Terence Trent D’Arby was one of the most vital R&B artists of the ’90s before changing his name to Sananda Maitreya and decamping to Europe to make music on his terms. Maitreya’s first American release in 14 years displays all the ambition, finely honed songcraft, and artistic overreach that marked his prime work. The frequently captivating 27-song double-album has two distinct volumes: The first mixes fluid R&B (“You’re Going to Lose That Girl”) with more adventurous genre-bending songs, while the second emphasizes his formalist pop-soul side. Tender ballads (“If I Fell,” “I’ll Be Back”) and horn-driven funk strut “Blanket on the Ground” recall the memorable tracks that made him a star well before the neo-soul movement took hold. Maitreya, who wrote, produced, and performed all the songs, has lost a bit off the top end of his voice, but none of its expressiveness. The many melodic gems here overshadow the occasional ungainly arrangement and the cringe-inducing lyrics of “Les Paul Man (Love Is Love).”
ESSENTIAL “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”Ken Capobianco can be reached at email@example.com.