Back on Tracks

updated 09/15/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It's another terrific Seal performance. Lying in his Beverly Hills hotel room, the singer coolly purrs into the phone as he frantically tries to piece together the identity of his female caller, using her clues ("Swedish" and "beautiful" among them). Finally he smiles brightly. "Ah, you gorgeous Camilla," says Seal, reassuring the woman that "of course" he remembers her. Hanging up, he flashes an impish smile. "That's what happens when you know too many girls."

Seal is hoping that the public has a better memory than he does. Last heard from with 1998's Human Being, the singer who scored hits in the '90s with "Crazy" and "Kiss from a Rose" spent 3½. years working on a follow-up, only to scrap it. Seal—who was born in London as Sealhenry Samuel, the son of Nigerian immigrants—broke his creative block by selling his L.A. home and moving back to Britain: "I think I needed to be around the smells, the sounds, the pace, the grind of London." Eighteen months there (he has since returned to his "love affair" with L.A., renting a house in the Hollywood Hills) produced an entirely different album, Seal IV, which has received high marks (see review, page 43).

Seal, 40, who dabbled in fashion design and architecture before becoming a pop star, is having fun outside the studio too. While a gift set of golf clubs from Tiger Woods has gone unused—"His excuse is that he's too tall," says his skeptical manager, Irv Azoff—the singer has taken up heli-snowboarding, which involves jumping out of a low-hovering helicopter onto the slopes. "When it comes to daredevil activities, he's got the mind of a 20-year-old in the body of a 40-year-old," says pal Harley Liker. "As his physician, I tell
him, 'Are you out of your mind?' "

Only when he is juggling his female callers. Although the unattached singer—who has been linked to Tyra Banks, Olivia D'Abo and Naomi Campbell—says he is ready to become a dad "eventually, when it's time," he obviously isn't checking his watch just yet. "What does dating even mean?" he says with feigned innocence. "Does it mean that you can sleep with people? Oh, I want to date then!"

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