MCA lands a 1-2 punch with Strait, Blige bows

In their first week of release, albums from MCA Records artists Mary J. Blige and Nashville arm counterpart George Strait nabbed the top two spots on the nation’s sales charts. By doing so the pair ends the four-week lock on the top spot held by the late Notorious B.I.G.

The one-two punch also marks the first time in the SoundScan era that the same family of labels held the No. 1 and 2 berths with a pair of debuts.

More than 240,000 copies of Blige’s “Share My World” disc and nearly 195,000 copies of country stalwart Strait’s “Carrying Your Load” were sold during the April 20-27 sales period, according to label execs.

“Waterbed Hev,” the eagerly anticipated and heavily set-up disc from Heavy D, also debuted strong and earned the No. 9 spot on sales of 74,000 copies.

By including discs from Interscope Records artists the Wallflowers, No Doubt and Blackstreet, the Universal Music Group held seven of the top 13 chart berths. As a result, Universal Music Distribution logged nearly 20% market share for the period.

“Live After Death,” the Bad Boy/Arista Records release from Notorious B.I.G., fell to No. 4 on sales of 134,000 albums and was followed in the No. 5 spot by the soundtrack to “Space Jam” with the Atlantic Group disc adding another 95,000 copies to its nearly 3 million-unit tally.

Spice Girls down

Despite selling 2,000 more copies this week than last, Virgin Records ensemble Spice Girls fell one notch into the No. 3 spot on sales of more than 145,000 copies.

Rounding out the top 10 were Jewel’s Atlantic disc “Pieces of You” at No. 7 on sales of 76,000 copies; Celine Dion’s Epic release “Falling Into You” at No. 8 on sales of 75,000 copies; and Erykah Badu’s Universal debut “Baduism” at No. 10 on sales of 68,000 copies.

LeAnn Rimes benefited from her multiple wins on last week’s Academy of Country Music Awards telecast, as her “Blue” rose four notches to No. 11 on sales of 54,000 copies.

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