Fred Bronson reports on the latest chart feats of Blind Boys Of Alabama, Jim Brickman and Clay Aiken, as well as his top-10 favorite songs of the year.

PATIENCE: A couple of weeks ago, the late Burl Ives generated some chart news when a new album of his Christmas songs debuted on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, giving Ives his first appearance on this chart some 54 years after making his debut on Billboard's country singles tally.

That 54-year wait is short compared to the 64 years that have elapsed between the formation of the Blind Boys Of Alabama and the group's debut on The Billboard 200. "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (Real World/Narada), the first-ever Christmas album by the Blind Boys, is in its third week on the album chart. "Mountain" is No. 1 on the Top Gospel Albums chart, the septuagenarians' first chart-topper in their 64-year history.

WE NEED 'A LITTLE CHRISTMAS': Jim Brickman scores his second No. 1 hit on the Adult Contemporary chart, as "Sending You a Little Christmas" (Windham Hill), recorded with Kristy Starling, advances 2-1, displacing matchbox twenty's "Unwell" (Atlantic).

Brickman's first AC chart-topper, "Simple Things," recorded with Rebecca Lynn Howard, spent one week at No. 1 just two years ago this week, on the chart dated Jan. 5, 2002.

This is the fourth year in a row that an actual Christmas song has been No. 1 on the tally at Christmas. In 2001, NewSong's "The Christmas Shoes" spent a solo frame on top. A year later Brickman did the trick with "Simple Things" and last year Josh Groban was in his second week of a two-week reign with "O Holy Night."

TWO AT ONCE: Clay Aiken makes his first appearance in the top 10 of the Adult Contemporary chart, and he does it twice. "Invisible" (RCA) is up 11-8, while "The First Noel" rises 13-9. Paired with "American Idol" finalist Kimberley Locke, Aiken also climbs 19-16 with a duet of "Silver Bells."

Aiken's first chart entry, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," peaked at No. 29 on the AC chart, while the A-side, "This Is the Night," went as high as No. 13.

A SINGLES MAN: If you want to know what my favorite albums of 2003 are, check out the 2003 Year in Music section and you'll find my own personal top-10, along with those of many other Billboard staffers. But if you want to know what my top-10 singles of the year are, you've come to the right place.

There was a time when I kept two separate top-10s; one for singles and another for album tracks. Market conditions have rendered those distinctions irrelevant, so now I simply compile a list of my top-10 songs. Some were singles; some were not. Some were only singles in other territories.

While my album list is more American than ever, my songs list continues to lean strongly European. This year there are four titles from Sweden, one from Turkey and one from Spain.

1. "8th World Wonder," Kimberley Locke (Curb)
2. "Let Your Spirit Fly," Jan Johansen & Pernilla Walgren (M&L, Sweden)
3. "Not a Sinner, Nor a Saint," Alcazar (RCA, Sweden)
4. "Crazy in Love," Jill Johnson (M&L, Sweden)
5. "This One's for the Girls," Martina McBride (RCA)
6. "Where Is the Love?" Black Eyed Peas (A&M)
7. "Everyway That I Can," Sertab (Sony Music, Turkey)
8. "Invisible," Clay Aiken (RCA)
9. "Genom Eld och Vatten," Sarek (Startklart, Sweden)
10. "Dime," Beth (Vale Music, Spain)

If you want to hear my favorites of 2003, tune in to the annual staff favorites special on "The Billboard Radio Countdown." That show will be posted on Jan. 5, following two weeks of counting down the top songs of the year according to performance on the Hot 100.

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