When Seal walked away with three Grammys for his 1994 hit "Kiss From a Rose," it seemed as if the elegant British soul singer, who'd improbably made a global smash of what sounded like a medieval madrigal, could do no wrong. Then came the ensuing decade: There was a rift with producer Trevor Horn, a disastrously received third outing -- 1997's Human Beings - and a five-year hiatus that saw a chastened Seal move back to London from L.A. and scrap an entire album that he'd overseen himself.
But the result of that maneuvering, simply titled IV, reunites Seal and Horn for the same cinematic, futuristic R&B that defined their best work together, with a few modern touches to satisfy the hip-hop nation. And it's been successful enough thus far that Seal is supporting it with a tour -- something the poor sales of Human Being precluded -- allowing audiences to hear his gritty yet silken vocals au naturel. They remain one of pop's most influential instruments; one normally jaded Big Apple publicist, who'd just returned from Seal's performance on the Today show, sighed recently, "That voice, in person . . . I'd do him in a minute. Are you kidding?" Maybe you shouldn't wait for the live album.