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It's not perfect, but "Jekyll & Hyde En Español" is worth the wait

Review by: Yoli Renaud
Date: April 17, 2004

NOTE ABOUT THIS REVIEW: This review was originally written in Spanish and published by my wife on her website, Sobre la Roca. Please visit her site to read the review in Spanish.

The Story

The "Jekyll & Hyde" album is based on the classical novel "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886. The story is about a scientist who discovers a drug that enables him to split his personality, separating completely the good half from the bad one. The novel shows the struggles of a person between his emotions and desires, between good and bad.

The Cover

The cover of this album is very simple, no drawing or pictures. I think that the predominant black background fits well, since the story of Jekyll & Hyde is a horror story. There is not much difference between the cover art on the Spanish and English albums.

The song lyrics are written in seemingly endless horizontal lines. It makes it look interesting, but it is very hard to read. I'm sure you will find helpful our lyrics page.

Although Paul Simmons and Greg Bailey are not mentioned as band members, they show up in a picture on the case where you put the CD. The pictures on the English album were different, and did not include Paul Simmons, the new drummer.

The Songs

The theme of this album illustrates the battle between the flesh and the spirit in the Christian, as Romans 7 describes. Besides "Jekyll & Hyde," we have the songs "Párate" and "Moldéame."

The second important theme, and perhaps more predominant, is about our decisions in relation to time in our life. The song "¿Quién es tu conecte allá?" makes us consider if we are really ready for the life after death. "Lo que pudo ser" calls us to focus on the future instead of regretting our bad decisions of the past. The song "La Prueba" is about the decisions we make in our life and how we are living. "Un mundo perfecto" reminds us that although things seem out of control in this world, the Bible promises that Jesus Christ will reign and put things in order in the future.

Praise and worship has always been part of Petra, and it isn't missing on this project, with the song "Te Adoro." "Así es nuestra vida" is a testimony, telling what happens before and after conversion. The album finishes with the song "Pacto De Amor" which is a challenge to preach the gospel all over the world.

The Performance

The last time that John Schlitt recorded in Spanish was for the album "Petra en Alabanza," 12 years ago. However, that was not the last time he sang in Spanish. In his concerts in Latin American countries he usually sings "Yo amo al Señor" and "Te exaltamos." He also sang "Jekyll & Hyde" in Spanish in Mexico before giving us the surprise that he was working on a whole album in Spanish. For this project, Susana Allen helped with the voice production in Spanish. (Along with her husband, she has worked before with Guardian, Carman, Kim Boyce, Margaret Becker, and others.)

If you are wondering how John's Spanish sounds, I will tell you that it sounds a little gringo, but understandable. If you want to know which part he pronounces better, it is when he says "Jekyll y Hyde". As you can imagine, he has problems with the "r" and more problems with the "rr", but his vowels sound good. He needed more work in fluency, but that is partly because of the translation. It seems to me that John focused more on how he pronounced than how he sang, but in general his voice sounds good. He does not sing as high as he used to do on songs like "Beyond Belief", but you will notice that his singing lower makes it possible for all of us to sing along with him.

We also have to consider that John Schlitt is not a young guy, and it isn't easy to remember all the weird sounds that for Spanish speakers are a piece of cake. I think John sounded better on "Petra en Alabanza," but he did not have to sing very much on that album because the background singers sang most of it and he led the worship. But "Jekyll & Hyde" is a different story. John sings a lot.

The performance I like the most is in "Lo que pudo ser." This song sounds like a tongue twister both in English and Spanish! Now, I don't know if John is going to have the courage to sing it in concert (or how he is going to remember the lyrics) but I would be happy to make signs so he can see the words while he sings. :)

The background vocals are weak. The Spanish version has three background singers, while the English version has four: Greg Bailey (bassist in Petra), Jamie Rowe (former lead singer in Guardian), and Phil Joel and Peter Furler (these last two singers in Newsboys). Instead of these last two guys from the Newsboys, the Spanish version features Pablo Olivares. Personally, I have never heard of him, but in the credits Alejandro and Susana Allen say that he is "definately one of the best voices of rock in Spanish." But to my ears, the background voices sound very weak. I really hear the absence of the two guys from Newsboys.

