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Harrison, Beatles albums get sales boost

Album sales of the music of George Harrison and the Beatles surged following his death last week at age 58 of cancer, album retail tracker SoundScan reported Wednesday.

The Beatles’ “1” – a collection of the 27 Fab Four singles that reached No. 1 in the United States or Britain – sold nearly 31,000 copies in the week ended Dec. 2, almost double the previous week’s total.

Those sales drove “1” to No. 73 on the latest U.S. pop album charts, up from No. 146 a week earlier. The album topped charts around the world when it was released last year.

Music from Harrison’s solo career, especially a remastered two-CD version of his 1970 set “All Things Must Pass” and the 1976 “Best of George Harrison” collection, also saw significant sales spikes last week.

The renewed interest in Harrison’s music bodes well for the possible release of a final album the guitarist was reportedly working on in the months before his death last Thursday at age 58, following a long battle with cancer.

“All Things Must Pass” sold 13,000 units last week, compared with just 900 the week before, boosting it high enough to have surpassed the Dixie Chicks’ “Fly” on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 156 if it were a current release.

The 1976 “Best of George Harrison” collection sold 11,000 copies, enough to have earned it a berth at No. 175.

“All Things Must Pass” and its spiritually tinged hit single “My Sweet Lord” were the first solo recordings of any Beatle to top the charts following the group’s breakup in 1970. The album originally stayed at No. 1 on the U.S. charts for seven weeks, more than any other ex-Beatle’s solo album exceptfor John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy.”

Harrison’s lesser-known solo albums, including “Living in the Material World,” “The Concert for Bangladesh,” “Extra Texture” and “Dark Horse,” sold a combined 3,300 units last week. Swift sales of the Beatles’ “1” and “All Things Must Pass” also have been reported in Britain.

A music retailing boost following the death of a recording artist is not uncommon. R&B star Aaliyah’s self-titled album rocketed to No. 1 on the pop charts in September after she was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Posthumous commercial gains also were realized by such stars as Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain, rap star Notorious B.I.G. and Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia.

In the months before his death, Harrison was reported to have been quietly finishing work on 25 unreleased tracks for a final album, provisionally titled “Portrait of a Leg End,” an apparent nod to his ambivalent attitude toward fame.

Renowned studio session drummer Jimi Keltner told the Sunday Times of London that he had added percussion to the tracks that Harrison and other musicians, believed to include Eric Clapton, had recorded for the project.

Decisions about if and when to release such an album would presumably fall to Harrison’s wife, Olivia, since the guitarist was not signed to any record label.

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