SOMEONE IN the record plant surreptitiously scratched the word "Hot!" into the run-off groove on side one of the Force M.D.'s "Touch and Go." They weren't exaggerating. With its quietly fiery performances and seductively glossy production, "Touch and Go" is superior neo-soul, the kind of record that makes an impression on the first go-round.

The Manhattan quartet's third LP covers an impressive amount of stylistic territory, from Smokey-style classic Motown crooning to the latest street beats. The record is dedicated to "all of those who still believe in a song," and the Force M.D.'s have eight good ones here, starting with the silky single "Love Is a House," with a falsetto lead and melodic sense that's a clear tribute to Smokey Robinson. That's followed by the loping, modified go-go groove of "Would You Love Me?" and the relaxed funk and highly tactile sound of the title track.

Solid songs like "Midnight Lover" and "Couldn't Care Less" will sound equally comfortable in clubs and on the radio. "Your Love Drives Me Crazy" features an enormously echoed drum wallop and chiming bells beneath a web of piano and harmonies, a combination that owes a lot to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Nine producers help the Force M.D.'s achieve their spacious sound, expertly combining the strengths of old-fashioned sweet soul with the best elements of newer styles like scratch and hip-hop. FORCE M.D.'s --

"Touch and Go" (Tommy Boy 25631); appearing Saturday at Carter Barron.