Tag Archives: Terence Trent D’Arby

Introducing The Hard Line At 30: Terence Trent D’Arby Pointing The Way To Something Different

Terence Trent D’Arby first entered my life at the age of 8. One day while listening to the radio,this new song was played. Something about it (perhaps the melody) had me thinking it was a Stevie Wonder song. The voice was different however. It was a couple of weeks later that the video for the song premiered on Friday Night Videos. That’s when it was announced to me who had done this song. D’Arby goes by the name Sananda Francesco Maitreya today. But his debut as a whole inspired this review from me on Amazon.com several years ago.

Honestly for a number of reasons I don’t feel Terence Trent D’Arby ever fully got the due he deserved as a distinctive talent. Even from his own mouth,from the very beginning too many comparisons were made and as we all know that can make or break an artist with something new and vital to say. The most obvious of these were Prince,being the one similarity they had in common was the fact that they were both difficult to classify. But the fact is,TTD’s heavy self promotion at the time of this album he did in fact have a very unique of his own.

At the same time comparisons don’t even apply. His sound,at least on this album isn’t as instrumentally quirky or irreverent as anything that would come out of Prince. The music on this album actually very slickly produced late 80’s…..trans continental soul I suppose. Either way you look at it there’s a lot more gloss to this than anything Prince released during this era. Now when it comes to the songwriting and arranging that’s a very different matter. Most of the songs on this album concentrate heavy on arrangements that change in the blink of an eye.

“Wishing Well”,”If You Let Me Stay” and “Rain” are all songs that make the most of this kind of modern slick psychedelic funk stew only with the rock element being either absent or not that obvious. This is also definitely an album lovers album that’s not a hit parade as much as it is a musical concept extended over many separate songs. That being said there are a lot of highlights nonetheless. “I’ll Never Turn My Back On You” explores the father/sun dynamic in a very reflective manner where “Dance Little Sister” pulls off something very close to James Brown styled funk,one place where he and Prince have a lot in common musically.

“As Yet Untitled” has TTD working his way through a very strong acapella number showing much awareness of the narrative history of his back round. Now in 1969 Michael Jackson obviously whipped the floor with the original version of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You” and TTD again reinvented it for the this new era as well,giving even a gruffer rendering than Mike did. Of course Columbia made the best possible choice when selecting singles for this album by choosing “Sign Your Name”,by all measures a uniquely arranged blend of 80’s funk and classic doo-wop.

In every measurable sense the song is a complete for bearer of the retro soul style and in many ways betters a lot of what’s done with it by reveling in,what was at the time,the present. If one enjoys a uniquely diverse collection of music within the R&B/funk style,itself already diverse in and of itself with a strong 80’s twist this album will more than suit that need.

Introducing The Hardline is an album that I came to when it was about 25 years old. The most significant thing about the album is how different it was perceived than as it might be now. With the emergence of neo/retro soul, this album seems like a beginning of a musical movement today. When it came out, it felt somewhat different than a lot of the electronic based soul and funk of the era. It was part of a more diverse array of funk/soul approaches in the late 1980’s. Now,it seems more like part of a movement. Whatever the case may be, its an album that really contributed to the soul/funk reboot of 1987.


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Anatomy of The Groove: “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’Arby

Terence Trent D’Arby is yet another example of a vital funk/soul revival occurring 30 years ago,in 1987. This ambitious NYC multi instrumentalist came from a multi racial and very confusing back round-with bigamy and a lot of moving around involved. After a failed career attempt as a boxer and going AWOL from the US Army after collage,D’Arby formed the band The Touch while in Germany in 1984. After their debut album,the ambitious D’Arby decided to forge ahead with a solo career. His first and generally best known release being 1987’s Introducing The Hardline-produced out of London.

