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*** BOYZ II MEN, "Evolution," Motown

September 28, 1997|Connie Johnson

There's little that's boyish about Boyz II Men these days. On its third album, the vocal quartet seems determined to put childish things aside, although some of its ideas about getting older seem to require a front porch and four rocking chairs. The album is that low on energy in places.

Fortunately, the songs that do work manage to get matters right. A version of New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain" is so warm and subtle that its heartbreaking tenderness sneaks up on you. On "Can't Let Her Go," producer Sean "Puffy" Combs' finger on the pulse of all that is hot and current never falters.

In the past, Boyz II Men always came across as the eternal nerds who had to practically prostrate themselves to win romantic favor. None of this album's songs really go that route. The yearning, ever-accommodating "To the Limit" comes close, but the group does emerge with its dignity intact. You say you want an evolution? To go forth and beg no more seems to be Boyz II Men's first step in that direction.

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

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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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