Augustus Pablo, The spiritual father
He was responsible for the (short-lived) melodica craze in the jamaican music industry in the mid 70s, and remained the sole true specialist of this instrument in the reggae field. He also played clavinet, xylophone and piano with great melodic results (check out Marabi, a clavinet tune for exemple)
Discography … full of overlapping compilations & bogus releasse ..also don’t forget Jamaican music market was structured around Singles releases.. most of Pablo’s official album are in fact singles compilation.
—–— The Early Years 1971-74 ——
He played the HOHNER PIANO 26 from the begining (1971) through the whole 70s decade. His distinctive sound is closely linked to this instrument. It seems there’s no reggae melodica record predating the first Pablo recording. i would be curious to hear melodica in older jamaican style such as rocksteady or ska.
Typical early sound : Sahara Rock (74)
Acoustic playing (melodica from 3’42)
This is certainly my favorite period from him. Focus is put on raw groove, great simple & uplifting melody with little echo/dub effect.
Compilation Skanking with Pablo perfectly showcases this early vibe and how melodica can make wonders. I know several people not too fond about reggae who litteraly fell in love with that release.
—– The deep roots years 1975-79—–
Another favorite period of mine. Augustus Pablo style gradually shifted in heavy dub realm. Mood is quite different .. slow, heavy, full of echoes, especially for tunes issued from his collaboration with Lee Perry and his famous Black Ark studio. Reggae roots at his best ! During these years, he launched his own-label « Rockers » and became a producer with great success.
Typical deep roots sound : Black Ants Lane (77)
Photos and LP sleeves seems to indicate that Pablo was still using his Hohner 26 (see here). Sound was less distinctive and recognisable as the overal sound treatment was pretty heavy.
—— Mystical Years 1980-99 —-
The 80/90 decades were definitely not the best for Augustus Pablo, especially as his health problems worsened. The sound gradually ventured into more lightweight melody and digital sound with often an overall pretty bland result (feel free to disagree in the comments). You can still find some nice bits of melody here and here, his last album, released just before his death (Valley Of Jehosaphat, 1999) showed a return in better form.
According to LP sleeves, it seems he gave up his Hohner26 for another model (see photo here after .. Hohner36?). Maybe that could also partially explain the overall sound change in his recordings. I would be curious to hear these melodies with raw Hohner 26 recording.
Typical 80s sound : Pipers of Zion (86)
Typical 90s digital sound : Armagiddeon Dub (90)
He was also seen with another model during an ‘86 Japan live appearance (Suzuki M37 maybe?). Seems pretty occasional.