Jeff Buckley Fans Send SKETCHES Into The Top 100

DMX, City of Angels and Godzilla occupy the chart's upper reaches.

The highly anticipated posthumous double-CD from singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley, SKETCHES (for my sweetheart, the drunk), debuted at #64 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week, cementing the late artist's strong cult following.

SoundScan reports that the two-CD set of raw four-track recordings and material tracked with former Television leader Tom Verlaine sold 18,000 copies in the week ending May 31, an impressive showing for a critically acclaimed artist who was just beginning to build an audience beyond his loyal cult following when he drowned in the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., on May 29, 1997.

Buckley first made his mark as a regular on the New York scene, and record stores in the Big Apple all reported brisk sales for the set. At the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, for example, SKETCHES was the #18-selling album of the week. "It's doing pretty well," said assistant manager David Cohen. "I wouldn't say it has flown out of the store, but it sure has moved a lot of copies."

In other debut news, Mo Thugs Family, a loose confederation of rap and R&B acts centered around Cleveland-bred rappers Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, sold 50,000 copies and landed at #25.

Also on the rap tip was Master P's Da Last Don, which debuted at #112. You read that correctly: Multi-platinum artist and No Limit Records CEO Master P debuted at #112, well behind his labelmates C-Murder (#80), Silkk the Shocker (#55), Fiend (#38) and Soulja Slim (#31), not to mention his own soundtrack to his second film, "I Got The Hook-Up!" (#33).

Of course, Da Last Don, a two-CD set that features appearances by every artist on the No Limit label, wasn't supposed to hit store shelves until Tuesday (June 2). But 11,000 fans were able to scoop up the album early when, according to No Limit Records, a number of stores broke the release date. Look for Da Last Don to take a huge leap forward on next week's charts when the album officially hits the streets.

Some of last week's debuts held tight while others saw a big slip in sales. DMX's It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, which put the underground rapper in the #1 slot last week, sold 123,000 copies this week and dropped to #3 as the soundtracks to "City of Angels" and "Godzilla" pulled into the #1 and #2 spots, respectively. Meanwhile, the self-titled debut from R. Kelly-produced R&B act Sparkle fell from #3 to #7, while former 10,000 Maniacs singer Natalie Merchant's Ophelia slid from #8 to #12 in its second week of release. The biggest drop among last week's releases came from Southern-fried rapper Eightball, whose three-CD set, Lost, dropped from #5 to #20.

There was much kinder news this week for some of the chart's more familiar faces. Minneapolis alt-rockers Semisonic rode the wave of success created by their radio hit "Closing Time" (RealAudio excerpt), jumping from #65 to #53 on sales of 22,000. Green Day's Nimrod also continued its recent sales surge, selling 20,000 copies this week -- 5,000 more than the previous week, despite a slide from #60 to #66.

The rest of the best: Garth Brooks, The Limited Series (#4); Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys (#5); Dave Matthews Band, Before These Crowded Streets (#6); Vonda Shepard, Songs From Ally McBeal (#8); Shania Twain, Come On Over (#9); and Titanic (#10).