Bob Marley / Bob Marley & the Wailers / The Wailers

Small Axe

Composed by Bob Marley

Song Review by

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.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Burnin' 1973 Tuff Gong 4:00
African Herbsman 1973 Silverline Records
Reggae Greats 1989 Mango 3:59
Songs of Freedom 1992 Island / Island/Def Jam / Universal / Universal Music 3:55
Natural Mystic: The Legend Lives On 1995 Castle Pulse / Sanctuary Fontana / Sanctuary Records 3:54
Hot Hot Reggae 1995 Madacy 3:45
Bob Marley and the Wailers [Platinum Disc 3 CD] 1999 Platinum Disc 3:47
Trench Town Rock [Box Set] 2001 Snapper / Charly Records 3:56
Sun Is Shining [Town Sound] 2002 Park South Records / Town Sound 3:44
The Wailers 2002 Fruit Tree 3:56
Bob Marley and the Wailers, Vol. 2 [Platinum 2003] 2003 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 3:49
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Bob Marley & The Wailers (The Jad Years) 2004 Hip-O/Jad / Universal / Universal Distribution / Universal Music 4:02
This Is Crucial Reggae: Bob Marley and the Wailers 2004 Sanctuary 3:56
Roots of a Legend [CD & DVD] 2004 Trojan / Sanctuary 3:55
This Is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975 2004
Various Artists
Trojan / Sanctuary 3:55
Reggae Chartbusters, Vol. 3 2009
Various Artists
Sanctuary / Trojan 3:54
blue highlight denotes editor's pick