Various Artists

Buyaka: The Ultimate Dancehall Collection

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When a CD contains the words "ultimate collection," some healthy skepticism is usually called for. Considering that Buyaka contains nothing by Shabba Ranks, Ninjaman, Nardo Ranks, or Lt. Stitchie -- all of whom were quite popular at the time -- it's definitely an exaggeration for Big Beat to describe it as the ultimate collection of dancehall reggae. But it's a generally decent compilation that has a few gems, and it offers a bit more variety than many of the other dancehall compilations that came out in the early to mid-'90s. Hard, abrasive, amelodic tunes like Baby Wayne's "Can't Live So," Lady Shabba's "Stick to the Man," and Pan Head's "Punny Printer" are heard, along with softer tunes such as Lloyd Fagan's moody "What a Go Down" and Sister Nancy's wildly infectious "Bam Bam," which is close to classic dubwise rather than dancehall. Some of the selections are out of place on a dancehall-oriented album -- Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)," Beres Hammond's "Putting Up a Resistance," and Garnett Silk's "Hello Mama Africa" are likable examples of mainstream reggae singing, not dancehall toasting. They add to the CD's variety -- which is a good thing -- but including them on a dancehall compilation is like including Luther Vandross and Smokey Robinson recordings on a rap compilation. In a nutshell, Buyaka is hardly the ultimate dancehall collection, though it's a decent sampler of various reggae styles of the '80s and '90s.

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