Seal

Unplugged

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Coming on, for all the world, as though he's a hip new breed of nightclub crooner, Seal's induction into the now painfully swollen ranks of artists who've unplugged contains no surprises, no excitement, and, ultimately, no real difference from anything else he's ever done. Audaciously chosen covers of Hendrix's "Stone Free" and Bowie's uncharacteristically defenseless "Quicksand" (both present here) are excellent introductions to the man's hip kid credentials, but Unplugged undoes all their hard work in less time than it takes to say "Vegas." Which, onstage at Brooklyn's Academy of Music (in April 1996), is quite an accomplishment. The sound quality is pristine, the performance is sterling, and Seal himself draws equally from Seal (with hair), Seal (without hair), and some new material, too. But content is constantly subverted by complacency, until everything is reduced to a common denominator somewhere between the pre-comeback Tony Bennett and a post-menopausal Lloyd Cole. Or, as one of Britain's other biggest hitmakers of the '90s would put it, Wet Wet Wet.

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