WHY IS "Dressed Up to Get Messed Up" the great Roomful of Blues album that their fans have long been waiting for? It's because saxophonist Greg Piccolo has finally matured into a dominant front man: a likable singer, an effective producer and probably the best songwriter in the jump blues style since the genre's heyday in the '40s and '50s. His blossoming was the final missing piece in a band that already had a superlative five-man horn team and a crack four- man rhythm section.

Piccolo wrote seven of the 10 tunes on the new album. Like Jesse Stone or Fats Domino, Piccolo builds his songs with clever variations on a slang phrase, such as the album title, or "My baby gives me whiplash," or "What happened to the sugar in my lemonade?" The horns punch out a catchy little melody behind the key phrase, and the rhythm section locks in with a syncopated dance beat. Add Ronnie Earl's slide guitar solos and Al Copley's boogie-woogie piano, and you have an R&B party record that makes the Honeydippers sound very stiff indeed.

ROOMFUL OF BLUES -- "Dressed Up to Get Messed Up" (Varrick, VR018); appearing at the Gentry Friday.