When the King's daughter made her unexpected, late-in-life musical debut with "To Whom It May Concern" (2003), many critics couldn't get past her gilded ancestry to grant that it was a pretty solid set of well-crafted mainstream rock, distinguished primarily by Ms. Presley's smoky, sultry growl and the sheer joy she took in spitting out nasty words. In Chicago, we're not supposed to be unduly worried about nepotism; besides, she was just as deserving of a turn at playing mainstream riot grrrl as younger divas such as Avril Lavigne or Pink, who guests on a track here.

With a title that winks at lingering questions about her authenticity, Lisa Marie returns with a sophomore effort that's just as strong as her debut. By no means is she an auteur: The best tracks were co-written with celebrity song doctor Linda Perry; the production (and no doubt the pitch-shifting to perfect the vocals) are the best money can buy (courtesy of Tori Amos veteran Eric Rosse). Whether she's learned how to deliver onstage after her sketchy early shows remains a question mark.

Still, her biker-chick persona is hugely appealing and pretty convincing. There's no way she's fronting when she boasts of being a "non-conforming s**t-starter with the rebel DNA" or sneers, "You're an idiot and I hate your guts." Tracks like "Turbulence," "Idiot" and "I'll Figure It Out" are even strong enough to forgive her for covering Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry," and that's saying something.



On "Again," the second track from her eagerly awaited comeback, Faith Evans lectures that we shouldn't believe everything we've read about her alleged drug problems: "Everything ain't what it seems/Just because it's on TV," she coos. The she adds in the choruses, "If I had to do it all again/ I've learned so much from my mistakes." Hmmm, were there or weren't there problems, Faith?

Whatever the reason, Evans has been missing from the hip-hop and R&B scene for four years, during which the former Mrs. Biggie Smalls remarried, doted on her children, moved to Los Angeles and split from P. Diddy's Bad Boy empire. Now she's pushing hard to re-establish herself as a genre-spanning diva on the level of a Mary J. Blige. Her fourth album doesn't quite assure that, though there are some strong moments.

Evans is best when she's in her mellow "Quiet Storm" mode, as on "Again" or "True Love," when she serenades us with an updated version of that old-school Detroit groove and makes a convincing case for herself as a modern Gladys Knight. She doesn't fare nearly as well when she attempts an updated Aretha Franklin turn on "Mesmerized." And the three obligatory, harder-edged duets with rappers, including the single "Hope," which features Chicago hip-hop star Twista, just drag the disc down and distract from its main pleasures.

Jim DeRogatis