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''God'' tops U.S. record charts

Retailers have seen a groundswell in demand for music with patriotic themes in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, sending record labels scrambling to keep the supply coming. That fervor helped to drive Columbia Records’ benefit compilation “God Bless America” to No. 1 in an otherwise quiet week for music sales.

Nearly 181,000 copies of “God Bless America” headed out the door in the week ended Oct. 21, according to data compiled by SoundScan. Columbia parent Sony Music said a “substantial portion” of proceeds from the release, which includes tracks by Celine Dion, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, will go to the Twin Towers Fund to help victims of the attacks.

But music sellers say the compilation is only one of many patriotic titles that have flown from the shelves in recent weeks, including Whitney Houston’s reissued rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Ray Charles’ take on “America the Beautiful,” and country balladeer Lee Greenwood’s anthem “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“We started seeing the demand for patriotic music spike within two weeks of 9/11, and it hasn’t let up since,” said Tower Records rep Louise Solomon.

Music buyers have also been mined the entire catalogues of superstar acts U2 and Springsteen – both of whom have lent their names and songs to various benefits for terror victims, including September’s blockbuster network telethon.

New-age perennial Enya has also benefited on this phenomebon: her Warner Bros. release “Day Without Rain” continued to tack on sales gains in its 48th week of release, thanks in part to a popular post-Sept. 11 remix of her soothing single “Only Time.” “Day” was up 4%, and has sold 3.1 million copies to date.

The former No. 1, rapper Ja Rule’s “Pain is Love” (Def Jam), slipped to third, as sales declined by 28% to 158,000.

Grizzled metal pioneer Ozzy Osbourne proved he can still rock out with the kids as his latest effort, “Down to Earth” (Epic) opened in fourth place. The LP, which reunites Ozzy with erstwhile guitarist/collaborator Zakk Wylde, scanned 152,000 units.

Debuting at 11 was Italian opera/crossover vocalist Andrea Bocelli’s “Cieli di Toscana” (Philips/Universal). The release sold 85,000 copies and landed, in a bit of genre-bending juxtaposition, one spot ahead of “Dark Days, Bright Nights” (Interscope) by redneck rapper Bubba Sparxxx. “Dark Days” sank nine spots from its No. 3 debut, as sales slid by 39%.

Among the other new contenders hitting the charts were “Cuttin’ Heads” (Columbia) by John Mellencamp at a solid 15, “Mr. Cheeks” (Universal) by John P. Kelly at 32, the soundtrack to ‘N Sync member Lance Bass’ film debut “On the Line” (Jive) at 35, and “Atomic” (RCA) by alt-rockers Lit at 36.

Also worth noting is the chart debut of “Golden Road, 1965-1973” from the Grateful Dead. The group managed to chart at 191, selling nearly 6,400 copies of “Golden Road” – no mean feat for a 13-disc catalog set.

Rapper/actor DMX will do his best to supplant the patriotic fervor on the charts next week with his new release “Great Depression,” which looks like a lock for the top spot. Also set for chart bows are new sets by rockers Bush and Incubus.

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