Seal: Soul

Seal once famously advised us that we were never gonna survive unless we got a little crazy, and it looks like he may have been right, because few things are crazier than a slowly dying label footing the bill for David Foster to produce an album of hoary old soul chestnuts covered by Mr. Heidi Klum – and yet that’s exactly what Warner Bros. has gone and paid for with the erroneously titled Soul. It actually does make a certain amount of sense, given that Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow have recently topped the charts with their own moldy covers discs, but Seal’s Soul (try saying that 10 times fast) is a case of lost potential: Although Seal’s vocals are as fine as ever, Foster’s enervating production turns everything into dinner music – yes, even “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and “Knock on Wood.” Aside from Chinese Democracy, this is the most expensive-sounding album you’re liable to hear for the rest of the year, but nobody got their money’s worth – not the label, not the songwriters who will reap royalties for more unnecessary covers of these songs, and certainly not anyone who purchases this disc in hopes that it’ll live up to its title’s promise. Base familiarity seems to be the last failsafe path to sales for the foundering major labels, and Soul may very well find an audience with the same QVC-shopping shut-ins who lapped up Stewart and Manilow’s albums, but anyone who’s heard the original versions of these tracks should know better. (Warner Bros. 2008)

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