Look at the calendar! November is almost upon us and 2012 is just as almost a memory, but we have one more timely matter of 'business' to conduct. A Lloyd Brown album??? No, the sweet singing UK veteran doesn't figure to return until 2013, thus missing his annual November appointment for the second year consecutively now, but someone, something, which is sure not to miss its slot is one of the most popular compilation series in the entire history of Reggae and Dancehall music, "Strictly The Best" from VP Records. While not as ostensibly popular as its 'cousin', "Reggae Gold", the most plentiful "StB" has really been a better and more consistent release throughout the years and has also found more of an audience, SLIGHTLY, amongst more hardened fans of the music. Generally appearing as a double release, with the even numbered set focusing on the Lover's Rock and Roots pieces, while the odd heads straight to the Dancehall, the series has provided many, many thrills throughout the years and also helped to boost some up and comers who would prove to walk amongst the genre's giants someday. In recognition of the forthcoming set we take a look back at one of the most storied compilations of the genre. Discography: "Strictly The Best".
|"Strictly The Best"|
Mek dem know. Where it all began. Perhaps at the time, on the surface, "Strictly The Best" would look just like another basic Dancehall compilation (big tunes still) and no one could suspect exactly what it would become over the next twenty+ years. Helping to get us started weren't exactly fourteen classic tunes (although there were some mixed in), but CLASSIC artists, definitely. Shabba Ranks stole the show with a trio of entries, including the MASSIVE 'Wicked Inna Bed' and 'Twice My Age', but the Ranking would be joined by the inimitable likes of Freddie McGregor ["so many people wanna see me!"], Johnny Osbourne, King Yellowman, Tiger, Little Lenny and a whole heap of unforgettable others. Although not at all difficult to find (and it likely never will be in some form), the first edition of "StB" very much has a collector's feel to it and over the year's its tunes - all of them - have very much become constant staples at least in the genre.
B-side. Of course and obviously the first edition of… pretty much anything of significance is going to have a certain allure to it that no other entry in that series will be afforded and that's particularly true when you deal with the second installment of nearly fifty. While "StB#2" has somewhat been forgotten as an album, much of its content hasn't and, much like its predecessor, it's packed full of virtually unforgettable tunes. Once again, Shabba Ranks and Freddie McGregor highlight but this time around they're up with the likes of Barrington Levy, Ini Kamoze, Ninjaman, Reggie Stepper and Nardo Ranks. For what they were, it was probably better than #1 and to no small degree either.
Caan dun. Shabba Ranks continued his dominance well onto the junior edition of "StB" as his two solo selections on the album (he also appeared on another), 'Caan Dun' and 'Girls Wine' are amongst the biggest winners here. It's interesting to watch the kind of timeline developing here as now on the third entry we see names like Cutty Ranks (twice) and Capleton (twice). Also appearing are Ninjaman (twice), Pinchers, Richie Stephens and even Beres Hammond appeared (twice). Not a stellar addition here and one which has largely been forgotten, but not a horrible piece either. You can't be horrible with some of these tunes on board.
The template. The fourth installment of the series very much set the trend which would continue to this day as far as the even numbered editions of "StB" being decidedly more focused on Roots Reggae and Lover's Rock, although it was virtually devoid of the former and almost exclusively set on the latter - it was a Lover's Rock compilation and that's just it. It was also done within the hands of some of the absolute masters of the subgenre as appearing here were the likes of Sanchez, Beres Hammond, Cocoa Tea, Frankie Paul, Gregory Isaacs and Freddie McGregor. #4 also featured a more than healthy representation of women as Marcia Griffiths, Nadine Sutherland (alongside Cocoa Tea) and even Chevelle Franklyn all checked in as well.
