Album Review: Seal - Standards
He has been in the music business 30 years, but Seal still has the ability to surprise.
This, his 10th record, has gone slightly left-field. He has given us seven of his own, plus two cover albums made up of his favourite soul numbers from over the years.
Now, he has delivered a third covers compilation, but looking at a different era of music altogether.
"This is the album I have always wanted to make," he said in an interview. "I grew up listening to music from the Rat Pack era, so recording these timeless tunes was a lifelong dream. It was a true honour to collaborate with the same musicians who performed with Frank Sinatra and so many of my favourite artists, in the very same studios where the magic was first made."
And many will argue whether anybody can truly recreate the magic of some of those timeless hits, but the 54-year-old Londoner gives it his best shot.
Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Cole Porter - they all have their material showcased on the record, and Seal's velvety vocals do them justice. He even finds time to throw in a couple of Christmas numbers on the special edition.
Simone's I Put A Spell On You is actually a pretty dark track at times. But Seal's vast vocal range allows the song to rise to lighter climes and gives it a fresh hopefulness. Accompanied by a big band sound the brass accompaniment takes some of the pressure off the vocals and proves a nice foil.
Another surprise success is his version of Charlie Chaplin's Smile. His softly softly approach brings a calmness to the tune. It's a Hollywood soundtrack number of the Michael Bublé persuasion.
And to be fair to Seal, his vocals aren't too dissimilar to those of Dean Martin himself when covering festive hit Let It Snow. It is a good standard higher than the usual supermarket Christmas music fare many artists produce when attempting such a cover.
It will be interesting to see how this fits in with his originals when he takes it on tour next year. But if he delivers his between-song patter with the same friendly nature as this he will have the crowds eating out of his hand.
Seal sets off on his Standards Tour in 2018, including a date at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Wednesday, February 21.