V Is For Version
The Small Axe People
The Small Axe People
May 16, 2006

Track list
  1. Trodding
  2. Invalidation
  3. Sidetrack
  4. Still Digging
  5. Pulse
  6. Bush Skank
  7. Jericho
  8. Congo Square
  9. Charly X
  10. Cappy
  11. Pablo's Letter
  12. Chenappa South Of Los Cruces
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Lead Instruments : 4/5 Backing : 4 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4/5 Sleeve : 4
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" and in 2005 of the first 'vocal' album, a joint effort with legendary Studio One and Treasure Isle veteran DJ Dennis Alcapone "Just Version" this "V Is For Version" is the latest release by The Small Axe People, the brainchild of the very amicable long time reggae and dub (and yes, even dancehall) aficionado 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 covered on this site in depth in the 'Jamaican hallucinations in stripped-down slowmotion'-article. It's clear where the inspiration is coming from, but it's always styled as a tribute, never as an epigone. Opening this album is the rather minimalistic, but by putting the riffs and keyboards motives over the stabbing keyboard riddim never losing one's attention "Trodding", followed by "Invalidation" that recalls memories of Augustus Pablo's Far East Sound, haunting, minor-key tunes with sparse lines for melody lines from either his trademark melodica (a harmonica with a keyboard) or keyboards floating above deep bass lines and echoing keyboards and "Sidetrack", a brilliant boogie-ish piano-lick over a heavy bass driven backing track that swings and grooves and makes you move. "Still Digging" is a nice variation on the approach in "Invalidation", followed by a version that brings back memories of the melodic keyboard riffs over heavy riddims that one of Jah Shaka's most brilliant dub albums ever, 1988's "Meets Aswad In Addis Ababa Studio", called "Pulse". "Bush Skank" is the most minimalistic tune, with just hints of broken keyboards chords and accents and melodica over a syncopated bass and snatches of percussion, intriguing for its full (though short) length. "Jericho" is minimalistic as well, with arpeggios dominating the synth layers accompanying its version of the riddim, followed by "Congo Square" on which a melancholic mood is invoked by a keyboard riff 'imitating' a wailing guitar and "Charly X", on which melodica snatches capture an even more melancholic mood that is reminiscent of the contemplative mood that Augustus Pablo could render. "Cappy" is more straightforward - though minimal and deconstructed - dub before "Pablo's Letter" takes us back to a more melodic version of opening track "Trodding" before this album is closed by "Chenappa South Of Los Cruces" on which the melody of Studio One's classic "Rockfort Rock" sipples through, for a very enjoyable version album, that certainly needs to be heard (and praised) by all Wackies, Rhythm & Sound, Augustus Pablo 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.