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Seal's sixth studio album was created in partnership with legendary producer David Foster. Soul is comprised of twelve classic soul songs that each evoke their own drama, emotion and romance. Seal brings his unique, signature style to the album and found a great collaborative spirit working with Foster.
With 15 million album sales and three Grammy Awards under his belt, you'd think it might be easy for Seal to make a successful album. Yet since the mid-1990s his popularity dramatically waned, with even the super contemporary Jacques Lu Cont produced System last year failing to make much of a mark.
Thus Seal has decided to return to his self-declared roots with his sixth album, the simply titled Soul - a collection of classic songs, produced by legendary Canadian producer David Foster, best known for his work with Celine Dion. Entirely a covers album, it features the work of Sam Cooke, Al Green, Otis Reading and James Brown to name but a few, and here enlies the problem. Choosing such definitive songs, and performing them, on the whole, with such a loyalty to the original recordings, simply makes us want to listen to those originals. Sure, there may be some novelty value the first time you hear a man sing Ann Peebles' glorious I Can't Stand The Rain or Deniece Williams' enchanting Free but a faithful cover of If You Don't Know Me By Now leaves us reaching for the Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes original, or at very worst Simply Red. Cover albums always face this risk, but Seal could have done with taking a leaf out of George Michael's Songs From The Last Century album and finding some brilliant, but lesser known songs to scatter through the album.
Though there's no doubt that Seal has a great voice, perfectly designed for singing soul music, ultimately Soul feels a touch too smooth. In his day Seal was an innovator - constantly pushing the genre boundaries of r 'n' b & dance music - but now we're left hoping he finds some of that magic that seems to have been lost along the way. --Talia Kraines
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You may have heard his version of Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' on Radio 2. The rest of the album sounds firmly up to that standard. After a couple of plays, my faves are the two Al Green hits. The plaintive Memphis style horns really get me where I live. The two Impressions' numbers sound really noteworthy too, especially 'It's Alright', a song that is always guarenteed to cheer me up.
If I have any problem with this album, that would be the length. Less than 46 minutes seems a bit mean these days. Better 46 minutes of pure magic though, than 70 minutes of pure dross.
Seal, you have gone up in my estimation. I would buy an album of this calibre every week if it was available.
The album hangs together really nicely as a listening set and the running order has been well thought out taking the listener through phases in soul music history from the 1950's to the 1970's. 'People Get Ready' is another highlight and proves to be the perfect way to bring what is you feel essentially a tribute album to a close.
Not all of the songs here however are wise choices. NOBODY will ever sing 'If You Don't Know Me By Now' like the Teddy bear, the version of 'Knock On Wood' has none of the impact of the original and Deneice Williams version of 'Free' is so definitively a song suited to her high pitched vocals that smoothed out and souled out it loses more than it gains. This said, Seal does sing all of the selections here like a man singing from the heart so 'Soul' is in no way an 'easy day at the office' for him.
Overall, while the album is a fine, relaxing, entertaining and nostalgic listen (with a modern twist and a few intriguing musical revisions along the way) the concept of the album is rather 'safe' and because of that I wonder just how much Seal, as an artist in his own right, has left to give...
8 out of 10
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.
great selection of songs all stone cold classics and the man seal amazing voices guaranteed to sell by the bucketloads at xmas
best tracks people get ready and a change is gonna come
deucted one star as it would have been nice to have seen a copuple of less obvious soul choices
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