Forward. "StB#5" was a pretty substantial one for the series as it was, obviously, one more Dancehall oriented installment, but it featured a bit of drift and a new push (which sounds ridiculous saying in 2012 with some of these names). In its fourteen tracks, Shabba Ranks only appears once (and buried as well at # twelve) and, instead, is surrounded by DJ's like Mad Cobra, Super Cat, Baby Wayne, Risto Benji, Louie Culture and the supremely gifted Papa San. Also appearing Louie Culture and even a favourite of mine still, General Degree on what, in retrospect, may've been the first GREAT piece of Dancehall the series ever produced as VP Records obviously seemed focused on pushing interest in a different direction following the Ranking.
No substitute. Once again, the slower piece of the series focused on Lover's Rock (and it'll be very interesting when we get to the first time this isn't the case), so when you see entries from Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Johnny Osbourne, Ken Boothe and Sanchez it comes to no surprise. But making a nice impact here as well and adding just a bit of colour were tunes from Chaka Demus & Pliers, Anthony Malvo and even the legendary Dennis Brown.
Cool rider. By the time "StB#7" rolled in, you wouldn't find a single… single from Shabba Ranks who doesn't appear at all but, in his stead, we see the arrival of one of the most powerful names the Dancehall has ever birthed. Having located its apparent choice as a 'successor', VP Records included a trio of tracks from Buju Banton which, clearly, was the story here. Surely he wasn't alone and a pair of MASSIVE hits, 'Granny' and 'Almshouse' - from General Degree and Capleton, respectively - were the other main points of interest. Meanwhile, appearances from Cobra, Papa San and even Shaggy rounded out the release.
Full attention. #8 in this series is definitely most memorable for the fact that it contained two BONAFIDE CLASSICS via the walking classic that is Beres Hammond, 'Full Attention' and the mighty 'Double Trouble'. Apart from that, basically, it was an average compilation with its share of highs and lows. On the high end was the presence of both Marcia Griffiths and Dennis Brown as well as the "StB" debuts of Wayne Wonder and Garnet Silk.
Not ready. The Dancehall side, again, would continue a very familiar shift as Buju Banton would come through with another three tunes and this time with three songs which aren't easily forgotten. 'Big It Up' is a classic as is 'Who Say' which featured the DJ alongside series anchor, Beres Hammond. His third is probably the most controversial song the Dancehall has EVER produced. Capleton, Pan Head (who would die later the same year #9 was released), Bajja Jedd (twice), Ninjaman and Terror Fabulous would also appear.
A winner. Beres Hammond (twice), Garnet Silk (twice), Marcia Griffiths, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Frankie Paul all made appearances on #10 in this series which would see it being one of the most LOADED early pieces of "StB" (Singing Sweet wouldn't register in the same way as those names, but his MAMMOTH 'Oh Donna' was also on this album). But the existing highlight on this album was one of the greatest songs ever made by anyone, 'Born A Winner' by the Captain of the Big Ship, Freddie McGregor.
Jack. While Buju Banton's presence on the next Dancehall-centric edition of "Strictly The Best" would begin and end with a single tune, 'Good Looking Gal' (which was decent), #11's main sticking point was amongst some of the other names who appeared here. Capleton, Mad Cobra and Red Dragon were all on board, but this piece featured the series debuts of some of the biggest names in the entire history of the Dancehall including Lady Saw, Bounty Killer and Spragga Benz, the second and third of which would bring forth two of the biggest tunes ever, 'Lodge' and 'Jack It Up', respectively. You also had the first 'best' of Mega Banton who was on his way to releasing his own album for VP Records, "First Position", early the following year.
Kingly. #12 here was more of the expected with a trio of songs from Beres Hammond ('Doctor's Orders' being the best of them), Sanchez, Wayne Wonder, Marcia Griffiths and Cocoa Tea - the usual suspects - being present, but it also came with a couple of nice 'new' (not really) names as well. It featured the series debuts of The Mighty Diamonds and Sugar Minott as well as Dawn Penn (and yes, that song you're thinking of is on this album), but reigning supreme was Garnet Silk with one of the best tunes he (or anyone else) ever did 'Kingly Character'.
