‘Dance’ steps to top

Vandross bests Metallica; 'Idol' singles surge

R&B star Luther Vandross commanded the top spot on the album chart from his hospital bed this week. Vandross, beating out second-place finisher Metallica and posting some of the best sales numbers of his career, is recovering from the serious stroke he had in April.

“Dance With My Father” (J Records) sold a hefty 442,000 units, topping even optimistic sales expectations from industry watchers. The number was the second big piece of good news in recent weeks — following reports that Vandross’ condition, once critical, has improved substantially.

Release also was the capstone for one of J Records’ best chart sessions in the Clive Davis-founded label’s short history. Along with Vandross, diva Annie Lennox vaulted into the top five with “Bare,” which claimed fourth by selling almost 153,000 discs.

Adding yet another feather to the cap of RCA Music Group topper (and J Records founder) Davis was the respective one-two finish by “American Idol” stars Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard on the singles chart this week.

Aiken, ironically the runner-up in season two of the hit series, topped the chart, selling almost 393,000 copies of his record “This Is the Night/Bridge Over Troubled Water” (RCA). Winner Studdard came in just behind, with 286,000 copies sold of “Flying Without Wings/Superstar” (J).

Perfs mark a rare resurgence for the single, which has long been in decline on record-store shelves. Retailers applauded the return of the format, having long argued that singles are an effective means of introducing consumers (especially young buyers) to new talent.

Metallica makes mark

Taking the silver was “St. Anger” (Elektra), from veteran heavy-metal quartet Metallica, in its first full week on the charts after marking strong sales in a short session last week. Disc, which reps a return to the group’s signature punishing sound of the mid-1980s, scanned nearly 363,000 copies.

The J Records pair wasn’t alone in the new-release schedule for this frame; they led a substantial crop of new discs into the top 10. At third place was “Hail to the Thief” (Capitol), the latest from British alt-rockers Radiohead.

Though the rank was short of the first- and second-place bows of the disc’s two predecessors (“Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” respectively) because of the crowded field, it was nevertheless the group’s best sales perf to date, with a hefty 300,000 copies heading out the door in its first week.

Also cracking the top 10 were “Honkytonkville” (MCA Nashville), the latest effort from country star George Strait, with 143,000 copies sold; the self-titled Def Jam debut from rapper Joe Budden at No. 8, selling 94,000 units; and Steely Dan’s “Everything Must Go” (Warner Bros.) at ninth, scanning just under 91,000 discs.

Still some sizzle

A greatest-hits collection from the Beach Boys (Capitol) landed in 16th place. “Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys” shifted 69,000 copies. And “American Idol” first-season runnerup Justin Guarini made a lukewarm bow at 20th with his self-titled disc on RCA, selling 57,000 units.

Further down the ranks, classical-pop songstress Sarah Brightman came in 29th with her most recent LP, “Harem” (Angel), with 40,000 discs sold, and adult-contempo saxophonist Kenny G scanned 29,000 copies of his “Ultimate Kenny G” hits package (Arista), landing at 42.

Next week’s charts should see more strength from J Records; aside from Vandross and Lennox, the label will be fielding the latest CD from R&B singer Monica, which is expected to make its way well into the top 10. Also due this month is the solo release from Destiny’s Child frontwoman Beyonce, as well as a disc from Michelle Branch.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack to action blockbuster “Hulk” should see some action next week, thanks in part to “Set Me Free,” a track contributed by a group that includes Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland and several erstwhile members of Guns N’ Roses. Song is said to be among the most requested tracks at radio stations over the past week.