CD Review: Strictly the Better

Its Strictly the Best time again! Each and every year I find myself most looking forward to seeing the StB compilation, moreso than perhaps any compilation VP Records Produces outside of Soca Gold. The mixture of tunes is always a tad bit deeper than what you'll find on the more marketable and mainstream Reggae Gold from the summer and they typically rely less on pushing their own artists and more on pushing good reggae music (thus the name). But easily, the best feature of StB (outside of the always MARVELOUS packaging) is that it comes in 2's. Nearly every year (since I've followed it) you'll get one higher powered dancehall comp. and one smoother roots and lover's rock version.

2006 is no different and again, not surprisingly, the softer more mellow of the two takes the prize of being the better album. Besides comparing it to its sister album, StB#36 is just GOOD! Its a very very solid album on its own merits, boasting some of the finer roots and lover's artists on the scene today, and boosted by one of the strongest years for roots in recent history.

So strong is it that I won't even complain (that much) of VP pushing their own artists EXTREMELY hard this year.

Another interesting aspect of #36 is the mix between established and unestablished talents on the project, track ten, Old Skool Love Remix even features an artist, in Divine Brown who isn't a strictly reggae artist, but with a reggae remix of her very fine tune. And continuing on that vibe, StB#36 is packed well powerful in female representation of the young female artists. The young first lady of th Element, Etana comes WICKED on her shatteringly beautiful Wrong Address; Cherine Anderson from One Love fame steps nicely with her Good Love and pulling a double duty with Chuck Fender on the nice Coming Over Tonite. Topping them all however, is of course the divine and ANGELLIC Alaine on her wonderful Deeper, which also happens to be my choice for best song on the album (now what really would have been nice if VP could have gotten the Lovesounds combination with Beres Hammond, but hopefully they're keeping that for his next album. . . or her first?)

VP once again turns to the proven but under appreciated Bitty Mclean for one of the finest pieces on the album, the brilliant Real Thing finds Mclean typically capturing a forgotten era of lovers rock magnificence. Also check the nice nice On My Mind which was a fairly big hit down here not too long ago, just a nice vibes song. And VP talents Wayne Wonder, Richie Spice and Gyptian all represent well on their respective songs, with Richie Spice's divine Brown Skin coming out the finest of the 3.

Really the only song here that I have a problem with is the now nearly 3 year old (and WELL promoted Life Seeds by I-Wayne), but that is cancelled out by the MAMMOTH Stay With You by Tarrus Riley from his new album Parables. Stay With You may be the best love song I've heard this year period! That song is completely gorgeous, with a well powerful message, and if you see a review from me for his new album in the next few days, rest assured it was the main factor influencing my decision to purchase it.

Overall, I'm giving StB#36 a well earned stamp of recommendation, I would even call it better than last year's #34, as it has more top class material. Always happy to see the young talent represented, particularly the young female talent, and it is just a joy to listen to.

Bramoi for Trini Jungle Juice


Strictly the Best 36 - Various Artists (VP Records)
Release Date: Nov 21st 2006

Track Listings
01. Always On My Mind - Da' Ville
02. Beautiful Lady - Gyptian
03. Brown Skin - Richie Spice
04. Real Thing - Bitty McLean
05. Love & Affection - Wayne Wonder
06. Do You Know - Mr. Vegas
07. Deeper - Alaine
08. Love You Right - Morgan Heritage
09. 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 Featuring Mutabaruka