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Rascal Flatts flatten rivals

Country trio hits third No. 1 in a row

Rascal Flatts, the country trio that saw the highest sales week and highest sales for a single-act disc last year, has scored its third consecutive No. 1 album.

“Still Feels Good,” released by the Disney-owned Lyric Street, sold 547,000 copies in the week ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan. While that bow is considerably weaker than the band’s opening-week sales of 722,000 for “Me and My Gang,” no country artist has posted better numbers in the 18 months since “Gang” was released.

“Still Feels Good” also set a download record for a country disc, with 44,000 digital copies of the album sold. Band also sold an additional 93,000 tracks as individual downloads.

After nine months, overall sales of albums are down 14% from last year at 337.3 million albums sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Of that total, 300.6 million were CDs. The number of digitally downloaded tracks has risen 46% from the same period in 2006 to 612.2 million.

This week saw four rookies in the top four slots and 45 new titles in the top 20.

Keyshia Cole’s second album, “Just Like You” (Imani/Geffen), sold 281,000 units to land at No. 2. Hit single with Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim, “Let It Go,” helped drive sales.

Foo Fighters’ “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” (Roswell/RCA) moved 168,000 to open at No. 3. Sales were about half the first-week total for their last album, 2005’s “In Your Honor.” Album opened at No. 1 in the U.K., Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Belgium. Foo Fighters, planning a 2008 arena tour, will appear on “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 13.

Jill Scott saw 148,000 copies of “The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3” (Hidden Beach) go home with fans, giving her the perch at No. 4. Fellow R&B act Jagged Edge opened at No. 7, selling 78,000 copies of “Baby Makin’ Project” (So So Def/Island Urban).

Queen Latifah scored a career-best chart position at No. 11 as her second jazz-vocal album, “Trav’lin’ Light” (Verve), sold 51,000 copies. Melissa Etheridge sold 48,000 copies of “Awakening” (Island) to debut at No. 13.

Joni Mitchell’s return from a short retirement, the album “Shine” (Hear Music), percolated with 40,000 to assume the No. 14 slot, the highest she’s reached on the chart in 30 years, since “Hejira” reached No. 13. “Shine” is her first album in five years.

Chaka Khan’s collection of covers, “Funk This” (Burgundy), sold 39,000 to open one slot lower. “Tony Bennett Sings the Ultimate American Songbook, Vol. 1,” a collection of older recordings issued by Columbia, sold 36,000 to secure No. 16. Rapper Gorilla Zoe’s “Welcome to the Zoo” (Bad Boy) sold 35,000 copies to cage No. 18.

Other debuts included Dethklok’s “Dethalbum” (Williams Street), selling 34,000 (No. 21); David Crowder Band’s “Remedy” (Six Step) moved 32,000 (No. 22); Iron & Wine’s “The Shepherd’s Dog” (Sub Pop), doing a similar number (No. 24); Down’s “Down III: Over the Under” (Warner Music Group), pushing 29,000 (No. 26); Chris Botti’s “Italia” (Columbia) said ciao to 29,000 (No. 27); will.i.am’s “Songs About Girls” (A&M) got 21,000 started (No. 38); and the Cheetah Girls’ “TCG” (Disney) sold 19,000 (No. 44).

Last week’s chart-topper, Reba McEntire’s “Reba Duets,” took a 57% dip, selling 130,000, and slid to No. 6.

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