November 21st, 2011 | Published in Hip Hop / R & B
A Vivoscene Feature Review by Brian Miller
Vivoscene rating 7.5
What Seal’s new collection of soul music covers Soul 2 has going for it is an impeccable choice of tunes, whether you’re a diehard muso or a curious young neophyte looking to impress with some new takes on some old vocabulary. And there’s the not-so-small matter of Seal’s great voice framed by famed producers David Foster and Trevor Horn. Then throw in the consideration that Seal’s initial foray into similar covers back in 2008 with the original volume of Soul was a big success, and you’ve got a winning formula, right?
Well, mostly, except that this collection takes the word formula a little too much for granted. What should have been stunning misses the mark, though not by much. Given the plethora of pale imitations of classic artists making the rounds these days we’re satisfied, but not gratified by this album. That said, Seal’s cover of the eternal Al Green song “Let’s Stay Together”, along with his wonderful rendition of the Chi-Lites’ “Oh Girl” are perfect pleasures, as is his take on Rose Royce’s “Wishing On A Star”. But frankly, no one can measure up to what Marvin Gaye did with “What’s Going On?”, and Seal’s attempt at Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me’, while adventurous for its electronic wash, is going to make most audiences reach for the original.
Seal set a high standard with the first Sixties-oriented volume of Soul, in which he took on James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and knocked it out of the park, as well as bringing new life and intensity to tracks by Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield. This time around it feels like he’s playing it safe, though impeccably safe. There’s not much to criticize, and only a few tracks that demonstrate what this major talent can do. Maybe the smooth Seventies are to blame, but we wanted more from this record than it delivers. It reminds us strongly of the great Michael McDonald’s Motown from 2003, an album that had a similar formula, one that took no chances and pulled almost every punch.
Great voice, great material, and top-rate musicians were assembled for Soul 2 and if they had been a little less faithful to the 70s arrangements and more concerned with replicating rather than duplicating these songs the result could have been something truer to Seal’s roots than to the desire to please an audience. The best thing about it? – you just may spend some time with the original masterpieces covered in this album.
Watch: “Let’s Stay Together”