Augustus Pablo – Valley of Jehosaphat (1999)

“This may be tantamount to sacrilege in roots reggae circles, but really, don’t Augustus Pablo’s albums all pretty much sound alike? There’s no denying his historical importance as a musician and producer for bringing in the melodica and popularizing, if not introducing, dub techniques into the music. Certainly King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown and probably East of the River Nile belong in any serious reggae collection for their crucial musical innovations in mid- and late-’70s Jamaican music. But the fact is, you know what you’re going to get on any Pablo disc — melodica instrumentals with a basic backing band, some dub touches — and there’s only so much mileage you can get out of that combination. There are some different twists on Valley of Jehosaphat, like the dischords Pablo throws into his soloing on ‘Lymphatic Time’ or the blend of British and Jamaican veterans backing him. So is the vibes/celeste sound beneath the melodica and the forceful rhythm of ‘Kushites’ and ‘Kushites Dub,’ which are pretty hard to tell apart — you know, what exactly is the difference between a regular Pablo track and its dub? — except the vibes/celesta sound rings through a bit more clearly on the latter. Now, ‘Chalawa’ combines a jaunty, dubbed-out rhythm with mournful melody and a few uncharacteristic swooshes. It sounds like a programmed backing track, but it’s a very good, interesting song that transcends the usual Pablo-ness. But mostly you note which tracks have a stronger nyabinghi feel (‘Sky Gazer,’ ‘Ethiopian Binghi Drums’), bass (the title track), or bass keyboard (‘Internal Struggle’) foundation, or are unusually skanking (‘Omega Africa’) or softer and gentler (‘Sleeping Chariots,’ ‘Jah Express’) within the general framework of Pablo-ness. That’s not to denigrate the craft and effort Pablo and his musicians undoubtedly put into the music on his releases, but it’s really just nicely grooving reggae background music when you get down to it. That also means Valley of Jehosaphat, quite probably the last disc of fresh music Pablo recorded, is both nothing special and perfectly representative of the latter phase of the late melodica man’s career.”

YouTube: Valley of Jehosaphat [full album]
00:00 – 1 – Kushites 03:54 – 2 – Kushites Dub 07:55 – 3 – Valley Of Jehosaphat 16:37 – 5 – Sky Gazer 20:52 – 6 – Foggy Mountain 24:34 – 7 – Chalawa 28:25 – 8 – 3rd Generation 32:08 – 9 – Omega Africa 36:07 – 10 – International Struggle 39:47 – 11 – Sea Shell Dub 43:29 – 12 – Burning Drums 47:00 – 13 – Sleeping Chariots 51:41 – 14 – Ethiopian Binghi Drums 55:36 – 15 – Lymphatic Time


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