IN ENGLAND, where American abroad Terence Trent D'Arby made a splash this summer, his has been trumpeted as the Voice of the '80s.
Better make that Voices: D'Arby honed his chops performing in cover bands while in the Army, and in his voice are snatches of celebrated sounds. There's Prince's falsetto, Michael Jackson's whoops and hiccups, Stevie Wonder's lyricism, Al Green's faith/frenzy equation, Marvin Gaye's sensual feeling, and Sam Cooke's snaky way around a melody.
But somehow D'Arby (who even manages to synthesize the looks of the abovementioned) makes it sound like his own thing.
So "Introducing the Hardline According to . . ." is that rare debut that lives up to its advance hype, a slick package of pop-soul-funk, with mold-breaking songs (love and otherwise) that make pilgrimages to various soul shrines while walking a very late-'80s edge. Standouts (so far) include the spare, rock-steady beat of "Wishing Well," the reggae-lite of "Dance Little Sister" and the wrenching jailhouse wail of "Seven More Days."
D'Arby closes with the eerie a cappella "As Yet Untitled," in which he muses as a slave's descendant, and "meanwhile on the other side of the world," leaves us with "Who's Loving You," a traditional soul-stirrer. The album's all over the map -- and the singer may soon be all over the globe.
TERENCE TRENT D'ARBY -- "Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby" (CBS 450911). Appearing Sunday at the Bayou.