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Sunday, November 15, 1998 Published at 09:41 GMT

Entertainment: New Music Releases


Seal: Human Being (Warner Bros)

Seal's richly haunting voice is in fine shape on an album loaded with his trademark sense of melancholy grandeur.

Long-time collaborator Trevor Horn is again in charge of production, so there are few musical surprises but plenty of lush arrangements to complement - and sometimes swamp - the downbeat themes.

New single Human Beings, a low-key opener with ominous chimes and brooding bass line, casts its deep blue light across much of what follows before being reprised at the album's close.

State of Grace is a gentle ballad taken at slo-mo trip-hop pace, while Latest Craze is one of the standout songs. It has a busy dancefloor pulse melded to some great multi-tracked vocals and a sunburst chorus that's well worth the wait.

Coffee-table treatment

[ image: There are times you wish Trevor Horn hadn't smoothed out the rough edges]
There are times you wish Trevor Horn hadn't smoothed out the rough edges
The obligatory slow-build epic, When A Man Is Wrong, boasts a strong melody and sensitive delivery which manages to retain some sense of intimacy despite being saddled with an overblown production.

Unfortunately, this coffee-table treatment is also in evidence elsewhere, on the Kiss From A Rose-soundalike Lost My Faith and No Easy Way.

For all Trevor Horn's skill as a producer there are times when you wish he wasn't so concerned with smoothing off the rough edges at the expense of spontaneity.

The songs here are quite capable of standing on their own, as heard on the relatively restrained treatment of Just Like You Said. The slick arrangements which dominate parts of the album don't do justice to a voice which is best when given space to work in.

Despite such quibbles, however, this is a welcome return from a singer who has attracted more attention in America than in his British homeland over the past few years. Maybe that's about to change.

Nigel Packer

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