Various Artists

Reggae's Finest [Koch]

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Dancehall compilations are being given some financial push by the labels in 2004. VP's Reggae Gold 2004 got picked up by major label Atlantic, who in turn bought plenty of late-night TV ads, and Greensleeves bought plenty of print advertising for their Ragga Ragga Ragga 2004. All this spending doesn't have much to do with the listener's one-on-one experience with the record, but the effort labels are putting into their previously all but ignored dancehall and reggae compilations is interesting. Plus, the risk that comes with considering a record a "priority" (advertising and launch parties cost plenty) might help explain all the gloss. There's plenty of gloss on Koch's Reggae's Finest -- too much for hardcore dancehall fans but enough to entice R&B and pop fans. The dancehall tracks are great, but the compilation suffers a bit from too many lightweight reggae numbers. Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, and Dawn Penn -- whose "Looking for a Lion" is the slinky highlight of the collection -- are the big names, but to its credit, Reggae's Finest does a great job of picking the B-list, at least when it comes to dancehall. Magic Juan's "Caramba" is a sexy number with a touch of reggaeton, and Macka Diamond's "Tek Con" is sleazy and extra catchy. Check the Greensleeves and VP compilations for the big hits, skip a couple of shallow pop numbers here, and get hip to a batch of artists ignored by the big boys.

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