RCA's Stewart and Aiken battle for No. 1

Rod Stewart’s second album of standards is running neck and neck with Clay Aiken’s debut disc “Measure of a Man,” with both expected to sell more than 200,000 copies and land in the top two slots in the national album sales chart.

Both artists record for the Clive Davis-run RCA Music Group — Stewart for J Records and Aiken for RCA.

Stewart’s album “As Time Goes By … The Great American Songbook Vol. 2,” released almost a year to the day after his first album of standards hit stores, could double the 115,000 units the debut sold in its first week. In 2002, the release of Stewart’s “It Had to Be You … The Great American Songbook” coincided with the release of Santana’s “Shaman,” which Davis exec produced.

“These records send a powerful message about careers,” Davis, chairman of the RCA Records Group and founder of J Records, told Daily Variety. “It speaks well about Rod that when he is paired with the right music, he can have an impact. There’s a huge appetite for his records. And it’s a major moment for Clay, who could be No. 1 for a second week.”

While Aiken had the benefit of dueling with — and eventually losing to — Ruben Studdard for the “American Idol 2″ crown, the campaigns for Stewart’s albums have been rather low-key. For the first album he did about a half-dozen TV interviews and appeared at industry-only events with Davis in New York and L.A.

‘Oprah’ boost

Push on the second album included an appearance on “Oprah,” but has benefited from a single being added at AC stations — Stewart’s duet with Cher on “Bewitched, Bewildered & Bothered.” Davis credited Clear Channel with aiding Stewart’s success by getting behind the single.

“Vol. 2″ shipped 800,000 copies; the first album shipped only 300,000. “It Had to Be You” has registered sales of about 4 million worldwide, a little better than 1.8 million of that coming from the U.S. In the U.K., the second disc debuted at No. 4.

“We’re already getting reorders,” Davis said.

Talk of a tour is in the early stages, with February being eyed as a possible start date.

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