Story By: G. H. HARDING


Neil Diamond

THE SINGER --- The legendary Neil Diamond has signed a long-term recording agreement with Capitol Records. This landmark deal unites Diamond's complete catalogues of recorded music for the first time, encompassing his entire body of work, from his earliest recordings through the present day. The agreement also returns Diamond to Universal Music where he achieved numerous hit singles and albums with the company's labels in the late 60's and early 70's. The label’s Steve Barnett commented, "I had the pleasure of working closely with Neil for many years and was delighted to see him achieve great commercial and critical success with albums that so beautifully showcased his distinctive songwriting. I am genuinely thrilled that he has signed with us and is already at work on a new album”.

It's been well documented that Diamond is a veritable national treasure -- he's a Grammy winner, Golden Globe winner, Kennedy Center Honoree and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. During his remarkable career he has charted 37 Top 10 singles and 16 Top 10 albums in the U.S., sold more than 128 million records worldwide and racked up an astounding 72 multi platinum, platinum and gold album certifications in the U.S. alone.

Columbia lured Diamond away in 1973 for a reported million dollars per album advance, one of the most lucrative contracts to that time. He continued to produce hits for the next nine years but has failed to make the Hot 100 since 1986. What he lacked in singles success was more than offset with albums that continued to sell well, capping it off with the artistic comebacks 12 Songs (2005) and Home Before Dark (2008).

Also, let us not forget his prowess as a major writer: "I'm A Believer" for The Monkees.

The Brooklyn-born Diamond turns 72 Thursday, so in terms of practical reality one might wonder exactly who his audience is these days. Answer: people who still enjoy good music. As a writer and performer, he’s still got it. I saw him several years back at Madison Square Garden and though he may move a bit slower these days, the majesty and brilliance of his performance didn't falter at all. Interesting fact: Both he and Elton John are now Capitol Records artists. Back in the day, they were both on MCA Records … the more things change; the more they stay the same.

OSAGE ANYONE? --- Sony Music has announced the release of the original motion picture soundtrack of August: Osage County, featuring songs specially written for the film by Kings of Leon and by JD and the Straight Shot, as well as celebrated songs by Bon Iver, Eric Clapton and Billy Squier. These tracks are backed up by new music composed by Gustavo Santaolalla and others.

The songs on the album make up an irresistible compilation. “Last Mile Home” by Kings of Leon, a soulful track with an understated guitar accompaniment, was specially written for the film by the band. The acoustic version of it was used for the end titles and the track featured on the album. The simple, moving “Violet’s Song” by JD and the Straight Shot was also recorded for the movie, and as a special treat the soundtrack includes the pleasure of hearing the actor Benedict Cumberbatch perform as a singer (“Can’t Keep It Inside”). The album opens with eerie electronic echos in “Himmon TX” by Bon Iver, with the smoky voice of the indie group’s front man Justin Vernon. The third track is an absolute classic of country blues, “Lay Down Sally” from Clapton’s album Slow Hand. A further well-known number is Billy Squiers’ hard-rock “The Stroke”. These veterans are joined by an up-and-coming star: the American singer-songwriter John Fullbright showcases his Oklahoma vowels in the laid-back but energized “Gawd Above”.

To accompany these songs Santaolalla and others have composed atmospheric film music. The multi-talented artist is best known for his work writing movie scores and producing albums. He has won two Academy Awards for Best Original Score, for his work on Babel and Brokeback Mountain, and two Grammy Awards as an album producer. He is also the founder of the electro rock-tango band Bajofondo, whose latest album, Presente, was also recently released by Sony. Of his compositions for August: Osage County, the longest is the “End Credits” track, melodious and fittingly subdued music in which orchestral strings underlay twangy guitar chords.

