Seal’s new album Soul
will be released on November 11th. Seal is one of the few artists that I would listen to no matter what song or style he sang, as I love his voice. So I was predisposed to like this collection of classic soul covers. Yet I don’t love the album nearly as much as I expected. It is far too polished and overproduced, often resulting in the raw power being stripped from both Seal’s voice and the classic soul songs he covers. I still like it a lot and there are some really great numbers on the disc, but it’s shame that it isn’t nearly as good as it could be.
Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” has been covered many times, and it’s such a strong song that it can make any singer sound better. Seal’s recording of the tune isn’t the most emotive rendition I’ve heard, but it’s a good one and the revamped arrangement has a nice electro-brass embellishment.
His take on “I Can’t Stand The Rain” seems lackluster in comparison to Tina Turner’s recording or the “Supa Dupa Fly” sampling that first launched Missy Elliot’s career, and his version of “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” had no hope of conquering Christina Aguilera’s femme transformation of the James Brown classic on last year’s Grammys. But comparisons aside, the two songs are enjoyable for those of us that adore the sound of Seal’s voice.
It’s the Otis Redding ballad “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” that finally delivers the soul promised by the album’s title. The backing track is still a little too karaoke for my taste, but Seal’s soulful vocal more than makes up for it. He again suffers a bit from comparison on “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” as the Simply Red cover is an old favorite of mine, but Seal’s version certainly holds more emotion. It’s definitely the stand out track on Soul, and also one of his best vocal performances to date.
As I’ve said before, I hold covers up to a higher standard than new songs. I expect either the vocals and arrangements to be equal to the original or at least innovative enough to seem like a fresh song. And since I know Seal’s voice is more than capable of carrying a tune, I’d hoped the music on this album would be more subtle and bluesy. Unfortunately, the remaining songs are so blandly arranged and smoothed down that not even Seal’s beautiful voice could make them interesting. The one place where the overt sheen of the production truly fits is the peppy rendition of “It’s Alright”.
I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below.
Seal – A Change Is Gonna Come (audio stream)
Seal Official Site
Buy @ Amazon