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LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Forty-one years after he first appeared on the Billboard 200, Neil Diamond appears on course to earn his first No. 1 album ever on next week's chart. First-day sales of "Home Before Dark" lead the Nielsen SoundScan Building chart released May 7.
Unweighted sales for "Home" (Columbia) reported by the chart's panel of nine merchants through the close of business Tuesday, May 6, came in at 30,000. A source close to the album projects a first-week start in the neighborhood of 125,000. The current No. 1, Madonna's "Hard Candy" (Warner Bros.), may slide to No. 2 or No. 3 next week, while new entries from Gavin DeGraw, Clay Aiken, Toby Keith and Josh Groban look headed for top 10 bows.
Billboard estimates the merchants who report to Nielsen SoundScan's Building Chart -- Trans World Entertainment, Best Buy, Circuit City, iTunes, Starbucks, Borders, Target, Anderson Merchandisers and Handleman Co. -- account for about 80 percent of all U.S. album sales.
Over the course of Diamond's career, he has racked up 45 albums on the Billboard 200, starting with 1966's "The Feel of Neil Diamond." The recent "American Idol" guest has earned 13 top 10 albums, including his last effort, "12 Songs," which debuted and peaked at No. 4 in late 2005.