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THE KEY TO SALVATION

: Do You Love Me Like You Say: The Very Best of Terence Trent D'Arby

Desc:CD Review: Artist: Terence Trent D'Arby
Label:Columbia/Legacy
Genre:Top 40

It all seemed so amazing, almost seismic in its high-hat-and-stammer glamour. Terence Trent D'Arby burst onto the scene in 1987, braids slapping around his face while he channeled Prince, James Brown and Sam Cooke all at the same time. Introducing the Hardline … was both antidote and manifesto, crackling with a confidence unusual in a major label debut, especially one so genre-defying.

In a pop scene dominated by the factory bumps of Stock Aitken Waterman (Dead or Alive, Bananarama), D'Arby's transcendent old-school soul arrived like a beacon of truth and subsequently landed him in the teen-mag lexicon of the new new British invasion. And it went to his head. His major label-career capsize was heralded by some ill-advised toying with the term Vibrator, the title of his final Columbia release in 1995.

This month, Columbia/Legacy rings the death knell on D'Arby's charting days, packaging his singles along with some rarities into a tidy collection. The hits are here ("Wishing Well," "Sign Your Name"), as are some of the more dramatic failures ("To Know Someone Deeply Is To Know Someone Softly," anyone?). Perhaps predictably, most of his early material has aged quite well.

But the real story with Terence Trent D'Arby, a self-proclaimed enigma from the get-go, is just how disappointing failed premises can be. Donning a false British accent (he graduated from high school in DeLand, Fla., as Terence Howard), D'Arby whittled away at his early acclaim, earning few friends in the press or otherwise with his insurmountable pretension. The sophomore slump of his second record, Neither Fish nor Flesh, is the stuff of legend, and though its follow-up, Symphony or Damn, may have been his most musically realized, by 1993 the mere mention of his name elicited eye rolls from both critics and the general public. These days, D'Arby is D'Arby no more. Opting for a dream-inspired legal name change to Sananda ("one who walks with light") Maitreya ("among the sons of God"), he has self-released two albums, various CD singles and a live DVD. He keeps up an anecdotal section on his website where you can learn things like, "Developing your own consciousness is the best way to prevent alien mass mind control manipulation. … This is why being yourself is the key to salvation." It's exactly the sort of flaky advice that makes you prefer The Hardline. Although this collection makes for a nice second choice.

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