Changing faces. The best song on "StB#13" is Buju's 'Champion' which, as a pure Dancehall song, is probably my favourite tune he ever did. But its presence was one of the lesser striking qualities about this album. Along with featuring a couple of serious hits from Louie Culture and the world's angriest man (EVER), Silvercat, 'Ganga Lee' (in a Hip-Hop mix) and 'Fowl Affair, respectively. The album also contained Capleton's giant hit 'Tour' (and the underappreciated 'Chalice' from the artist as well on the same riddim) and 'Down In De Ghetto' by the Killer. Want more? #13 also rode with what remains Merciless' signature tune, 'Len Out Mi Mercy' ["mi no get it back yet!"] AND the series debut of 'The Doctor', Beenie Man. Oh and it was a part of the first pair of REALLY interesting covers in a series which would quickly go on to become legendary in that regard as well.
Happy days. Again, while the slower edition of the "StB" series back in 1994 (and these would mark the initial foray of the series as a double, same day, annual release) would feature the likes of Beres Hammond (twice), Sanchez (also twice) and Freddie McGregor, it did also show a very subtle different direction. Buju Banton actually appeared on the compilation alongside Twiggy (biggup Twiggy), as did Pam Hall, Ambelique and Mykal Rose with 'Stalk of Sensimilla'. Its most memorable selection, however, came via an already "StB" staple by that point, Wayne Wonder, who would tell all of the 'Saddest Day' in his life.
Don't sleep. #15 didn't have such an outstanding lineup of songs, but it was a really solid early stop along the journey of the series and probably MUCH better than many of its better recalled siblings. In terms of presence, it would be Beenie Man taking top honours in appearing on three songs, one of which was the mixing 'Anything For You' which included a whole heap of others including Buju (who didn't have a solo track here), Nadine Sutherland, Terror Fabulous and Snow (remember Snow???), but there was also Determine (alongside Beenie with the HUGE 'Kette Drum'), Merciless, Bounty Killer, Louie Culture, Lady Saw, Cobra and #15 came to its end with its greatest moment, the downright brilliant 'Can't Sleep A Night' ["dem alla worry and fret"] by Capleton.
Moving. This stop is one which I alluded to awhile back, as we would begin to see (and hear) "Strictly The Best" becoming more and more conscious on the even numbered side and this is first full example of that in my opinion. On top of that, it was just a BIG compilation for its time. 'Never Dis Di Man' by Sanchez, 'Can't Stop a Man' from Beres Hammond, Garnet Silk's 'Every Knee Shall Bow', 'Israel's King' via Cocoa Tea, Mikey Spice's reworking of Barry White's classic 'Practise What You Preach' and even 'Curly Locks' from Yami Bolo alongside Merciless were all here and there was more - not that you needed it.
Dangerous. Looking back, for what it was when it was what it was (WHAT!), #17 was excellent and that's in spite of the fact that it wasn't stellar throughout, it had a few soft spots which have probably gotten spongier over the years. Its top tunes were just HUGE, however. Most notable was a couple of selections, one in 'Living Dangerously' remains one of the most familiar from either of its two stars, Barrington Levy and Bounty Killer. The other shining moment here was the controversial 'Fire Pon Rome' by Anthony B which… again, may just be the chanter's most well known tune still. Beenie Man, Lady Saw and General Degree also made nice appearances, but of a huge secondary interest were woefully underrated tunes from Buju Banton 'Politics Time Again’ and the DEVASTATING 'Bad Mind' by Capleton.
"When you si dem bloody meat, then you must not cook up
When you si dem devil soup then you must not sip up
Glorify yah brother's work and don't get jealous
If you si yah sista falling then you must help her up"
Lift up. While nothing really lasts about #18 as an album, it did have a couple of interesting moments on it, now looking back. The biggest of them all came via Everton Blender with his unforgettable 'Lift Up Your Head', but 'Rude Boy Shuffling' from Israel Vibration was here as well. Ambelique, who had two tunes, was also noteworthy for the gorgeous 'Taxi', but it was pretty much status quo this time around with, again, a bit more of a Roots spin at times.
