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RECORD RACK

May 16, 1993|ROBERT HILBURN

TERENCE TRENT D'ARBY

"Symphony or Damn"

Columbia

* * *

Virtually pronounced dead by the record industry four years ago after his "Neither Fish Nor Flesh" album bombed big-time, D'Arby rises from the ashes in this follow-up collection--the best of which reasserts the imagination and daring that once dazzled the pop-rock world.

D'Arby contributed to his own misfortune in 1989 by alienating much of the industry--including, the word is, his own record company--when he refused to do the normal promotion chores or allow tracks from the album to be released as singles, preferring the work to be seen as a whole. Without radio exposure, it never got the chance.

In his comeback quest, D'Arby is intent on mending his fences. He gives us 16 tracks, many of them so radio-seductive they are almost acts of contrition. The singing, as usual, is exquisite, but some of the songs are too generic to convey the power and depth of 1989's severely underrated "Fish."

Elsewhere, however, D'Arby shows he can still make music that is both invigorating and thoughtful. Never one to hide his musical influences, he takes us on pop, soul and rock journeys stretching from Memphis to Liverpool, from Minneapolis to Hibbing. The Dylanesque touches surface in the masterful self-inventory of "Turn the Page." In "Symphony," we witness the rebirth of a valuable artist.

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