Digging in the crates of my reggae albums today I came across some really good various-artist collections from the early nineties. This was a time when reggae music, particularly dancehall, was making a big impact in the US thanks in large part to the proliferation of hip-hop that was dancehall fused. Of these collections I have singled out three that are still available at Amoeba Music and are well worth tracking down. Compilations are always a great way to get a nice jump into any style of music, reggae included!
Classic Reggae Vol. 1 (Profile) was originally released in 1992 but the reggae on this compilation dates back from the mid 70's to the early 80's. This all killer, no filler collection is jam packed with classic selections ranging from the sweet voice of Sugar Minott on “We’ve Got a Good Thing Going” to the ragga stylings of Johnny Osborne on the bass heavy track “Buddy Bye," and Beres Hammond's timeless “What One Dance Can Do.” Other reggae classics on the CD are Barringtion Levy’s thrilling “Murderer,” Rita Marley’s 420 themed “One Draw,” Dillinger's timeless "Cocaine In My Brain," the lovers-rock classic’ “Cottage In Negril” by Tyrone Taylor, and one of reggae music's all time anthems, “Greetings” by Half Pint.
Also released in '92 on the same label was the then contemporary dancehall collection Dancehall Stylee (The Best Of Reggae Dancehall Music Vol. 3). This twelve track comp offers a sampling of some of the top dancehall artists from the vibrant scene, including Cutty Ranks, Frankie Paul, Louie Rankin, Shabba Ranks and Barrington Levy. The powerful Ninjaman and Florigan track “Zig It Up” is in this collection, as is the head-bobbing Lady Patra track "Ambition," which lyrically offers a little overview on her philosophy of life. Note that both this comp and the previous one mentioned were released Profile Records, who have built a name for their hip-hop catalog but have also put out some great reggae music! Additionally Profile released a series of wonderful house and techno compilations from the late 80's to early/mid 90's.
Finally, on Heartbeat Records (a label that specializes in Jamaican music) is Steely & Clevie's Plays Studio One Vintage. As reggae fanatics will be quick to tell you, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, who was considered the Berry Gordy of Jamaica, owned Studio One and his renowned studio was responsible for launching the careers of countless Jamaican artists. Artists who recorded at Studio One include Bob Marley and the Wailers, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown and Marcia Griffiths.