Monday, November 23, 2009

Seal of approval

It has only been five, short years since Seal released his first career retrospective, "Best: 1990-2004". It didn't rate highly with me since it featured all the lengthy, album versions of the hits which I have on their original longplayers. There's always been something magical about Seal's best moments and they work most effectively in their more economical single versions.

Unfortunately, after his second album, Seal's career slid down the dumper. I think people lost him after his useless cover of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like An Eagle" for the movie, "Space Jam". Seal drank too much Hollywood Kool-Aid and his fans began to move on.

Then he sang a duet with his supermodel wife, Heidi Klum for his 2005 album, "System". He performed his songs on ice as the backdrop for figure skaters. Although, it should be noted that it was for a good cause with $5 from every ticket going to an autism charity. And then he got wrangled into recording a slushy album of soul covers, the dismally titled "Soul". Needless to say, Seal moved ever lower down my list of favorites and none of his creative ventures did anything to elevate his status, both commercially or artistically, over the last decade.

For some reason, perhaps contractual obligations, Seal returns with a new hits collection, imaginatively titled "Hits", for the festive season. It seems there will be two editions available. But rather than deliver a single disc and a deluxe edition with a bonus CD, it appears the first disc in the expanded version will be substantially different to the single CD version.

Seal's retrospective features a couple of new recordings including "I Am Your Man", a cover of the minor, Motown hit by Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers from 1968 which was written by in house tunesmiths, Ashford & Simpson, and "Thank You". Alongside the new stuff, the single CD edition of "Hits" will supposedly feature the single versions of "Killer", "Crazy", "Prayer For The Dying" and "Don't Cry". Finally! And for that reason, this greatest hits collection gets my approval.

1. I Am Your Man
2. Kiss From A Rose
3. Killer (Single Edit)
4. Crazy (Single Version)
5. Fly Like An Eagle
6. Love's Divine
7. A Change Is Gonna Come
8. Amazing
9. Get It Together
10. Future Love Paradise (7" Edit)
11. My Vision (Single Version) - Jakatta featuring Seal
12. The Right Life
13. Prayer For The Dying (Single Version)
14. I Can't Stand The Rain
15. Waiting For You
16. The Beginning (Single Edit)
17. Don't Cry (Single Version)
18. It's A Man's Man's Man's World
19. Thank You

I really wish they wouldn't have included the covers from "Soul". But seriously, shouldn't "Love's Divine" have been a top 10 hit? Such a return to form and quite simply one of the best singles of 2003.

It would've made the perfect follow up to his appearance on Jakatta's melodic, mysterious and muscular single, "My Vision", which briefly restored Seal's chart fortunes by peaking at #6 on the UK singles chart in 2002.

I remember hearing "Crazy" on a local radio station at the back end of 1990. It's still quite a unique and arresting track. Four and half minutes of world weary wisdom. Seal sang it like his life depended on it. That middle eight drum break followed by the deadened piano bit still blows my mind. And with it having been released on ZTT gave it immediate cache among musos. At that point, just about anything Trevor Horn and his label laid their hands on was golden.

If you splash out for the double CD edition of "Hits", it looks as if the single versions have been replaced by their album length equivalents. But we get a few rarities like the acoustic version of "Violet", a gorgeous slice of 90s Brit soul, and a few songs that featured on soundtracks like "A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit Of Happyness" (bad movie, shit title) and "This Could Be Heaven" from "The Family Man" (average movie, shit title). "Love Is Powerful" which was only released as a single in Japan, makes an appearance, as does "Les Mots", an lush, emotive duet with iconic, French superstar Mylene Farmer.

Unfortunately, we get a useless, live medley of soul classic at the end of the second disc. We get it, Seal, you're in lurve and a soulful smoocher. Now get back to the business of delivering the hits just as the title of your new collection reminds us.


