The Small Axe Guide To Dancehall 1979-1985

by Sep 6, 2016Reviews, Writings

The Small Axe Guide To Dancehall 1979-1985


Author: Ray Hurford
Publisher:  Muzik Tree / I Am The Gorgon
Published: September 2016
Book: Paperback / 240 pages

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Henry Junjo Lawes

Jamaican Dancehall era (1979-1985)

Hot on the heels of “The Small Axe Guide To Instumentalists”, Ray Hurford comes up with the next handy guide in his worthwhile “Small Axe Guide” series of books. After having focused on notable eras in the history of Jamaica’s popular music like “Rock Steady”, “Reggae 68-70”, “Dub”, “Roots 71-75”, and “Rockers (Part 1)”, it’s now the pre-digital Jamaican Dancehall era (1979-1985) that Ray Hurford has put under the spotlight. And just like the previous “Small Axe Guides”, he tells the story of that era through reviews of the album releases of the time. Of course, not each and every album that has been put out during that era is included in the book. It’s obvious that it’s a ‘mission possible’ to cover everything, and that’s why it’s rightly called “Guide”.

This is what Ray Hurford says at the back of the book’s jacket :

“The Dancehall era came in late 1978 – it was marked by the release of Barrington Levy’s “Bounty Hunter” LP, produced by Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes and ah life. Not only was the sound new, the band was new – The Roots Radics. So you had an unknown singer, an unknown producer/s, an unknown band and a new sound.

‘Changing the beat’ is the dream of most producers. Lee Perry did it with “People Funny Boy”, although that is now in dispute! Bunny Lee did it with Eric Donaldson’s “Cherry Oh Baby” and then did it again with Johnny Clarke and “Move Out Of Babylon”. Channel One did it with Mighty Diamonds and “Right Time”…”

Massive Overview

This massive 240-page A5 book features reviews of music from singers, deejays, bands, vocal groups and producers, with accompanying photos and graphics. Included are about 170 selected albums from well known artists such as Barrington Levy, Barry Brown, Triston Palmer, Tony Tuff, Yellowman, Jah Thomas, Gregory Isaacs, and many more. But, as was the case with the previous guides, Ray Hurford introduces lesser known artists to the reader. And thus there are writings about people such as A. Doeman, Bunny Lion, Osbert Madoo, Mikey ‘Pip’ Chin, Lady Ann, Lion Youth and Militant Barry. Just like all the other guides in the series, “The Small Axe Guide To Dancehall 1979-1985” should be given a place on the bookshelf of any self-respecting reggae fan.

All the books put out by Ray Hurford are a labour of love and the costs — when you purchase one directly from Ray Hurford — are kept extremely low in order to give as many people as possible the opportunity to get a copy.