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Seal - Seal Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 June 2005

format:    DVD-Audio (2 discs)
label:    Warner Bros.
release year:    2005
original release:    1991
performance:    8
sound:    7
reviewed by:    Dan MacIntosh

ImageSeal’s 1991 debut album is paradoxically both chilled and warm at the same time. There is a lockstep-like precision to the album’s instrumental elements, yet Seal’s scratchy, yearning voice somehow softens the blunt force of this work’s sonic onslaught. But to borrow the title for one of this CD’s biggest hits, it’s an odd combination that works – in a “crazy” kind of a way.

Maybe it’s the Brit in him, but Seal doesn’t fit into any of the usual nice, neat R&B categories. He’s not a funk ringmaster, nor is he a come-hither lover man. He’s closer to a musical philosopher. On the song “Crazy,” for example, he sings about how hard it is to keep one’s sanity during troubled times. Then in “Future Love Paradise,” he emotes with a Bob Marley-like hope for the future.

For comparison’s sake, Seal is like a more mainstream Prince, yet a less overtly commercial Lenny Kravitz. He’s topical without being preachy. He’s passionate without getting all blubbery. Little is known about him, while at the same time, he’s not really very mystical. But like Sade, it’s difficult not to have a soft spot for this man, who is a category unto himself.

The extra DVD in this set includes the videos for “Future Love Paradise,” “Crazy” and “Killer.” Seal is no actor, so these various video directors just put the performer into moody, atmospheric settings. More revealing, however, are the audio extra remixes included here by William Orbit and Nellee Hooper. Original album producer Trevor Horn also has another go at the single “Crazy,” which is retitled “Krazy.” This take is stripped down, more bass-heavy and far more club-ready. The combination of this strong original album, plus all of its added auditory treats, makes Seal’s debut a work well worth revisiting.

Producer Trevor Horn has always had his finger on the pulse of great pop sonics, and these skills are abundantly revealed throughout Seal’s disc. Although one track, “Killer,” is exceptionally rocky, with a noticeably chunky electric guitar part, Horn mainly swirls many of these instrumental textures together, so when you’re listening you can’t always distinguish between various instruments, such as keyboards and guitars. But the mix he gets is nevertheless a winning one. Rather than going for grooves, Horn primarily shoots for moods, and usually hits his targets.

The extra DVD-Audio remixes are winners. “Future Love Paradise,” redone by Nellee Hooper, is relatively unchanged, except for a little more acoustic drums and piano. But William Orbit’s remix of “Crazy” is more bass and percussion-heavy than the original, with added bleepy, computery stuff at the end. His other remix, of “Killer,” includes rubber band-like percussion. The Round About mix of “The Beginning” makes it sound a little closer to a Soul II Soul creation. It’s a real dance floor stomper, and has an almost Latin feel in a few places. It’s easily the greatest remix departure of them all.

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