Seal

Seal [2003]

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Besides taking his usual multi-year hiatus before releasing Seal IV, the artist scrapped a whole album's worth of material, feeling he couldn't stand behind the strength of the songs (should this be Seal IV.I?). It's disappointing, then, that the songs on Seal IV lack any of the Grammy-grabbing flair of his earlier releases. What saves it is a conviction that is high enough to overcome, a voice that is more driven than usual, and some genuine moments of songwriting inspiration. "Let Me Roll" has a cool swagger and fun wordplay, and the yearning ballad "Loneliest Star" is only a few steps away from "Kiss from a Rose." Opener "Get It Together" offers an Up With People understanding of the state of the world with its "everyone is beautiful" sentimentality, but it's the funky backbeat and gritty vocals that make it more Al Green than Lee Greenwood. A re-recording of Seal's collaboration with Jakatta, "My Vision" is given new life through more restrained than usual production from Trevor Horn. The absence of Horn's usual bombast throughout the album allows Seal's voice (in every sense of the word) to be the focus. It's a good move, and if the totally solid Jakatta-sourced track is any indication, a break from Horn might be beneficial next time. Despite being heavy with unexceptional tunes, Seal IV has enough going for it to warrant the next four years of anticipation.

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