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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Various Artists

By Judson Kilpatrick
Published December 15, 2006

Strictly The Best 33
VPCD 1739
Strictly The Best 34
VPCD 1740

Fifteen years along, this series remains one of the best ways to collect recent reggae hits, especially now that they’ve returned to the practice of dedicating one volume (33) to hardcore dancehall deejays and another (34) to lover’s rock and conscious reggae. On 33, Elephant Man adopts Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” for a lively tribute to the enormously influential dancer Bogle. Bounty Killer and Wayne Smith resurrect the rolling Sleng Teng rhythm, while Turbulence’s “Notorious” is more low-key. Lef Side and Esco celebrate belly shirts, admonishing those who shouldn’t be wearing them to “Tuck In U Belly.” Buju Banton tears up the mic over the same rhythm on “Me Too Bad” and then teams up with Anthony Cruz for “Too Bloody,” a roots-rocking plea for an end to violence (Assassin’s “God Nah Sleep” also has a classic sound). There are supercharged party songs like Voice Mail’s “Get Up,” Busy Signal’s “Not Going Down” (same rhythm) and Soltex’s “Move Your Body (Megamix),” but Lexxus and Mr. Vegas’ “Taxi Fare” will really get people on the floor. On 34, I Wayne’s anti-abortion hit “Don’t Worry” benefits from the lilting melody of Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain” while Anthony Cruz brings back the classic Real Rock rhythm for “Inna Dance” (a.k.a. “We Nuh Wah No Gun A Dance”). Gyptian’s heartfelt “Serious Times” features nyabinghi drums, but for a seriously old-school sound, check out Roger Robin’s “Take It Slow.” Former prisoner Jah Cure strikes a somber mood with his autobiographical “True Reflection,” Norris Man works the lover’s-rock mood with “Home And Away,” and Junior Kelly really emotes on “Receive.” Two notable duets, Turbulence and Sasha’s “We’ve Got The Love” and Beres Hammond and Marcia Griffiths’ “Focusing Time,” plus Morgan Heritage’s lovely “Come Home” and Freddie McGregor’s swinging “Lock It Up,” help make this collection especially solid.