IT’S BEEN more than four years since Motley Crue released its last studio album, multiplatinum “Dr. Feelgood.” In that time, the face of music has shifted , and hard rock and heavy metal aren’t as welcome. But Crue members feel confident about their just-released sixth album, titled simply “Motley Crue.”

“The only ones complaining (about the market) are the ones who haven’t been doing anything creative,” said Nikki Sixx, Motley Crue bassist. “People who are doing great are the ones who have balls; they take chances and continue to grow. I never understood the hit-single, quick-success, get-airplay mentality. This is what I do, and this is what I’ll always do.”

The new album features new singer John Corabik, who replaced Crue longtimer Vince Neil, ousted from the band two years ago. The result — a new, unrecognizable Motley Crue sound.

“The limitations have come off of the band,” said Sixx. “John is a vocalist who sings with style, whereas Vince was a stylist who only sang one style. That accounts for a big part of our growth as a band.”

How will the change in the lineup and sound fare with the faithful Crue fans who have purchased the 17 million records from the band that helped pioneer the Los Angeles glam-metal scene of the early ’80s?

“The Crue fans have had to be open-minded,” Sixx said. “We’re not the same Motley Crue anymore. But we have never repeated ourselves in the past. Why would we ever do anything less than totally dive headfirst into the future?”

Sixx even wanted to change the name, but “our record company wasn’t that excited about the concept of it,” he said.

The first million albums also offer, by mail order only, the limited-edition EP “Quarternary.” It contains one song written, played and sung by each member of the band — including drummer Tommy Lee and lead guitarist Mick Mars — plus a fifth featuring the entire band along with Billy Preston.

Crue, which will tour during the summer, is planning the lineup. “I’m trying to put together our dream tour,” said Sixx. “I desperately miss the (great package tours). We’re trying to package some of our favorite bands together, at least four of them, and include some old, some new, some punk and some metal.”

RADIO REPORT: Top 40 by its nature is a fickle format. With few exceptions, artists and bands are judged to be only as good as their current single. On the other hand, once-popular acts that have fallen on hard times can make a legitimate comeback if, as the old saying goes, “it’s in the grooves.”

Some of the hottest records on Top 40 radio are coming from artists who have either fallen from popularity or simply been absent from the music scene for an extended period. It only proves that in this format, at least, you can almost always go home again.

Madonna may not have totally fallen from the public’s favor, but her overexposure is thought to have contributed to the relative lack of success for “Rain”– her streak of chart-topping singles ended with releases from her “Erotica” album. “I’ll Remember,” a song for the soundtrack to the film “With Honors,” was added by 172 of the 265 stations that report to the radio trade Network Forty. Not only was it added, but it was played a lot for a first-week release.

Another superstar said to suffer from overexposure was the symbol who used to be known as Prince. Many in the industry believe he released so many records over the past few years that the audience became tired of him. In fact, the current single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” isn’t even being sold through his major label, Warner Bros. Yet “The Most Beautiful Girl” may turn out to be one of Prince’s biggest singles in quite some time, as it breaks into the Top 10 among most-requestedsingles.

Bonnie Raitt simply hasn’t been heard from since “Luck of the Draw” in 1991. Even so, “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” the new single from her just released album, “Longing in their Hearts,” has been warmly greeted by Top 40.

General Public haven’t even been together for at least five years. However, they reunited to cut the Staple Singers’ golden oldie, “I’ll Take You There,” for the film soundtrack, “Threesome.” More than 100 stations have added it in its first two weeks of release and, if the film does anything at all, the song should make its way up the charts in fine fashion.

L.A. SEEN: Noted deejay Afrika Islam (he did all the drum programs for “Colors” by Ice-T, as well as lots of production for “Body Count”) will be spinning discs at a new L.A. area club called Lubrication, which will be held at the Dragonfly every Sunday. He started this past Sunday. In conjunction with his partners, Cliff Cantor and Ray J., Islam will have the club feature live performances as well as record release parties, and, of course, the latest in all dance music, with a heavy influence on the hip-hop.

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