Album review
A Portion Of Version
Small Axe People
Small Axe People
June 09, 2004

Tracking list

  1. Laws Of Night
  2. Outernational 1
  3. Targetting
  4. X Marks The Spot
  5. Stretch
  6. Banana Walk
  7. Coco Pop A Bop
  8. Snikt
  9. Red Mystic
  10. Ital Gumbo
  11. #1 North Parade
  12. Trustbuster
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Lead Instruments : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 3

After the reviews in 2001 of the first Small Axe People album "Original Version" and one of its successors, the 2003 release "Once Upon A Version" by Teacher & Mr.T this times the honour is mine to review "A Portion Of Version", the latest release by The Small Axe People, the brainchild of Ray Hurford, editor, owner and writer of 'Small Axe', the reggaezine that has become an institution over the years, first on paper and later on the internet. As pointed out in the earlier mentioned reviews of "Original Version" and "Once Upon A Version", the whole concept, around which this now acclaimed series of version albums has been built, is based on the "Pop A Top" version Andy Capp a.k.a. Lynford Anderson cut of Derrick Morgan's recut of "Fat Man". And then not taken to just versioning a riddim, but to versioning the version again, and again again. With the minimal changes in instrumentation over the whole of the album, all in all 12 tracks, the concept seems to owe as much to minimal music pioneers like Philip Glass et alibus, and probably closer to reggae music but just as minimalistic and 'obsessed' by repetition, the techno-dub of Rhyhthm & Sound, the sound recently covered on this site in depth in the 'Jamaican hallucinations in stripped-down slowmotion'-article. Because of the meditative character of the non-dub instrumentals, another name coming to mind (of course hard to avoid when running into the tracks where a melodica is used as the melody-instrument, but much more invoked for me by the mood of the tunes) is Augustus Pablo. From the rather classic sound "Laws Of Night" that has a bells-like accent every fourth of the bar, and might have 'Laws' in its title as a reference to Andy Capp's follow-up to "Pop A Top", simply called "The Law". Bar-long organ chords over a more percussive version of the riddim give a bluish feel to "Outernational 1", before a piano intro and some piano themes yet another more classic one droppish version called "Targetting". A prime example of a little more dubbed up Augustus Pablo-like melodica version is given in "X Marks The Spot", before an almost jazzy piano chord version with uptempo feel follows titled "Stretch". The next tune is a bit more experimental, but its title also reminds me of the tradition, named after one of the alltime classic Studio One dub-instrumentals "Banana Walk", as is a tune which name is referring to the original inspiration "Coco Pop A Bop", a tune bringing back the feel of the first synthesizer experryments in Lee 'Scratch' Perry productions in the earliest 70s. I've been thinking about the title of the tune following "Snikt" for about an hour now, in Dutch it means 'sobs' but I am curious what inspired it here, the tune itself is another more experimental sounding tune, but very pleasant when you let it take over. "Red Mystic" has a roots with synthesizers feel that I'm not too fond of, it has a crossover feel that I dislike, but it is the only weaker version on this album, and it is immediately followed by an absolutely excellent version with blues/boogie piano thrillers that had my own fingers itch to play again. Brilliance over a rather far deconstructed version of the riddim in "Ital Gumbo" leading into a much busier yet still relaxed version named after one of the to reggae-lovers worldwide familiar sounding Kingston "#1 North Parade". "Trustbuster" proves you don't need voicings or lyrics to keep the tension on a one-riddim-album, as this rocksteady influenced version closes an excellent set of versions: "A Portion Of Version" is an album that needs to be heard (and praised) by anyone not shying away from the 'stripped down' side of Jamaican music. To hear it you can click on the buy link below.

Souljah          Buy the CD