At a time when urban radio was obsessed with the hip-hop-minded new jack swing of Bell Biv DeVoe, Bobby Brown, and Guy (among others), Charles & Eddie turned to pre-1980 African-American music for inspiration. The male vocal duo's first album, Duophonic, owes a major debt to the classic Northern soul of the '60s and '70s. This CD came out in 1992, but Duophonic is quite mindful of the days when Curtis Mayfield, the Spinners, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye soared to the top of the R&B charts. Duophonic, however, isn't hardcore soul, and no one will mistake this release for a Temptations album from 1970. Rather, Charles & Eddie show their appreciation of classic soul in a very pop-friendly way, and the obvious comparisons include Simply Red, Terence Trent d'Arby, and Culture Club. Charles & Eddie aren't R&B purists, which isn't to say that they aren't expressive -- only that soul and pop considerations are both a part of what they do. Duophonic is a solid debut, and the duo shows a great deal of promise on smooth pop-soul offerings such as "Love Is a Beautiful Thing" and the hit single "Would I Lie to You." Most of the songs deal with romantic matters, although Duophonic detours into sociopolitical territory on "Father to Son" and "Unconditional." Both of these songs indicate that Charles & Eddie are well aware of the sociopolitical soul classics of the early '70s -- one gets the impression that both of them have spent a lot of time listening to Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On album. Anyone who is a big fan of Simply Red, d'Arby, or Culture Club is advised to give Duophonic a close listen.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson