Various Artists

Skankaholics Unanimous: Under the Influence of Ska

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A smashingly clever concept this, an entire ska compilation dedicated to the delights of a tipple; and why not, the genre is soaked in the stuff, falling as it does out of the club scene and college campuses. So, here's 20 tracks to tip back a drink to or rue you've had two to many, as the case may be. Surprisingly though, Skankaholics Unanimous doesn't kick off with Laurel Aitken performing his classic "Hey Bartender," but with another Aitken masterpiece, "More Whiskey," delivered to smooth perfection by the New York Jazz Ensemble with Steve Jackson on vocals. Jackson's own band, the Pietasters, serves up a lip-smacking "Gin & Tonic" later in the set. Sto Zivrat may prefer a exotic liqueur, and a foreign language (Czech), but you won't need a few to appreciate his punchy rock 'n' ska brew. The Allstonians deliver an elegant "Martinis for Two," and in similar trad style, Dr. Ring-Ding & the Senior All-Stars set down a superb version of "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer." And speaking of malt, there's no arguing with the anthemic Arsenal that "Beer"'s the life. Certainly Bad Manners agree, although for them life's delight only begins, but doesn't end, in a "Lager Delirium." For as the Bluetones note, "In Heaven There Is No Beer," so they're going to drink up while they still can. Besides, "Drinking in the Pubs" with the Porkers is loads of fun; they know what they like, unlike Buford O'Sullivan, who is stuck in the liquor store moaning, "I Can't Decide" which beer to buy. Which just might save him from the fate that awaits all these party people, like Skavoovie & the Epitones, who may be "Drunk," but still spin out one of the tightest tracks on the set, or Easy Big Fella, who are "Asleep at the Bar," never mind poor Magadog, who are reeling deep into roots, ruing their nights out, and "The Jitters" they keep waking up with. There isn't a less than grand song on this set, and as varied as the thematic approaches are to the devil drink, so too the styles found within. And so Skankaholics is the ultimate party disc, albeit one with some potent warnings to imbibe with caution. And clever concept aside, this is a truly magnificent ska collection.

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