Jamaica's music industry had taken some peculiar turns during its brief existence. Initially two producers, Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid had virtually controlled the recording industry, until others muscled their way in during the early Sixties. However, even as ever more producers were entering the fold, the major studio and manufacturing facilities still resided in a mere three hands, a triumvir that kept a strangle hold on the industry.
Lee Perry was growing ever more aggravated by this situation, what he needed he thought to himself was a small axe to bring down these big three. And thus was born "Small Axe". Set to a rumbling rhythm, led by Jackie Jackson's pumping bass line and sharpened by the slicing keyboard riff, Bob Marley delivers up the aggrieved and belligerent lyrics, with the other Wailers sweetly cutting down the big trees in harmony.
The Wailers recut the number for their Burning album in 1973, and in truth there's little to choose between the two versions, the later one boasting a slightly perkier rhythm.