|Suni Sabino - Ms. Soca Gold 2009|
There are and there have been literally dozens of running compilations in Reggae music which're extremely well regarded and, some of which even still continue to this day. Be it one of Greensleeves' series, one from Tad's or one from another label, and be it big or small, it almost seems as if - when you make a new label, if you're planning on sticking around, you might want to get a compilation to attach to your name (even Don's Music has "Don's Collector"). Still, when you look at THE most popular from the genre, pieces such as "Riddim Driven" and "Strictly The Best", after all of these years, they come from VP Records, who has done such a great job in legitimizing and making known the sets to even some of the least interested fans. You may not know who does it, but surely you know the name "Reggae Gold". In Soca, however, things tend to be a bit different. Although there're many compilations as well and have been throughout the years, there aren't nearly as many (although there did used to be much more) and most of them are not known to casual fans (although if you are a casual fan, I would definitely suggest that you familiarize yourself with "We Muzik") (you're welcome). The one exception, ironically, also comes from VP Records and is a piece which is, arguably, even more popular than any of the musicians who have filled seventeen albums worth of the compilation. Today, seemingly not at all far away from the announcement of 2013's edition, we take a look at Soca music's very colourful most well known release. Discography: Soca Gold
"Soca Gold 1997" [VP Records - do we really need to put year tags on these things???]
What a good idea! While listening to the very first edition of "Soca Gold" definitely demonstrates just how much the music (and what is considered GOOD examples of it) have changed over the years, what I am left thinking when going back to hear it for the sake of this post, is just how GOLDEN (forgive me, I had to, I had no choice) some of these tunes remain. Any album which has two songs from Saucy is a winner, even on paper for me, and "SG97" had that. It also carried nice tracks from the likes of Iwer George, Arrow, Ronnie McIntosh, the Rupee fronted Coalishun (the SWEET 'Ice Cream') and even the classic 'Barbara' from Super Blue. The album's only misstep came in the form of the AWFUL Soca reworking of 'Healing' from Beenie Man & Lady Saw, but you didn't expect VP to do an album like this at the time without at least trying to Reggaefy it in some way. Oh and also Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah.
"Soca Gold 1998"
Still shining. The second edition of the series remains a personal favourite of mine and although I haven't heard some of these tunes in a couple of years, jumping it back up these days - it hasn't lost a bit of its considerable lustre. Along with marking the "SG" debut of Bajan star, Alison Hinds, who chimed in with the wholly infectious, but sensible jump, 'In the Mean Time', there were also nice tunes from Beenie Man (well, one, there was also another Soca remix of a Reggae song which was awkward at best), Super Blue, whose 'Ato Party' took the Monarch crown that year, Nigel Lewis, Square One, Johnny King, Onyan and others. Oh and also Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah.
"Soca Gold 1999"
Release it. "SG1999", another of my favourites from the series kind of change the focus for the compilation. This time around, unlike in the case of its two elder siblings, everything was really about pushing the music and it was much less of a 'showy' type of an album and with quite a bit more in the way of substance (which is saying a lot, because I really did like both of the previous two and they are some of the best installments "SG" has ever produced in my opinion). The results of that shift resulted in a FANTASTIC release which, at least for me, remains one of the signature releases here. El-A-Kru, The Blue Ventures, Mr. Dale, Nigel Lewis, Kurt Allen, Alison Hinds & Square One and others were amongst the biggest of standouts. Oh and also Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah.
"Soca Gold 2000"
Blaze. In retrospect, the biggest story around "SG2000" was that it featured so many significant debuts in the series. While already popular staples such as Alison Hinds & Square One, The Blue Ventures, Ronnie McIntosh and others appeared with stellar efforts, making their golden premiers were the likes of KMC, Tallpree with the MASSIVE 'Old Woman', the best song on this album, Traffik, Lil Rick, Tony Prescott & Surface and more. At the head, literally, however was a tune called 'Gimme The Brass', which would mark the "Soca Gold" arrival of the inferno, Bunji Garlin. Not a debut but - Oh and also Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah.