TARANTINO DUPED --- From Deadline Hollywood: "Learning today that his script The Hateful Eight leaked after he gave it to a small circle of actors, Quentin Tarantino tells me that he’s so upset that he has decided that he will not direct that film next. So basically that means the conversation that will be circulating around town following this story with Tarantino goes from an ensemble Western to a whodunit. As in, which actor or their reps leaked the script that, as a result, is going on the shelf — literally a bookstore shelf, because Tarantino tells me he will publish it first and maybe revisit the prospect of a movie in the next five years.

“I’m very, very depressed,” Tarantino said. “I finished a script, a first draft, and I didn't mean to shoot it until next winter, a year from now. I gave it to six people, and apparently it’s gotten out today.” He learned that when his longtime agent Mike Simpson began getting phone calls from agents looking to pitch their clients for roles in the ensemble Western.

So who could have done this? “I gave it to one of the producers on Django Unchained, Reggie Hudlin, and he let an agent come to his house and read it,” Tarantino said. “That’s a betrayal, but not crippling because the agent didn't end up with the script. There is an ugly maliciousness to the rest of it. I gave it to three actors: Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth. The one I know didn't do this is Tim Roth. One of the others let their agent read it, and that agent has now passed it on to everyone in Hollywood. I don't know how these fucking agents work, but I'm not making this next. I'm going to publish it, and that’s it for now. I give it out to six people, and if I can't trust them to that degree, then I have no desire to make it. I'll publish it. I'm done. I'll move on to the next thing. I've got 10 more where that came from.”

It’s a damn shame because anything from the director is always pretty, damn good. In fact, this whole story sounds like a script from Quentin himself ... I mean, who could come up with an idea like this? Me … I think he'll come around and shoot it; especially after all this free-PR and curiosity. I mean, who wouldn't want to shoot it now?

CLOSING NOTES –  So odd watching newly-minted Weather Channel-Man Sam Champion on The Today Show. I love Sam, but why is he shouting so much? He’s got the job …

Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt’s We Are Family benefit. Scheduled for last night was wisely postponed. Their honoree this year was Steve Van Zandt; we'll let you know the new date as soon as we can …

Haven't heard all that much from Alec Baldwin in the last few weeks. Wonder who suggested he shut up? Best performance he’s done in years …

The annual music-industry show NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) starts tomorrow and runs through the 26th in Anaheim …

Last week the Hollywood Reporter ran an article listing the Top 25 Lunch power spots in L. A. (Soho House was first; The Palm was last). So, we figured we'd list the Top 5 power lunch spots here in NYC; They are: #1: Michael’s in NYC on West 55th Street - #2: 44 in The Royalton on West 44th Street - #3: A Voce Columbus at the Time Warner Center in NYC - #4: The Odeon – 145 West Broadway in NYC - #5: Bond 45 at 154 West 45th Street – yes, the original home of the Bond’s disco back in the day …

U2 are nominated for Best Original Song for Ordinary Love from the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The group won the Golden Globe last week for the song. They are up against Alone But Not Alone from the film of the same name (songwriters Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel), Happy from Despicable Me 2 (Pharrell Williams), Let It Go from Frozen (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) and The Moon Song from Her (Karen O and Spike Jonze). The documentary 20 Feet From Stardom is up for Best Documentary Feature. The film highlights the careers of background singers Darlene Love, Mary Clayton, Judith Hill, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega and Jo Lawry ...

Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham will combine as one force to perform for the finale of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards this Sunday.

Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age have not appeared at the Grammy Awards before.

Queens of the Stone Age have been nominated for two Grammy Awards this year. They are up for Best Rock Performance for My God Is The Sun and Best Rock Album for …Like Clockwork.

Nine Inch Nails have also been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album for Hesitation Marks.

Dave Grohl has also been nominated for two Grammy Awards. He is competing for Best Rock Song for Cut Me Some Slack (with Paul McCartney, Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic) and Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for Soul City: Reel To Reel.

I'm quite sure Neil Portnow and his Grammy-cronies wet their pants with this news; but, me, I'd rather see a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunion or The Monkees. They'll be so much noise on stage; they'll be a run for the exits. Good thing it’s the closing number.