Seal was one of the most successful singer-songwriters of the ’90s and continues to produce new work and has a tour planned for 2024. For his latest single, working with old friend and producer Trevor Horn, he has reworked an iconic track from the ’80s: Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out.”
After some post-punk success in the UK, Jackson spent some time in New York City. This was in the early ’80s when the great days of Studio 54 were a recent memory. The album Night and Day was the output, and “Steppin’ Out” was his biggest hit in the UK and US. Describing a night out in a decadent milieu the tune is restless and energising. With all instruments except for the snare drum being covered by Jackson himself, there are layers of energy and complexity. A glockenspiel provides additional edginess and stimulation to the senses. A lot of stimulation, which was the nature of the times. Jackson moved on to a new city and some different musical traditions and perhaps changed his habits, but this album was a great snapshot of the times.
Horn and Seal wish to set their rendition in a different place, with Horn saying the LA of the early ’80s was his target. Bossa Nova is all the rage. Love might be the drug here, rather than anything from the Andes. The piece is slowed down considerably, and delivered in a key with far fewer sharp notes, and without a glockenspiel heightening the senses. Enervating rather than energizing, the sun is beating and the top is down. The warm tone suits Seal’s powerful but delicate instrument, his peerless voice. On a water bed of an arrangement he comfortably accommodates and enhances the sound. A welcome reminder of summers past.