King David's Melody
March 26, 2006
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : -||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 4/5||Sleeve : 4|
"We play music by feeling it. We call it the Far East sound. Cause we play in minor chords. When you play those chords it's like a story without words" (Augustus Pablo).
"The reason this LP is called "King David's Melody" is that Haile Selassie I is from the line of King David, and King David was always playing his harps. Through the divine inspiration of Haile Selassie I this name is chosen" (Augustus Pablo).
The late great Augustus Pablo will be remembered as the somewhat frail-looking rastaman, who made an amazing contribution to roots reggae both as a melodica/keyboards player and as a producer with an immediately recognizable style. When he passed away on May 18th, 1999 the reggae community was shocked. Born 1954, St. Andrew, Jamaica, Horace Swaby aka Augustus Pablo, often in ill health, not only was responsible for putting the melodica on the musical map, but he also played a key role in the musical history of Jamaica. In his role as musician and producer he has helped to shape reggae so much that his music can easily be described as "The Sound Of The Seventies".
His musical life story began in 1969 when a youthful Horace Swaby was standing in Herman Chin-Loy's 'Aquarius' record shop at 9 Constant Spring Road in Kingston, holding a melodica that had been lent to him by a young girl. Herman Chin-Loy, who had a much-deserved reputation for experimenting with new sounds, asked the slightly-built teenager if he could play it and was so taken with the musical response that he booked recording time that same week at Randy's Studio 17 on North Parade in the heart of downtown Kingston.
With a tune entitled "Iggy Iggy" Herman Chin-Loy gave the youth his recording debut and more significantly, a new name -- Augustus Pablo -- which was not strictly new itself as for the past few months Aquarius record labels had sporadically appeared bearing the credit Augustus Pablo. The follow-up was another instrumental -- the first cut of "East Of River Nile" -- with Pablo alternating rudimentary but spooky solos on melodica and organ over a jagged riddim. At the age of eighteen Augustus Pablo had his first hit at Randy's for Clive Chin's "Impact" imprint with "Java" and he soon established himself through his releases on his own "Hot Stuff" and legendary "Rockers" label.
The way in which the riddims were mixed was also important to Pablo. In common with Vivian Jackson, Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and several others he employed King Tubby to mix his productions. It actually led to the release of an album that confirmed and spread both men's reputation : the 1976 released killer dub set "King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown".
Working as a producer he often teamed up with a young Jacob Miller, Hugh Mundell, Junior Delgado, but also others such as the Heptones, Locksley Castell, Ricky Grant, Delroy Williams and Norris Reid have also met with some fame on Pablo's unique riddims. He sadly passed away in 1999.
Shanachie has released a handful of Pablo albums and after they re-issued Pablo's best album ever -- 'King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown' - this is the second re-release. 'King David's Melody' (originally released in 1983) is a collection of mostly instrumental, as opposed to dub, recordings.
"King David's Melody" gathers tracks from the period 1975 to 1982, recorded for Pablo's own 'Rockers' and 'Message' labels, most of them released as singles. The album -- mixed by Sylvan Morris at Harry J. Studio, except for the tracks West Abyssinia and Kent Road -- contains the classical riddims for which Pablo was so revered, but also points to future works as it also features more computerised sounds, which began to emanate from Kingston studios.
This re-release comes with four extra tracks not on the original version of the album. Israel Dub is a dub version of Israel In Harmony which appeared on the extended 12" version of that song. Freedom Step is an instrumental on the same riddim as Cornerstone Dub and appeared only on the flipside of the Jamaican single of the same name. Jah Strength Ital Step is a reworking of Mr. Bassie.
Most interesting here is Hot Milk, which was previously only available on a Rockers 12" single. It features Pablo's early experiments with a drum machine on the riddim track and some unique synth sounds. Do check out the title track, which is the version to Junior Delgado's "Away With You Fussing And Fighting", because it's truly one of Pablo's better efforts of the time.
"King David's Melody" can't be regarded as an outstanding album release, but in retrospect the material included here sounds much better than it did two decades ago. All in all... vital and ital stuff!