Strictly the Best Vol. 36
VP Records
November 29, 2006

Gyptian - Strictly the Best, Vol. 36 Track list
  1. Always On My Mind - Da'Ville
  2. Beautiful Lady - Gyptian
  3. Brown Skin - Richie Spice
  4. Real Thing - Bitty McLean
  5. Love & Affection - Wayne Wonder
  6. Do You Know - Mr. Vegas
  7. Deeper - Alaine
  8. Love You Right - Morgan Heritage
  9. What Will It Take - Jah Cure
  10. Old Skool Love (Remix) - Divine Brown
  11. Coming Over - Chuck Fender & Cherine
  12. Memories By the Score - Voicemail
  13. Stay With You - Tarrus Riley
  14. Good Love - Cherine
  15. For Life - Roger Robin
  16. Wrong Address - Etana
  17. Life Seeds - I Wayne
  18. I Know - Della Manley & Mutabaruka
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Another year has passed and it is Christmas time again. That also means that it is time for another installment in VP's holiday season reggae music compilation series - Strictly The Best. STB is the longest running and most well established compilation series that contains the big and breakout hits of the year. Recently the STB series was split into two, allowing us one disc totally dedicated to roots reggae music and another all about dancehall.

STB Volume 36 is the lover's rock and roots reggae offering, giving us (when partnered with its fellow STB release, another) eighteen top tracks of the year. The compilation features a mix-up of performers, including seasoned veterans like Morgan Heritage and Mr. Vegas to young guns such as Richie Spice, Gyptian and Jah Cure. The album offers plenty of quality tunes and listeners should find that there is something to suit all tastes. The sampler opens with the smooth vocals of Da'Ville on his much acclaimed love tune "Always On My Mind", which spent 3 weeks at the number spot (and rightfully so). Next up, Gyptian (who just last year was the latest 'young lion' on the scene) has quickly made a name for himself. He follows up his excellent STB Vol. 34 debut "Serious Times" with another strong tune; the infectious "Beautiful Lady" (my personal favourite on this disc). Richie Spice has been a constant name on VP's STB series in recent years and he earns his place again here with the brilliant "Brown Skin" over Don Corleon's well built "Heavenly"-riddim. Bitty McLean rides a Sly & Robbie riddim (made famous by Dennis Brown in 1985) well on the 'old skool' vibe of "Real Thing". The 'Purple Skunk' imprint had a big hit this year with the noteworthy "Istanbul"-riddim, and it shows here on STB as it is represented twice with hits from Wayne Wonder, "Love & Affection" and Jah Cure, "What Will It Take". The latter of those two tunes has spent almost the entire year in my CD player.

Mr. Vegas puts on his singer's hat as he jumps from STB Vol. 35 to 36 and he delivers the smooth "Do You Know". Next up, Alaine (who has been excellent again in 2006 and has my vote for female performer of the year) delivers the excellent lover's tune "Deeper", I can't stress enough the brilliance of this tune, definitely one for the lovers. Morgan Heritage offer us the slick US influenced production sound of "Love You Right", a tune with definite cross-over potential. "Old Skool Love" is a remixed version of Divine Brown's tune from earlier this year, and though good; it does not reach the levels set by Alaine just a few tunes before. Chuck Fender joins forces with Cherine for a soon to be big hit over Christopher Birch's wicked "Ghetto Blues"-riddim; with the sultry "Coming Over". Voicemail deliver the well sung Danny Champagne produced tune "Memories By the Score" followed by Tarrus Riley on the Reggae cover version of US Soul singer John Legend's "Stay With You". Riley's version is very much worth a listen as it is in no way a sloppy cover. After her combination with Chuck, Cherine decides to go it alone on the excellent "Good Love", this song fits in perfectly following on from Tarrus, as the vibe is so similar (a good choice). Roger Robin, who I only seem to hear from on these VP compilations (despite his well crafted "Take It Slow" album) serves us up another decent tune this year with the relaxed vibe of "For Life". "Wrong Address" is one of two tunes that Etana dropped on 5th Element's "Righteous Youth"-riddim back in 2005, and VP has finally taken notice and given her a well deserved place on their compilation. The penultimate tune on this disc is (as I type) sitting atop the Jamaican Top Twenty; I-Wayne's "Life Seeds" is another one of his strong combinations with the Loyal Soldiers outfit that shows no sign of slowing. Closing the disc is the mellow "I Know", which features Della Manley alongside Mutabaruka. It's good to see Mutabaruka making a return to the business in such a strong fashion, and another good choice by VP.

So to sum it all up, VP have rectified all that was wrong with last years 'singers' edition of STB and this time they have come with a great selection that makes complete sense. We are offered hit after hit (as promised) with the highlights coming from Gyptian, Alaine, Da'Ville, Richie Spice, Jah Cure and I-Wayne. This can be seen as VP's Christmas present to lovers of roots reggae music.