By Jim Farber
Updated January 16, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

GARY BARLOW Open Road (Arista) If George Michael can’t, or won’t, make irresistibly slick blue-eyed R&B records anymore, Barlow can and will. The ex-Take That singer matches his flutteringly clear voice to impeccably formed bubblegum soul melodies on his first solo effort. Barlow’s idea of soul may have more to do with Wham! than with Otis Redding. But what he lacks in depth he makes up for in sweetness. Take that, nonbelievers. B+