h

Seal : Standards

Who needs innovation? In Standards, Seal assembles familiar jazz and swing tunes into a record that’s strong as a dry martini and smooth as a granite bar top.

Everything about Standards speaks to Seal’s connoisseurship. He recorded at the LA studio where Sinatra cut Strangers in the Night, and recruited former musical apostles of Ella Fitzgerald, Gerry Mulligan and others. From track one, it’s clear Seal isn’t here to knock anyone off their pedestal.
 
Seal’s tirelessly supple voice is the album’s greatest asset. Few vocalists are capable of taking a straight approach to songs like ‘Smile’ or ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ with such credibility. Lush orchestral accompaniment lends tracks like ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ a warm, velvety texture.
 
‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’ are the only real failures to excel. Seal can’t or won’t abandon his easy confidence and masculine vocal flourishes for the vulnerability these songs demand. Without that, they become mere technical exercises.
 
Standards offers few new twists to familiar arrangements, but Seal’s reverent approach will be a relief for swing fans who don’t go in for ironic kitsch à la Robbie Williams.
 
7.5/10