Digging into the earlier versions of “Sealed With A Kiss”, I discovered two things. First that I really liked the song, second that it’s stretchy enough for nobody to have quite nailed a definitive take on it. It works just as well insincere as sincere, for a start – in the Four Voices’ 1960 recording (the first) the doo-woppers sound bereft and spectral, like parting for Summer is some kind of malign destiny and they’ll be holidaying in the Underworld this year. But by the time Bobby Vinton’s singing it in 1972, he’s got the full early-70s luxury pop treatment: bongos, flutes, wah-wah, strings and reeds in a gluttonous, glorious mix, and it makes him sound utterly insincere, like he’s phoning his abandoned lady while being rubbed down by hula girls.
How does Jason approach it? He sounds tolerably sad: he’s keeping things simple, with a light, open arrangement, and the song works for him. I’ve been harsh about his voice in past entries and he’s no world-beater on “Sealed” but he does the mournful job the track requires and doesn’t try anything stupid: as a postcard of fantasy devotion it works fine. What lets it down is the backing. Stock Aitken and Waterman had no great feeling for ballads; slow jams need to tempt, not thrill, and they never seemed to have the patience, or at least not while the big Donovan eyes did that job for them. The only moments with any musical life here are the swelling intro and the guitar solo (did Jason play it, I wonder?) Otherwise SAW hobble their singer with a limp preset lilt, which fails to provide any of the atmosphere or urgency this song could thrive on.