Thursday, February 19, 2009

The musician Seal

I have liked the musician Seal for a very long time, since the early 1990s when he released the song “Crazy” and I have been impressed by the unique quality of his voice, music, and image. Seal, whose full name is Seal Henry Olusegun Kwassi Olumide Adelo Samuel, was born in Britain to Nigerian parents in the early 1960s, and he has performed different kinds of music, but is identified with “techno,” an electronic dance music. I especially liked “Newborn Friend” from his 1994 album, which was called Seal, as was his first. He did a greatest hits album, featuring work from 1991 through 2004, in 2004; and in 2007 put out the danceable album called System, and last year released Soul, a collection of well-known rhythm-and-blues and soul songs, produced by David Foster.

For PBS’s program “Soundstage,” produced and directed by Joe Thomas, the musician Seal performed, in a Chicago concert, songs from Soul, including: “A Change Is Gonna Come,” “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” “It’s A Man’s World,” “Knock on Wood,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “People Get Ready,” “Stand by Me,” as well as his earlier songs “A Kiss From a Rose” and “Crazy.” (The concert was broadcast last Saturday morning on LPB at 2 a.m., and is being rebroadcast tonight.) Seal opened the concert wearing a black suit with a white shirt and dark tie, possibly brown if not black. With a distinctive voice and passion, the mature performer sounded very good and his audience enjoyed him as I did. He had a large band with him, including violins, horns, guitar, drums, and piano, the resources of Euro-classical, jazz, and rock music. Seal took off his jacket for the James Brown song “It’s a Man’s World” and danced with one of his background singers on “Here I Am,” though he didn’t quite take the song from Al Green. Seal spoke of being inspired by the spirit of the 1960s and of how he relished the opportunity to sing great songs. He said, however, that he resisted David Foster’s suggestion that he sing “People Get Ready” but that it became one of his favorite songs on the album. I don’t think the music had as much “blues” as the original versions of these songs: there’s a sensuality and sorrow to the original productions, and I suspect that fact, regarding the lack of blues, rests with producer David Foster, whom Seal thanked, before beginning his short techno set, returning to his own earlier work with “A Kiss from A Rose” and “Crazy,” songs that released even more energy in the performer. Seal changed clothes for the second set, wearing white, a white short sleeve T-shirt and white pants; and he performed with a much smaller band, featuring nice piano detail, with Seal's voice having a near-operatic sweep.