Your eyes don’t deceive you: two orchestras hold the top two spots on Billboard‘s Top Rock Albums chart.
Of course, “orchestra” is not necessarily an operative term here, certainly not in the traditional sense.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra scores its first No. 1 on Top Rock Albums (dated Dec. 5) with 46,000 copies sold of its new album Letters From the Labyrinth, according to Nielsen Music. TSO is followed by Jeff Lynne’s ELO (nee Electric Light Orchestra), whose Alone in the Universe debuts at No. 2 with 20,000 sold.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the long-running orchestra-turned-rock band hybrid best known for its head-banging updates of Christmas classics, previously peaked at No. 2 on Top Rock Albums with 2009’s Night Castle, which, like Letters, finds the group rerecording famed classical compositions alongside its own instrumental and voice-accompanied material.
The new album marks TSO’s second-best rank on the Billboard 200, where it starts at No. 7; Night Castle hit No. 5 on the chart dated Nov. 14, 2009. The album also tops Hard Rock Albums, the band’s third to do so after Night Castle and 2012’s Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) EP.
As for Lynne’s ELO, the classic British rock band, now reformed with its new moniker, given only frontman Lynne and keyboardist Richard Tandy’s involvement, claims the runner-up spot in its first appearance on Top Rock Albums with a new album. (ELO’s previous entry was a greatest hits set, Mr. Blue Sky, that hit No. 46 in 2012; the chart began in 2006.) Universe is the first album of new material from the band in nearly 15 years, following 2001’s Zoom, also the act’s first new record in 15 years at the time.
On the Billboard 200, Universe starts at No. 23. Under any billing, ELO had last ranked higher in 1981, when Time hit No. 16.
The dual orchestras are joined in the Top Rock Albums top 10 by three other debuts: MuteMath‘s fourth album Vitals (No. 4, 10,000 sold); Chris Isaak‘s 12th LP, First Comes the Night (No. 6, 7,000, marking his best placement on the chart); and, Neil Young‘s Bluenote Cafe (No. 8, 6,000), which also launches as his third No. 1 on Folk Albums.