Album review
Just Version
The Small Axe People & Dennis Alcapone
Small Axe People
March 21, 2005

Tracking list

  1. Hook Line And Sinker
  2. Dot The I
  3. Lick It Back
  4. Give To Get
  5. Great Is Great
  6. Live The Life You Love
  7. Spread Out And Scatter
  8. Crazy Like I Tell You
  9. Give Love A Try
  10. Put A Smile On Your Face
  11. Magnet And Steel
  12. Dig You Later
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4/5 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, and mine of 2004 release "Portion Of Version" this time the first 'vocal' album, a joint effort with legendary Studio One and Treasure Isle veteran DJ Dennis Alcapone "Just A Version" has been released as 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", "Once Upon A Version" and "Portion Of 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 those albums, 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 Rhythm & Sound, the sound recently covered on this site in depth in the 'Jamaican hallucinations in stripped-down slowmotion'-article. This album follows on the heels of Rhythm & Sound's superb "See Mi Yah" one-riddim-album, and here the concept has been reversed, there's no change of featured vocalist for each track, as Dennis Alcapone is featured on all 12, but is has the same gradual shift of moods for each of the tracks through using different mixes and riddims, with Dennis Alcapone merely used as intro-man and jive talker, thus emphasizing instead of dominating the riddim. From the piano-theme driven "Hook Line And Sinker, through the drum-roll driven, estranging guitar accents and more dubby relying on the bass mixed "Dot The I", digi-bass featuring "Lick It Back" from the top / to the very last drop, the prominent keyboard-chops and almost jazzy walking bass in "Give To Get", the Lee 'Scratch' Perry's soulish early 70s productions invoking "Great Is Great" with its piano-thrillers, the completely stripped-down "Live The Life You Love", and swinging "Spread Out And Scatter", the guitar accents from "Dot The I" coming back even more prominent and penetrating in "Crazy Like I Tell You", a dubbed up melodica dominated one drop backing "Give Love A Try", "Put A Smile On Your Face", the again early Lee 'Scratch' Perry reminiscent "Magnet And Steel" until the last tune of this album "Dig You Later" this is a very entertaining set. It's clear where the inspiration is coming from, but it's always as if it were a tribute, never as an epigone. Thus this album needs to be heard (and praised) by all Wackies, Rhythm & Sound and early Lee 'Scratch' Perry enthusiasts, and moreover anyone not shying away from the 'stripped down' side of Jamaican music. To hear it or buy it, visit cdbaby.com or musicghost.com

Souljah          Buy the CD