On "The Net," Australia's Little River Band takes a big step forward from its "Greatest Hits" album (though both share one song, the punchy-pop "South of the Border"). The big difference is new lead singer John Farnham, an impressively gutsy vocalist who last year replaced the perennially wimpy -- sorry -- the mellow, sensitive Glenn Sharrock.

Tack on the first studio work for new lead guitarist Steve Housden, and it's not hard to see how LRB managed to get out of the middle of the road. It may be a shock to old fans, but the band seems quite happy with its slightly tougher, harder-edged stance. "We Two" is a conservative bridge between the two styles, but most of the rest of the music is closer kin to rock than to pop. Most of the songs are written by LRB's two wonderfully named guitarists, Graham Goble and Beeb Birtles -- an irrelevant fact used to bring up their names.

The "Greatest Hits" package -- 10 songs ranging from "Lady" and "Reminiscing" to "Lonesome Loser," "Happy Anniversary" and "Help Is on the Way" -- will only reinforce the group's reputation as the Little River Bland, sweethearts of oldies radio before their time.

LITTLE RIVER BAND -- "The Net" (Capitol ST-12273) and "Greatest Hits" (Capitol ST-12247). Appearing Saturday at 7:30 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.