*** MOTLEY CRUE, "Motley Crue"; Elektra

Is it a kinder, gentler Motley Crue that's entering its second decade?

Hardly, but this album does suggest that the Crue may grow old gracefully, unlike many of the other L.A. metal bands that came of age in the '80s and later crashed and burned.

It's difficult to say whether the addition of new singer John Corabi, whose voice is meatier and more appealing than predecessor Vince Neil's, is responsible for the shift in focus. But whatever the reason, there's less flash and more substance. Producer Bob Rock usually tends to turn out too-slick results, but in the Crue's case there's increased rhythmic muscle and visceral energy without overproduction.

A welcome retreat from misogyny in the lyrics and a more low-key image are the earmarks of a plausible, not-too-drastic permutation for the once crass and glittery outfit. At this crucial juncture in its career, the new and improved Crue has come through with some solid ballads and aggressive, chunky rock songs.

This basic power metal is far from the music du jour, but if the band keeps making albums like this, it just might last another 10 years.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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