Seal IV

Seal

Warner Brothers Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/11/2003

Ladies and gentlemen, Seal gets funky.

Seal has managed to remain one of the more iconoclastic and idiosyncratic artists out there, despite his mass-market success with songs like "Kiss From A Rose". His music remains accessible yet unique, a rich blend of soul, R&B, and pop with occasional other influences. He started out in acid and house music, he's played blues, he's dabbled in world music -- but until bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250
Seal IV, we had never seen the Funky Seal in action. I guess it must have been time, because he kicks out quite a few jams on his latest effort.

As always, the producer is Trevor Horn, and Horn's crisp, sharp style fits Seal's smooth and stylish vocal style to a T. Horn also proves himself to be capable of handling Seal's changing sound. What is different about IV is hard to define; we've already used the term funky, and that definitely applies on songs like "Get It Together", with its Sly and the Family Stone backbeat, and "Don't Make Me Wait", with a stately piano providing a counterpoint to Seal's gospel-tinged vocals. Another word might be brighter; this may be the most upbeat Seal has ever been, and it's a huge change after the ambient and moody Human Being, his last release. "Let Me Roll" is damn near a rock song, with a doo-wop baritone harmony vocal, Abbaesque string hits, and a punchy drum line. On the other hand, there are songs in the more traditional Seal groove, wistful and ethereal -- "My Vision", "Loneliest Star", and "Touch" are good examples.

Seal even tries his hand at almost-reggae on "Where There's Gold", and does just fine, thanks. "Heavenly…" is a typical Seal power soul number with an almost numinous feel to it, gorgeous soaring vocals providing a glorious centerpiece. Finally, almost casually, he throws off "Waiting For You", which is one of the most powerful singles I've ever heard and deserves a lot more airplay than it's getting.

The balance that Seal has struck is notable; he's kept the core of the sound that first grabbed us with "Crazy", twelve years ago, but he's added elements as he's grown in maturity and skill. Seal IV is a truly special album, and not to be missed; a fine effort by an artist I suspect will be remembered as one of the greatest of our time.

Rating: A

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© 2003 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.