Bob Dylan lands his 18th top 10 album on The Billboard 200 this week as Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8 enters the chart at #6. Only five artists have amassed more top 10 albums since Billboard published its first album chart (a top 10 listing) in March 1945.
A total of 14 artists have accumulated 15 or more top 10 albums since 1945. The list includes many of the greatest stars in recording history. Most of these acts are still adding to their totals. Twelve have had top 10 albums within the last five years. Ten have reached the top 10 within just the last two years.
Frank Sinatra is the act with the most top 10 albums (40) and also the act with the longest span of top 10 albums (62 years). Ol' Blue Eyes landed his first top 10 album in the first year of Harry S. Truman's presidency. He landed his most recent in the last year of George W. Bush's.
I counted only albums that made the top 10 on The Billboard 200, not on such lower-profile charts as Top Catalog Albums or Top Christmas Albums. I counted each album just once, no matter how many times it hit the top 10. Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas cracked the top 10 in 13 different holiday seasons between 1945 and 1960. That's a great feat, but it's still just one top 10 album. (I'm happy to report that "Der Bingle" made the list anyway.)
Here's a list of all acts that have had 15 or more top 10 albums from March 1945 to this week. I broke ties by listing the acts in order of the longest span of top 10 albums.
1. Frank Sinatra, 40. Sinatra landed his first top 10 album in March 1946 with The Voice Of Frank Sinatra. He landed his most recent in May with the compilation Nothing But The Best. Sinatra's first seven top 10 albums were released prior to the inception of Billboard's weekly album chart in March 1956. Sinatra's tally includes a 1963 collaboration with jazz legend Count Basie, as well as a classic live album, Sinatra At The Sands, which Basie conducted. Sinatra landed 14 consecutive top 10 albums between Come Fly With Me in 1958 and Sinatra & Strings in 1962 (discounting a compilation released by a former label). Sinatra received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1965 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 1983. He died in 1998 at age 82.
2. The Rolling Stones, 36. The Stones have had the most top 10 albums of any group, any rock act, and any non-American act in recording history. The band's first album, England's Newest Hitmakers/The Rolling Stones, peaked at #11, but its next 26 albums all made the top 10. That remarkable streak began with 12 x 5 in December 1964 and ran through Emotional Rescue in July 1980. The band landed its most recent top 10 album, A Bigger Bang, in September 2005. The Stones' top 10 tally includes five live albums. The Stones received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986. They were voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
3. The Beatles, 30. The Fab Four's debut album, Meet The Beatles!, made the top 10 in February 1964 on the strength of the earth-shaking single, "I Want To Hold Your Hand." The group's most recent top 10 album was Love in December 2006. The Beatles' top 10 tally includes soundtracks to the movies A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine and Let It Be and the British TV special Magical Mystery Tour. The Beatles made the top 10 with 23 consecutive albums from Meet The Beatles! through The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl in 1977 (discounting seven minor releases and oddities). The group won a Grammy Trustees Award in 1972. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
4. Barbra Streisand, 29. Streisand has had more top 10 albums than any other woman in recording history. The diva's debut album, The Barbra Streisand Album, made the top 10 in July 1963. Her most recent album to hit the mark was Live In Concert 2006, which scored in May 2007. Streisand's top 10 tally includes the Broadway cast album to Funny Girl, soundtracks to two acclaimed TV specials (My Name Is Barbra and Color Me Barbra) and soundtracks to three movies (Funny Lady, A Star Is Born and Yentl). Streisand received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. She is set to receive a Kennedy Center Honor at the ceremony to be taped on Dec. 7 for broadcast later in the month. (Note to Kennedy Center Honor voters: It's about frickin' time.)