Praise HIM. With names like Beenie Man, Red Rat, Baby Cham, Tanya Stephens, Lady Saw, General Degree and Roundhead on a compilation that's only fifteen tracks long, one wouldn't think that the piece's main highlight(s) would come in a Roots way, but that's what happened on "StB#19". Also appearing was a pair of MIGHTY tunes from Anthony B, 'Raid The Barn' and 'Waan Back' which were just as good as almost anything on the album… oh besides track #6, which is one of the greatest songs of ALL time, 'Praise Ye Jah' by Sizzla Kalonji (and all three of those tunes probably should have been on the next album).
Flowing. What did actually make it to the #20 album was really more of the same from Beres Hammond, Sanchez and the likes - Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor, Cocoa Tea etc. The change here came via Luciano, Morgan Heritage and Culture who, in 'Addis Ababa', gave #20 its definitive highlight. Kashief Lindo and the always welcomed Fiona also made appearances.
A strategy. #21 may not have been a 'landmark' addition to "StB", but it was a very good installment and one which did have some legs going forward. Those legs were called Mr. Vegas and Sean Paul. While it didn't contain THE song of the former, it did give a couple of nice pieces from him, while the latter would subsequently prove to be a big star for VP Records before advancing to a global and mainstream level of success. Through the more familiar of channels, big tunes came from Beenie Man, Lady Saw, General Degree and Tanya Stephens. While another big pair from Culture & Tony Rebel and Sizzla Kalonji now seem horribly out of place despite being, easily, amongst the best this album had to offer altogether.
Smiling. #22 was another release which may've lacked that HAMMER in terms of a song which would leap out at the listener on paper, but anyone so fortunate enough to be familiar with the music and then have a look would recognize that it did have just a bit of flames on it. For me, things got hottest coming from the likes of Morgan Heritage, Luciano, Maxi Priest and Glen Washington who reigned supreme via the MASSIVE 'Kindness For Weakness’. The usual names also appeared as did, nicely, Shinehead, before #22 ran its course.
Go! I've always REALLY liked "StB2#3" and for good reason in my opinion (obviously I still like it) as, at least for me, it well ranks as one of the best Dancehall editions of the compilation altogether. STELLAR tunes came from Beenie Man, Tanya Stephens, Mr. Vegas, Ward 21, Merciless ["di other day some bwoy diss mi, waan box mi, but him miss mi"], Capleton (twice), the Morgans, Sizzla Kalonji and Lady Saw. The album also contained 'Leggo Di Bwoy' which (I never liked) was a decent sized hit from Kiprich alongside a Hip-Hopper by the name of Cappuchino who would eventually drop about half of his name before ascending to fame as another hand on the Big Ship, Chino.
Ehh. As opposed to its immediate sibling, #24 never really did much for me and this was the case despite, as usual, carrying big, big names (and eighteen tracks in this case). It did have its moment, here and there, the most shining was likely its opener, 'My Love Is Your Love', remade over by Terry Linen. But apart from that, nothing was really bad, but nothing really stood out either.
Red. This piece definitely carried through with the same somewhat dark and edgy vibes of its predecessor, #23. You can owe that to Elephant Man, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, even Lexus and Capleton (biggup Moses I), but also credit Ward 21 who, besides offering up their own track, 'Ganja Smoke', also produced tunes for Beenie, Bounty and the Punanny Medley which was the best thing you'd find on #25.
So nice. Although there were a few new names on board #26, it was another one where, pretty much, the norm reigned. A couple of excellent entries did come via Mikey Spice & Louie Culture ['Grab Yu Lass'] and Half Pint ['Just Be Good'], but even with those present, "StB#26" is best remembered for having carried Junior Kelly's immortal 'Love So Nice'. Oh and the cover was deceptively superb as well.
