Welcome back, Seal. On his first CD in five years, during which he scrapped a completed album that was to be the follow-up to 1998's Human Being, the British singer demonstrates why he was sorely missed on the pop scene. His third self-titled release finds Seal still a unique talent, singing about love and longing with a richly textured voice that is at once soothing, sensual and oh-so-soulful. What Seal is most longing for on these 12 tracks is spiritual uplift. "I need love, love's divine/Please forgive me, now I see that I've been blind," he sings on the haunting "Love's Divine." It's a vintage Seal ballad in the vein of his 1994 hit "Prayer for the Dying" that, like other lushly atmospheric songs here, has a cathartic, almost transcendent quality achieved by few pop artists. Even up-tempo dance numbers like "Get It Together," with its disco-style strings and horns, have a rare transformative power. While this Seal disc doesn't really sound radically different from his other three (save his reggae turn on "Where There's Gold"), fans won't complain; they'll just be hoping they won't have to wait so long for his next album.
BOTTOM LINE: Golden Seal