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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Various Artists

By Matt Cibula
Published March 30, 2007

Reggae Gold 2006
Soca Gold 2006

VP Records

Listening to these two compilations of recent tropical dance music is like reading a celebrity lifestyle magazine: everything is very current and colorful and lively, but one has to search hard for anything crucial. That’s okay on Reggae Gold 2006, because it is dominated by dancehall tunes that are just trying to move butts in a rhythmic manner, and most of them get the job done in high style. Ding Dong’s “Badman Forward Badman Pullup” is minimalist boogie, offering just a few sounds at any time and the chanting of the title and very little else, and “Ring Ding Ding” by L.O.C. sports frog noises, motorcycle impressions, and the most adorably annoying chorus heard in many a year. The disc’s traditional reggae songs are confined to its last few tracks, but luckily this ghetto contains the best song of the year in any genre: Tanya Stephens’ “These Streets,” a deceptively soft folksong in which she mourns the loss of a relationship to thugsterism. There are no divisions on Soca Gold 2006, which just chugs along from track to hyper-caffeinated track. These songs sparkle the way soca music is supposed to, all blaring horns and bubbling drums and call-and-response chants—there’s no way to remain sad about the state of the world during Iwer George’s “We Reach” or “Ting 4 D Road” by Mista Vibe. Things slow down exactly once, during KMC’s intriguing love jam “Soul On Fire,” but most listeners will prefer to enjoy the hot stepping anthem of “Warriors Coming,” which was the anthem of the Trinidad and Tobago World Cup team, and is the second-best song of the year. Nice to have extra DVDs with videos and dance instructions, but VP undercuts itself with the wannabe soft-porn “photo shoots,” which are sexist, condescending, and not even remotely sexy.