I can't sing. Not a note. Not with the family during "Happy Birthday". Not even for a beery, sloppy New Year's "Auld Lang Syne" (well...ok, maybe then).
Apparently, Seal doesn't have this problem. The guy can flat-out sing...with a voice equal parts Sam Cooke, Al Green and Curtis Mayfield. Toss all those influences into the pot and you've got one tasty instrument.
So as I'm giving Seal IV a few first listens, I notice that on some tunes I'm drawn right in. Held there. Yet on others there's a letdown. At first I think it's the speed: ballads like "Touch" stand out while the 70's disco-raveup "Get It Together" quickly melts into my past.
But then I get it. It's the freedom given to his voice. It's not just that "Touch" (a gorgeous love song, by the way), "Tinsel Town", and "Don't Make Me Wait" are held back in the tempo department: it's that the stripped down arrangements allow the aural spotlight to be focused on Seal's voice.
It wouldn't be fair to say that the rest of this record is a total loss. The gospel-influence of "Love's Divine" is inspiring, "Waiting For You"'s uptempo R&B is fun, and the reggae-ish "When There's Gold" is fine modern pop music.
But, at the end of the day, I really want to hear that voice. It's a beautiful and powerful thing, and can stand on its own.
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)