Augustus Pablo was one of reggae’s giants, and Original Rockers, a collection of singles released between 1972-1975 is of one of his greatest hours. Now the record has more than doubled in size (from its original 10 tracks to 23), and the increase hasn’t diluted its charm in the slightest. Recorded at Channel One and Dynamic Sound in Kingston, and mixed by King Tubby, Pablo’s hypnotic dub still mesmerizes.
Starting with a flurry of drums on “Rockers Dub”, this is vital reggae, formed around Pablo’s keyboards, and his signature instrument, the melodica, (the breath-driven keyboard recently made popular by Jon Batiste). The musicians read like a who’s who of Jamaican music- drummer Carlton Barret (Lee Perry’s Upsettlers, The Wailers), Robbie Shakespeare, Earl “Chinna” Smith from the Wailers, Bobby Ellis on trumpet, and the legendary Dillinger on vocals. These musicians played on nearly every noteworthy Kingston single, and the groove they created is both vibrant and deep, formed by years of playing together. The music of this era of reggae drew at times from the sounds coming from America and England, such as using the melody of Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” for the basis of “Thunder Clap” or “Love Don’t Come Easy”‘ use of “Mama Said”.
This is relentlessly laid-back music, and despite a sign on Channel One’s wall stating “No Ganga Allowed Inside”, this is music of the herb (the cover features a very stoned Pablo with a giant pipe), and after spinning, a listener can’t be faulted for “feeling the sound” as they say. Original Rockers has been reissued many times, but this new version, featuring additional material from Leroy Sibbles, The Heptones and King Tubby, makes this the definitive version of the Augustus Pablo classic. I and I like.