Picks and Pans Review: Neither Fish nor Flesh: a Sound Track of Love, Faith, Hope & Destruction

updated 12/18/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/18/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Terence Trent D'Arby

Two years ago, D'Arby bent over backwards to let anyone with a pen and a publication to write for know he was not just another soul singer.

The presumptuous title of his debut, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby, marked him as a newcomer of unusual brashness. He even made purposely insufferable statements such as suggesting the album was better than Sgt. Pepper's Lonelyhearts Club Band. But there was more than just braggadocio underneath all that braided hair; there was a smooth style and a deadeye accuracy for a soothing melody that caused a justifiable stir.

Then came the hard part, the second album. In some places, D'Arby's follow-up surpasses his first effort, and he even gives pop's reigning funkmaster, Prince, a run for his money. Songs such as "I'll Be Alright," "Attracted to You" and "Roly Poly" are proof TTD is no languid pop singer dressed up as a soul performer. True, he's an unabashed imitator, owing a huge debt to Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and James Brown, but D'Arby's bittersweet vocal style rings true.

The quasi-religious tone gets stretched to the gills at times, and lines such as "Though apartheid's a greater issue/ I long to hear' I miss you' " just sound fatuous. Yet D'Arby's songs, all written by him, are more often affecting and energetic. "You Will Pay Tomorrow" shakes and moves with the help of Peter Glenister's wa-wa guitar effect, and D'Arby has a velvety touch on "To Know Someone Deeply Is to Know Someone Softly."

D'Arby dedicates the album "to Pisceans everywhere who will probably always be misunderstood." Not all his astrological housemates work as hard as he does to cultivate a mystique, but it's clear that tolerating his cockiness is part of the package. The rest, if not pure genius, is a wellspring of first-class talent. (Columbia)

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