Falling halfway between the modern R&B of Introducing the Hardline and the extravagant Neither Fish nor Flesh, Symphony or Damn is Terence Trent D'Arby's most ambitious album yet. It's also his best, because it takes the fine songwriting of his debut and melds it to the sonic excesses of Fish. Sure, some of it is embarrassing (it's hard not to cringe during the "Welcome to My Monasteryo" declaration at the beginning of the album), but more often than not, D'Arby's experimentations succeed, and succeed grandly, at that.
Magnetic marks Terence Blanchard's return to Blue Note Records after an eight-year sojourn in which he wrote and performed large scale works for film, and cut smaller group offerings for Concord. He utilizes his fine live band in the studio here – tenor saxophonist Brice Winston, drummer Kendrick Scott, dazzling pianist Fabian Almazan, and 21-year-old bassist Joshua Crumbly. Bassist Ron Carter guests on a pair of tracks, as does saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, while guitarist Lionel Loueke plays on three. Blanchard composed four tracks here, and the members of his quintet all contributed selections – Almazan even has an unaccompanied solo piece on the record.