POP IDOLS aren't exactly known for taking risks, throwing their audience curve balls or walking away from sure things. Yet that's exactly what Sting has done with "The Dream of the Blue Turtles," his solo debut.

Unlike the outside projects of his cohorts Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, this is no mere Policeman's holiday, for what Sting has attempted is a marriage of pop and bop that pushes beyond the traditional notion of fusion music.

Rather than try to mix and match the two styles, Sting works a middle ground that leaves room enough for a walking bass and aggressive solos and, at the same time, sticks plenty close to the melody. On the best material -- "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," "Childrens' Crusade," and "Fortress Around Your Heart" -- Sting supplies swing and sophistication without losing the melodic appeal that powers The Police's best work.

Unfortunately, that balance is not maintained throughout the album. Sometimes, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and keyboardist Kenny Kirkland seem unnecessarily constrained; at others, the listener yearns for the music to break free. Drummer Omar Hakim is a powerhouse player, but lacks the polyrhythmic fluidity Stewart Copeland uses to lighten The Police sound. Add in Sting's tendency to preach ("There is a deeper world than this/That you don't understand" from "Love Is the Seventh Wave"), and "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" ends up an only partly successful experiment.

STING -- "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" (A&M SP- 3750); appearing Saturday at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.