Album review
Original Version
The Small Axe People
The Small Axe People
04 - 11 - 2001

Tracking list

  1. Reality Check (Mixed By Mystic Red Corporation)
  2. Washington Gardens (Mixed By Mystic Red Corporation)
  3. Angels (Mixed By Mystic Red Corporation)
  4. Lost Time (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  5. Digital Justice (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  6. Pirates Choice (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  7. Pay It Forward (Mixed By Mystic Red Corporation)
  8. Vexnet (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  9. The Borders (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  10. Do Not Harm (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  11. Rocking Robots (Mixed By Small Axe People)
  12. Clobbering Time (Mixed By Small Axe People)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : - Backing : 3/4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 2

To understand to concept of The Small Axe People's debut CD "Original Version" one has to go back in time, and to be more specific, back to the year 1969. Then reggae music had finally gone international with the likes of Desmond Dekker, Jimmy Cliff and The Pioneers. Things were looking real good and loads of new producers were coming into music, one of them being Lynford Anderson. Anderson had established his name as the most gifted recording engineer ever to work in Jamaica as he engineered on loads of recording sessions including many for hit producer Leslie Kong. It was his interest in producing which kept pulling him back into that role. A cheap way into production was to buy a riddim track from another producer and work on it. Derrick Morgan had recut an old riddim and blues tune "Fat Man" for himself. This tune had been passed onto Lynford Anderson, probably in payment for some work.
What happened next was the release of "Pop A Top", a significant moment in the transition to early reggae and actually the main inspiration for The Small Axe People's "Original Version". That tune had a little bit of everything. Was the intro deejaying or rapping, or an early sample? And what was going on with the bass and drum? And then you had that organ riff !! Lynford Anderson had put so much delay and non-standard sounds on "Pop A Top" that it was truly wild... the concept of the "Version" had been born in reggae. Andy Capp as Lynford Anderson called himself followed "Pop A Top" with "The Law", another truly inspirational and excellent piece of work. After these first specimen of "Version" further efforts in the same vein followed with Dave & Ansel Collins' monster hit "Double Barrel" and its follow-up "Monkey Spanner" probably being the most successful. But reggae is always looking for something new, and it got it with the serious arrival of deejaying with U Roy, Dennis Alcapone and I Roy. A couple of years after that another engineer called King Tubby came up with another new concept "Dub". That sound was to go onto to influence all of popular music - right up to the present.
So whatever happened to "Version", that strange mixture of instrumental, deejaying and dub. Well people spoke of it from time to time, but nothing happened. So with nothing happening, The Small Axe People decided it was time to remind people of the concept of "Version" and released this 12-track CD. No deejaying, no dub - although it has a bit of echo and reverb - can be found on this set, but instead pure instrumentals. However, if you expect the kind of instrumentals that can be categorised as "easy listening music" you are totally wrong. This is complety different stuff. Every track more or less incorporates the same stripped down repetitive sound, however it's the sound of the organ and, of course, the organ riffs which make the difference. However, to be honest it isn't easy to get into the music featured on this CD. It requires patience, intensive and careful listening and also an open mind and ear to capture the sound, texture and feel of each track. Those who are not familiar with the aforementioned examples of "Version" will probably call it freaky, experimental music, but anyhow it is "Original Version"!

Teacher & Mr. T.

The cd is available from :
Majestic in the UK and Europe : majestic@freeuk.com
OuterNational Records in the USA : outa1@harbornet.com