The two underlying musical strands of Seal’s career are house music and R&B. So after returning to his club roots on 2007’s System, it was only natural for Seal to illuminate his R&B underpinnings on the follow-up, 2008’s Soul. In truth, it’s an album that Seal could have made at any point in his career, but he could now bring gravitas to the material. He does an incredible job on nearly unapproachable works like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.” Producer David Forster provides the songs' savvy arrangements, which are neither vacuously vintage nor schmaltzy. For a London gentleman who seems like the personification of international urbanity, Seal appears especially at home on soul tunes from the Deep South. Al Green has long been a dominant influence on his work, and Seal leans into “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” and “I’m Still in Love with You” with an affectionate ease that can only come from years of familiarity. Soul manages to stay classy and clever without trivializing its source material. Even as he brings out the vintage essence of the songs, Seal finds a way to make them feel minty fresh.

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