When the blind Jamaican singer-songwriter Frankie Paul burst on the reggae scene three years ago, he was frequently likened to Stevie Wonder. And Paul's brief, but dazzling, half-hour performance before an overflow crowd Saturday at the Music Machine made those comparisons seem quite reasonable. He evoked visual memories of Little Stevie Wonder, circa the early '60s Motortown Revues, and, more importantly, demonstrated that musical comparisons to Wonder--the mature pop craftsman--weren't all that farfetched either.
His own compositions slipped comfortably into many of the diverse styles of contemporary reggae, and his current English hit, "Sara," elicited an unsolicited sing-along. Paul, too, proved to be an exceptional singer, his expressive voice ranging from the mellifluous, deep tones of a jazz crooner to the rough exhortations of the classical soul shouter. He even tossed a verse of Barry Manilow's "I Write The Songs" into one of his own numbers and made it sound good.
If Paul, who is in his mid-20s, could hook up with a major U.S. label, he could well become one of the few figures from the reggae world to achieve widespread pop success. Co-headliner Josey Wales also turned in a half-hour set of his hits in the Jamaican "dee-jay" style. The members of the audience enthusiastically cheered both performers, but the two 30-minute sets hardly seemed an adequate showcase, especially at $15 a ticket.