UTV's Ultimate Reggae is something of a successor to previous reggae compilations issued by different branches of the Universal Music Group of labels, notably 1998's Pure Reggae and 1999's Reggae Party, at least in the sense that, if you wonder why a particular classic reggae track, such as Desmond Dekker & the Aces' "Israelites," is missing, it may be found on one of the earlier collections, which were chosen by the same compilers. Still, this one differs from those predecessors in its breadth. As is true of the Ultimate collections assembled by sister label Hip-O, this one attempts to justify its title by licensing tracks beyond the already extensive Universal catalog, so that, for example, Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now," Third World's "1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade)," and Peter Tosh's "Equal Rights," all of which are owned by Sony, are included. The most obvious exclusion is anything by Bob Marley & the Wailers, reggae's greatest act. Since Marley's catalog is under Universal's purview and tracks were included on the previous compilations, his absence here is inexplicable. The use of "And You Be Loved," by his son Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, which features a sample of "Could You Be Loved," does not make up for the loss. That very large problem excepted, however, this is a good chronological sampling of 30 years of reggae, dating back to early-'70s tracks by Toots & the Maytals and Jimmy Cliff, including good selections from major figures such as Burning Spear and Gregory Isaacs, and bringing things up to date with Buju Banton and Shaggy.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann