With Shanachie records maintaining a catalog of classic Augustus Pablo titles like King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown and King David Melody, and the release of Island's Classic Rockers, this collection from lesser-known label Ocho seems likely to fall through the cracks. Indeed, a title like Dub, Reggae & Roots From the Melodica King may seem unlikely to shed new light on an already renowned Jamaican producer. Yet what may first appear to be another attempt to repackage Pablo's music to capitalize on the uninitiated is in fact a fantastic collection of some of his best early material. While there is a small degree of overlap with previous releases, many of the cuts offered are decidedly more difficult to track down. Great care has been taken with the running order as dubs or alternate mixes typically follow more familiar versions. So Jacob Miller's "Baby I Love You So" is given a superb melodica reading on "Cassava Piece," and the guitars of "Give Praise" slip, slide, and get submerged under water on "Silent Satta." In the hands of lesser producers, listeners would be forced to scour the results in search of insignificant variations. On The Melodica King, however, there are the likes of both Lee Perry and King Tubby at the controls, in addition to Pablo himself. Perry's contributions include a haunting revisitation of Pablo's "Java" rhythm ("Dub Ethiopia") and the outstanding and oddly understated "Black Ants Lane." As for Tubby, his mix of "Black Gunn" (led by Pablo's ringing xylophone) is the most wonderfully bizarre thing on hand, and "New Style" (a dub of Bongo Pat's "Young Generation") is rock-solid dub 101. Excellent liner notes detail Pablo's evolution during the period and point the way to the original sources for many of the rhythms.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush