Top critical review
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PLEASE listen to the original versions of these songs
on 18 September 2012
Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown, Al Green, Ben E King, Curtis Mayfield... obviously these names belong on every list of great artists. And I'm a firm believer that songs by such artists should be left well alone, because it's almost impossible to do them justice and match the original versions. So how does Seal fare here - can he change my mind?
Well he does have a good and fairly distinctive voice but, overall, I'd have to say he comes up short on this album - despite some valiant efforts. However, "Soul" is considerably better than some other albums of soul/motown covers (yes, Mr P Collins, I'm "looking back" at you and your dismal attempt; you too Ms J Osbourne).
To my ears, many of Seal's versions of these classics are a little one-dimensional & very much over-produced. Furthermore, too often the raw passion or vibrancy which defined the originals is missing, making them sound bland in comparison. Sadly this collection is more soulful pop than genuine soul.
They ARE still great songs though and if you're unfamiliar with any of the original versions, do yourself a favour and look them up: I guarantee you won't be disappointed - and you may not play this CD again either.
Overall then this is far from essential and no-one's life will be poorer for not hearing these versions - but it is quite listenable, especially if for some reason you don't have the original versions to hand. So it gets 3-stars... but this is as much for the possibility that it may introduce a new generation of listeners to the world of REAL soul music as for the content. Well I can dream can't I?
For those people who did enjoy this album - if there are any of you still reading - I would recommend Mica Paris' Soul Classics, which is for me the best album of covers of classic soul tracks by a contemporary artist. The production is often slightly stripped back and the overall sound is more authentic 60s/70s, while the fact that she's a female singing songs that were mostly recorded by males means that direct comparisons with the originals are harder to make... which is a plus point in my book with covers albums of this kind.