The Soul of Seal

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Though Seal’s most recent album, Soul, was released late last year, it took months for any of its cuts – all covers of soul standards from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s - to get any substantial radio play. In recent weeks, Seal’s cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ classic slow jam “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” has become a fixture on some stations’ airwaves, introducing a new generation of listeners to one of the most heartfelt lover's pleas of understanding ever put into a pop song.

The arrangement on Seal’s version lacks the lush orchestration Gamble and Huff provided the Blue Notes on their 1972 version, but the more stripped-down arrangement (reminiscent of a previous hit revival of the tune in 1989 by Simply Red) still captures the romantic essence carved into the groove of original hit. While not as intense as Blue Notes lead vocalist Teddy Pendergrass’ aching reading of the song, Seal’s unmistakeable vocal does the song justice, his soaring lead cushioned by the accompanying vocalists’ hushed, close-harmony refrains.

Anyone unfamiliar with the original versions of the songs contained on Soul should find the collection to be a decent soul primer. Seal and his production team do a fine job with the interpretations, which are all generally faithful to the original arrangements, though none of them are a patch on the originals – when you’re covering the likes of Sam CookeCurtis Mayfield, and Al Green, it must be understood it’s no contest. Still, with such an impeccable song selection, voiced by such a charismatic performer as Seal, Soul is a collection worth hearing beyond its breakout hit - especially if it leads listeners to the original sources.



Posted by Karl Knack at 06/11/2009 02:25:13 PM | 

We have this album and think it's fabulous. Agreed that he's no Al Green, Sam Cooke, or Curtis Mayfield, but his renditions pay wonderful homage to those giants.
Posted by: Donna Odom ( Email ) at 6/15/2009 1:07 PM

Seal is one of my favorites--I have him as a "playlist" on as well as a mix list with him and Sade on my Zune. However, I have to say that I like his original songs better most of his covers.
Posted by: JenniferC ( Email ) at 6/16/2009 4:48 PM

I like the album, the music of seal and "If you don't know me by know" wich was covered by Simply Red a while ago, still is one of the favorites wedding-dances in Switzerland. I like this version as well.
Posted by: Hochzeits DJ ( Email ) at 10/23/2011 8:51 AM

I saw Seal live once at Marineland (har har just kidding). I actually went with my girlfriend when he was in town and was a bit skeptical to be honest.

We both had a great time actually and he sang "Secret" which was truly magical. Funny she still sings it in the shower sometimes. Nice article thank you!
Posted by: Clarion CX 501 ( Email ) at 11/21/2011 7:19 PM

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