Virgin Records’ the Spice Girls continued their run as the nation’s bestselling recording artists for the third consecutive week, topping a list that included a handful of strong bows by such artists as Sammy Hagar, James Taylor and Foo Fighters.

The female quintet’s “Spice” disc logged more than 136,000 copies for the week ended May 25, as seven new albums entered the top 20.

Overall sales were brisk, considering the week going into Memorial Day typically kicks off the summer doldrums and volume slows. Next week’s chart will likely reflect the impact of the three-day holiday.

Execs at Track Factory/MCA Records are putting the party hats on as Hagar’s solo album return, “Marching to Mars,” debuted at No. 18 on sales of 43,200 units. The tally is significant, because radio and retail were initially reluctant to support the former Van Halen front man.

They’re also celebrating at Capitol as a result of the very strong bow of the Foo Fighters’ new disc, “The Colour and the Shape,” which landed at No. 10 on sales of more than 71,000 copies.

The sophomore offering of the Dave Grohl-led band fell just shy of the 72,000 unit tally logged by James Taylor, whose Columbia Records disc “Hour Glass” landed at No. 9.

Taylor visited several influential chatshows in advance, and has tourstops planned. An A&E special featuring the singer this week should help significantly goose next week’s chart tally.

Chart surprises were echoed among distribbers, as for the first time EMI’s distribution arm EMD led the big six in current album market share with 17.02%.

The conglom, which had its top exec suites overhauled this week to increase performance, outpaced BMG’s 13.84%, Universal’s 13.72% and WEA’s 13.56%. Sony and Polygram rounded out the list with 12.42% and 11.69%, respectively.

Christian recording artist Bob Carlisle maintained his No. 2 spot on sales of nearly 100,000 copies for his “Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace)” disc. The title track from the Diadem/Jive Records disc has become an adult contemporary radio staple after crossing over from contemporary Christian radio.

At No. 3 was rapper KRS-One’s ninth Jive Records disc, “I Got Next,” which rang registers more than 93,000 times. The tally was slightly more than the Priority Records soundtrack to “I’m ‘Bout It,” which was scanned more than 92,000 times and landed at No. 4.

Notorious B.I.G.’s “Life After Death” dropped two notches to No. 5 on sales of 87,000 copies. The Bad Boy/Arista Records disc still benefited from a widely publicized radio tribute last week and multiple airings on MTV of its single “Hypnotize.”

“Middle of Nowhere,” the debut from Mercury Records teen trio Hanson, fell one slot to No. 6 on sales of almost 80,000 copies, topping the 78,000 copies nabbed by “Carrying Your Love With Me,” the MCA Records disc from country crooner George Strait.

Mary J. Blige’s “Share My World” added 77,000 copies to MCA Records’ chart tally and earned her the No. 8 post, a four-spot drop from the previous chart.

Other notable entries include Michael Jackson’s “Blood on the Dance Floor,” posting sales of 35,000 copies — a far cry from the 391,000-copy bow of “HIStory: Book 1″ in 1995. The heavily promoted Warner Bros. disc from John Fogerty, “Blue Moon Swamp,” entered at No. 38 on sales of 28,000 copies.

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