Manilow means business for Davis

Barry Manilow’s reunion record with Clive Davis, “The Greatest Songs of the Fifties,” is expected to sell about 150,000 copies in its first week and debut at No. 1 when Nielsen SoundScan releases its sales data Wednesday. It would be Manilow’s first chart-topper since his “Live” album hit No. 1 in 1977.

Davis’ RCA Music Group is expecting Heather Headley’s “In My Mind” to debut high in the top 10 and could be looking at four discs in the top 10. Jamie Foxx’s “Unpredictable” should sell 90,000-plus, and Carrie Underwood’s “Some Hearts” is likely to do more than 70,000.

The Foxx and Underwood discs were released in the fourth quarter and have had legs: Underwood’s debut will top 2 million sold this week and Foxx’s album will pass 1.3 million. “Unpredictable” was released during a former dead man’s zone — the week of Christmas — but it has proven to be a winning time frame for Foxx and Mary J. Blige’s “Breakthrough” on Geffen.

The true payoff is that the RCA/J Records/Arista Records camp will be sitting pretty right when all eyes are on the music industry and its stars during Grammy week. The announcement that Manilow’s album is No. 1 will come out the same day as the Grammy ceremony.

With the Grammys moved to early February — following the date change made by the Oscars — early February has become a sales bonanza thanks to Grammy results and appearances plus Valentine’s Day.

Corporate parent Sony BMG, which owns the RCA Label Group, could be looking at six discs in the week’s top 10 if Columbia rock band Train can deliver a top 10 entry.

Davis reacts to the situation more as a proud papa than an alchemist who has seen his formula validated, reminiscing about starting Arista Records with Manilow as his first artist more than 30 years ago as well as the events that led up to Manilow making the new album.

Davis, chairman-CEO of the RCA Music Group, went to Las Vegas to see Manilow’s lauded show at the Las Vegas Hilton and presented him with a list of songs he thought could make a great record. (Manilow’s previous two studio albums had been released by Concord; his last for Arista was a collection of Sinatra tunes released in ’98. None of the three did much business.)

“He’s a timeless artist though not everybody may know it,” Davis said, taking a break from planning last- minute details for his annual pre-Grammy bash. “He and Rod (Stewart) had something in common — they still have great voices. And on this record his is co-starring with copyrights that are timeless. The sales show he has moved well beyond (his main demographic), but it’s not clear if it’s parents buying it for kids or kids buying it for parents.”

Manilow is among the artists scheduled to perform Tuesday at Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hilton. Rod Stewart, Davis’ other legend that he lined up with “classic copyrights,” as he calls them, is also on the list of performers.

But after four albums of standards, Stewart is moving up a few decades to the rock era for his next effort. Davis and Stewart are slated to meet next week to discuss repertoire for an album of rock classics. They have already agreed on one tune: Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”

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