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Seal’s Definitive Hits

After more than two decades in the music industry, genre-defying singing sensation Seal has released a collection of his hits, simply titled ‘Hits’.  Available in two editions (one a single disc, the other a double disc set), ‘Hits’ is perfect for both new and long-time followers.

Seal’s voice, husky and soaring, is one of the most well-known in contemporary music, and although he is not one of the most prolific artists, this collection shows just how versatile an artist he is – with his voice, the voice, taking pride of place.

I spent a good few hours listening to my copy of the deluxe two-disc edition of ‘Hits’, and realised that I had no idea just how many brilliant songs are in his catalogue, and, no matter how long ago the songs were recorded (whether 1990’s ‘Killer’ or 2009’s ‘Thank You’), they never sound ‘dated’ or ‘tired’.

Disc one of the deluxe edition of Seal’s ‘Hits’ is more dance-y than disc two, with the majority of songs being funky soul or up-tempo electronica (don’t be phased, adult-contemporary listeners – you won’t find any ‘doof doof’ here).  It kicks off with one of two brand new recordings, ‘I Am Your Man’, an Ashford & Simpson cover, followed immediately by soft-rock smash hit, ‘Kiss From a Rose’, perhaps his most well-known recording.  If people didn’t know about him after his breakthrough hits ‘Killer’ and ‘Crazy’, the inclusion of ‘Kiss’ in the soundtrack of the 1995 film ‘Batman Forever’ certainly drew in legions of new fans.

I know that I should be mentioning highlight tracks, and telling you why I enjoyed them. I KNOW I should be doing that.  But, you see, the thing is, I can’t.  Disc one of ‘Hits’ is great, and it’s too difficult for me to decide upon highlights, and I think it’s because of the wonderful fusion sound.  From a couple of powerful, soft-rock ballads, to old school electronica, to classic funk (referencing Seal’s beginnings in music – did you know that, back in the 80’s, he joined a British funk band and, a little later, a blues band in Thailand?), it’s the varied yet cohesive, and oh so very enjoyable.

I will tell you, though, that while making notes during a listen to the album, I drew a big smiley face next to track 12, ‘Waiting for You’.  There’s funky bass and piano, the occasional crunch of guitar, brass, and then a sudden movement into strings…  Head-boppin’ stuff all the way, baby!  But don’t go thinking it’s my favourite track on disc one…  I’ve already explained my predicament.

The second disc of Seal’s ‘Hits’ is somewhat more sedate than the first, but by no means less enjoyable.  Just in case you were wondering what Seal’s first hit, ‘Killer’ sounds like, your curiosity will be satisfied – it’s the first track on disc two.  Yes, the soul, the funk, the electronica is there, but in more laid-back styles.  Disc two also has a real gem on it: a live soul medley, featuring ‘Get It Together’, ‘Here I Am”, and ‘Knock On Wood’.  The dreamy, very danceable ‘System’ (track nine) is one of Seal’s more recent offerings, and is very, very catchy.  Oh, would you look at that?  I’ve done gone and highlighted tracks!  Well, since I’ve started now, I may as well continue.

There is one track on this compilation that gave me goosebumps, and is probably the Seal song I listen to most at the moment, and that track is number 13 on the second disc.  It’s a duet with Canadian-born French singer, Mylene Farmer, and it’s called ‘Les Mots’.  It’s a beautiful, gentle, soft and tender track, and I just can’t get enough of it.

The final track on disc two is a new recording, titled ‘Thank You’, an expression of gratitude from Seal to his fans, a touch I thought very personal.

All in all, I am very happy with ‘Hits’ (as you’ve no doubt guessed by now).  It’s a perfect retrospective from an artist who has a remarkable ability to fuse genres, to cross-pollinate styles, and to own his sound.  Even the cover versions in this collection (oh, you’ll recognise them) bear his mark, and bear it well.  And Seal’s versatility means that you can listen to ‘Hits’ pretty much anywhere, and it won’t be out of place.

I would recommend buying the deluxe edition, as it’s like a double serving of sonic hot chocolate – with marshmellows.  However, there is nothing wrong with the standard, single disc edition.  It has most of the tracks found on disc one of the deluxe edition, and a sprinkling of tracks  from disc two.  The only thing is that, where the deluxe edition has a great balance of up- medium- and slow-tempo songs, the standard edition tends to focus more on the dance-y tracks.  And it doesn’t have ‘Les Mots’ on it…  Not a ‘train smash’ by any stretch of the imagination, and perhaps I am the sort of person who, if I end up with a standard edition of something, can never shake off the feeling that I’m missing out, but the deluxe edition of ‘Hits’ really is a very welcome addition to my music collection, and I’m sure you’ll find it the same.

Seal’s ‘Hits’ – it really is the definitive collection of Seal’s greatest songs.

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