Here’s one Englishman who needs to start hanging with some mad dogs. On his third album, Seal (born Sealhenry Samuel) has again buttressed his soul-tinged pop songs with lush, creamy, grandiloquent, perfect-sounding production. So while “Human Being” strives to be a cohesive, close-in look at loss, mainly sketching the death throes of a love affair, the listener is distracted with too many ostentatious soundscapes.
Trevor Horn, who also produced the previous Seal albums, has done a punctilious and oh-so-tasteful job of interior decorating with strings, acoustic guitars, layers of keyboards and gurgling techno gizmos. But the human interior is obscured by all the perfectly arrayed furniture in Seal’s living room; we miss the full impact of the passion play he’s trying to enact there, and which he clearly has the talent to deliver with his smooth yet husky-grained voice.
Something more stark, hinted at on the folkish “Princess” and the taut electro-pop of “Excerpts From,” would have suited the subject better. That said, with “Just Like You Said” and “Lost My Faith,” Horn and Seal execute a couple of dramatic, swaying ballads that show how attractive, and powerfully expressive, the grand pop style can be when done on just the right song, with just the right touch. If to err and to excel by turns is what makes us human, “Human Being” fulfills its title.
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* Excerpts from these and other recent releases are available on The Times’ World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: https://www.latimes.com/soundclips