Strait to top of Billboard 200; R.E.M. in 2nd

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UPDATED 4:52 p.m. PT April 9, 2008

A pair of acts that made their Billboard 200 debut during President Reagan's first term rule the chart this week.

Country megastar George Strait crashes in at No. 1 with "Troubadour" (Universal Nashville, 166,000 units). It's his fourth chart-topper on the big tally -- and his hat-spinning 22nd on the country chart. The Texas singer-guitarist has more than two dozen platinum or multiplatinum albums under his belt buckle.

"Troubadour" extends an impressive streak: Strait has placed at least one album on the Billboard 200 every year since 1984, when "Right or Wrong" peaked at No. 163. His run on the country chart goes back three more years.

Meanwhile, R.E.M. roars back with the hard-rocking "Accelerate" (Warner Bros., 115,000) the band's first studio album in 31⁄2 years. It's the Athens, Ga., trio's eighth top 10 set and its highest-charting disc in a dozen years, matching the No. 2 peak of "New Adventures in Hi-Fi."

Two disparate acts score their first top 10 albums this week. Miami rapper Trina debuts at No. 6 with "Still Da Baddest" (Slip-N-Slide, 47,000). Each of the four discs has peaked higher than its predecessor. But the bigger surprise from many is the other newcomer to the top tier: Van Morrison. He finally cracks the top 10 after four decades of recording with "Keep It Simple" (Lost Highway, 37,000).

And boy do these rodents have long legs. The soundtrack to "Alvin and the Chipmunks" (Razor & Tie, 51,000) zooms back into the top 10 at No. 5 in its 18th chart week. The Fox film opened Dec. 14 in North America.

Elsewhere in the top 10: The "Now 27" compilation moves up two spots to No. 3 (Sony BMG/EMI/Universal/Zomba, 60,000), the self-titled debut from Day26 falls to No. 4 after bowing on top last week (Bad Boy, 51,000), and fellow "Making the Band" alums Danity Kane slip three rungs to No. 7 with "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (Bad Boy, 47,000). Counting Crows' "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" falls five notches to No. 8 in its second week (Geffen, 43,000), and Rick Ross' "Trilla" drops three to No. 9 (Slip-N-Slide, 41,000).

Other debutants this week include the Rolling Stones' soundtrack to its Martin Scorsese-directed concert film "Shine a Light" (No. 11, Interscope, 37,000 units), the Black Keys' "Attack & Release" (No. 14, Nonesuch, 29,000) and Sevendust's "Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow" (No. 19, Asylum, 25,000).

Overall album sales are up 3.5% from last week at 7.99 million units but down a steep 24.5% from same week in 2007.

Billboard contributed to this report.
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