Braxton reaches pop top

Since the release seven months ago of her self-titled debut for LaFace/Arista , R&B singer Toni Braxton has watched her album slowly but surely climb toward the top of the charts.

Now, with a slew of Grammy and Soul Train Awards nominations in her back pocket, and American Music Awards and NAACP Image Awards trophies on her mantel, she can celebrate as her album hits the top of this week’s SoundScan sales report.

According to numbers provided by an industry source, Braxton’s record, which is fast approaching total sales of 3 million, sold another 104,000 copies, pushing the title from No. 7 to 1, a unit increase of 23,000. Braxton’s latest single, the gold-certified “Breathe Again,” recently hit No. 3 on the singles chart.

Last week’s No. 1, “Kickin’ It Up,” from Atlantic country heartthrob John Michael Montgomery, slipped from the top spot to No. 4. The first single from that album, “I Swear,” was recently No. 1 on the country singles chart for an impressive three weeks.

Mariah’s at No.2

Holding steady at No. 2 is Mariah Carey’s Columbia release, “Music Box,” on sales of 98,000, while rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg remains at No. 3 with his Death Row/Interscope debut, “Doggystyle.”

The top debut this period is the highly anticipated second collection from ambient new age fusion act Enigma, whose Charisma-issued “Cross of Changes” enters the tally at No. 12, on sales of nearly 72,000. Enigma’s first release, 1991’s “MCMXC A.D.,” has sold more than 2 million copies and is listed at No. 87 on this week’s chart.

Other new entries include: hitmaker Richard Marx’s latest Capitol release, “Paid Vacation,” at No. 41; the debut album from Motown R&B femme duo Zhane, at No. 45 with “Pronounced Jah-Nay”; “Some Old Bullshit,” a collection of early Beastie Boys songs, released by Capitol, at No. 46; master guitarist/singer/songwriter Richard Thompson, at No. 109, with the Capitol-issued “Mirror Blue”; and “Cross Purposes,” the new one from I.R.S. metal masters Black Sabbath, at No. 122.

Biggest sales gain of the week was accomplished by the Arista release of the soundtrack from the film “The Bodyguard.” Benefiting from Whitney Houston’s victories at the American Music Awards, the album moved from No. 24 to 11 on sales of almost 76,000, up from 43,000 last time.

Other strong weeks were had by folk rockers Counting Crows, whose Geffen debut, “August and Everything After,” moved from No. 10 to 7; Kenny G., another Arista artist capitalizing on an American Music Awards win, as his 15-month-old “Breathless” set jumps from No. 41 to 26; and controversial Florida rappers Two Live Crew, whose Luke Records release, “Back at Your Ass,” leaped from No. 158 to 52.

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