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  • John-MayerWhen the call came to see John Mayer at an WPLJ-“Up Close and Personal” show at The China Club, we were there (along with TheImproper’s Keith Girard) in a heartbeat.

    Even though I had been aware of Mayer from day one, his seemingly endless tabloid exploits somewhat sapped my interest.

    Sure, he’s written some good songs (“Waiting on The World To Change,” “Gravity” and “Your Body Is A Wonderland”) and even cites our old pal Deborah Gibson as his first crush. But I tired somewhat of seeing what Hollywood-A lister he was busily squiring around town.

    Then came 2006’s Eric Clapton/JJ Cale collaboration The Road To Escondido. It had a track featuring Clapton, Cale, and Mayer. Though he didn’t sing on it, he delivers to my mind, a scorching, emotional guitar solo halfway through.

    I have to say, that whenever I saw him play life, I was most impressed. They’ve been some other young applicants to the Clapton throne (Kenny Wayne Shephard comes to mind), but Mayer is right up there.

    From Left: Scott Shannon, John Mayer,  Monkey Boy, Brad Blanks

    From Left: Scott Shannon, John Mayer, Monkey Boy, Brad Blanks

    He also seems to possess an innate knowledge of blues guitar. I’m a huge Clapton and Cale fan, but I must admit what Mayer did on that song ranks right up with them.

    With a new CD (Battle Studies) in the stores, even Mayer has to promote it. We were whisked upstairs to the all-important meet-and-greet and it was packed and, yes, many fine looking people both male and female, were scurrying about.

    We spoke with his two of his bands mates. One, the legendary Robbie McIntosh, was terrific. His pedigree from the Average White Band and Pretenders alone gives him much street cred.

    Playing alongside Mayer in an acoustic set, the two blended terrifically. He was singularly terrific. Totally acoustic and most ear-and-eye friendly, Mayer did all the new songs, including the current terrific “War Life” and the old ones and encored with a terrific cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin.”

    I’m glad I saw him and must admit this show ranked among the best of the year. It was a thrill, as always to see the WPLJ crowd, Scott Shannon, Race Taylor, Christine Richie, Jeff Miles, Tony Cafarelli, Tony Mascaro, Brad Blanks, Monkey Boy, and the lovely Theresa Angela. We also bumped into CC-boss Danny Fried. A great night in December.

    The Blind Side: Sandra Bullock at Her Best

    Sandra Bullock in sleeper hit 'Blind Side'

    Sandra Bullock in sleeper hit 'Blind Side'

    Sandra Bullock got a fourth quarter surprise, as did we, with her movie “The Blind Side.” The true-story of Dallas-house wife Leigh Ann Tuohy and her heartfelt effort to raise

    Truth be told, when the call came to see this movie and the plot was briefly explained, I initially was going to pass. In fact, I had even seen an early trailer and didn’t care for it at all. Well, I loved it.

    From her turn in “Speed” (with Keannu Reeves) all those years ago, I have followed with some delight Sandra’s career. Sure, she’s been in some less than stellar efforts (“All About Steve” and “Demolition Man” come to mind), but she hits the mark more often than not.

    She was terrific in “Miss Congeniality” and as a coming-of-age racist in “Crash.” I especially loved her in the 1995’s “While You were Sleeping.”

    “The Blind Side” moves a mile a minute; every time I thought it might totally lapse into senselessness, it did not. Tim McGraw was terrific as her husband Sean, and without his trademark goatee, you might almost miss him.

    Quinton Aaron and Michael Oher, the boy taken in, by the Tuohys was terrific. He can convey so much emotion with just the look of his eyes. Outstanding.

    This movie released around the time of the second “Twilight” movie, “New Moon,” actually ended up beating it during the second week of their respective runs.

    If you haven’t seen this one … make it a point to see it. As Entertainment Weekly said of the movie: “Bullock stretches capably and effortlessly into dramatic territory as a woman trying to raise a man rather than land one.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, She’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe for the movie for and there is well deserved Oscar talk, too.