The Translation

In "Petra en Alabanza," Juan Salinas and Marcos Witt did the tranlation and adaptation to Spanish. The work for "Jekyll & Hyde" was done by Alejandro Allen. This is not the first time he has translated Petra songs to Spanish. He did it before for "Colección Coral Petra II," a collection of Petra songs performed by various Mexican artists.

In general, Alejandro Allen did a good job and kept the main idea of the lyrics. I think this is important to note, since the translations for the album "Colección de Petra en Español" (made by Michelle and Becky Barón) often strayed very far from the meaning of the original songs. The lyrics had nothing to do with their English counterparts. The clearest example is "Al Más Allá," which should be the Spanish version of "Beyond Belief."

However, there are some details that made me feel a little alienated as a South American Hispanic. I'm talking about the use of Mexican or Central American slang. There are four verses sung on the album where I had no clue what they were talking about. In one of them, not even my dictiontaries could help me. These are the phrases:

"¿Quién es tu conecte allá?"

(Who is your connection in heaven?) This is the easiest of all. By the context I realize what "conecte" means (which is mispelled on the album with an accent, which is unnecessary). This song uses the word "palanca" to mean the same thing as "conecte." I imagine each country has different idioms. In Bolivia we say "to have wrist" when we mean someone of influence who help us with favors.

"Tu has resanado mi dureza con amor"

This phrase is from the song "Moldéame." This was the first time I ever heard the word "resanar." The second dictionary that I checked gave me this definition for that word: "To restore [something] that was damaged".

"Duele más que un sentón"

If it weren't for the dictionary, I would have never desciphered this mysterious line from "Lo Que Pudo Hacer." Here are the two meanings I found for "sentón" in my dictionary:

  1. Ecuad., Guat., Salv. Sudden checking of a horse.
  2. Amér. Central, Méj. Bump on one's behind, beat.

"Ni diste el avión para que puedan entender"

This was the hardest of all because I could not find the expression "dar el avión" (literally: to give the airplane) in any dictionary. I asked my husband to write to Luz Records, where Alejandro and Susana Allen work. He received this explanation of the phrase: "This is more of a slang phrase from Mexico. 'Dar el avión' means being indifferent, but in a sarcastic way."

Another weird thing I found was the phrase "Venga a nos Tu trono dando luz." I don't know if it was a typo or an old grammar construction. It sounds like when my husband (an American) wants to speak Spanish. The grammatically correct phrase should be "Vénganos Tu trono dando luz" &mdash. But still, it sounds like the old hymns my granddad sang. It would have sounded better and more modern as "Que venga Tu trono..."

If you are wondering why I'm spending so much time on this topic, it is because Petra has Spanish-speaking fans all over Latin America. I don't think Petra had in mind only a Mexican market. I don't mean to offend the Mexican fans, because they are numerous. But Petra also has fans in Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and throughout South America. These fans are going to be confused by weird words they never use. For a translation, it is better to use standard Spanish that everybody can understand. Thank God, the deficiencies in the translation are small, and in general Bob's Hartman writing work can be appreciated.

Familiar Names

I always like reading the credits in a CD to see who helped in a production. I liked to see that Jamie Rowe, the former lead singer of Guardian, helped Petra with the background vocals, although this is not the first time he has done it. Another name related to Guardian is Tony Palacios, who mixed the songs. I also mentioned Alejandro and Susana Allen who have a very long list of albums on their resumé. Phil Joel, who sings "Entertaining Angels" on the Newsboys album "Step Up to the Microphone," served as an additional musician. Finally, Peter Furler, lead singer of the Newsboys, produced this album. The guys in Newsboys were once a young band inspired by Petra, and now after many years, they have returned the favor, helping Petra in this album.

The verdict

The best of Petra in the last decade? I think so. For you who were hungry for rock that sounds like rock, this is your album. Run to your Christian bookstore, buy it, and convince yourself. You will have to listen to it several times to get used to the accent, but the music will shake you like love at first sight.