George Michael registers the eighth number one album of his career, as his career-spanning Twenty Five compilation takes over at the chart summit, after registering first week sales of 100,502, writes Alan Jones.
Overall album sales, at 3,227,183 last week were at their second highest level so far this year, being eclipsed only by the 3,550,059 albums sold in the week leading up to Mother's Day in March.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that album sales were a worrying 11.4% (415,864) below the same week last year, when they were 3,643,047. This is despite downloads - which existed but weren't counted last year - making a 67,393 contribution to last week's figure.
Demonstrating the sluggish sales of 2006 releases, all of the top four artist albums are compilations, comprising largely of previously released material. The biggest selling album of new material last week was new pop/classical crossover kids Angelis, whose self-titled debut album sold 43,429 copies to take fifth place in the overall chart.
George Michael's Twenty Five at least managed to top the 100,000 sales mark - something number one compilations by Girls Aloud and Jamiroquai both failed to do when they were number one debuts in the last two eeks - but compares unfavourably both with Madonna's Confessions On A Dance Floor, which opened with sales of 217,610 in the same week last year, and Michael's own previous number one compilation Ladies & Gentlemen, which opened with sales of 144,684 in the same week in 1998. The decline in evident throughout the chart - Tenacious D's Pick Of Destiny is number 10 this week on sales which would have put it at number 21 a year ago, while All Saints' disappointing debut at number 40 with Studio 1, their first album in six years, would have been even worse in 2005, when its 12,420 sales would have earned a number 47 debut.
It's not lack of new releases that has caused low sales - in contrast to the singles chart, where there is only one new entry to the Top 20 this week, there are eight debuts in the Top 20 of the artist albums chart. Aside from the aforementioned George Michael compilation, there are new entries in the top tier for The Sugababes, All Angels, Tenacious D, Simon Webbe, Depeche Mode, Andy Abraham and Yusuf.
While her This Is Not Real Love duet forms part of George Michael's chart-topping Twenty Five album, Mutya also features on most tracks on Overloaded: The Singles Collection by her former band The Sugababes. Debuting at number three on sales of 57,284, it's The Sugababes' fifth chart album, following One Touch, Angels With Dirty Faces, Three and Taller In More Ways, which opened at 77, two, three and one respectively, with first week sales of 5,510, 64,772, 63,118 and 65,781, and eventual sales of 218,640, 893,387, 830,558 and 859,950.
Debuting at number nine on sales of 33,160, the self-titled debut album from All Angels, also debuts at number two on the classical chart, splitting Katherine Jenkins' Serenade and Premiere. All Angels are the latest female classical act to make the grade, following in the footsteps of the likes of Bond and Medieval Babes.
Comprising 17 year olds Melanie Nakhla, Charlotte Ritchie and Daisy Chute and 16 year old Laura Wright, the vocal quartet's debut album features both classical and pop repertoire, including a version of Fleetwood Mac's Songbird.
A fortnight after introductory single POD peaked at number 24, comedy rock duo Tenacious D's soundtrack album The Pick Of Destiny debuts at number 10 on sales of 26,957. Tenacious D's second album, it has a lot to live up to; their self-titled 2002 debut has become a cult favourite, racking up sales of 426,738 to date, despite peaking at a modest number 38. That's enough to make it the 325th biggest seller of the 21st century, more than any other album NOT to make the Top 30, and more than many number ones. Tenacious indeed.
Simon Webbe can be happier than most with last week's sales. The former Blue star's debut album Sanctuary entered the chart at number 28 on first week sales of 18,966 exactly a year ago but follow-up Grace debuts at number 11, with sales 40% higher at 26,583.
Despite its title The Best Of: Volume 1 is Depeche Mode's fifth compilation and debuts at number 18 on sales of 24,997.
Andy Abraham was runner-up in last year's X Factor, and reached number two in March with his debut album The Impossible Dream, which registered first week sales of 176,689, and has so far sold 303,448 copies. Quickfire follow-up Soul Man which, as its title suggests, finds the former dustman reprising classic R&B songs, debuts at a much less stellar number 19 on sales of 23,505 just 34 weeks after his debut.
Cat Stevens turned his back on pop music in 1978, at the age of 30, a year after converting to Islam but returns to the fold - under his Muslim name of Yusuf - with An Other Cup. A surprisingly accessible set which has won rave reviews, and also nods at his past with a cover sticker mentioning his previous name, it debuts at number 20 on sales of 22,741. His last album as Cat Stevens, Back To Earth, failed to chart, as have several previous Yusuf albums which concentrate on religious and children's songs.
