Terence Trent D’Arby - Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D’Arby - Review
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critics' view

The best album since Sgt. Pepper is how Terence Trent D'Arby would describe his 1987 retro-soul arrival on the music scene. His arrogance would ultimately overshadow his accomplishments, but truth be told, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby's only flaw is the ego of its composer. While his declaration may have been an overstatement that would play a major part in his undoing – TTD's debut is a near bullet-proof arrival, so strong, the arrogance of its creator need not be taken into consideration when appraising its merit. This album is air tight. (DIG!)

With his feet still firmly on the ground, D'Arby put together one of the greatest soul albums since the peak of classic Motown – Perhaps even stronger than the majority of albums released upon the single-focused Motown catalog. Eleven tracks in length, TTD doesn't miss a beat in accomplishing a milestone of the soul genre. From the opening, gospel-tinged, “If You All Get To Heaven”, through the closing cover of the legendary Smokey & The Miracles' “Who's Lovin' You”, D'Arby composed a record strong enough to warrant comparisons to the all time soul legends. Top-notch songwriting, complimented by a voice with enough grit to cut glass, TTD accomplishes an album worthy of the praise that he is so eager to heap upon it. (HA!)

Opening up with a spoken word statement from TTD in which he pleads with his lover not to pack those bags and to give him just one more chance, “If You Let Me Stay” found early success in the northern soul-loving United Kingdom. The single shot up the charts, landing in the top 10, and ultimately led to a million copies of Introducing sold within three days of its release. His refined vocal soars over the background singers promises of change. “If you let me stay – I'll say what I should have said … I should have said that I love you… And I should have said it from the heart.” D'Arby's gravely voice is unleashed during intermittent verse sections, which are peppered with spoken support statements between lyrical breaks. (GOOD GOD!)

Eight and a half minutes in, with two tracks knocked out of the park, D'Arby could justifiably take a step back and allow other records to catch up. Instead he sends one into the upper-deck with the hugely successful pop hit, “Wishing Well” (Billboard Hot 100 #1, 5/88). With an infectious dance beat, whistling hook and one of the most playful soul grooves since Smokey & The Miracles “Tears Of A Clown”, TTD backed up his boasts of grandeur with his biggest hit single. (PUT IT IN THE BANK, BOYS!)

“I'll Never Turn My Back On You (Father's Words)” opens up with the album's most memorable guitar riff, evocative of The Root's infectious 2002 single, “The Seed 2.0”. D'Arby drops in with a vocal smooth as melted butter. So soft, Smokey himself would be impressed with TTD's melodic flow. “This isn't living now – I think my father said to me. And get a haircut boy, if you want a chance in respectable society.” “Father's Words” is a track strong enough to be a single – but amongst the multitude of quality offerings, it's just another song on the heaping pile of quality compositions featured on D'Arby's extraordinary debut. (GET UP NOW!)

The album reaches a peak amongst peaks in the 1988 radio hit, “Sign Your Name” (#2 UK, #4 US). With a synth-line dripping with seduction and a minimalist soulful percussion, “Sign Your Name” is an alluring, poetic dedication to D'Arby's female object of desire. “We started out as friends but the thought of you just caves me in.” This is Terrence Trent D'Arby's greatest composition. Soulful, romantic and poetic – this track will forever be a staple of easy listening radio. An answer to the power of “Careless Whisper”, minus the Wham! and saxophone. The song reaches an apex in the balladry of it's post-chorus bridge, where D'Arby raises the intensity of his longing, complete with doo-wop inspired shoo-doo-op bops. With each lyric delivered like a self-contained poem of love, TTD holds nothing back to win the object of his affection. “All alone with you makes the butterflies in me arise.” D'Arby guarantees himself a lifetime supply of female admirers with this track alone. A hauntingly seductive single – 80's pop radio doesn't get much better than this.

Before closing the book on his glittering gem of a debut record, D'Arby treats us to a cover of Smokey & The Miracles “Who's Lovin' You.” Sang with all the grit and fervor you can squeeze into a four and a half minute ballad, TTD's interpretation, dare I say, trumps the original. And he knew it; which is why he saved it for last.

Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby would ultimately win him the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, in March of 1988. The album would be his creative and commercial peak, never again to be matched by his later efforts. Marred by the inevitable backlash over his controversial statements of self-praise, D'Arby's work, post Introducing, would be met with only marginal success. His pretentious tendencies becoming more transparent with each subsequent record, TTD's next offerings would never live up to the promise of his stellar debut – But for one glorious year in the late 1980's, Terence Trent D'Arby's potential had no ceiling. The stage was set for D'Arby to carry the soul flag into the 90's alongside his new peers: Stevie, Michael and Prince. Unfortunately, lighting would not be bottled a second time. TTD could only maintain his greatness for one flawless, timeless record of introduction. (DIG IT.)

RobotFrank
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