A James Taylor first: New album hit top of Billboard chart

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After waiting 13 years for his first studio album of original songs since "October Road," James Taylor fans rewarded him by making "Before This World" his first-ever No. 1 album on the influential Billboard 200 chart.

Not only that: by selling 97,000 copies, the recording issued on June 16 by Concord Records more than doubled the number of albums sold by the week's No. 2 performer, Taylor Swift, who was named for JT.

Some Taylor aficionados were surprised to learn that of all his 17 studio albums since his debut self-titled disc in 1968, he had never scored the top spot. His previous high, holding the No. 2 position on the Billboard chart for four weeks in 1971, was "Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon."

All told, he has had 11 albums that landed in the top 10, and seven in the top 5. Taylor is credited with having sold more than 100 million recordings during his career. His 1976 "Greatest Hits" compilation sold 12 million in the United States alone.

His 1970 "Fire and Rain" hit No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart, while his cover of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" gave Taylor his first number-one single in 1971.

"Before This World" received a full-throttle, all-hands-on-deck promotional push, as Taylor appeared on NBC's "Today" and "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," as well as the network's "Late Night with Seth Meyers" and the syndicated daytime TV talk show "Live with Kelly and Michael."

He did a widely publicized, candid two-hour interview with Howard Stern on SiriusXM (available online) and also performed an exclusive concert for the satellite network at Harlem's renowned Apollo Theater on June 16, broadcast live on the limited-run SiriusXM James Taylor Channel.

Taylor has been touring extensively in the United States and in Europe for the past year, and has included one or two tracks from the still in-progress album during many of those concerts. His "Angels of Fenway" will be included in his sold-out Fenway Park concert in Boston with Bonnie Raitt on Aug. 6.

He's also likely to include it, among other songs from the album, at his July 4 Tanglewood concert (completely sold out, including the lawn, according to the tanglewood.org website).

"Before This World," with nine out of 10 tracks of original material, has won widespread critical praise. According to the Wall Street Journal, the album is "trademark Taylor, elegant, tuneful and just a little wry," while the New Yorker magazine called him "a master of songwriting."

Facing a springtime release deadline, Taylor sequestered himself at the home of a Newport, R.I., friend during tour-schedule breaks in order to complete his songwriting. Production and recording sessions took place not only at his home studio, The Barn, in the town of Washington but also on the fly during the tours.

With just shy of 97,000 albums sold, JT bested his namesake Taylor Swift's "1989," with 46,100. Adam Lambert's "Original High" tallied 44,300 while Hilary Duff's "Breathe In, Breathe Out" came in fourth with 33,000.

The totals are subject to minor revisions when the official Billboard numbers come out on Thursday, and the figures include the show biz trade journal's complex formula that tracks streaming activity.

More information: www.jamestaylor.com

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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