"Soca Gold 2001"
Settlement. Bunji Garlin wouldn't take very long making his name on "Soca Gold" as following the 2000 edition of the series, he would immediately return next year and, this time, he would bring with him a pair of the biggest tunes the album would have to offer, 'Fete Is Fete' and the MASSIVE 'Licks' (still one of the best tunes that he has ever done to my opinion). Also returning was a triumphant Tallpree, Super Blue for the first time in a minute (which, I believe, would mark his final contribution to the series, although I FULLY expect that to change this year), Lil Rick, Surface and Rupee whose leading 'Jump' is also a lasting favourite of mine. "SG2001" would also start a which would continue for quite some time, as added on was a bonus mix CD. Oh and also Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah.
"Soca Gold 2002"
GOLD! You probably won't find too many people who enjoyed the music which comprised "SG2002" as much as I did and while I wouldn't dare attempt to call it so in the semi-official sense that we do here, this album is very much a personal classic for me and, while it did take a while to get my attention properly, if I recall correctly, it hasn't at all let me go in the time from then. What made it so good. To my opinion, it was the very first of a few of these releases over the next decade (actually more like the next seven years as it has experienced somewhat of a decline in recent years to my opinion, more on that later) (DUH!), which were completely infectious and were even so when you didn't like the song you were hearing! Which is ridiculous. Highlights here were in abundance, but they peaked with tunes such as 'Trinidad', which would net Naya George & Invazion a Road March title that same year, the absurd 'Thelma' (good luck with that), Rupee's hit 'Blame It On De Music', 'Run For the Road' by Ronnie McIntosh and Atlantik, Bunji Garlin's 'Hands Up' and the GORGEOUS 'My Love' by Da Bhann. Oh and also Edw… KHIOMAL NURSE & Krosfyah (the only edition of "SG" sans Mr. Yearwood, so I guess that I can stop saying that now).
"Soca Gold 2003"
'Tempted To Touch' by Rupee
'Tempted To Touch' by Rupee
Marshall law. It wasn't that the music wasn't any good - it was - and I'm going to tell you about in just a second, but for some reason whenever the subject of "SG2003" comes into my mind it does so SURROUNDING by a very non-musical trait. If you look up and down this post, you'll notice the idea of the album and I'm not complaining about it. Put a VERY attractive woman on the cover who catches the attention. Obviously it's always been that way and we've seen quite a few good ones already (especially 2000), with more to come (especially 2009) (oh and 2008), but the race on that front is for second place after Ms. Camille Marshall appeared in 2003 and took that crown away for all of eternity. Oh yes and there was music, also. "SG20003" wasn't the best of this lot and, although I do probably have a greater appreciation of it these days (with nostalgia certainly coming in somewhere), that's clear. It did have a few things going for it, however. The biggest of them DEFINITELY would be 'Display', which would mark the arrival of Fay-Ann Lyons to the series (it would also make her a first time Road March queen), and there was also 'Ah Home' by Iwer George which took Monarch that year, KMC's hilarious 'Doh Want To Know' and Dawg-E-Slaughter with the still MASSIVE 'Bounce'. The future Mr. Fay-Ann also joined Shammi on the hard to forget 'Soca Bhangra' The album also contained a song which was on its way to setting a course as one of the most popular Soca records of all time, 'Tempted To Touch' by Rupee. Oh and there was also this CUTIE on the cover - or did I say that already???
"Soca Gold 2004"
Close down. 2004's installment was another one which wasn't very good (although I'm having a hard time convincing myself of that now, having not heard some of these tunes in quite awhile) altogether, but definitely featured a few shining moments by its end. The biggest star here (literally and figuratively) was Bunji Garlin who featured on two of the album's biggest tracks - both combinations. To start things off was 'Get On Bad', on which Garlin featured alongside the late Onika Bostic and he would later, with Lil Bits, for 'In My Country'. There was also the infectious Chutney piece, 'Caroni Close Down' from Adesh Samaroo, Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah on 'French Kiss', 'We Eh Leaving' by 3Suns and Skinny Fabulous would also make his first appearance on "SG", alongside Luta, on 'Busy Tone'. Still, a couple of tracks here remain big pieces for me, personally, a workout playlist LEGEND, 'Trample', by Dawg-E-Slaughter and the sparkling 'Stages' by the also late Blazer.
