Springsteen CD #1, rappers Nelly and Eminem follow

NEW YORK — Bruce Springsteen kept a firm grip on the top spot on the album charts for the second straight week, despite a sharp 55% decline in sales.

“Rising” (Columbia), Springsteen’s first disc of new material since 1995, sold just under 239,000 units, according to numbers released Wednesday by Nielsen SoundScan. The Jersey-born rock legend recently launched a U.S. tour to support the release, backed for the first time in a decade by the E Street Band.

The Boss was followed in the rankings by a trio of Universal Music Group hip-hop stars. Nelly rebounded one spot to second with “Nellyville” (Universal), selling 208,000 units, followed by Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” (Interscope/Shady), which jumped two places and scanned nearly 173,000 discs. “Show” is now within a week’s sales of quintuple-platinum status.

At fourth, Geto Boys alumnus Scarface made his mark as the highest debut of the session. “Fix” (Def Jam), the veteran rapper’s seventh disc and his first since departing Virgin Records for UMG, shifted nearly 160,000 copies.

Meanwhile, Florida rapper Trick Daddy scored the sixth position with “Thug Holiday” (Atlantic), which sold 130,000 discs.

The strong debuts came amid a generally languid week for the top-performing records: All but two of the returning top-20 releases posted sales declines.

Both of those exceptions have been moving steadily up the charts on patient marketing and strong word of mouth. Avril Lavigne’s “Let’s Go” (Arista) slipped from eight to nine, but sales edged 3% higher to 115,000. And John Mayer’s “Room for Squares” (Columbia) climbed one spot to 19, nudging sales upward by 2%.

The third-highest debut of the frame was the soundtrack to Vin Diesel actioner “XXX” (Universal). The score, which includes tracks from several hip-hop and nu metal superstars, landed at No. 11 and sold 76,000 copies leading up to the film’s $44.5 million weekend bow.

Also opening strong was “Layin’ Da Smack Down” (Loud/Sony) from rapper Project Pat, which sold 68,000 units and claimed the 12th spot. Further down, country singer songwriter Phil Vassar bowed at 44 with “American Child” (Arista), moving 24,000 discs.

The Boss remains the frontrunner for next week’s sales crown, with few major contenders on the horizon. Look for respectable debuts, however, from folkie songwriter James Taylor and Snoop Dogg proteges the Doggystyle Allstars.

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