June 17, 1991 12:00 PM

Michael Bolton

Batten the hatches. Hurricane Bolton, gale-force soul singer, is back. Oops, belay that order. False alarm.

The Storm King takes a new, restrained tack on this album. The emphasis is on material, not vocal intensity. And with these radio-ready songs that’s a wise decision, particularly on “Love Is a Wonderful Thing” and the ballad “Now That I Found You.”

Oh, he still cranks it up. His trademark strained-to-the-max tone is well suited to “Forever Isn’t Long Enough.” But the Bolton blunderbuss misfires at times, as at the end of the title track and sporadically in the otherwise gentle ballad “Missing You Now,” which is caramelized by Kenny G’s wispy sweet soprano sax.

He still insists too on inviting comparison to the great soul singers, covering that old Percy Sledge hit “When a Man Loves a Woman.” The result? No contest. Notch another one up in the win column for ol’ Percifal.

That Bolton at times drifts, however, doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a solid, if a tad overproduced, collection of pretty pop. It certainly helps that he’s downgraded himself to a tropical storm. (Columbia)

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