Garth Brooks and LeAnn Rimes each had two of the 10 best-selling albums in 1998 — three for Garth if you count his contribution to the Hope Floats soundtrack. But it wasn’t much of a year for new artists — only the Dixie Chicks enjoyed a breakthrough — or for new albums: half of the best-selling country albums were released in 1997.
Here are all 10 of the best-selling albums, ranked by total sales tracked by SoundScan from December 1997 through November 1998.
1. Sevens by Garth Brooks
Released Nov. 25, 1997 (Capitol)
Garth delayed the release of Sevens until he was happy with his label’s plan to market it. The plan worked — but only because the music did, too.
All five singles released from Sevens hit Billboard’s Top 5: the western-swinging “Long Neck Bottle” (No. 1); the Jimmy Buffet-ish “Two Pina Coladas” (No. 1); the romantic “You Move Me” (No. 3); the tribute to resilience “She’s Gonna Make It” (No. 2); and the duet with Trisha Yearwood, “In Another’s Eyes” (No. 2).
“This is a very personal album,” Garth says. “I only wrote six of the songs, but there are many of them that are so ‘me’ that people I work with every day thought I wrote them.”
Garth gives a lot of credit for the album’s success to his longtime producer Allen Reynolds. “I think he saw me really wondering where I was at and he took over,” Garth says. “Sometimes when you know someone and work with someone for so long, thank God, they know you better than you know yourself.”
2. Come on Over by Shania Twain
Released Nov. 4, 1997 (Mercury)
Shania followed one blockbuster with another. Come on Over is catching on with fans just like her 1995 album, The Woman in Me, which is the best-selling album by any female country artist.
Shania spent most of 1997 holed up in her upstate New York studio creating songs for Come on Over that would withstand the test of time.
“Many, many years from now, when you’re not on the road anymore, and you’re not a star, you’re not worried about what you’re wearing, and you’re not worried about how you’re going to get your award and what speech you’re going to give, somebody else may be recording your music, and it will live on,” she said. “That’s the most important thing.”
3. You Light Up My Life by LeAnn Rimes
Released Sept. 9, 1997 (Curb)
With the release of You Light Up My Life, a collection of inspirational songs, LeAnn became the first performer ever to have an album debut simultaneously at No. 1 on the country, pop and Christian charts. “I started jumping up and down when I heard,” she recalls. “That’s a high point of my career.”
You Light Up My Life, with worldwide sales of more than 5 million, is closing in on Blue (6 million) as LeAnn’s biggest album. The songs include several standards, including the title track recorded in 1977 by Debby Boone, but its biggest hit was new: “How Do I Live,” the song LeAnn originally recorded for the Con Air soundtrack. The moviemakers eventually chose Trisha Yearwood’s version of the same song, but LeAnn’s rendition was a huge pop hit.
4. Hope Floats by Various Artists
Released May 19, 1998 (Capitol)
A hit movie plus a healthy dollop of pop stars made this a country album that lots of non-country fans felt compelled to buy.
The contributors included Garth Brooks (with his No. 1 remake of the Bob Dylan tune “To Make You Feel My Love”), Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter, Martina McBride, The Mavericks, Lila McCann, The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams and Sheryl Crow.
The album stayed No. 1 on the country charts nine weeks, setting a new record for soundtracks.
5. The Limited Series by Garth Brooks
Released May 5, 1998 (Capitol)
Garth took his first six studio releases — including the most popular country albums the world has ever seen — and put them together in a six-CD boxed set. As a bonus, he added one extra track per album, for a total of 66 songs. And then he offered it at a discount, while emphasizing that it was, as the title said, a limited series of 2 million sets.
“Sometimes we run so fast we don’t see what we’ve been a part of,” Garth said upon the set’s release. “Doing The Limited Series made me stop and look at the work that’s been done. I am so proud and thankful to be a part of it.”
6. Everywhere by Tim McGraw
Released June 3, 1997 (Curb)
“I think each project has its own life,” Tim says of the collection of songs on Everywhere. “I don’t think you can pigeonhole where I’m going. You get these sounds in your head of what you want your record to sound like and start finding songs that fit.”
He found four No. 1s — “It’s Your Love” (with Faith Hill), “Just To See You Smile,” “Everywhere” and “Where the Green Grass Grows.” He just missed a fifth when “One of These Days” topped out at No. 2.
The songs had a variety of themes and tempos. “I don’t want anybody to get bored with me,” Tim explains. “I don’t want to be three albums down the road and everybody’s heard all I can do.”
7. The Greatest Hits Collection by Brooks & Dunn
Released Sept. 16, 1997 (Arista)
A generous 19-song collection of hits has made The Greatest Hits Collection a must-have addition for fans of country’s dominant duo of the ’90s.
“We really felt strongly that if we were going to do it, let’s load it up and have everything that we really loved on it,” Kix Brooks says. “I’m glad it worked out this way.
“Ronnie and I never lose sight of the fact that everything revolves around the music,” Kix says. “We’re into everything from race cars to hot-air balloons to cornflakes to shirts and all this other stuff. But none of this is going to be there for 10 minutes if we don’t deliver with our music.”
8. Wide Open Spaces by The Dixie Chicks
Released Jan. 27, 1998 (Monument)
These Chicks scratched and clawed their way up the country music ladder.
Sisters Emily Erwin and Martie Seidel started out with more of a bluegrass sound. Then Natalie Maines joined and they hatched a more mainstream sound.
“The album’s selling great,” Emily says. “We couldn’t be happier. People are reacting to it saying, ‘You guys are different. You’re not just the same old same old.’ We had three independent albums that we did on our own on small budgets and we sold them out of the trunk at shows. It’s really neat to see things happen on a national scale and have people behind you. It’s a different world.”
9. Faith by Faith Hill
Released April 21, 1998 (Warner Bros.)
After her 1995 release It Matters to Me, Faith waited three years before releasing her third Warner Bros. album, Faith.
“Three years is a long time between albums,” says Faith, who married Tim McGraw and had two children in the meantime. “All of those changes have definitely given me the inspiration I was needing and helped to influence this album.
“I had been on the road for four years and decided to take a break between albums. I think that gave me time to grow and catch up with myself.”
10. Sittin’ on Top of the World by LeAnn Rimes
Released May 5, 1998 (Curb)
“This album is more of me than anything,” LeAnn says. “It shows the person that I am now, particularly the title. With all the good things that have happened to me, I have nothing to complain about.”