Metallica album shines

The holiday sales derby is in full swing, as evidenced by Metallica’s impressive bow at the top of the nation’s album sales chart. The hard rock outfit’s Elektra Records disc “Re-Load” was the bestselling album in the nation for the period ending Nov. 23, with a whopping six-day sales tally of more than 435,000 copies.

Celine Dion’s 550 Records/Epic disc “Let’s Talk About Love” logged 334,000 copies to earn it the No. 2 spot in its first week. Barbra Streisand’s “Higher Ground” (which features a duet with Dion) dropped to No. 3, with sales of 267,000 albums. (Although her standing fell, her sales count is up from last week, when her Columbia album debuted in the top spot with 207,000 copies.)

The sales volume of the discs at the upper reaches of the chart clearly had retailers across the nation grinning, as five of the top 10 albums — not including a trio of debuts — posted sizable increases from the previous week’s tallies, rather than the usual 35% to 40% drop.

Though the Metallica tally fell short of the band’s 1996 “Load,” which registered 680,000 copies in its first week, the “Re-Load” numbers are a testament to the top-notch set-up for the disc by label marketers and the appetite of the act’s fans: The tally was achieved without any radio airplay.

“Everyone at Elektra is clearly thrilled at the way the public has responded to the album,” exec veep/G.M. Alan Voss told Daily Variety. “Metallica is a world-class band and they’ve distinguished themselves as one of the top recording acts of all time.”

A highly publicized free concert in Philadelphia designed to herald the arrival of Metallica’s new album also helped raise its profile.

Chat attack

Dion’s “Let’s Talk About Love” bow was aided by her numerous appearances on talkers, magazine shows and online touting the disc. It also piggy-backed on the popularity of Streisand’s “Higher Ground” and its duet with Dion.

Dion and Streisand continue to benefit from the radio play of “Tell Him,” a duet that appears on both albums and is getting repeated airings on adult contemporary stations. Streisand’s appearance on “The Rosie O’Donnell” show with James Brolin and “20/20” also resulted in noticeable sales spikes for the disc at several prominent retail chains.

Big bow for Badu

Despite being surrounded by industry vets, the latest from newcomer Erykah Badu checked in with an impressive No. 4 bow on the highly competitive listing.

Badu’s “Live,” a concert disc led by the silky track “Tyrone,” was snapped up by more than 178,000 consumers. The tally of the Universal Records disc was sufficient to push Shania Twain’s 3-week-old offering down three rungs to No. 5.

The country crooner’s Mercury Records disc “Come On Over,” which moved more than 150,000 copies, had been holding steady at No. 2. But its hopes of landing the No. 1 spot were momentarily dashed by the recent crop of strong bows.

Junior chart dominatrix LeAnn Rimes held steady at No. 6 for the second consecutive week on sales of 135,000 copies of her Curb Records disc “You Light Up My Life.”

Mercury Records is striking while the iron is hot with a Christmas-themed offering from teen trio Hanson. “Snowed In,” a disc of the season’s chestnuts, bowed at No. 7 on sales of 125,000 copies.

Chumbawamba, whose catchy single “Tubthumping” continues to drive the disc to elevating sales heights thanks to its seemingly ubiquitous presence on several radio formats, dropped one notch to No. 8.

The 117,000-disc tally of the band’s Universal Records offering “Tubthumper” reflected a 14,000-copy boost from the previous week. The disc also gives the red-hot label a second album in the chart’s top 10 for the second time this month.

Rounding out the top 10 were “Harlem World” from Bad Boy/Arista Records artist Mase, which landed at No. 9 on sales of 112,000 copies; and “LSG,” the bow from Elektra’s R&B supergroup Levert-Sweat-Gill, which logged 104,000 copies to earn it the No. 10 spot. “LSG” also marked Elektra’s second entry in the top 10.

Spice story

Though the Spice Girls’ “Spice World” sold 3,000 more copies than the previous week, the Virgin Records disc dropped three rungs to No. 11 on sales of 103,000 copies.

At No. 12, and ending the list of albums netting six-figure sales tallies, was the disc of BBC session recordings by Led Zeppelin. More than 101,000 copies of the Atlantic Records album were sold.

Oprah power gave a reprieve to Janet Jackson, whose “The Velvet Rope” Virgin disc had been slipping. The album climbed five spots to No. 18 on sales of 72,000 (up from 52,000), thanks in part to a highly publicized appearance by the singer on Winfrey’s show.

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