Looking at album sales and chart positions, it would be easy to conclude that British singer Seal peaked in the mid-nineties when Kiss from a Rose surged up the charts a year after its initial release when it was included on the Batman Forever soundtrack. Such an assessment certainly has merit but neglects the fact that, as a solo-male performer in the pop/soul/R&B spheres, sustained chart-topping success was always an unlikely outcome. To his credit, Seal has displayed an enviable work ethic, steadily releasing new recordings and choosing to progress his artistry instead of seeking to replicate past glories.
Standards is Seal’s tenth studio record, and his third album of covers after 2008’s Soul and 2011’s Soul 2. While Soul one and two saw Seal work within his native genre, Standards sees him apply his subtle, emotional textured voice within a jazz context. Not being the type of performer to resort to displays of virtuosity, Seal consistently presents as a blend of the classic crooners – Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra – throughout the album, from lead single and opening number Luck Be a Lady, through to closing track and second single It Was a Very Good Year.
Despite his vocal delivery falling flat and never quite working on I Put a Spell on You, Standards proves to be a pleasant and easy, if somewhat characterless, listen. Vocal trio the Puppini Sisters feature on I’m Beginning to See the Light, predominately adding a little extra texture to the sonic palette but ultimately feeling underutilised. The deluxe edition of the album includes three additional songs, The Nearness of You, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, and Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting), all of which are performed admirably well while not proving especially memorable. Which largely sums up Seal’s Standards, a collection of songs expertly performed by a talented singer which are all but forgotten by the time the final note rings out.