    Queen: One for the History Books

    QueenIn 2005, Queen albums established a new Guinness Book of World Records feat by spending 1,322 weeks or 27 years on the U.K. album charts; more time than any other musical act, including the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

    Queen has sold in excess of 300 million records, singles, videos and DVDs worldwide. Since 2005, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have performed with former Free man Paul Rodgers under the moniker Queen + Paul Rodgers.

    Freddie Mercury, the dynamic lead singer of the group died on Nov. 24, 1991. If there ever was an iconic band, Queen has got to be in the top five.

    Now, a compelling and comprehensive book (out through Voyageur Press) on the group is out, called “Queen: the Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock,” by Brit-journalist magazine’s Phil Sutcliffe.

    This book, all 288 pages of it, is the real deal and actually how books about rock and roll used to be. Jam-packed with photos (from Bowie to Elton to the band’s early years) it is nothing short of fab and immediately conveys the writer’s lover for the group.

    Sutcliffe claims that the group coined the term “arena rock” and for my money, he’s right. The group delivered hit after hit – “Another One Bites The Dust,” “We Are The Champions,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Under Pressure (With David Bowie),” and, “Radio Gaga.”

    Sutcliffe chronicles the challenges of the group and its effervescent frontman, who emerges as the perfect singer for the band. Guitarist May also has a profound impact on the group’s development and that too is explored here.

    First-class writing and some terrific visuals, make this one of your music books of the year. If you liked this band, you MUST read this one. Check out Sutcliffe’s past work via Rocksbackpages.

    Angelo Babbaro: One Night in Manhattan

    BabbaroFrontA few issue back we ran a Q&A on Angelo Babbaro from Youngstown, Ohio, one of the most exciting and original talents we’ve come across this year, perhaps the new owner of the moniker, Chairman Of The Board.

    We were invited down to Euphoria Studios, where Angelo was knee deep in rehearsal with a combo, featuring Chip Jackson on acoustic bass, Bob Kaye on keyboards, and, Ed Caccavale, put together by maestro Victor Kastel.

    Babbaro is organizing a tour for the spring that will display his vocal talents. He does get Sinatra, no question, be we also heard him run through some other standards, including a flawless “Fly me To The Moon,” “Goody Goody,” “Got You Under My Skin,” and, “Cheek To Cheek.”

    From left: Angelo Babbaro, Victor Kastel, David Salidor

    From left: Angelo Babbaro, Victor Kastel, David Salidor

    With talents like Harry Connick, Jr., and Michael Buble, blasting the airwaves every day, Babbaro will soon be right up there with him. The very next afternoon we caught up with him at the Palm West, with his producer Gary Rhamy and PR-man David Salidor.

    He gave up even more follow up and displayed an avuncular humor and personality. He’s got the goods, the talent and the drive. Get ready for him, he’s right on the money.

    Tiger Tracks: When All Is Said, Done, He’ll be Back

    It never fails to amaze me how this country loves to build someone up, then, tear them right down.

    I don’t know what I can add to the Tiger Woods fiasco, everyone has seemingly added their two-cent’s worth. However, the one comment that did make my lights start blinking was this: How come all these women seem to have a half-nude photo pictorial all ready to go?

    Amazing … right? 14 does seem to be a bit excessive … even for a someone named Tiger, but what can you do. With a wife and children involved, it all does seem to be a bit messy.

    I have enjoyed all the observations, from Whoopi Goldberg to Barbara Walters to (yes) David letterman and all the sports columnists. It does seem that eventually all his endorsement deals will end, and that really is a shame for all involved.

    I never played golf. Never interested, but I must admit, I’m taking a second look. He’ll go away for a time, do a Barbara Walters interview, cry, maybe a book, and then will be back on top. This country forgives … then, forgets.

