IF YOU WERE going to buy his 73rd album anyway, you'd best just ignore me and move along peaceably to Perry Como's Sunday night concert at Wolf Trap.

Actually, I like the man (a teddy bear who can sing -- which was always a welcome contrast to the crank Sinatra) -- but if "Perry Como Today" is Perry Como's future, he's got to start saying no to albums and start being content to let that smiling persona and those roly-poly pipes charm us in person.

It just doesn't sound like his heart's in it -- and the "material" he's working with here pretty much insures yours won't be either.

For "Today," Como struggles through a thick forest of broadly orchestrated, half-baked Lionel Ritchie when-I-make-love-to-you California kitsch. On side one, he's inappropriately jolly on "Making Love to You," skips across the already depthless "Tonight I Celebrate My Love for You" and "Bless the Beasts and the Children" (complete with Carpenters memorial oboe intro), and gets totally lost in the upbeat elevator-swing of "That's What Friends Are For." Side two is more restrained and consistent, but in all, there's a better way to thank Como for the memories than adding this one to the collection:

Lawn seats.


"Perry Como Today" (RCA 6368-1-R). Appearing Sunday at Wolf Trap.