Bob Marley & the Wailers

Small Axe

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
Countryman 1982
Various Artists
Mango 2:40
Celebration: 25 Years of Trojan Records 1992
Various Artists
Trojan 3:58
Dreamland 1998 Cleopatra 3:58
Wisdom 1998 Recall (UK) 3:59
Very Best of the Early Years: 1968-1974 2000 Music Club International Records 3:58
The Complete UK Upsetter Singles Collection, Vol. 3 2000
Various Artists
Sanctuary 4:00
The Best of the Early Years 2001 Sanctuary 3:55
Trenchtown Rock: The Anthology 1969-78 2002 Sanctuary / Trojan 3:55
The Complete Upsetter Singles: 1970-1972 Plus Dubs 2002 Purple Pyramid / Cleopatra 3:56
Anthology: 1968-78 2002 Culture Press 3:56
Babylon by Bus/Catch a Fire/Burnin' 2003 Universal Distribution 4:02
Feel Alright 2004 Universal Distribution 4:02
Original Cuts 2004 Hip-O / Jad 4:01
Classic Bob Marley & the Wailers 2005 Spectrum Music 4:02
The Essential Bob Marley and the Wailers 2005 Trojan / Sanctuary 3:55
I Am the Upsetter: The Story of Lee "Scratch" Perry: Golden Years 2005 Trojan / Sanctuary 3:54
Keep On Skanking 2005 Pazzazz 0:00
Gold: 1967-1972 2005 Island 3:59
Africa Unite: The Singles Collection 2005 Universal 0:00
Trilogy [Music Brokers] 2006 Music Brokers 3:41
The Upsetter Selection: A Lee Perry Jukebox 2007 Sanctuary / Trojan 3:51
100 Huge Hits of Reggae 2007
Various Artists
Sanctuary 3:51
Roots, Rock, Remixed 2007 Rock River Records / Tuff Gong 4:49
Best of the Early Singles 2007 Cleopatra 3:58
B Is for Bob 2009 Island / Tuff Gong 4:23
Reggae Chartbusters, Vol. 3 2009
Various Artists
Sanctuary / Trojan 3:54
Reggae with Soul: Roots of Bob Marley & the Wailers 2010 Music Club Deluxe 3:42
Roots of a Legend 2011 Fontana / Sanctuary / Sanctuary Fontana 3:54
Classic Reggae: The Soundtrack to Jamaica 2011
Various Artists
Trojan 3:55
Marley [The Original Soundtrack] 2012 Island Def Jam Music Group 4:00
Lively Up Yourself: Roots of a Revolution 1967-1971 2017 Wewantsounds 3:54
Crucial Reggae: Bob Marley & The Wailers Fontana / Sanctuary / Sanctuary Fontana / Sanctuary Records 3:55
Kings of Reggae [Box]
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 3:56
No Image Spectrum Music