Slippery 'Rope' at No. 2 in 2nd week

Teenage sensation LeAnn Rimes returned to the top spot on the nation’s album sales chart as the late John Denver ended a 15-year absence from the listing, according to sales data released Wednesday.

Consumers took home more than 131,000 copies of Rimes’ Curb Records disc “You Light Up My Life” during the period ended Oct. 19.

The hefty seven-day tally pushed the disc over the 1 million unit mark in just six weeks of release.

The success of the country songstress’s disc of inspirational songs pushed Janet Jackson’s latest, “The Velvet Rope,” into the No. 2 spot.

Jackson’s Virgin Records disc, which bowed the previous week at No. 1, saw its second-week sales tally drop by almost 50%, to 123,000 copies for the period.

However, it’s not quite panic time for the folks at Virgin, as the disc — and its 18-month marketing plan — has a strong set-up track, “Got ‘Til It’s Gone,” which has found favor among R&B radio programmers.

A shift to a second, more accessible single — the bouncy “Together Again” — is expected to spark additional interest in the disc.

Jackson will also likely get a sales boost when VH1 anoints her the cabler’s artist of the month in December.

The soundtrack to “Gang Related” also dropped a notch into the No. 3 spot on sales of 112,000 copies.

The total for the Death Row/Priority Records disc to the 20th Century Fox film squeaked past Fleetwood Mac’s latest by less than 500 copies.

The reunited band’s Reprise Records disc “The Dance,” which was the only resident of the chart’s top 10 to post an increase during the survey period, moved just north of 111,500 copies.

The disc is benefiting from publicity generated by a tour, repeated airings of interviews and its reunion concert on VH1. The band is also VH1’s artist of the month.

Checking in at No. 5 was the LaFace/Arista soundtrack “Soul Food,” which logged 107,000 copies. The total was sufficient to keep the disc ahead of Mariah Carey’s Columbia Records album “Butterfly,” which held steady at No. 6.

The Carey disc boasted sales of 105,000 copies, but had the smallest fall-off rate from the previous week of any of the top 10 decliners. The sales difference between the two totals was less than 1,500 copies.

At No. 7 was “Phenomenon,” the Def Jam Records disc from LL Cool J. The disc’s entry marked one of two new album bows on the chart.

Motown’s Boyz II Men, whose “Evolution” disc topped the chart four weeks ago, slid four notches to No. 8 with sales just south of 100,000 copies.

Rounding out the top 10 were Aqua at No. 9 and Green Day at No. 10.

Aqua’s MCA Records disc “Aquarium” went home with 83,000 consumers, while the Reprise disc “Nimrod,” from critics’ darlings Green Day, clocked in with 81,000 copies sold.

The Oct. 12 death of Denver earned the singer his first listing on the pop albums chart in the SoundScan era. His “Best of John Denver” set from Columbia — which was released in August — bowed at No. 52 on the chart with sales of 23,000 copies. Retailers advise that sales of other catalog discs by Denver are also brisk.

His most recent top 10 entry was his first “Greatest Hits” set, released by RCA Records on March 5, 1977. A 1982 offering, “Seasons of the Heart,” rose only to No. 39 on the album sales chart.

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