ON "RADIO," Peter Dean celebrates the golden era of popular music that dominated that medium from the late '30s up to the arrival of rock and roll in the mid '50s. Like Rudy Vallee, Dean strums innocently on his baritone ukulele, softly crooning the lyrics to such ballads as "It's a Beautiful Day" and "Duke's Melody" or jauntily delivering up- tempo ditties such as "Take Me to the Land of Jazz" and "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune Vo-Do- De-O" (the latter with wittily updated lyrics: take note, Sinatra).

There is an oddly upbeat melancholy to much of this album, most evident on "Play Me a June-Moon Song" (the kind they don't write anymore) and "What Will I Do in the Morning." Dean, who was leading bands in New York in the '30s (a very young Dinah Shore was one of his vocalists), is a low-key charmer, backed here by a dozen empathetic big band vets. The album's centerpiece, also its title, pays loving homage to the golden era of radio, when musical and theatrical sounds provoked our imagination in a way that today's sights seldom do. It's a territory that Peter Dean knows well enough to lead anyone into.

PETER DEAN -- "Radio" (Inner City IC 1163); appearing at Cates Restaurant through December 8.)