Various Artists

Reggae Gold 1996

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Like the RAS label out of Washington, D.C., VP Records has found success as a stateside label specializing in modern dancehall reggae. Whereas RAS focuses on more roots-minded vocal and DJ cuts, VP keeps attuned almost exclusively to the digital ragga sounds that came to the fore during the '90s. The label certainly has one of the most impressive rosters in this respect, including the likes of Buju Banton, Beenie Man, General Degree, Lady Saw, Beres Hammond, and Bounty Killer, among many others. This fourth installment in VP's high-profile Reggae Gold series offers up prime cuts from all these singers and DJs, along with some updated roots-ragga from Luciano as well as a fine Gregory Isaacs and Lady Saw duet on an update of "Night Nurse." Other standout tracks include Saw's ribald "No Long Talk" (her infamous vocal gymnastics taking on Diamanda Galas proportions), Bounty Killer's tight bit of robotic funk "Benz & the Bimma," and General Degree's slinky rub-a-dub cut "When I Hold You Tonight." Those in need of more traditional vocalizing can look forward to Beres Hammond's sunny "Love From a Distance" and Mikey Spice's "Showers of Blessing." And after getting the cloying taste of Junior Tucker's abysmal pop-lite side "Love Somebody" out of your mouth, be sure to also check out more prime sides by both Shabba Ranks and Banton. Also featuring the stellar production work of studio luminaries like Steely & Clevie, Sly & Robbie, Bobby Digital, and Phillip Burell, Reggae Gold '96 makes for a fine introduction to the world of digital reggae.

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