New disks from Joel, Taylor make big bows

Music veterans rule the nation’s album charts for the second week in a row, as the new entry from Billy Joel debuts in the top spot in the latest sales report released by SoundScan, while a double live set by James Taylor debuted at the No. 20 chart spot.

Joel’s latest Columbia release, “River of Dreams,” bowed in the top position with sales of more than 232,000 copies its first week.

Last week’s chart champ was the soundtrack to the hit pic “Sleepless in Seattle,” which features music from such older-skewing artists as Nat King Cole, Jimmy Durante, Gene Autry and Joe Cocker. That Epic Soundtrax album slips to No. 2 with 134,000 units sold.

“River of Dreams” is the fourth album of Joel’s 22-year career to hit No. 1, but is the Grammy Award winner’s first release to debut in that position.

Adult-contemporary star Taylor’s newest Columbia release, “Live,” moved more than 42,000 copies, good enough for the No. 20 spot.

Sony Music, parent of both Columbia and Epic Records, is enjoying one of the strongest commercial periods in its history as 14 of its current releases are lodged in the chart’s top 40 slots, including Nos. 1, 2 and 3 (Cypress Hill’s “Black Sunday”).

Other chart debuts for the week include country star Aaron Tippin’s new RCA release, “Call of the Wild,” in at 69; Curb’s Sawyer Brown at No. 111 with “Outskirts of Town”; and “Ballads of Madison County,” the musical companion to Robert James Waller’s runaway best-selling novel, “The Bridges of Madison County ,” bringing up the rear at No. 200.

The self-titled freshman effort from Capitol’s Blind Melon continues its torrid sales pace, moving 80,000 copies last week, good enough to rank No. 7 with a bullet.

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