Whoa! "StB#27" is another of my personal favourites from the series and this time it's probably best because of a nice and unexpected mix that the album contained. On one hand, you had crazy tunes from Bounty Killer (twice), Ce'Cile & Sean Paul, Capleton, Spragga Benz and Ele (twice), which were on the harder side, but #27 had a nice softer and Roots side as well. That same album had the huge 'Virtuous Woman' from Warrior King, 'Mr. Nine' by Buju and 'Equal Rights' which as Anthony B's take on the tune of the same name by Peter Tosh. Junior Kelly also appeared as did Sizzla with the WICKED 'Mind Over Matter' ["no matter how dem discriminate or try humiliate, Kalonji still hold di faith"].
Rockaway. #28 would be just as strong making the combination of #27 & #28 one of the better pairs in the whole of "StB" history to my opinion. It, too, had a nice mix, but not necessarily as far as sound, but who was actually here. Beres Hammond, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez, Gregory Isaacs, Glen Washington, Freddie McGregor. Morgan Heritage ('Jah Seed', big tune) and Luciano were present as were Swade w/Tony Rebel, Yogie, Mr. Vegas, Chrisinti and the enigmatic VC who never did what you expected him to do given his 'introduction', but will never be forgotten non the strength of his high-powered hit of the day, 'By His Deeds'. Why Warrior King's tune wasn't on this edition remains a mystery (although you might think they were trying to market him to the younger crowd, far more likely to pay attention to #27), but as a unit, both of these were very good.
Higher level. Although it may not have (it didn't) continued along the same level of quality in some respects, the five tunes which begin #29 (this has been VERY easy to write today) (finish it tomorrow) are just amazing to have on one album and really something that you'd expect from someone who is the industry leader. 'Like Glue', 'Higher Level', 'Sufferah', 'Wah Dat Fah' and 'Press Trigger' from Sean Paul, Ele, Bounty Killer, Baby Cham and Mad Cobra were all big tunes and the first three were big hits as well. And it may actually speak to the quality of the album that its finest moment, 'Fitness' from the Killer & Angel Doolas was yet to come. Capleton and Wayne Marshall also joined with a pair of tunes from both. Buju and Sizzla were on board as well and ending matters was the, once again, curiously misplaced Warrior King with the MAMMOTH 'Jah Is Always There'.
Speechless. There really isn't a great deal to be said about #30. It's most interesting aspect would definitely be all of the new names to the slower edition of the series such as Mr. Easy, Anthony Cruz, Sasha & Sean Paul, Lloyd Brown and even Elephant Man gets in with 'Run For Your Life' alongside Jarvis Church. Good tunes, not so good tunes… and that's it.
Stand alone. VP Records tried something different back in 2003 (and 2004) when they released the typically dueling "StB" as a single album, beginning with #31. Because of that, if you know the series, then you knew what to expect in two cases. First of all, the one album would kind of have to represent two, so it would have more of a mix than usual - which it did. Secondly, it would also have to attract a great deal of attention so it would probably feature a "Reggae Gold" like roster of well known tunes… and it did. Beenie Man, Sean Paul (twice), TOK, Rupee and Sizzla Kalonji served up some of the biggest hits of the day. While Beres Hammond w/Jah Youth, Wayne Wonder and Junior Kelly being present well added a slower component to this big album which was definitely one of the most popular editions of the series if I recall correctly. And biggup Lady Saw - you know why!
Same story. Like #31, "StB#32" came in completely lonely as a single release and therefore, presumably, was aimed to do the work of two albums on its own. It was successful. Again, it was one of the more popular editions of the series and it well supplied the big tunes. I-Wayne, Sizzla Kalonji, Richie Spice, Cocoa Tea, Da'Ville and Marcia Griffiths brought the big slower moments, while Capleton, Nina Sky w/Kartel (first time I said that name I think), Ele, TOK and Sean Paul brought the flames, as did Lady Saw alongside rapper, Remy Martin on a remix to the former's big hit, 'I've Got Your Man'. Two big moments in the series here and DEFINITELY two of the best covers probably in the history of Reggae. Gorgeous!
Back to normal. Looking back now, #33, while pretty much having faded as a unit, was pretty good actually and fairly crucial as well. Significantly, the final two names on the album were Busy Signal and someone named Idonia (biggup 'Vybz Cartel') and the same release would contain the huge hits 'Tuck In U Belly' from Lefside & Esco and 'Notorious' by Turbulence. Winners also came from Agent Sasco, Elephant Man and Sizzla Kalonji, with Bounty Killer also shining alongside Mr. Sleng Teng, Wayne Smith.
The cure. While its Dancehall-ish sibling may've been something less than stellar (it was), that wasn't the case at all for #34 which, in my opinion, has really become one of the finest installments of "StB", regardless of focus, to date. Looking back now, this is precisely what you would want from a compilation of this status and esteem to present to newer and potential Reggae fans as a fine example of just how good the music can be in its modern form. Obviously, this album was highlighted by the presence of the divine 'True Reflection' by Jah Cure, but that tune was by no means alone in terms of big tunes here. One of the biggest earlier tunes of Gyptian's, 'Serious Times', was also here, as was 'Righteous Youths' by Richie Spice and 'Don't Worry' from I-Wayne. Want more? HUGE tunes also came in from Junior Kelly ['Receive'], Norris Man ['Home & Away'], Turbulence & Sasha, Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor, Mr. Vegas, Roger Robin AND you'll also find Jah Mason's timeless 'Princess Gone' as well. Oh and biggup famed artist, Christian Cortez for the artwork on both #'s 34 & 35, the first of which is, in my opinion, the best cover in "StB" history.
Turn it up. You'll find better Dancehall albums on this list and you'll probably find a couple which even come after #35, but you won't find very many at all which, for the sake of just enjoying the music, were much more FUN than it was. Looking at it now, it was largely devoid of that locking hit, but it featured so many kind of 'middle of the road' tunes that it made for an album which has aged quite well to my opinion. This album marked the series debut of Mavado and also featured Aidonia twice, once on the angriest 'From Dem Dis', alongside Bounty Killer. Big tunes still came in from Capleton, Mr. Peppa, Perfect, Alaine, Assassin and Buju Banton. Still worth a listen.
Turn it up louder. #36 was the better of the albums released in '06 and, as you can see, because I was very fond of #35, that makes this one, still a fairly large deal in my opinion and a SWEET descendent to #34. Alaine with 'Deeper' headlined this one, but she had no shortage of outstanding peers such as Tarrus Riley, Etana, Da'Ville, Gyptian, Richie Spice, Wayne Wonder, I-Wayne, Jah Cure and Bitty McLean. Like its predecessor, "StB#36" has also aged quite well and remains one of the best later editions of the series altogether.
Overkill. #37 came right in the middle of an era of Dancehall music in which it was the dominant trend to make riddims and then tunes which almost seemed to be purposefully overdone and overly violent in every way. Because of that, very much unlike the last two albums we mentioned and as you might expect, it hasn't shown much lasting power or significance just half a decade on and really that shouldn't be that surprising at all. That isn't at all to say that it was completely useless, however. This album did contain Beenie Man's masterful 'Back It Up' as well as Vybz Kartel's 'Empire Army'. I think when I go back here, however, it's probably most to kind of observe this being the first stop here of the once mighty Munga Honourable who stars with two tunes, 'Earthquake' and the once devastating 'Take My Place'. Assassin also shined as did Mavado and a woefully out of place (but no less brilliant) Tarrus Riley.
Royal roots. The beginning few tunes of "StB#38" were downright magical and really set the tone for an album which would somewhat dwindle away before catching flames again in its later stages in my opinion. The biggest shot here was 'She's Royal' from Tarrus Riley, but you also had sweet bites coming from Jah Cure, Da'Ville, Tami Chynn as well as Queen Ifrica who provided the album with her sizable hit, 'Below The Waist'. Later on, artists like Etana, Duane Stephenson and Alaine would get things going.
