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Title: Seal: Seal (aka Seal II)
Author: David Roberts

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BEMUSED

Seal: he seems to have made an eponymous comeback LP.

SEAL
Seal
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Three years ago, Seal released an eponymous debut album which proved to be one of those records which it was nearly impossible to escape no matter how far around the world you travelled, how many radio stations you tuned into or how many different bars you sought refuge within. The platform granted by his initial dance hit, Killer, with Adamski, proved to be a launch pad for stardom via three million worldwide sales of a stompingly good, highly individual first album.

Many of the elements which made that debut so commercially effective are brought together again for the second, from the inevitable re-employment of label boss Trevor Horn as wizardly wise producer, to the slightly odd choice of title. Sealís instantly recognisable, roughly textured voice ó which allied with his startling looks and imposing styling marked him out as star from the start ó is again the centrepiece of a series of smart pop songs set in a lushly orchestrated, epic sea of sound. No expense seems to have been spared in the search for the perfectly pitched and positioned overdub ó with the paradoxical side-effect that contributions from Wendy & Lisa, D-Influence and Jeff Beck are so well placed as to be virtually undetectable.

The albumís ultra-contemporary mix of the most modern synthesizer and drum machine technology with delicate layers of acoustic guitar, piano and the sweep of real strings moves Seal a little further from the dancefloor in its coolly calculated, measured musical approach. Meanwhile, his lyrics once again portray a proud man thoroughly bemused by the workings of the modern world (a world which his own brand of sophisticated, image-led stardom ironically appears to personify).

There is space to tryout one or two interesting musical ideas, notably on the elegantly quirky pair Fast Changes and Kiss From A Rose ó one brightened by a left-field, Eastern-style string arrangement, the other all courtly mood and pseudo-Elizabethan choral games. Seal undertakes a nicely pitched if brief duet with Joni Mitchell on the gentle slow-burner If I Could, while the awkward time signature, winsome sentiment and winding melody of Dreaming In Metaphors finds him singing with extra urgency on what is easily the albumís best track.

If thereís nothing here as instantly memorable as Killer or Crazy from the first LP, the shimmering groove and subtly anthemic chorus of the first single, Prayer For The Dying, should help hook the attention of a few more travelling listeners before the year is out. ***