The Small Axe Guide To Rock Steady

by Aug 1, 2009Reviews, Writings

The Small Axe Guide To Rock Steady


Writer: Chuck Foster
Publisher:  Muzik Tree / I Am The Gorgon
Published: August 2009
Book: Paperback / 150 pages
ISBN: 978-91-633-5007-8

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Alton Ellis

In the spring of 2009 “The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide – Deejays” was issued by Ray Hurford and to his surprise its first printing instantly sold out. A second printing was done and almost the same happened again. At this moment “The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide – Deejays” is still available, but quantities are limited.

For those who’ve never heard of Ray Hurford here’s a brief overview of the man’s works. From the late 1970s up till now, he has been responsible for some great contributions to the writings about reggae music. It all started almost 31 years ago when he put out the first issue of the Small Axe reggae fanzine on 29th September 1978, which featured big names like Augustus Pablo and Gregory Isaacs. From then until September/October 1989, when the last edition of Small Axe was released, he issued 27 volumes of the magazine.

After a hiatus of some ten years the Small Axe magazine was revived, but with the internet becoming a major medium to reach out to the masses it was obvious that Ray Hurford would put a stop to issueing the paper magazine once he had set up his own Small Axe website. Besides the Small Axe reggae fanzine Ray Hurford was also the man behind 20 issues of the Small Axe Files (1991-1992), which focused on one artist or aspect of reggae in every issue, and such acclaimed books like “More Axe”, “More Axe 7”, “More Axe 8”, “Rhythm Wise”, “The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide – Singers”, and most recently “The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide – Deejays”. Furthermore he has released twelve cd’s including his brand new “Skank It Up” album under his moniker Small Axe People on his own Small Axe People imprint.

And now, only a couple of months after the acclaimed “The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide – Deejays” was published, Ray Hurford issues a next book worth of purchasing: “The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide To Rock Steady”, written by Chuck Foster. The latter hosts radio’s Reggae Central on KPFK in Los Angeles, playing Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae, Dub, and Roots Music old and new. His collection of rare singles and vinyl albums consists of hundreds of artists and styles. Chuck Foster has written a column for the The Beat magazine called “Reggae Update” for over twenty years and is the author of “Roots, Rock, Reggae: An Oral History of Reggae Music From Ska To Dancehall”. Furthermore he has served the Screening Comittee for the Reggae Grammy for the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Chuck Foster starts off the book with an overview of Rock Steady, before he provides information about the producers and players of instruments who shaped that brief, but highly acclaimed era in Jamaica’s musical history. Along come people like Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd, Joe Gibbs, and Derrick Harriott as well as Lyndon Pottinger, Ken Lack, The Khouri Brothers, Lynn Tait, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, and Bobby Aitken. And, of course, he also focuses on artists such as Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, Leroy Sibbles, Keith Poppin, John Holt, The Melodians, The Heptones, The Tennors, and many many more, including lesser known names like e.g. Austin Faithful, The Federals, Johnny & The Attractions. The last third of the book contains reviews of rock steady albums, both from artists and compilations.

“The Small Axe Reggae Album Guide – Producers” and a book with interviews as a tribute to his late friend Colin “The Fencebeater” Moore are Ray Hurford’s next books to watch for, but in the meantime make sure you get this “Guide To Rock Steady”, because history has learned that when the books are gone, they’re gone!!