Who could imagine that a child's toy instrument would launch not just a star, but a whole new musical style? Yet that is precisely what happened to Augustus Pablo and his melodica. The musician set Jamaica alight with "East of the River Nile," the prototype for the new Far Eastern style, and cemented his reputation with the hot hit "Java." Initially, Pablo had recorded with producer Herman Chin-Loy, but eventually began working with two other members of the family, Clive Chin and his uncle Leonard. (The keyboardist also recorded with producers outside the Chin clan). By 1974, a debut album, This Is Augustus Pablo, was in the works, rounding up a dozen tracks cut with the Chins. An amazing roster of talent accompanied Pablo on these recordings, including the Barrett brothers, Earl "Chinna" Smith, Errol Thompson, and keyboardists Ansel Collins and Glen Adams. Together the men created a simmering rootsy sound, percolating with reggae beats. In keeping with the Far East sound, many of these instrumentals are in a minor key, conjuring up a wondrous atmosphere which ranges from yearning to pensive. Although the album doesn't include "Nile" or "Java," more recent singles were featured, including "Pablo in Dub," which debuted Leonard Chin's new Santic label, and "Lover's Mood." Many of the melodies are variations on classic songs, or, in the case of "Jah Rock" (a version of "Ol' Man River), Hollywood greats. The music swings across the spectrum from the classically tinged "Please Survive" to the almost poppy "Pretty Baby," encompassing the deep dub of "Point Blank" and "Pablo in Dub" to the jaunty "Too Late." All told, it's a masterful set of mood music, all featuring that winsome little melodica.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene