Chart Beat

Manilow taking 1950s songs to No. 1, Underwood extending her country reign and Bent Fabric returning to the Billboard charts are just a few of this week's chart-tastic stories.

UNCHAINED MELODIES: You can't beat the songs of the '50s and no one did this week. Barry Manilow's "The Greatest Songs of the Fifties" (Arista) enters The Billboard 200 at No. 1, giving the veteran artist the second chart-topping album of his career. Manilow's only other No. 1 album was "Barry Manilow/Live," which spent one week in pole position back in July 1977.

Manilow's collection of hits from 50 years ago is the highest-debuting album of his career, besting the No. 3 opening of "Ultimate Manilow" in February 2002. "The Greatest Hits of the Fifties" marks Manilow's first appearance on this chart in one year and two months, when "Manilow Scores: Songs From Copacabana and Harmony" peaked at No. 47.

This latest CD is the 31st Manilow album to chart. His span of hit albums now stretches over 31 years and three months, counting back to the Nov. 23, 1974 debut of "Barry Manilow II."

DRIVING 'WHEEL': Carrie Underwood remains No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for a fifth week with "Jesus, Take the Wheel" (Arista). That means Carrie's debut single is tied with Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" and Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" as the longest-running No. 1 song by a solo female artist on this chart in the 21st century.

Only two Arista singles have spent more time at No. 1 than "Jesus, Take the Wheel." The label's longest-running chart-topper is "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, with an eight-week reign. In second place is Brooks and Dunn's "There Ain't Nothin' 'Bout You," with six weeks at the summit. Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel" is tied with Alan Jackson's "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" in third place.

Underwood stands a good chance of fending off another Arista song, "When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley featuring Dolly Parton, to earn a sixth week at No. 1. If Underwood does collect another week on top, her single will tie Faith Hill's "Breathe" as the longest-running No. 1 by a solo female artist since Connie Smith reigned for eight weeks in 1964-65 with "Once a Day."

GREAT DANE: Denmark has been in the headlines this week, so it's fitting that one of the country's legendary artists makes a chart move worthy of "Chart Beat." Copenhagen-born Bent Fabric had a No. 7 hit on the Hot 100 in 1962 with the instrumental "Alley Cat." There was one follow-up, "Chicken Feed," which peaked at No. 63 in 1963. An album, titled after the hit single, reached No. 13, also in 1963.

Now, 43 years later, Fabric is back on the Billboard charts. His single, "Jukebox" (Hidden Beach International), rushes 36-26 on the Hot Dance Club Play tally. It's doubtful that the club-goers dancing the night away to "Jukebox" realize that the youthful-sounding track was recorded by an 81-year-old musician from Denmark.

Fabric is still actively recording and touring, and will be promoting the U.S. release of his "Jukebox" album in March with multiple TV appearances, according to Steve McKeever, President of Hidden Beach Recordings. The "Jukebox" album has already stormed the charts in Denmark and Japan, and came to the attention of McKeever through his friend Leonard Richardson. Fabric is the first artist to appear on the Hidden Beach International banner.

"Jukebox" has been heard in a commercial for Cingular/iTunes. There will be a single of the track released in the United States, and it will be promoted to radio, says McKeever.

TRUE BRIT: A 5-2 surge for "You're Beautiful" (Custard/Atlantic) on the Billboard Hot 100 makes James Blunt the first U.K. artist to reach the top two since Elton John in 1997-98. "Candle in the Wind 1997" / "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" is the last U.K. single to peak in the top two.

If Blunt goes no further, he will be the first U.K.-born artist to peak at No. 2 in almost 10 years. Donna Lewis, born in Cardiff, Wales, spent nine weeks in the runner-up spot in the summer of 1996 with "I Love You Always Forever."

In 1997, British signing Mark Morrison reached second place with "Return of the Mack." While he was raised in Leicester, England, Morrison was born in Hanover, Germany.

DECEMBER 1963 (OH, WHAT A SPAN): A superstar who made his chart debut in the last week of December 1963 has the longest span of any artist on this week's Hot Country Songs survey. Merle Haggard first appeared on this tally with a single issued on the Tally label, "Sing a Sad Song." As an artist, Haggard re-enters the chart at No. 50 as the featured guest on Gretchen Wilson's "Politically Uncorrect" (Epic). Haggard's chart span is thus stretched to 42 years, one month and three weeks.

Haggard also debuts on this week's chart as a songwriter. George Strait's version of Haggard's 1974 song "The Seashores of Old Mexico" is the Hot Shot Debut at No. 48.

PRIMES DIRECTIVE: They were once known as the Elgins and the Primes, but for over 40 years they've been called the Temptations, and they're back on The Billboard 200 with "Reflections," an album of Motown covers. Ironically, the CD is not released on the quintet's long-time label, but an imprint called New Door.

This is not the first time the Temptations have parted ways with the label founded by Berry Gordy. In 1977, the group had one chart LP on Atlantic, "Hear to Tempt You," but was wooed back to the Motown fold by Gordy.

By entering at No. 80, "Reflections" is the highest-charting Temptations album since "Ear-Resistible" went to No. 54 in 2000. The group's album chart span expands to 41 years, nine months and one week, dating back to the May 1964 debut of "Meet the Temptations."