1. I Am Your Man
2. Kiss From A Rose
3. Crazy
4. Fly Like An Eagle
5. Love's Divine
6. A Change Is Gonna Come
7. Amazing
8. Get It Together
9. My Vision (Single Version) - Jakatta featuring Seal
10. Prayer For The Dying
11. I Can't Stand The Rain
12. Waiting For You
13. The Beginning (US Single Remix)
14. The Right Life (Remix Radio Edit)
15. Don't Cry
16. Rolling
17. If You Don't Know Me By Now
18. Violet (7" Acoustic Version)


1. Killer
2. Future Love Paradise (12" EP Version)
3. Human Beings
4. A Father's Way
5. Love Is Powerful (Full Length Vocal Mix)
6. Colour
7. Free
8. Latest Craze
9. System
10. Newborn Friend (Morales Radio Mix)
11. Lips Like Sugar
12. This Could Be Heaven
13. Les Mots (Single Version) – Mylene Farmer and Seal
14. It's A Man's Man's Man's World
15. Soul Medley: Get It Together/Here I Am/Knock On Wood (Live)
16. Thank You


  1. So the single-disc version doesn't include *any* songs from the Human Being album? I guess it makes sense from a sales perspective, but I still think Human Being is brilliant and criminally-underrated. The best way I can explain it is that while it may not make as immediate an impression as his prior hits, this is an album that embraces you a little bit stronger with each listen.

  2. God I used to love this man's music. What happened? It started way before Heidi Klum...even before Trevor Horn left. I think Seal just got too worried about expectations from American record labels and lost his inspiration. That first album was incredible, as was the Violet acoustic EP--Warner should really remaster this as a deluxe edition. This Could Be Heaven was supposedly from a session of recordings done in LA that were rejected by the label, with only the one song ever being released. Maybe Warner should open the vaults and collect some cash??? The fans would like to hear it.

  3. I would buy it just for the single versions of the popular stuff and the new track I Am Your Man which is one of my parents favourite tunes :)

  4. @Bruno Republic - Thanks for pointing that out. I hadn't noticed there weren't any songs from "Human Being" included. I agree with you. It is criminally underrated. It's a bit of a grower with more layers than his previous albums.

    At the time it was released, I got the impression that people at the label and some retailers were disturbed by the cover art. That may have contributed to its lack of success, as well. Silly, really.

  5. @countpopula - I think you're right. Seal got wrapped up in chasing that ever bigger hit that the US label seemed to have pushed on him. I think the pressure to succeed on that level didn't do him any favors and his creativity suffered.

    A deluxe edition of that first album would be magnificent.

  6. @Paul - Agreed. I've been waiting for this, as well. The hits the way we remember them. I'm a stickler for that on hits collections.

    Judging by the response to this post, people are quite passionate about Seal.

    And your parents have excellent taste in music.

  7. I was just about to ask about the lost album. Can't recall the name of it. Anyway, I am most unjazzed about these tacky soul covers. If he'd done them with Trevor Horn, MAYBE, but they just seem like dying embers,

  8. @xolondon - Don't get me started on the soul covers. Granted, I like what he did with the new track. But the David Foster produced stuff is slushy and not what I ever expected from Seal. It's like he ran out of ideas.

  9. You know, I dont hate the Soul album at all. Its great late night listening, and while its not really up there with his classics its not bad. It certainly seems to have re-invigorated his presence on the world stage. Seal has just completed a short tour of Australia - his first ever - on the back of the sales of the Soul album, so Im happy about that as I saw him live and he was great!! Seal said on stage that he had never intended to make a covers album but they had recorded Change Is Gonna Come during rehearsals for the next record and it all just fell into place. Not sure I entirely believe that, but it certainly worked career-wise and the new studio album will get much more attention because of it. Not sure about this new Hits comp as I have the triple disc version of the previous Seal best of with the surround mixes of the various tracks and it is simply superb. Id love to have the double disc HIts set for the rarities but I wish it had the single mixes on it as well. If it did I would almost certainly buy it.
    BTW, first time reading your blog, recommended by a friend as I love music like he does. Love it. Love the new PSB remixes too! Awesome stuff!

    Perth, Australia