Seal (1994)


Warner Bros., 1994

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Bring it on.

So says Seal in the opening track to his sophomore disc, which continues the themes of his debut (also called Seal) but with slightly more maturing and slightly less energy than before. This was the disc that made Seal a true household name, with three big hits surrounded by pop-soul tracks that are alternately reflective and danceable.

Seal’s voice is powerful and magnetic and helps sell even mundane songs, so producer/collaborator Trevor Horn keeps up with big production, catchy beats and clever hooks, such as the funky breakdown partway through “Bring It On” and the multitracked vocal rings that open “Kiss From A Rose.” The dark, driving dance-pop of “Prayer For The Dying” would have been mediocre for many other pop singers, but the echo in Seal’s voice and his conviction really brings the song home; combined with the effortlessly catchy “Bring it On,” the opening punch of this disc delivers with every bit of confidence.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Don’t Cry” lends another dimension to Seal’s sound; a moody synth backdrop lending atmosphere to the words before an acoustic guitar comes in, Seal’s hushed vocal about days gone by gripping the listener before he and the drums explode into the chorus. Seal seems to understand that power doesn’t always equal volume or multi-note vocal runs, and his pitch-perfect delivery makes the song one of his best.

“Kiss From A Rose,” however, is what brought this album and Seal crashing into the public even more than “Crazy” had three years prior. The song is fine, with strings and voice intertwining over a neo-soul beat, all immaculately produced, not really a song fit for a cartoonish Batman movie but one that was used over the end credits of Batman Forever. That not only put the song back in the charts a second time but pushed it to No. 1, spawned many cover versions and was used as the theme for a season of The Bachelor, so its media saturation may have soured many on the song. Listened to in the context of the album, it retains the same grace and power as the rest of the music and will stand the test of time.

Seal’s wide-eyed optimism is tempered with occasional bursts of realism so it doesn’t come off as corny, but with a voice like this one wishes a song like “People Asking Why” said more than it does. And like the debut, when the music doesn’t match up to the voice, the results are pretty forgettable, as on “Newborn Friend,” “Dreaming in Metaphors” and the all-over-the-place “Fast Changes.” Better is “If I Could,” which uses a slower beat, sparse instrumentation and a muted but effective guitar solo to great effect; the biggest surprise is the arrival of Joni Mitchell, arriving halfway through the song for a duet.

Seal is every bit as good as the debut and remains a career highlight for the man.

Rating: B+

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