Picks and Pans Review: Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'arby

updated 11/16/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Terence Trent D'Arby

The anglicized name could have emerged from a Sir Walter Scott novel, and this debut album was already a huge hit in England before it was released here. But D'Arby is a black American, born in New York, who settled in England after serving in the Army in Europe. Usually the British charts are an unreliable barometer of American tastes, but in the case of this No. 1 record, the Brits may be on to something. D'Arby's voice—sunny, strong and manifold—recalls most often a fully mature version of Michael Jackson. His major mistake occurs whenever he tries to sound like Michael as we know him because in the tremulous upper reaches of his tenor, D'Arby's tone becomes treacly. The deeper he goes, the better he gets, as on the single Wishing Well, which pays homage to Otis Redding's gutbucket style. In terms of showcasing his talent, D'Arby, 25, is most impressive on the ballad Sign Your Name and on the stunning a cappella turn he takes on As Yet Untitled. Musically the album combines inventive production values and rock-cum-R&B melodies. D'Arby could use a little help sharpening his lyrics and also in fleshing out the anemic rhythmic grooves on the straight dance songs like If You Let Me Stay and Dance Little Sister. He tends to spend too much effort on the sounds of harmonicas, flutes and their tinkly kind, instead of filling in those all-important bass and drum trenches. The one lilting production that works is Let's Go Forward, a pretty soul number that waltzes around on cats' paws. The album's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, however. Yo, Terence Trent, old chap, bloody good job, homeboy. (Columbia)

From Our Partners