Jackson does use a couple of "AI" refugees, but maybe not the ones you’d expect. Katharine McPhee and Elliott Yamin duet on "Real Love," a catchy, smooth pop hit with a gospel feel that is so disarmingly infectious it shouldn’t have any trouble finding a place on radio. Maybe.

Of course, listening to these songs, a person from the old world of pop (that’s me) thinks: All hits! They’ll shoot to the top of the charts!

But will they? Radio is such a murky place of payola and narrow thinking that very little of value is heard there now. Indeed, in the 2000s, radio killed the radio stars.

Maybe the "American Idol" power and Jackson’s penchant for hearing hits will change all that. Certainly, the pleasures of "Music Club" are many, because Jackson has mixed and matched rock, R&B, blues and country stars seamlessly.

My personal favorites: the funky, bluesy "Wang Dang Doodle" featuring Sam "Soul Man" Moore, Angie Stone and Keb Mo; the gorgeous "Home" blends Anthony Hamilton with John Rich (of Big & Rich); "Something to Believe in" has a trio of hit male vocalists — Jon McLaughlin, Van Hunt and Jason Mraz; and, of course, the Sambora track also features Travis Tritt and Lucy Woodward.

Part of the fun of "Music Club" is just playing it without looking at the label. Mariah Carey is one of four stars — including R&B vet Rance Allen, gospel great Bebe Winans and the magnificent Kim Burrell with Hezekiah Walker’s Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church Choir on "I Understand"; and it’s Joss Stone who drives a hip-hopped version of Dionne Warwick’s classic "Walk on By."

"Randy Jackson’s Music Club" is going to turn the music business around next month. Just wait and see!

Can Michael Jackson Find 11th-Hour Help?

The planned public auction of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch doesn’t necessarily get him off the hook. Even if someone turns up on March 19 with $24.5 million, Jackson still has a big problem: taxes.

According to experts, Jackson could be very much on the hook with the Internal Revenue Service for around $5 million in capital gains taxes. In other words: His home would be gone, but he’d still be significantly in debt.

The reason for this is: Jackson bought Neverland for between $12 million and $14 million back in 1988. If it sells for the full amount owed, $24.5 million, there’s a conceivable difference of $10 million.

According to California law, Jackson would then be taxed on that money as if he’d sold the property and it was income. According to a California state-sponsored Web site, www.ftb.ca.gov, Jackson would be liable for this money. A ballpark figure could be as much as $5 million.

To add insult to injury, the Neverland auction, as it stands, will take place on the steps of the Santa Barbara County courthouse. The auctioneer likely will be a representative from Financial Title Company of San Francisco.

Bidders will have to come with cashier’s checks for the amount they want to offer. Once the bidding begins, Fortress Investments -- the original lender and beneficiary of the bid — can’t stop it. Someone will win Neverland.

The good news is that once a bid is accepted, Jackson is no longer the debtor. If Fortress accepts a lower bid than $24.5 million, Jackson is not liable for the balance. The debt is cleared.

But think what a circus this outdoor auction will be like, and what embarrassment it adds up to. Jackson could easily have avoided this, too.

Meanwhile, don’t believe spin from the Jackson camp reported on less successful cable operations.

We reported a couple of weeks ago that Jackson had paid off a $600,000 bill to the California State Franchise Board having to do with a company called Select Staffing. That had nothing to do with the foreclosure. Jackson owed that money to the state regardless. And there’s a big difference between the tax amount and what it would take to save Neverland from auction.

If Jackson’s people have dug up new financing in the 11th hour, that’s great news. But it’s important to remember that Neverland has been in default since Oct. 19. Jackson had 90 days to fix the problem and didn’t.

When that grace period ran out on Jan. 19, Fortress Investments gave Jackson another month’s extension, more or less. That brings us to the current dilemma.

One way out for Jackson was to accept an offer I reported here exclusively two weeks ago. AEG Live guaranteed him $10 million for 10 shows at its Millennium Dome in London, with a potential of $30 million for a total of 30 shows. All Jackson would have to do was perform "Thriller" from beginning to end, as well as about a half-dozen other hits as encores.

If he signed that contract, he could use it for collateral — maybe. But it’s unclear whether that deal still exists.

Julia Fordham Jazzes It Up; Amy Adams Cleans Up

Tracy Ullman, TV writer-director John Wells, famed record producer Richard Perry and actress Joanna Kerns were among the lucky who made it into dazzling singer Julia Fordham’s show at the Roxy Wednesday night.

Fordham without a doubt is one of the handful of great voices of her generation. Her new album, "China Blue," available at novatunes.com , is just the latest in a series of terrific releases.

She sang a lot of her faves Wednesday night, such as "Happy Ever After," "Porcelain," "Stay" and "Manhattan Skyline" with joyousness and ebullience. Her richly textured contralto voice just soared. The new songs from "China Blue" were met with crazy ovations from the crowd, particularly "I Want to Stay Home With You."

Fordham is the most under-the-radar star in the pop music galaxy. Tonight she plays San Francisco. …

Amy Adams’ Sundance movie, "Sunshine Cleaning," is being sold to Overture Pictures. The very good dramedy likely will be renamed, as I suggested, to clear up confusion that it’s the sequel to "Little Miss Sunshine." Emily Blunt co-stars. If Overture can get the right marketing and PR going, they will have a hit. Still unsold from Sundance, Barry Levinson’s "What Just Happened." …

Much has been made of the omission of the late 25-year-old actor Brad Renfro from the Oscars' In Memoriam on Sunday. But it’s hard to imagine the Academy governors wanting two young actors who died from drug overdoses in the sequence. Heath Ledger was enough.

Bigger omissions included Roy Scheider , who they say missed the cut-off of Jan. 31 (how utterly ridiculous). Several others were missing, as well, including Tom Poston, whose picture should have followed his late wife, Suzanne Pleshette.

All also missing were Joey Bishop; Ira Levin (many novels turned into movies); Kurt Vonnegut (same); Alice Ghostley; Robert Goulet; Brett Somers; Bob Clark (director of "Porky's"); Charles Nelson Reilly; Lois Nettleton; Allan Melvin; Charles Lane; Merv Griffin; Marcel Marceau; and Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman . ...