Strictly The Best Vol. 40
VP Records
November 24, 2009

Maikal X - Strictly the Best, Vol. 40 Track list
  1. Can't Be My Lover (Curtis Lynch Remix) - John Legend feat. Buju Banton
  2. No Goodbye - Beres Hammond
  3. Fall In Love (Rub A Dub Mix) - Bitty McLean
  4. So In Love- Hezron
  5. Lucky Man - Courtney John
  6. Lioness On The Rise - Queen Ifrica
  7. Heaven In Your Eyes - Gappy Ranks
  8. All In The Name Of Love - Sherieta
  9. One More Night - Busy Signal
  10. Heart Broken - Etana
  11. The Best In You - Maikal X
  12. Me & You - Million Stylez
  13. Since I've Been Loving You - Fiona
  14. Good Life - Chuckle Berry
  15. Under My Skin - Red Roze
  16. Baby Girl I'm Alone - Jah Vinci
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Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Every year, just in time for the festive season, VP Records used to release their "Strictly The Best" albums, two volumes, to 'compete' with Greensleeves Records' "The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems" and "The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems" for the reggae massive's attention. But, when VP Records decided not be it's own (i.e. Greensleeves) biggest competitor last year, there was no "Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems" and just one sole volume of "Strictly The Best" squeezing the formerly separately released dancehall and roots editions to one disc. And it couldn't have been for an unsuccessful year in 2008 as far as I'm concerned, but luckily, this year saw the return of not just Greensleeves Records' "The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems" but also "The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems" and now there's two different volumes of "Strictly The Best" again with the first one (Volume 40!) being the singers edition and I believe (given the overall quality of all four releases) that it's a very good thing we're back to the full treatment.

The album kicks off with the fabulous "Can't Be My Lover (Curtis Lynch Remix) of the legendary 'Baltimore'-riddim backing the massive Black Chiney produced combination by US R&B superstar John Legend with (and I won't go into his personal situation here) the DJ Buju Banton, followed by brilliant Jamaican veteran singer Hugh Beres(ford) Hammond with the magnificent "No Goodbye" from 2008's "A Moment In Time" across the Heptones' 'Sea Of Love'-riddim and strangely enough Bitty McLean's "To Fall In Love (Rub A Dub Mix)" is a take on one of the biggest classic lovers riddims ever, Joy Landis' 1968 'Moonlight Lover', but taken from 2004's instant classic on Peckings "On Bond Street" instead of from his almost as impressive 2009 Sly & Robbie produced album "Movin' On" and extremely promising (once again after several years in the US) Jamaican nu-soul-influenced newcomer Hezron Clarke with the superb "So In Love" produced by Bobby 'Digital B' Dixon.

The other two productions from London's Peckings crew are far more recent, taken from their latest compilation "Old Skool Young Blood Vol. 2" with Courtney 'Yogie' John riding the Paragons' 'Worried Man'-riddim to full effect for his "Lucky Man" and one of the few tunes to appear (fully justified!) on both one of the Greensleeves and one of the VP Records releases, UK DJ turned singer Gappy Ranks delivering his current superhit "Heaven In Your Eyes" over the Peckings produced relick of Bob Marley & The Wailers' 'Soul Rebel' laid by Mafia & Fluxy and in between it's Queen Ifrica's massive "Lioness On The Rise" (penned by her tutor Tony Rebel alongside Don Corleon songbird Alaine) across Penthouse Records' scorching 'Automatic'-riddim. Newcomer Sherieta Lewis contributes the great "All In The Name Of Love" produced by the big bad saxophone player and producer with a nose for talent Dean 'Cannon' Fraser.

Not one of the most profilic, though he released many tunes (but it's Jamaican dancehall ...), but certainly one of the most entertaining DJs of 2009 has been Busy Signal who has shown extreme versatility in styles and riddims he appeared on and this is probably shown best by the inclusion here of his take on Phil Collins' chartbuster from 1985, turned into a veritable sung by a DJ tune "One More Night" wickedly produced by Top Notch Muzik's Carlington 'Karl' Morrison and his brother Clayton and then Etana as always impresses with her heartfelt "Broken Heart" across Delroy Wilson's in 1978 for Gussie Clarke recorded 'Worth Your Weigth In Gold'-riddim here revived by Curtis Lynch Jr. for his Necessary Mayhem Records followed by our own extremely talented Maikal X with the tune that propelled him to his now prominent position in the international dancehalls "Best In You", produced by Rock'n'Vibes own Berteaut 'Mr. Rude' Fleming.

Also representing Europe is Sweden's Million Stylez with his very nice "Me & You" across the wonderful 'Sugar'-riddim for France's Bost & Bim owned Special Delivery and then Florida's Fiona like she always does excels with a smooth lovers tune "Since I've Been Loving You" produced by one of her regular producers (and Joe Fraser Records engineer) Jason Sterling for his Jasfar Records. Early 1990's veteran Chuckle Berry slowly returned to music 4 years ago, but completed his full comeback in 2009, with especially this "Good Life", that I do like enormously yet his delivery may not be everybody's taste as he sounds like an over the top Shaggy, across Sly & Robbie's relick of their own 1980 Junior Delgado production of the 'Merry Go Round'-riddim, that also backs veteran Anthony Red Rose's old school lovesong "Under My Skin". One of the new kids on the block closes this very satisfying 2009 compilation, as Portmore Empire's Jah Vinci that he's not just a great singer, but a great singer of heartfelt lovers as well with "Baby Girl I'm Alone". Truly a compilation that you must buy to know what happened in the reggae world in 2009!