    Short Takes: Red, Gus Van Sant, George Strait, Fergie,

    Julian McMahon, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, and Brian Cox are set to join the cast of “Red,” the adaptation of the DC Comics miniseries. “Red” centers on a former black-ops agent (Bruce Willis), now in retirement, who must contend with younger, more high-tech assassins who show up to kill him. Also slated to be in the production are Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly and Mary Louise Parker.

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    Casting for the new untitled Gus Van Sant drama seems to be keeping with the proposed project’s familial theme. The feature, on which Bryce Dallas Howard is teaming with father Ron Howard to produce, is opening its arms to Dennis Hopper’s son Henry, who will star opposite Mia Wasikowska, Schuyler Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek, who is also aboard. The drama, formerly known as “Restless,” revolved around a teen boy and girl who share a preoccupation with mortality.

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    Country music A-lister George Strait will star in a follow–up to his 1992 film “Pure Country,” with “A Pure Country Gift.” Chris Cain, who also helmed the first film, is directing He co-wrote the new screenplay with his son, actor Dean Cain, who has a role in the film. The father-son collaboration is their first. The original earned $15 million at the box office. “Country Gift” is about three angels who give the gift of a beautiful singing voice to a baby girl.

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    Just finished watching the four-hour HBO presentation of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s concerts at MSG. First off, with not a rap act in sight, I think Fergie with Jagger blew the roof off “Gimme Shelter.” Mick looked like he was enjoying it too. Second best was Bruce Springsteen with Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) doing “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” Just amazing. He’s quite some guitar player, too. Haven’t felt that sense of excitements since Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It” back in the day. Third, Simon and Garfunkel was just utterly exquisite and,loved Paul’s blue-suede jacket; very cool! All in all, a stunningly good show. Great to see Ray Davies, Annie Lennox, John Fogarty, Sam Moore and Lou Reed. And, my, hasn’t the Boss turned into quite the spokesperson. Exceptionally good! …

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    We haven’t said it before, but we’re bullish on writer/actor/director Rick Gervais hosting the annual Golden Globes event next month. The freewheeling, celebrity-soiree hasn’t called upon the services of a host since 1995, when TV regulars John Larroquette and Janine Turner emceed the 52nd edition. Gervais, whose got more money than most in Hollywood these days, thanks to “The Office,” is actually an inspired choice, certainly more cutting-edge and genuinely funny. It should be a great show!

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    Remember 1969’s “True Grit” with John Wayne and Glenn Campbell? Well, those crazy Coen Brothers (“No Country for Old Men”) are considering a remake with Matt Damom, Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges. All I can say is WOW! Damon would take on the Campbell role of a Texas Ranger tracking an outlaw (Brolin) with a gruff U.S. marshal originally essayed by Wayne, now to be played by Bridges. Wayne, by the way, won his only Oscar for the role. They’ve all worked with the Coens previously. if you’re really fan, you know which movies they’ve appeared in.

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    Legendary actor George Segal is returning to TV with a half-hour show for TV Land called “Retired at 35.” The show centers on a successful young businessman who decides to leave the New York rat race behind and move into his father’s retirement home. Segal’s the father, who loves his new lifestyle of fun and partying and is at pains to accept his son’s new plans. Sounds hilarious!

    In Remembrance, 2009

    Patrick Swayze, Walter Cronkite, Natasha Richardson, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Army Archerd, Bea Arthur, Dominick Dune, Ed McMahon, Gene Barry, Henry Gibson, Karl Malden, Kenny Rankin, Patrick McGoohan, Ron Silver, Brittany Murphy, Adam “DJ AM” Goldberg and Soupy Sales.

    Names in the News

    Adam Pollack, Lisa Richie, Admir Kain-Worth, Angelo Babbaro, Victor Kastel, Tony King, Edward Bass, Randy Alexander, Chris Logan, Jeremy Mazal, Chris Gilman, Mark Bego, The Abbey, Mary Wilson, Deborah Gibson, Robert Funaro