Also new to the Top 75 this week, The Game's Doctors Advocate in at number 21 with 22,583 sales; Pulp man Jarvis Cocker's debut solo album Jarvis at number 37 with 14,051 sales, Blink 182 offshoot Plus 44's When Your Heart Stops Beating at number 50 on sales of 7,753, Could It Be Forever, a greatest hits compilation featuring David Cassidy solo and with The Partridge Family at number 52 on sales of 7,611; and country star Keith Urban's Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing at number 73 on sales of 4,369.
A seasonally supplemented version of Enya's latest album Amarantine debuts at number 53 on sales of 7,587. The original version of the album entered the chart and peaked a year ago this week at number eight on sales of 55,609, and eventually sold 339,136 copies.
Top 10 albums not mentioned elsewhere above: Jamiroquai's High Times dips 1-2 on sales of 62361; The Sound Of Girls Aloud moves 2-4 on sales of 49,590; Katherine Jenkins' Serenade slips 5-6 on sales of 38,137; a resurgent Razorlight jumps 17-7 on sales of 38,095; and Paul Weller's Hit Parade slips a notch to number eight on sales of 35,591.
Although singles drifted 2% lower week-on-week to 1,318,693, they were a cheering 30% above the same week in 2005. This despite the fact that this week's number one sold 24,850 copies fewer than the number one single this week in 2005 - Madonna's Hung Up, sold 59,969 copies on what was its second week at number one.
When Eminem released Mockingbird last year, he was trying for his third number one in a row. Instead, the honour of dethroning Tony Christie's seven week topper Amarillo went to Akon, whose Lonely strolled it on sales of 87,695 and eventually sold 349,311 copies. Eighteen months on, Eminem has learnt his lesson and joins Akon on Smack That, which rockets 12-1 this week on sales of 35,119. The track - Akon's second number one and Eminem's seventh - is the first single from Akon's second album Konvicted, which is released today (20th).
Justin Timberlake racks up his sixth number two hit in less than five years with My Love, which leaps 14-2 on sales of 30,989. He previously occupied runners-up slot with 'N Sync's last record Girlfriend, solo hits Like I Love You, Cry Me A River andRock Your Body and Snoop Dogg collaboration Signs. My Love is the second single from Timberlake's second solo album FutureSex/LoveSounds, following SexyBack, which topped the chart in September, and is currently number one in America, where in a reversal of what's happenning here, its runner-up is Akon and Eminem's Smack That. Despite the success of My Love, Timberlake's album slips 13-17 this week, on sales of 25,405, which lift its 10 week cume to 314,278.
The urban takeover at the top of the chart mean that after one week at number one, The Rose by Westlife slips to number three on sales of 26,766.
It's a triumphant return to the Top 10 for Take That whose Patience debuts at number four on sales of 22,646. With physical release following today, the single is Take That's first single since February 1996, when their Bee Gees cover How Deep Is Your Love debuted at number one on sales of 234,108. Patience is the first single from the album Beautiful World and, on downloads alone, it beats Take That's erstwhile colleague Robbie Williams' combined CD and download sales for Lovelight, which climbs 28-8 on sales of 15,231. A cover of a song by UK soul singer Lewis Taylor, Lovelight is Williams' 28th hit since leaving Take That. The title track from Rudebox peaked at number four a couple of months ago, but the album itself has not performed as well as most of its predecessors,, moving 1-2-9-14 to date. Lovelight is the sixth single in a row by Williams to peak short of number one in a sequence that extends back more than two years.
The rest of the Top 10 is rounded out by Beyonce's Irreplaceable, which holds at number five with sales up 10.6% at 19,752; Fedde Le Grand's Hands Up For Detroit, which continues its slow retreat from number one by falling 4-6 on sales of 17,687; All Saints' Rock Steady, making a faster fall, dipping 3-7 on sales of 16,830; U2 and Green Day's charity collaboration The Saints Are Comig, down 2-9 on sales of 13,455; and Bodyrox's new rave anthem Yeah Yeah, down 6-10 on sales of 13,188.
Likely to be making a bid for the number one slot next week, former Spice Girl Emma Bunton's cover of Petula Clark's Downtown debuts at number 24 on sales of 5,025 downloads.
Finally, with Chasing Cars dipping out of the chart this week after being deleted, Snow Patrol remain highly visible, as their Set The Fire To The Third Bar collaboration with Martha Wainwright jumps 37-18 on sales of 6,342. Both singles are taken from the current Snow Patrol album Eyes Open which has moved 5-9-13-20-12 in the last month. The 26,419 copies it sold last week lift the album's 29 week cume to 1,057,567, and it will replace The Arctic Monkeys' debut album as 2006's biggest seller this week. If it were still chart eligible, Chasing Cars would have climbed 26-21 this week, as its sales actually increased by 4.3% to 5,401., taking its cume to 169,658, enough for it to rank 20th in the year-to-date chart.