Let me take you back, dear reader, to 1991. Operation Desert Storm arrived in Kuwait; The Soviet Union began to dissolve the USSR; Grunge was about to take over MTV, the enigmatic Freddie Mercury sadly passed away, and my beloved Tottenham Hotspur won the F.A Cup (thirty-one years later, and I’m still waiting for another WEM-BER-LEE victory).
However, Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel, AKA Seal, was riding the crest of a musical wave. ‘Killer’, a song written alongside acid house DJ and producer Adamski was all over the pubs, clubs, radio stations and Ministry Of Sounds. Despite the single being released a good year before the album came out, it was still a certified banger by the time this debut album was released. It remains a massive dancefloor tune and has stood the test of time, still influencing the dance masses to this day.
‘Killer’, however, is only one track, and to dismiss the rest of this record would be doing Seal and those who have worked on this record a major disservice. The beginning starts with precisely that ‘The Beginning’ is a great way to start the record; it introduces us to what we’re about to hear. There’s soul, RNB and dance-laden hooks through the song and Seal’s voice, pure like golden honey, is at the fore. ‘The music takes you round and round, hold on to the love’, he pleads as the outro leaves us with an aching acoustic guitar.
This album has a lot of heavy influences on it; listening back with older ears as they are now, I can pick up a country feel on ‘Deep Water’ it’s a really heavy song, ‘a shade of pain and then we die’ it is mournful, sad and yet quite beautiful. I’d forgotten this song existed, shame on me.
As strong as the aforementioned ‘Killer’ is, I was always more of a ‘Crazy’ fan. It is almost the elder relative, it is still a dance floor classic, but it has a deeper meaning ‘in a sky full of people, only some want to fly, isn’t that crazy?’ hell yes, it is. This song still moves me, and surely that’s the definition of classic.
The production on this record still stands up to this day. At the helm was Trevor Horn, who produced the album and released it on his own, newly formed record label ZTT Records. Horn declared this record as a turning point in his career, and it is easy to hear why; tracks like ‘Whirlpool’ seem pretty simple but dig deeper, and you’ll hear gospel and soul flowing through the speakers.
The album was famously released twice; Horn was not happy with the original version, so they decided to remix a few of the songs, most noticeably on the song ‘Violet’ and reissue the album only a few months after the original had been in the shops.
It would be fair to say some songs haven’t aged so well. ‘Wild’ doesn’t live up to its name at all, but to be fair, on the deluxe edition, the live version definitely has the funk the recorded track lacks. ‘Future Love Paradise’ also seems to lack the drive I recalled once having.
Closing the album then is ‘Violet’, a beautiful 80′s influenced soul ballad with hints of Cocteau Twins (I seem to recall Seal declaring himself a fan). It drifts along with spoken word in the background, not in an Alexander O’Neal way, thankfully. Has this record stood the test of 31 years? Yes and no; in some parts, it sounds as fresh as it did back in 1991 and in others, not so much.
The extras in this deluxe edition offer a peek into the late 80′s and early 90′s dancefloor. The William Orbit remixes are the ones that stand out for me (much as his work with Blur is my favourite of theirs). Get your glowsticks out for ‘Killer’. There are A LOT of remixes, seven versions of ‘Crazy’ alone! If remixes are your bag, you’ll be in heaven.
The live album was recorded at The Point in Dublin and does showcase Seal’s incredible voice. It is a lovely addition and one I’d recommend checking out over the remixes, especially ‘Violet’ and ‘Show Me’.
As a trip back to 1991, this album wouldn’t have been my first choice (Ten & Nevermind ruled my world back then), but as a more mature listener, I really enjoyed the record, and of course, I dived in and listened to ‘Kiss From A Rose’ straight after. It gets my Seal of approval!