5. Elvis Presley, 27. Presley topped the chart with his eponymous debut album in May 1956. He landed his most recent top 10 album, Elvis: 2nd To None, in October 2003. Presley's tally of top 10 albums includes his holiday perennial, Elvis' Christmas Album. It also includes soundtracks from 11 movies, stretching from Loving You in 1957 through Harum Scarum in 1965, and three TV specials, including his legendary 1968 comeback special. Presley reached the top 10 with 14 consecutive albums from Elvis Is Back! in 1960 to Harum Scarum (discounting a sacred album). Presley received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1971, six years before he died at age 42. He was in the first class of artists voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
6. Bob Dylan, 18. Dylan landed his first top 10 album, Bringing It All Back Home, in May 1965. The album spawned his first Hot 100 hit, "Subterranean Homesick Blues." He's back in the top 10 this week with the latest installment of his long-running The Bootleg Series. Dylan's tally includes three collaborations with The Band, including the double-live Before The Flood. (It doesn't include two top 10 albums he recorded with the all-star Traveling Wilburys, because they weren't marketed as Dylan albums.) Dylan was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. He received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1997.
7. Paul McCartney, 17. McCartney's post-Beatles tally includes eight solo albums, eight albums credited to his group Wings and one album on which he shared billing with his late wife Linda McCartney. McCartney's eponymous solo debut album made the top 10 in May 1970. His most recent top 10 entry was Memory Almost Full in June 2007. McCartney's top 10 tally includes two live albums: Wings Over America, which chronicled the group's heralded 1976 tour, and Back In The U.S. Live 2002. McCartney received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. He was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. He was announced as one of the Kennedy Center Honors recipients in 2002, but he backed out citing personal obligations. They said he'd get the honor the following year. That was six years ago. C'mon, Kennedy Center Honors voters. Let it be.
8. Madonna, 17. Madonna is second only to Barbra Streisand as the female artist with the most top 10 albums--and Streisand had a two-decade head-start. Madonna's hit-laden debut album cracked the top 10 in October 1984. Her most recent album, Hard Candy, hit #1 in May. Madonna reached the top 10 with 11 consecutive albums from Like A Prayer in 1989 through American Life in 2003 (discounting a belated single-disk version of Evita). Her tally includes three albums that reflect her checkered Hollywood career-the soundtracks to Who's That Girl and Evita and an album (I'm Breathless) that was concocted to capitalize on her role in Dick Tracy. Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March.
9. Elton John, 16. Elton's eponymous breakthrough album hit the top 10 in January 1971, on the strength of his classic hit, "Your Song." His most recent top 10 album was Rocket Man-Number Ones in April 2007.Elton was on fire in the mid-'70s. He had 11 consecutive top 10 albums from Madman Across The Water in 1972 through Blue Moves in 1976. Elton's tally doesn't include The Lion King soundtrack from 1994, which he composed and for which he recorded three songs, because it wasn't marketed as an Elton album. Elton was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. He received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2004.
10. Johnny Mathis, 16. Mathis is the only African American with 15 or more top 10 albums. The suave balladeer made the top 10 with his first 12 albums, from Wonderful Wonderful in 1957 to The Rhythms And Ballads Of Broadway in 1960. He landed his most recent top 10 album, You Light Up My Life, in June 1978. (It spawned his #1 hit, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," a duet with Deniece Williams.) Mathis' most successful album was Johnny's Greatest Hits, which remained on the chart for 490 weeks, second only to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon. Mathis' tally also includes Merry Christmas, which made the top 10 in every holiday season from 1958 through 1960. Mathis received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
11. Neil Diamond, 15. Diamond landed his first top 10 album, Neil Diamond/Gold, in September 1970. It was recorded at the fabled Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles. He landed his most recent top 10 album (and his first #1) in May with Home Before Dark. Diamond had 10 consecutive top 10 albums from Moods in 1972 through The Jazz Singer in 1980 (discounting four compilations released on old labels). Three of Diamond's top 10 albums are live albums. Two are soundtracks to movies that bombed at the box-office: Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which he scored, and The Jazz Singer, in which he starred.