The first time I heard of D’Arby was with his hit song “Sign Your Name”,a jazzy Brazilian number that I thought was Stevie Wonder at the age of 8. It was decades until I purchased his entire debut album. Many of its other successful songs I’d missed out on originally. Knowing only of another D’Arby song called “Delicate” recorded for his third album  Symphony Or Damn from 1991.  At that time,one song leaped right out for me and my mom. Especially in terms of its groove. So much so that we actually planned on doing a conceptual music video for the song. Its called “Dance Little Sister”

A high hat heavy funky drum groove begins the song-with D’Arby improvising a a humorous vocal ad lib. After this,the lead synthesizer plays a high pitched,ten note riff over two bars before the instrumentation of the refrain comes in. This is a chunky rhythm guitar and ascending bass line playing call and response to accompanying horn charts. On the choruses of the songs,the harmonic phrases of the melody becomes more sustained to follow D’Arby’s gospel soul shouting. Saxophonist Mel Collins plays a solo over the rhythm section during the bridge before the chorus repeats until the song fades out.

Listening to it all these decades since it first came out, “Dance Little Sister” sounds like something of a middle ground between Prince’s Minneapolis live band funk sound and the approach of neo soul to come within the next decade. It definitely maintains the mid/late 80’s approach of condensing a funk groove. On the other hand,its one of the hardest live band funk jams of the late 80’s to be sure. Not only are horns used on it,but the synthesizer is used in the 70’s approach of having it be part of a full band sound rather than a dominating factor in the groove. Another international funk breakthrough of 1987.


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Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/22/2014: ‘The Man’ by Omar Lye-Fook

Omar The Man

Now I realize that these days eight years doesn’t seem to be a very long time to record a new album-what with litigation/money being such an overriding concern even more than it ever was-and it was always a huge concern. Omar Fook is a figure little known in the US. One important reason for that is there was no anti disco movement across the pond. So funk,soul and related dance music’s of all sorts continued to evolve on the underground dance circuit unencumbered during the new wave and alternative eras. Omar was on the ground floor at the beginning of the 90’s-right up there with American figures such as D’Angelo and Terence Trent D’Arby (whom I consider American for all intents and purposes). Still it been eight years since his previous album Sing (If You Want It). And Omar’s albums have a tendency to go out of print extremely quickly. So I thought I’d review this new album of his while it was new and attainable.

“Simplify” opens the album with a wonderfully harmonized vocal melody before going into a elaborate mix of cosmic synthesizer washes and Moog bass riffs. The title song has a slower,crawling groove punctuated by a low horn with some woodwinds and other orchestration lightly sprinkled in with,of course Omar as always singing behind,around-anything but with the beat in his strong,soulful and jazzy vocal style. “Come On Speak To Me” has a similar idea mixing a little samba into the rhythmic stew. On “I Can Listen” there’s a polished,orchestrated soul/pop with a prominent Motown flavor with heavy back round vocals (from Omar himself of course) on the bridge. On the potent blend of scratch and boogaloo “Bully”,with its conscious rejection of gun violence and “**** War,Make Love”,a wonderfully fluid example of dance/funk both call for world peace on the local and the broader level.

“Eeni Meeni Myno Mo” and “Ordinary Day” both have that strong Brazilian flavor to them-again both with strong melodies. The break heavy “Treat You” with Soul II Soul’s Caron Wheeler and “High Heels” both point to the main important attribute of this album: it’s by far the heaviest funk Omar has ever made. While the majority of his albums featured him experiment with different genres within his coherent production sound,this album experiments with the funk groove to see how much vitality and splendor the music can have when harmonically and melodically taken in different directions. The fact that Stewart Zander of Jamiroquai,a band who devoted themselves to the same funk based development process,is on this record speaks volumes about Omars mode of intent. I can only hope that Omar delivers his next album a little sooner than this one came because this in a way is the culmination of his entire (and somewhat unheard in some areas of the world) music journey, one which soul/funk musicians of any sort would be wise to pay a lot of attention to.

Originally Posted On June 28th,2013

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1990s, Amazon.com, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop, Motown, Music Reviewing, Omar Lye-Fook