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CD Review - Seal 'Soul'

Seal has a wonderful voice but adds little else to the classic pop standards on
Seal has a wonderful voice but adds little else to the classic pop standards on "Soul."
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Friday, April 10, 2009

SEAL "Soul" Warner Bros.

THE POPULAR standards album is a hoary tradition that is the surest sign that an artist has reached middle age. Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart and Queen Latifah took career detours with cover albums, and now Seal has done the same, 15 years after "Kiss From a Rose" made him famous.

At first glance, his sound isn't that different: the same warm, breathy voice backed by tasteful orchestral instrumentation, leading to an inevitable crescendo. And he has chosen to cover a number of songs at least as famous as "Kiss."

His voice is lovely, and the tracks are unfailingly pleasant, but there is little new he can discover in such well-worn classics and few places he can go that original authors such as Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and James Brown haven't already been.

Still, it isn't bad by any means. It's a collection of fantastic songs interpreted by a talented singer, and if he can't make them more transcendent than the originals, he still can't help but sing them well.

A Tin Pan Alley take on "A Change Is Gonna Come" and a reggae version of "It's Alright" give the album forward momentum. But the true highlights are a stripped-down "I Can't Stand the Rain" -- (nowadays best known as the source for the chorus of Missy Elliot's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)") and a laid-back jam on Deniece Williams's "Free."

Seal's greatest fame may be behind him, but his pipes still have plenty of life. Now he just needs to go back to songs that have never been sung before.

-- Alexander F. Remington

Appearing Wednesday at Merriweather Post Pavilion (410-715-5550 or 202-397-7328, http://www.merriweathermusic.com). Show starts at 8 p.m.


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