Al as a Leading Man for the '90s? Sure! : AL B. SURE! : "Private Times . . . And the Whole 9!" Warner Bros. ***

Sure! is a self-appointed leading man for the '90s, and sometimes he makes that conceit pay off. Always aiming to mesmerize, and apparently pumped up with confidence after the success of his debut album "In Effect Mode," the New York-based singer seems eager to prove that his first-time-at-bat smash was not beginner's luck.

He goes ego-to-ego with Diana Ross on a sensual soundscape called "No Matter What You Do," and while Sure! may have still been in diapers back when she was a diva-in-training, he certainly doesn't allow her any room to overshadow him. Following that vanity-soaked exercise is "Shades of Grey," another in-praise-of-the-older-woman ballad in which Sure! acts like a junior-league gigolo in the making.

If Sure! didn't have a few good musical ideas up his designer sleeve, it would be hard to forgive all of his "romantic" excesses, but he fully redeems himself on "Channel J," a hip-hop jamfest that features the astringently funny rapper Chubb Rock. As for why the cinematic story line of the Eagles' "Hotel California" would appeal to Sure!'s sense of the dramatic, draw your own conclusions.

Despite his youthful swagger and ambition, Sure! isn't quite as great as he thinks he is--but give him time. He may yet evolve into the successor to Marvin Gaye, a man who was never bashful about acknowledging his own leading-man appeal.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).

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