Streisand’s ‘Higher’ in No. 1 spot

“Higher Ground,” the newest disc from Barbra Streisand, was the best-selling album in the nation last week. The 207,000 copies sold marked the entertainer’s biggest first-week sales tally and almost doubled the debut numbers of her previous studio album “Back to Broadway.” That album also debuted at No. 1 when it was released in 1993.

Streisand’s strong debut, which was undoubtedly aided by the Celine Dion duet “Tell Him,” which has garnered radio airplay that a solo tune might not have, pushed a contingent of rappers into lower rungs on the chart. It also kept the No. 2 spot-holder, Shania Twain, from ascending, as had been widely expected.

Strong sales were a hallmark of the tabulation period ended Sunday as eight of the chart’s top 10 albums scored six-figure sales, compared with just two albums on the previous week’s chart, according to sales data released Wednesday.

Barbra’s bow also gave execs at Columbia Records an early Christmas present. It was among a pair of albums from the label in the chart’s top 10: Labelmate Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly” checked in at No. 9 with sales of 90,000 copies.

“This is one of Barbra’s best al-bums and it stands on its own,” pro-ducer David Foster, who co-produced “Tell Him” with Walter Afanasieff, told Daily Variety. “She has given Columbia (Records) something they can really run with.”

Carey and Streisand were also among the five female artists on the top 10 list.

Twain’s Mercury Records disc “Come On Over” logged more than 169,000 copies during the sales period — its second week of release.

Strong word-of-mouth

At No. 3 was No Limit/Jive Rec-ords rapper Mystikal, whose “Unpredictable” disc sold 156,000 copies. The sophomore offering from the New Orleans-based artist may have lacked widespread airplay but had strong word-of-mouth among hip-hop devotees.

The teaming of R&B big guns Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and Johnny Gill, to create LSG, nabbed the No. 4 spot with its debut “Levert, Sweat, Gill” disc. More than 138,000 copies of the Elektra Records album were sold, driven in part by the strength of the disc’s first single, “My Body,” which has held sway at the top of the R&B radio play and singles charts.

Last week’s chart leader, “Harlem World” from rapper Mase, dropped four spots on sales of more than 134,000 copies.

The Bad Boy/Arista Records disc experienced a less than 30% decline in an era when rap discs typically drop 50% or more in their second week. The disc’s two-week tally is just shy of 600,000 copies.

“You Light Up My Life,” the Curb Records disc filled with inspirational songs such as “God Bless America” from songstress LeAnn Rimes, fell just a notch to No. 6 with sales of more than 126,000 copies. Universal’s Chumbawamba similarly dropped one rung to No. 7, with more than 104,000 copies of its “Tubthumber” disc.

Rounding out the top 10 was Matchbox 20’s Atlantic Records debut, “Yourself or Someone Like You,” at No. 10.

VH1’s touch

VH1 continued to proved it has the Midas touch when it comes to promot-ing pop music’s elder statesmen.

The cabler’s repeated airings of its “Behind the Music” special centered on Billy Joel — and earlier musicvids from the singer — aided the 39-spot jump logged by the singer’s double disc set “Vol. 3 — Greatest Hits.” VH1 recently helped boost the sales of discs from Paul McCartney, the BeeGees and James Taylor.

Other notable chart action includes a surprising No. 13 bow for Ozzy Osbourne’s “Ozzman Cometh.” The Epic Records offering topped 69,000 copies and earned the chart’s No. 13 rung.

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