"Soca Gold 2005"
Madder. To my opinion, "Soca Gold 2005" was the finest this series has ever been. It was a nearly perfect blend of powerful tunes such as 'Madder Dan Dat’ by Machel Montano, the RIDICULOUS 'Mor-Tor' by Rikki Jai, featuring Montano and 'Right Now' by 2005's Soca Monarch, Bunji Garlin - and Groovy tracks like Michelle Sylvester's awesome 'Sleeping In Your Bed', which would win her a Groovy Monarch that year, 'A Hook' by Blackie, 'Turn Round' by Hot Sand & Bomani and others. More impressive still, in some aspects, were songs such as 'All Aboard 2K5' by Garlin & Edwin Yearwood and the STUNNING 'Recurrence' from Sanell Dempster, which were excellent multi-tempo and infectious compositions.
"Soca Gold 2006"
On fire. Beside being , 'simply', one of the best editions of "Soca Gold" that we've seen, 2006's version had several other things around which were very interesting. First of all, if you count your way back to the beginning, you'll notice that this was actually the tenth release of this compilation and it was celebrated as such. Furthermore, to mark the occasion, this album would begin another trend as replacing the mix CD attached the album CD would now be a DVD containing moments from the Trinidad Carnival season as well as pictures and interviews with some of the stars and their own thoughts of what "Soca Gold" had done for the genre. On top of that, I don't know if I mentioned it (actually I do know that I did), but the music here was largely fantastic and impressive. Most memorably, it was Fay-Ann Lyons making a pair of appearances - one, 'Party', alongside lyrics machine Ms. Alysha. And speaking of lyrical robots associated with Fay-Ann Lyons, her then future husband, Bunji Garlin, would also bring forth a big tune in 'Warriors Coming', which was done in support of Trinidad's World Cup bound football team. Iwer George, Nadia Batson, Calypso Rose & Shurwayne Winchester, Edwin Yearwood & Lady Saw, KMC and Mista Vybe also turned in stellar efforts on one of this series most signature moments.
"Soca Gold 2007"
'Expose' [Road Mix] by El-A-Kru
'Expose' [Road Mix] by El-A-Kru
A stage. As I look up and down at the tracks which appeared on "SG2007", I'm left thinking one thing (actually two, with the second being that I'm almost done!): What was it, exactly, that made 2005 better??? Like its title and even its cover, this was a GOLDEN project and, rather easily, one of the best pieces the series has ever produced. Certifiably BIG tunes from Mr. Slaughter (former Dawg-E-Slaughter), Peter Ram, of course Fay-Ann Lyons, Bunji Garlin, Blaxx, Mr. Dale, Kimberly Inniss, Rikki Jai, Edwin Yearwood and others still really made this one something which stood out, but 'SG2007" would also mark FINALLY the compilation debut of the divine Destra Garcia, with one of the biggest pieces of the season, 'I Dare You' and it just so happened to also include the road mix of… probably my favourite Soca song ever, 'Expose' by the Tizzy fronted El-A-Kru.
"Soca Gold 2008"
'Get On' by Fay-Ann Lyons
'Get On' by Fay-Ann Lyons
Work of art. Though somewhat overlooked (clearly not as a result of its cover, the second best this series has ever looked) (DAMN!) "SG2008" was a very good album and a positive addition to the series. To date, it would be the last time in the series that the album would actually carry Trinidad's Road March winning tune, the MASSIVE 'Get On' by Fay-Ann Lyons (which should have also won a monarch crown that year) and that wasn't it at all. My second favourite song from that season, 'Breathless' by Blaxx was also on board, as were stellar tracks and hits from Farmer Nappy (new EP, "Mischief", in stores now), Bunji Garlin & Hunter, Don Trent (with the SPARKLING 'Me & You'), Mr. Dale ["No need for no attorney, Your Honour I am guilty! I'm a Soca junkie!"], Edwin Yearwood, Sean Caruth and others. "SG2008" would also mark the series debut of Patrice Roberts and it would welcome the madness with Ricky T and his MAMMOTH hit, 'Pressure Boom'. Arguably the most underrated release of this lot.
