More Axe 4
The year 2009 marked the long overdue return of Ray Hurford as a writer and publisher of books which not only contain useful information for the reggae fan, but also are a real pleasure to read. Starting off in 1987, Ray Hurford — mostly in association with the late Finnish publisher and writer Tero Kaski — has issued several acclaimed reggae books including “The Small Axe Guide” series with handy guides for “The Singers”, “The Deejays”, “Dub”, “Rock Steady”, “Reggae 68-70”, “Roots 71-75” and “Rockers Part 1”, and the “More Axe” series, which consists of the volumes 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, and 9. The “More Axe” series is intended to publish articles and interviews that were published in almost impossible to get original Small Axe reggae fanzines 1-28 in book form.
It all started almost on 29th September 1978 when Ray Hurford put out the first issue of the Small Axe reggae fanzine, 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. In 2011 he published Beth Lesser’s “The Legend Of Sugar Minott & Youth Promotion”, a truly esssential book that shouldn’t be ignored by any self-respecting reggae fan.
From the very first start it was Ray Hurford’s intention to publish articles and interviews already known from the reggae fanzine in the More Axe” Volumes 1-6, while the Volumes 7, 8 and 9 would contain new material due for publication but never printed. It explains the jump from “More Axe 1” to “More Axe 7”, and also why this “More Axe 4” is the sixth published book in the series. “More Axe 4” concentrates on artists and producers who played an important role in the Dance Hall era of the late 70s/early 80s. As Ray Hurford states in the book’s foreword… “The Dance Hall style didn’t start in 1979, but when it got to that year, it changed Reggae music forever. This time the emphasis was on the power of the bassline. The challenge for the singers, deejays and producers in this book was the find great basslines that the new singers and deejays could sing or deejay over.”
Who was the first Dance Hall singer? Sugar Minott or Barrington Levy? The first chapter in “More Axe 4” is dedicated to the late great Sugar Minott, but there’s also a real nice and interesting Barrington Levy article/interview featured in this book. When talking about the early days of Barrington Levy, it’s obvious you need to mention producers such as Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes, Jah Life and Jah Screw. Interviews with the latter two are also included in the book. Other singers who played a notable role in Dance Hall music were Michael Prophet and Edi Fitzroy. Both artists, also included here, proved that the link between Roots & Culture and Dance Hall was real. And, of course, you can’t leave out the deejays, so interviews with I Roy and Ranking Joe are included as well. Last but not least there’s an interview with Mikey Dread, the man who changed Reggae radio forever and turned his great talent to producing and being an artist himself. All in all “More Axe 4” is a must-have for anyone interested in what was going on in the early Dance Hall days.