It's a rare thing even in the singles-oriented field of reggae to find a compilation as rock-solid as this one. Sweet Reggae Music 1979-84: Reggae Anthology offers up 40 tracks from the earliest days of Jamaican singer Barrington Levy's massive output, and unlike the vast majority of compilations this dense, almost every track is a scorcher. Levy put to tape several bona fide reggae classics in different phases of his career, but sat somewhat obscured behind other roots vocalists of his time like Horace Andy and Jimmy Cliff. Though they're relatively deeper cuts, the tracks on Sweet Reggae Music are some of the most essential reggae sides of the late '70s and early '80s. Starting strong with booming roots tracks like "Collie Weed" and "Bounty Hunter," Levy's voice is one of the more distinctive and passionate from his era, though he was still in his teens at the time these songs were recorded. Smoothed-out renditions of rocksteady classics like "Skylarking" and "Sister Carol" add depth to Levy's repertoire, finding him stretching out into lovers rock territory and then back into dark and heavy roots with burning tracks like "Look Youthman." Though the compilation is extensive, it stays vital throughout, reaching into dubby production as the years go on with sun-soaked tracks like "21 Girls Salute" and eventually landing in the proto-dancehall weirdness of the timeless single "Under Me Sensi." Levy marked his place as reggae royalty, and would eventually go on to work extensively with American hip-hop artists, but this picture of his earliest work is a brilliant slice of Jamaican music history. Anyone with an interest in reggae going even remotely beyond pedestrian multi-platinum-selling superstars could look to Barrington Levy as a valuable starting point.