An inventive and restless musician.
You may not be able to find any live footage of Peruvian pop singer Jean Paul online, but the still photos you will find paint the tantalizing image of what was by all accounts a riveting stage presence. Dressed in a leopard-pattern suit, Paul, born Enrique Telleria, was captured in the middle of in-concert gyrations so outrageous that he was called “El Troglodita.” What kind of music did this wild man make, and could it possibly live up to the primeval charge of his nickname? Fortunately, Vinilisssimo’s reissue of Paul’s second album, Vudú, proves that the dancing Trog of Peru wasn’t just a gimmick but the persona of an inventive and restless musician who churned out a whole Top 40 chart’s worth of hooks on a single wiggle-worthy album.
The title track starts things off with heavily distorted funk rhythm guitar and furious drums. The English-language lyric pleads that in “A world that’s breaking down/ … I hope you will follow me,” and right away you will. Members of Peruvian prog-psych band Laghonia support their prehistoric leader with genre-jumping élan; on “Vudú” alone they shift from funk to psych to a dreamy segue in which Jean Paul plies his world-saving trade in a more reflective and strangely fatalistic mood, promising “To kiss you baby/ Until the day you’re through.” The furious psych-funk riff and hard drums come back as a reminder that his feral charisma may reveal a tender side, but this cave man’s instinct is primarily to rock out.
That fierce manifesto surprisingly leads to the sweet ballad “Any Time,” Paul’s accented English backed up by an arrangement whose brass and acoustic guitars form an easygoing baroque pop. “Peace and Love” takes that brass and flower power spirit in a direction that suggests what Love’s Forever Changes might have sounded like if Arthur Lee had stayed in the garage.
Vudú was recorded in 1972, and if it sounds like something made just a few years earlier, that’s not a bad thing, especially since Jean Paul’s influences are so varied. “Everything is Gonna Change” may be an anthem of social upheaval, but it also lives up to its title musically, pulling out an unexpected James Brown card before its chicken-scratch funk casually slips in and out of different rock and funk rhythms, each shift delivering a new hook.
For an artist who proudly compared himself to a caveman, Jean Paul has a mellow tenor that’s more often croon than scream. His cover of “Mammy Blue,” originally by the Spanish group Pop Tops, doesn’t quite match its source’s Catalonian soul, and makes you wish for more of his lively originals. But the album picks up again with the catchy beat of “Soñar, Bailar y Cantar.”
Jean Paul was musically restless; the album winds down again with the syrupy croon of “Remember My Love” and finally closes with the up-tempo “Pórtense Bien” (“Be Good”), which stays relaxed until a guitar solo pierces the relative calm. Throughout Vudú, you can clearly picture El Troglodita dancing in his cave, erupting into the wild dances that gave him his name.