"Soca Gold 2009"
'Bacchannal' by Destra
'Bacchannal' by Destra
They call me bacchanal. To my opinion, "Soca Gold 2009" was the last time the series was REALLY good and it could have been even better. This was really the point in the collection where you began to focus more on what was absent, rather than what was present and, most glaringly, this set didn't feature a single effort from Fay-Ann Lyons who would, between two tracks ('Meet Super Blue' and 'Heavy T Bumper'), would take everything there was to be had in the '09 season. But, as I said, it wa a good album, so many of the songs in her stead were impressive. Most notably was definitely a returning Destra Garcia with the HUGE 'Bacchanal'. Also on board was Skinny Fabulous with Vincy Monarch winning tune from the previous year, 'Head Bad'. Bunji Garlin & Beenie Man teamed up for 'Plenty Gal' and also making nice drops were Blaxx, Patrice Roberts, Zoelah and Biggie Irie.
"Soca Gold 2010"
Staggering. My least favourite offering on this list, "Soca Gold 2010", although it did have its moments, wasn't good in its day and hasn't aged particularly well either. The good came from Patrice Roberts, whose 'Work It' remains impressive, Blaxx with 'Huntin', and others such as Alison Hinds, Rikki Jai and Edwin Yearwood… and that was about it. But a sizable and probably very good album could have been made from the tunes which weren't on this album. They would have been lead by 'Palance' by JW & Blaze and featured big tunes from Fay-Ann Lyons and others. "SG2010" seemed more of a set to kind of aim towards the mainstream as it carried a Poppish remix of Gyptian's huge Reggae hit of the time, 'Hold Yuh' and Donae'o with 'Party Hard'. That certainly isn't horrible, but it really isn't Soca either.
"Soca Gold 2011"
Coming again. The 2011 release of the series was somewhat similar to its most immediate predecessor, actually, but it was a much better version of it. Although you look at and instantly notice what wasn't here, such as the season's biggest tune, 'Advantage' from Machel Montano, or 'Wotless' from KES, or… anything from Fay-Ann Lyons ('Consider It Done' was her big tune that year), or Bunji Garlin's 'Hold A Burn', what it did grab up made for an entertaining set in some respects. Iwer George was present with his extremely well received 'Come To Meh' and Montano would also appear with the intoxicating 'Coming Again'. Destra was also back, as was Sean Caruth and Mr. Dale. "SG2011" would also, wonderfully, feature the FANTASTIC combination between Edwin Yearwood & Patrice Roberts, 'Neighbour'. Not a signature moment here, at all. It wasn't even close. But a significant step ahead of what came right before it.
"Soca Gold 2012"
'Link Up' by Destra
'Link Up' by Destra
Over you??? The most recent installment of "Soca Gold", unfortunately, went back towards 2010's set and just wasn't very good, despite having its moments, here and there. In retrospect, I just didn't enjoy very much of the music from the 2012, so it made the even possible pool of songs quite shallow in my opinion. The good they did pick came, again, from Destra, Blaxx, Iwer George, Skinny Fabulous and Jamesy P. Kimba Sorzano and Alison Hinds would also do quite well, but that was largely it. There was absolutely nothing from Machel Montano (who took home all of the hardware in 2012), Fay-Ann Lyons or Bunji Garlin, who had a great deal to offer in 2012.
"The Ultimate Soca Gold Compilation" 
Mash up. And finally, even though it actually released about eight months prior to the album I just told you about, VP Records would essentially make a 'greatest hits' compilation out of another compilation and present "The Ultimate Soca Gold Collection". Spread out over thirty-three tracks and three discs (including a mix), the album really just featured favourites from over the life of the series and included offerings from… Yeah, pretty much everyone. Definitely one for the newer fans of the genre and I'm sure that it was quite successful and I look forward to seeing a Vol. 2 for it in about a dozen years or so.