Chart Beat

Van Morrison, Kris Kristofferson, David Gilmour, Pearl Jam, Daniel Powter, Bo Bice and the Dixie Chicks are among those making noteworthy moves and news.

'PAY' PER VAN: One of the most consistent hitmakers of the last four decades returns to The Billboard 200 with his 39th chart entry in 40 years. "Pay the Devil" (Exile/Polydor) is a new entry at No. 26 for Van Morrison. Only three of his 39 albums to chart have ranked higher.

Morrison's most successful release remains "Saint Dominic's Preview," which peaked at No. 15 in 1972. Tied for second place are "Down the Road" (No. 25 in 2002) and "Magic Time" (No. 25 in 2005).

Before he was a solo artist, Morrison was a member of the Belfast-based rock group Them. That six-man band first appeared on the Billboard album chart the week of July 24, 1965, with the self-titled LP, "Them." That gives Morrison a chart span of 40 years and eight months, considerably longer than his span on Top Country Albums - which is one week. That's because Morrison makes his first appearance on that tally this week, as "Pay the Devil" is the Hot Shot Debut at No. 7.

KRIS CROSSES OVER: Another veteran artist has albums debuting on The Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums. Kris Kristofferson returns to The Billboard 200 with his first solo appearance in 28 years. "This Old Road" (New West), new at No. 172, is Kristofferson's first solo album to chart since "Easter Island" debuted the week of April 1, 1978. Kristofferson was last on this chart in 1990 with "Highwayman 2," recorded with Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

On Top Country Albums, "This Old Road," opening at No. 36, is also Kristofferson's first chart entry of the 21st century, but the gap between chart appearances is much smaller. In September 1999, Kristofferson peaked at No. 26 with "The Austin Sessions."

GILMOUR GIVES MORE: Add one more name to the list of veteran artists returning to The Billboard 200 this week. It's been 22 years and one week since David Gilmour had a solo effort debut on the Billboard album chart. "On an Island" (Columbia), bowing at No. 6, is the highest-ranked of his three solo sets. As a member of Pink Floyd, Gilmour has been to the top of The Billboard 200 five times.

NEWS OF THE 'WORLD': A three-year absence from the Modern Rock Tracks chart has made Pearl Jam fans' hearts grow fonder. The group has the highest new entry of its career, as "World Wide Suicide" (J) opens at No. 3. That beats the No. 8 debuts of "Go" in October 1993 and "Who You Are" in August 1996.

"World Wide Suicide" is the highest new entry on the modern tally since the week of March 15, 2003, when Linkin Park's "Somewhere I Belong" debuted at No. 2. The only song to debut higher than No. 2 was R.E.M.'s "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" in September 1994. "Frequency" opened at No. 1.

"World Wide Suicide" also enters the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart at No. 6. Two Pearl Jam songs have debuted higher on this survey: "Go" started at No. 3 and in 2000, "Nothing As It Seems" bowed at No. 5.

HAT TRICK: For the first time in the history of the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart, one artist holds the top three positions. "16 Biggest Hits" (Legacy/Columbia) by Johnny Cash is No. 1 for the 12th week, "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" rises 3-2 and "The Essential Johnny Cash" surges 8-3. Cash also moves 11-5 with "Super Hits," making it likely he will own the top four spots as early as next week.

Those same four Johnny Cash albums do hold down the top four places on Top Country Catalog Albums, where Cash has two additional titles in the top 10.

GOOD WEEK, 'BAD DAY': Continued weekly play on "American Idol" continues to fuel digital sales for Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" (Warner Bros.). The single rockets 9-2 on Hot Digital Songs and leaps 14-5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A performance on "American Idol" also boosts the chart fortunes of fourth season runner-up Bo Bice. His second single, "The Real Thing" (RCA), is new at No. 98. Bice peaked at No. 2 in July 2005 with his debut single, "Inside Your Heaven."

'NICE' GIRLS: The Dixie Chicks had a run of hit singles on the Hot Country Songs tally that began with their first chart entry, "I Can Love You Better," the week of Oct. 25, 1997. They amassed 23 hits from that date until the summer of 2003.

On March 10, 2003, while on tour in London, Texas native Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that President Bush was from Texas. She was speaking about the impending war in Iraq, and her comments led to a widespread boycott of the Dixie Chicks at country radio.

Since 2003, the Dixie Chicks have spent only three weeks on Hot Country Songs, until this week. In October 2005, a song titled "I Hope" debuted, and then peaked, at No. 54.

Now, the Dixie Chicks have a new single, "Not Ready To Make Nice" (Columbia), and there is enough early airplay at country radio to send the single onto the chart, at No. 54. If airplay continues to grow, this new single should surpass the peak position of "I Hope" next week. Time will tell if it will earn enough airplay to return the Dixie Chicks to their former glory.