Lightening Bolt. "StB#39" was another 'standalone' edition of the series and this time around it was pretty explainable, if not completely expected as well. 2008 was a Summer Olympic year and to mark the occasion and the expected occasions, there were many large Reggae and Dancehall tunes and VP Records chose to capitalize on the time as well, as evident by… just about everything about this one. In terms of the moment, surely it was Elephant Man who was this album's biggest star with a pair of tracks, but this time around, once again, the single album had to do the work of two, so we got tunes from across the board from a wide variety of artists. Just looking at the tracklist now, two tunes really standout on paper, Konshens big winner, 'Winner' and Tarrus Riley's STIRRING 'Love Created I', the latter being the best tune the album to offer. But you also had memorable moments from Ce'Cile, Beenie Man, Mavado, Etana and others.
Back and forth. I kind of go… back and forth in exactly how I feel about #40 because while it does have a nice cache of undeniably big tunes, it also has more than a couple which you real just don't (want to) remember as well. On the good side were the likes of Queen Ifrica, of course Busy Signal, Beres Hammond and Maikal X with the shining 'Best In You' (anytime with that new album Mr. X), which is how this album is best remembered when you think of it.
Ditto. Again, my appreciation and lack of appreciation for #41, like its sister, is constantly fluctuating and probably in its particular case, that's so because it wasn't very good at all. These days there're only three songs here which I remain a very large fan of - 'Something Ah Go Happen' by Vybz Kartel, the craziness that was 'Da Style Deh' by Busy and definitely the topping 'I Am Blessed' from Mr. Vegas. Depending on the day (like today), you can keep the rest of them.
Uhmmm. I don't think that I was ever really all that fond of #42 in the series - it was really just an average album (with a REALLY cool cover) in my opinion. Definitely it brought the big names like Tarrus Riley, a debuting Romain Virgo, Alaine, Gyptian and Jah Cure, but the best tune on this album was likely 'Our Heroes' by a resurgent Ed Robinson (a tune well on its way to being a classic). These days, not much else here has proven to be substantial apart from efforts from Stevie Face, who is later joined by the lovely Fiona.
Better? Not really. #43 was a lot more of the same ad it's probably even lessened slightly in the couple of years since. Credit goes here to introducing the clobbering I-Octane to "StB" audiences as well as actually carrying a track from the Damian Marley & Nas duo (with an old Dennis Brown tune no less) and just a few other moments as well, such as 'Hand Inna Di Air' by Agent Sasco and - yeah, that was about it. Fun release still, but one definitely one for the newer heads at the time.
Not bad. "StB#44" was actually a pretty decent album for what it was, looking back just a year ago now - there were some really good tunes here. Female artists represented superbly on the album as Queen Ifrica, Etana, Alaine w/Chris Martin, Tessanne Chin and others did nicely. As did Romain Virgo, Beres Hammond and Freddie McGregor, but it was Tarrus Riley with a pair of tunes who smashed everything else here. He pushed 'Never Leave I', which was excellent, but like everything else here was no real peer of the MAMMOTH ‘Shaka Zulu Pickney', one of the finest tunes Riley has ever done.
Bad. Out of fifteen tunes, completely, I liked two of them… most of the time. Damian Marley's 'Wanted' was pretty good, but it was 'Ready Fi Dem', Bounty Killer's WICKED cut of the Run Di Place Riddim. Surely you'd appreciate this one more than I did, with decent offerings from… no one in particular. Yeah maybe you wouldn't like it more than I did.
#'s 46 & 47
Next! And lastly are the forthcoming 2012 editions of "Strictly The Best", 46 & 47, respectively. As we've mentioned previously, the main attraction here comes in the form of both albums featuring two discs, with FIFTY tracks altogether in between them (coincidence???). If the tracklist that I've seen turns out to be the correct one it is remarkable and yet another testament to the longevity of the man's career and music in general that FREDDIE McGREGOR will have been on the very first edition of "Strictly The Best" and is now still relevant enough to make #46 as well. You can take a closer look when "Strictly The Best Vols. 46 & 47" reach stores on November 13.