Ten years ago this week saw the release of Seal‘s
fifth fourth album Seal IV. Having always struggled with album titles, he followed Seal (1991) with Seal II (1994) and then, rather less predictably, Human Being (1998).
He’s always been a little unpredictable, with moments of absolute brilliance peppering general banality. At worst, though, he’s always able to rely on his quite incredible voice and a lot of the time, an excellent team of producers too.
Seal IV opens with a nice pop track called Get it Together. It’s not especially deep or meaningful, but it’s got an almost gospel rhythm, and bounces along entirely pleasantly for its duration. Love’s Divine follows, another strong song, although it feels a little lacking lyrically, and it’s entirely lacking in production – as with a lot of Seal‘s weaker tracks it just feels a little empty.
Waiting for You is another example of this, but it’s even emptier. I can imagine this might be someone’s cup of tea, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it really isn’t very exciting. The next track My Vision, however, is the obvious high point of the album, although it’s difficult to say exactly why. There’s nothing particularly strong lyrically, and again the production is a little flat, which is perhaps surprising given that the producer was Trevor Horn.
I can imagine that Seal might be very good live – his voice never disappoints, but somehow on this album it’s about the only thing worth listening to. The lyrics are largely uninspired, the melodies soulful but rarely catchy, and the production uninteresting. The middle trio of tracks Don’t Make Me Wait, Let Me Roll and Touch are entirely listenable, but really have very little to offer.
Where There’s Gold bucks the trend somewhat. Seal goes ska! The backing, seemingly as always on this album, still feels a bit empty, but for once the melody is strong and the rhythm brings things to life a little. It’s not perfect – it still plods along somewhat without going anywhere particular, but it’s a lot more interesting than most of the tracks on this album.
Finally, there are a few more dull tracks to take us to the end of the album, Loneliest Star, Heavenly… (Good Feeling) and Tinsel Town. Unfortunately there’s really very little to get excited about here – only Heavenly has some slightly bonkers drumming to wake you up. Finally, the reprise of Get it Together is totally bizarre. I can sort of see that it might round the album off nicely and make it feel as though you’ve made it back to the start, but in reality he starts singing for a moment, and then just seems to get bored. Like the rest of us. Really – where’s this album’s Crazy or Kiss from a Rose?
Unfortunately Seal IV is far from rare in this respect – Seal always has two or three exceptional tracks on each album, accompanied by what seems like a whole lot of filler. But Seal IV does seem to have an unusually bad hit-to-filler ratio – even occasional production deity Trevor Horn seems to have been having a bad day, just pressing buttons on the console without thinking very hard. Or perhaps I’m wrong, and it’s just a matter of taste?
Seal‘s fourth album Seal IV can be found here.