12. Bruce Springsteen, 15. Springsteen landed his first top 10 album, Born To Run, in September 1975, five weeks before he famously appeared on the covers of TIME and Newsweek simultaneously. He landed his most recent in October 2007 when Magic hit #1. Two of Springsteen's top 10 albums are live albums with the E Street Band: the five-disk Live/1975-1985 and the double-disk Live In New York City, recorded in 2000. Springsteen had 10 consecutive top 10 albums from Born To Run through Greatest Hits in 1995. The biggest of all was Born In The U.S.A., which logged 84 weeks in the top 10. Springsteen was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
13. George Strait, 15. Strait has amassed more top 10 albums on The Billboard 200 than any other country artist in history. (Garth Brooks is in second place, with 14.) Strait also started his top 10 tally more recently than any other artist on this list. The Texan landed his first top 10 album, the Pure Country soundtrack, in November 1992. He landed his most recent in April when Troubadour hit #1. Strait was voted into the Country Music Assn.'s Hall of Fame in 2006.
14. Bing Crosby, 15. Crosby landed his first top 10 album, Going My Way, in October 1945. He landed his 15th, White Christmas, in late 1954. Both of these releases were soundtracks to Crosby movies, as were five of his other top 10 albums. White Christmas was Crosby's 15th consecutive top 10 album-and his last new release to make the top 10. The emergence of rock'n'roll made the genial crooner suddenly seem old. Crosby's tally includes two albums that also featured entertainer Danny Kaye. In 1962, Crosby became the first recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Crosby would surely have received a Kennedy Center Honor, but he died in 1977, one year before the awards were initiated. He was 74.
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Now For The Fun Part: I didn't combine group and solo releases (except for McCartney's post-Beatles output, which was part of one continuous flow). If I had combined group and solo releases, the individual Beatles would hold down four of the top six spots on this list. McCartney would top the list with 47 top 10 albums. George Harrison would have 38; John Lennon, 37; and Ringo Starr, 32.
Harrison's tally in this alternate, all-inclusive list includes the 30 top 10 Beatles albums, plus five solo albums, the all-star The Concert For Bangla Desh (which he organized and fronted) and two Traveling Wilburys albums. Lennon's tally includes the 30 Beatles albums, plus three solo albums, three albums billed John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and one collaboration with his wife, Yoko Ono. Ringo's tally includes the 30 Beatles albums and his two top 10 solo albums.
Three other musicians would have made the list if I had combined group and solo releases. Since these acts, unlike the Beatles, weren't already on the list, I'm going to give them their due here:
Robert Plant, 19. Plant's tally includes 12 albums with Led Zeppelin, one with the Honeydrippers, three solo albums, two collaborations with Jimmy Page, and one with Alison Krauss. Plant first made the top 10 with Led Zeppelin's eponymous debut in May 1969. His most recent album to hit the top 10 was Zeppelin's Mothership in November 2007. Plant made the top 10 with 13 consecutive albums from Led Zeppelin to the Honeydrippers' Volume One in November 1984. Led Zeppelin was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. The group received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
Eric Clapton, 17. Clapton's tally includes 11 solo albums, four albums with Cream, one with Blind Faith and one collaboration with B.B. King. Clapton first made the top 10 with Cream's Disraeli Gears in January 1968. He scored most recently in April 2004 with Me And Mr. Johnson, his tribute to blues legend Robert Johnson. Clapton's most successful album was Unplugged, which logged 38 weeks in the top 10 in 1992-1993. Clapton has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992, as a member of Cream in 1993 and as a solo artist in 2000. Cream received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
Jimmy Page, 16. Page's tally includes 12 albums with Led Zeppelin, one with the Honeydrippers, two collaborations with Robert Plant and one with David Coverdale. Led Zeppelin reached the top 10 with its first 10 albums, from Led Zeppelin in May 1969 to Coda in December 1982. For all this success, Page has yet to reach the top 10 as a solo artist. His highest-charting solo album was Outrider, which hit #26 in 1988.