Seal Henry Samuel didn't have the most credible kick-start to his career: a vocal contribution to naff 1990 Adamski hit 'Killer' first brought the Nigerian-born soul singer to public attention; and ever since then, his high-profile output has lacked the 'cool' factor, if certainly not a huge level of commercial success. His decision to team up with AOR production supremo David Foster (Josh Groban, Celine Dion) for an album of classic soul covers, then, seemed unlikely to change anyone's opinion.
The most obvious thing about 'Soul', though, is that these songs are so timeless and well-crafted that it would take an amateur with the most murderous intentions to totally destroy them. The production can't be faulted, really; the arrangements on most tracks (particularly Otis Redding's I've Been Loving You Too Long and string-drenched beauty of It's A Man's Man's Man's World) are impeccable, and Seal's voice captures the essence, if not the character, of 90% of the songs admirably.
Indeed, it's nice to hear him take on songs that have been tried-and-tested by soul legends, instead of his usual fatigued, schmaltzy fare. Knock On Wood and I Can't Stand the Rain are both enjoyable, while his interpretations of Al Green's Here I Am and I'm Still In Love With You are passable and smoothly subtle, respectively.
Without doubt, though, there are some attempts that simply fail to take off (a predictable Stand By Me and an overtly safe It's Alright), and any cover of Sam Cooke's song-of-the-moment A Change Is Gonna Come will simply never, ever trump the original. Even so, for people who would have pooh-poohed Seal's career up until now, this may be the first album of his that you'll listen to all the way through - and maybe even occasionally enjoy.