LONG LIVE THE KING: You can throw out your old record-books and write some new ones: Elvis Presley is No. 1 on The Billboard 200 with his 104th album to chart, “ELVIS: 30 #1 Hits” (RCA). It’s the first time Presley has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, and it’s his first chart-topping set since “Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite” led the tally for one week in May 1973.
“ELVIS: 30 #1 Hits” is the 10th album by Presley to reach No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and the first since his death in August 1977. The 10 Presley albums that have topped the album chart are:
“Elvis Presley,” 10 weeks (1956)
“Elvis,” five weeks (1956)
“Loving You,” 10 weeks (1957)
“Elvis’ Christmas Album,” four weeks (1957)
“G.I. Blues,” 10 weeks (1960)
“Something for Everybody,” three weeks (1961)
“Blue Hawaii,” 20 weeks (1961)
“Roustabout,” one week (1965)
“Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite,” one week (1973)
“30 #1 Hits,” one week to date (2002)
“ELVIS: 30 #1 Hits,” which actually includes 31 tracks (“A Little Less Conversation,” the recent U.K. No. 1 hit, was a last-minute addition), is the third Presley album to debut on The Billboard 200 this year, following “Elvis: The Very Best of Love” and “Elvis: Today, Tomorrow & Forever.” It’s the first time since 1984 that three Presley albums have debuted in the same calendar year.
A BRAND NEW BAG: Elvis Presley is not the only legendary artist with an album debuting on the Billboard charts this week. On the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, has his first chart entry in more than nine years with “The Next Step” (Fome/Red Ink). It’s his first album to chart since “20 All-Time Greatest Hits” peaked at No. 99 in April 1993. As “The Next Step” enters at No. 72, it’s Brown’s highest-charting album since “Love Overdue” went to No. 51 in September 1991.
Even before this latest album debuted, Brown owned the record for having the highest amount of albums to appear on the R&B chart. “The Next Step” is his 53rd album to appear on the survey, keeping him ahead of the second-place act, the Temptations, who have 50 chart albums to their credit.
Billboard’s R&B album chart was first published the week of Jan. 30, 1965. While Brown had released albums before this date, his first album to chart was “Grits and Soul,” which debuted the week of April 17, 1965, and peaked at No. 9. That means Brown has an R&B album chart span of 37 and-a-half years. He is in first place for the first time, moving ahead of the Temptations. That Motown group has an R&B album chart span of 37 years, from the March 27, 1965, debut of “The Temptations Sing Smokey” to the final chart week of “Awesome,” March 23 of this year.
As impressive as his chart statistics are, Brown has only had one No. 1 album on the R&B chart. “The Payback” spent two weeks on top in May 1974. Brown’s last top-10 album was “Sex Machine Today,” which went to No. 10 in 1975.
A DAY AT THE CHARTS: It’s quite a week for returning chart veterans. Beyond Elvis Presley and James Brown, there’s the British rock group Queen, whose lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died on Nov. 24, 1991. The group’s sixth posthumous chart entry occurs this week, as “Greatest Hits I II & III: The Platinum Collection” (Hollywood) debuts at No. 48. It’s the first Queen title to make the chart since “Made in Heaven” debuted and peaked at No. 58 in November 1995.
The “Platinum” set represents Queen’s highest position on the album chart since they were featured on the “Five Live” CD with George Michael and Lisa Stansfield. “Five Live” peaked at No. 46 in 1993.
SEEKING ASYLUM: Wait, there’s more. Elvis Presley, James Brown, Queen — and two of Queen’s labelmates also make entrances on The Billboard 200 this week. Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt are both still Elektra artists, Queen’s original U.S. label. Browne and Ronstadt were also both signed to David Geffen’s Asylum imprint, a sister label to Elektra.
Browne’s “The Naked Ride Home” is new at No. 36. That ties with the 1996 release “Looking East” as Browne’s highest-charting album since “Lives in the Balance” weighed in at No. 23 in 1986. “Naked” is Browne’s 13th album to chart in a career that stretches over 30 years and seven months, dating back to the March 1972 debut of “Jackson Browne.”
Ronstadt returns with “The Very Best of Linda Ronstadt” (Elektra), bowing at No. 165. It’s her first album to chart since “A Merry Little Christmas” peaked at No. 179 in December 2000. It’s her highest-charting solo effort since “We Ran” stopped at No. 160 in July 1998. “Very Best” is the 33rd Ronstadt album to chart, counting her work with the Stone Poneys, in a career that stretches over 34 years and 10 months, harking back to the debut of the Stone Poneys’ “Evergreen, Vol. 2” in December 1967.
VOYAGER: At the other end of the scale, an artist who made her album chart debut just last year returns with a sophomore release that debuts higher than the peak positions of her first CD on both The Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. First time out, India.Arie debuted and peaked at No. 10 on The Billboard 200 with “Acoustic Soul,” making her the only solo female artist on Motown aside from Diana Ross to have a top-10 album. This week she enters at No. 6 with “Voyage to India.” It’s the highest-charting album by a solo female artist on Motown since Ross peaked at No. 2 in 1980 with the Nile Rodgers-Bernard Edwards-produced “diana.”
On the R&B album chart, “Voyage” doesn’t waste any time, beginning its chart life right at the top. It’s the first R&B No. 1 album by a solo female artist on Motown since that same “diana” album kept Ross on top of the chart for eight weeks in 1980.
‘RIGHT’ BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM: The settlement of the lawsuit between Courtney Love and the Universal Music Group has allowed the unreleased Nirvana track “You Know You’re Right” to surface on DGC/Geffen. The song has enough airplay to debut at No. 22 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. It’s the first Nirvana song to debut on this tally since “Aneurysm,” which entered at No. 30 the week of Sept. 28, 1996, ultimately peaking at No. 13. “Right” is the 11th Nirvana song to appear on the Modern survey; the first was “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which spent one week at No. 1 in November 1991.
Nirvana is not the only Seattle-based group having some action on the Modern Rock Tracks chart this week. Pearl Jam’s “I Am Mine” (Epic) climbs 10-6 in its second chart week. That makes it the highest-charting Pearl Jam song on this chart since the band’s remake of J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers’ “Last Kiss” sailed to No. 2 in June 1999.
Another debut on the Modern tally is “Cochise” (Interscope/Epic) at No. 30. The song is by Audioslave, the collaboration between former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk. This marks Cornell’s third appearance on the Modern Rock Tracks chart since Soundgarden split. His solo track “Sunshower” went to No. 12 in April1 1998 and “Can’t Change Me” reached No. 7 in September 1999.
Soundgarden’s final appearance on Modern Rock Tracks was “Bleed Together,” which stopped at No. 32 in November 1997.