Take it to the summit

2-disc Eagles album clobbers Spears

It was a long road indeed — and it almost hit a chart dead-end.

"Long Road Out of Eden," the first Eagles studio album in 28 years, soars into the top spot on the Billboard 200 on Wednesday. But it took a change to a long-standing rule to make the album eligible for the chart.

Billboard said Tuesday that it is now allowing albums that are available only through one retailer to appear on its big chart. "Long Road," released by Eagles Recording Co., is available exclusively in the U.S. through Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and the band's Web site.

And what a splash it made. The two-disc set sold 711,000 copies for the week ending Nov. 4, the second-best debut-week total of the year behind Kanye West's "Graduation," which arrived with 960,000 units in September.

"Long Road" is Eagles' sixth No. 1 album in a span of 32 years, having first hit the summit with 1975's "One of These Nights" and most recently scoring with "Hell Freezes Over," which spent two weeks at No. 1 in 1994. "Eagles/ Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975" remains the top-selling album in U.S. history, with 29 million units.

Had "Long Road" not been eligible, Britney Spears' comeback album "Blackout" would have been No. 1. The gossip-rag queen's first album in four years also is her first studio effort to not top the chart, following "In the Zone" (2003), "Britney" (2001), "Oops! … I Did It Again" (2000) and "… Baby One More Time" (1999). However, Spears becomes the only woman whose first five studio albums have debuted in the top two slots.

The week sees a disparate range of acts debuting in the top tier. Hard rock band Avenged Sevenfold scores its biggest chart and sales week with its self-titled fourth album, while country singer Josh Turner scores his second top 10 album with "Everything Is Fine."

And Backstreet is back — again — as the Boys bow with "Unbreakable." The erstwhile boy band's 2005 comeback disc "Never Gone" debuted with 291,000 in 2005. Also arriving this week is the compilation album from classical crossover singer Andrea Bocelli.

Album sales are up 10.9% from last week at 9.25 million units and down 13.3% from the same week in 2006 (10.67 million).

Katie Hasty of Billboard in New York contributed to this report.
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