Chart Watch: Metallica Re-Load Rockets To #1

Metal rockers' latest shoves Streisand back a few while Hanson returns to Top 10.

Tim Saebean saw it coming. It was only a matter of air time, a free concert and some great songwriting, he said.

The operations manager for Philadelphia rock station WYSP, the radio station that sponsored Metallica's Nov. 11 free concert in the CoreStates Complex's parking lot, had no doubt that the band's Re-Load would debut at the top of this week's Billboard album chart. "Metallica's great and they've got a lot of really great fans," Saebean said. "We've been playing it a lot and the fan response is incredible."

Incredible, that is, to the tune of 436,000 copies moving out of stores by the week ending November 23, according to SoundScan, enough to put the Bay Area-based hard rock quartet on the top of the charts and send actress/singer/cultural icon Barbra Streisand's Higher Ground sliding into the No. 3 slot. But it was not incredible enough to top first-week sales of their last two albums. According to SoundScan, 1996's Load had first week sales of 680,000, while 1991's self-titled "black album" debuted with 598,000.

Nonetheless, the group's much-hyped free concert, which was dogged from the get-go by concerns from civic leaders over noise, sanitation and safety, was worth the trouble, Saebean said. "It went off without a hitch," he said, "and the band got a lot of publicity. It was a great show and the fans rewarded them for it."

The week's other big debuts belong to sophomore efforts by soul songstress Erykah Badu and brotherly, bubble gum-pop trio Hanson. SoundScan reports that Badu's Live, which features live renditions of songs from the singer's debut, Baduizm, plus the concert staple "Tyrone," moved 179,000 copies and landed at the No. 4 slot, while the brothers Hanson moved 125,000 copies of their Christmas album, Snowed In, which snuggled in at No. 7.

Falling just short of the Top 10 was Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessions, a 2 1/2-hour collection of live material and previously unreleased songs, which landed at No. 12. Rapper MJG's first album without partner 8-Ball, No More Glory, landed at No. 20, while a greatest hits collection from John Cougar Mellencamp came in at No. 33.

Paul Simon's Broadway musical soundtrack Songs from the Capeman, which features some of the songs from his first-ever stab at musical theater, made its entrance at No. 42, while fans of Aussie metal act AC/DC paid tribute to original lead singer Bon Scott by snatching up enough copies of the five-CD Bonfire box set to land the collection at No. 90.

A renewed round of publicity for Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope helped that album move up a few slots and land at No. 18. The singer had been disappointed with initial sales figures for The Velvet Rope and fired her manager and publicist as a result. Under the new regime, Jackson popped up in Newsweek and an episode of the talk show Oprah to speak about the depression she said that she went through during the making of the album.

Many big name acts took a significant tumble this week. The Spice Girls saw their Spiceworld orbit out of the top 10 to No. 11, while rapper Mystikal's Unpredictable, last week's No. 3, fell 10 spots to No. 13. Green Day's Nimrod dropped seven slots to No. 61, Sublime's self-titled effort slid 12 notches to No. 67 and the "relapsed" Jane's Addiction's Kettle Whistle tumbled from No. 43 to No. 68.

Next week's charts will give retailers and the record industry a look into what CDs people want to see under the tree come Christmas morning. For those who are playing at home, it is likely to be a contest between Garth Brooks' long awaited Sevens and rapper/ movie star Will Smith's Big Willie Style.The charts will also offer fresh insight into how many fans dealt with the death of INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence by running out to record stores and buying the band's CDs.

The rest of the best: Celine Dion (#2), Shania Twain (#5), LeAnn Rimes (#6), Chumbawamba (#8), Mase (#9), and LSG (#10). [Wed., Nov. 26, 1997, 6 p.m. PDT]