Forty-one years after he first appeared on The Billboard 200, Neil Diamond looks to be on course to earn his first No. 1 album ever on next week's chart as first-day sales of "Home Before Dark" (Colum

Forty-one years after he first appeared on The Billboard 200, Neil Diamond looks to be on course to earn his first No. 1 album ever on next week's chart as first-day sales of "Home Before Dark" (Columbia) lead the Nielsen SoundScan Building chart released May 7.

Unweighted sales for "Home" from the chart's panel of nine reporters through the close of business Tuesday, May 6, came in at 30,000. A source close to the album projects a first-week start in the neighborhood of 125,000. This week's current No. 1, Madonna's "Hard Candy" (Warner Bros.), may slide to No. 2 or No. 3 next week on The Billboard 200, while new entries from Gavin DeGraw, Clay Aiken, Toby Keith and Josh Groban look headed for top 10 bows.

Projecting sales this week is a bit tricky as shopping for the Mother's Day
holiday on Sunday, May 11, may amplify the demand for certain sets -- like the mom-friendly efforts from Diamond, Aiken, Keith and Groban.

Billboard estimates the merchants who report to Nielsen SoundScan's Building Chart -- Trans World Entertainment, Best Buy, Circuit City, iTunes, Starbucks, Borders, Target, Anderson Merchandisers and Handleman Co. -- comprise about 80% of all U.S. album sales.

Over the course of Diamond's career, he's racked up 45 albums on The
Billboard 200, starting with 1966's "The Feel of Neil Diamond." The recent "American Idol" guest has earned 13 top 10 albums, including his last effort, "12 Songs," which debuted and peaked at No. 4 in late 2005.