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July 23, 2024

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Stubborn Records Presents
Version City (Stubborn Records)

By: Alex Steininger

Version City is a ska party, and once it begins, it never ends. Containing some of the most talented ska artists from the East Coast (including King Django, Victor Ruggiero, Victor Rice, and Agent Jay), these guys cook up some hot ska that will get you dancing, grooving, and having a blast within a few seconds of the opening track, and all the way until the end of the final track, when you begin to reach for the CD player to hit the repeat button. Taking a heavy dose of traditional ska, adding in a touch of modern day life, and throwing in some soul they arrive at their potent blend of ska.

The CD starts off with Lord Sluggo (Victor Ruggiero) with the Demanders' doing "Cocaine." The song is infectious, the vocals are great, and the backing vocals are tremendous. The whole song is a piece of perfection, except for one annoying fact. Each time the words "cocaine" are muttered someone inhales air through their nose, just as if they were sniffing cocaine. Eventually you get used to it though, and it does become part of the song. King Django's "Lifeboat" follows it. It's a nice, breezy instrumental that will get your body moving at the very least. Even without vocals, the song still has a very infectious edge to it, getting you to move along with the song. But what's more, you'll start to hum along with it, eventually humming without it there. Once again Django proves he is a very versatile song writer, and can do many things within the ska genre. Track six is Crazy Baldhead featuring Saint Edward doing "Stages." A traditional number with a spin. The vocals are smooth and soulful, while the music is steady and danceable. Adding a hint of pop for flavoring, the song is another wonderful, addictive track on this disc. The guitar gets you moving, while the backing vocals' soft "oh's and ah's" shoot a warm sensation of happiness through your body. "Midnight Version" led by Selika and Django is another gem you'll find on this disc. Strong female vocals carry this song out, while Django's backing vocals add a slight rougher edge to the music. The song is soft in musical content, but vocally a lot of power emerges. The horns are also a strong force in the music, adding great support for the vocals. Lord Sluggo's "Papa Told Me" draws heavily on pop from the 50's, combined with traditional ska, creating a hum-able, sing-along anthem that will nag at your brain until you pop the disc back into the player and listen to it again. Swing and sway with the music, and open up your lips and sing along. The song is soft and sweet, but that doesn't mean it can't cause a riot in your mind. A very special treat on this disc is Slika Drake leading a different take on Jeff Baker's "Baby." Originally appearing on Skinnerbox's powerful album on Moon Ska, this version sheds a whole new light on the song. Re-written for the beautiful female vocals that lead the song, this version will put a smile on your face. Django backs up the song adding a tremendous bang to the music, and a slight dub addition to the music gives it a different spin. Definitely a treat that will make your head spin, and your eyes water from the tremendous emotions this song lets out. Victor Rice's "Disco Envy" closes out the CD the same way the CD started, with an infectious, danceable number sure to send joy throughout your body.

If you're looking for some great ska that is memorable, check out this disc. Every person that played on this disc is tremendously talented, and it sure shows in the final product. Cool melodies, catchy rhythms, and powerful beats will find you and make you smile and dance. Don't pass this one up. It's an A+ by far, and deserves all your attention.

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