The Gold Standard

All killer, no filler on eighth annual reggae anthology.

Loaded with lascivious, crowd-pleasing dancehall chants but more recently leavened by current roots grooves and conscious music, VP Records' annual Reggae Gold compilations have become the preeminent one-stop overviews of current directions in Jamaican sound.

Reggae Gold 2000 is no different. Packing in a K-Tel-like 18 smash hits (or close calls) by the original stars, the collection is an embarrassment of riches regardless of where one's reggae interests lie.

Booty-minded high steppers should jump the remix of Sean Paul and Mr. Vegas' sizzling "Hot Gal Today" (RealAudio excerpt), a fierce Steely & Clevie production that stands out among the dancehall heavies gathered here. The lovers in the house will want to get cozy to Beres Hammond's soulful "They Gonna Talk" or to Sanchez's pop-minded cover of R&B crooner Brian McKnight's "Back At One," a prime crossover candidate.

For the politically righteous, Beenie Man's "Ganja Farm" (RealAudio excerpt) is a strident rant that boils down Jamaica's raison d'etre to the production and export of the herb. And the Rasta moral minority will surely get behind Buju Banton's exquisitely fragile "Psalms 23" (RealAudio excerpt), a mellow, folky number on which he channels St. Marley's ghost better than Bob's kids ever could. "Stalag Y2K" closes out this compilation by ushering in the 21st century with an all-star update of Tenor Saw's glorious "Ring the Alarm," featuring additional verses by Buju Banton, Candy Man, Sister Nancy and General Echo.

Seriously: there's not a dud in the bunch.