Victor Rice

Victor Rice at Version City

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Reggae music's best-kept secret is a reclusive skinhead bass player from New York named Victor Rice. He's the quiet musical force that gives weight and depth to most of the recordings that come out of Jeff "King Django" Baker's Version City studio and Stubborn record label, both of which are devoted to old-school ska, reggae, and rocksteady music. On his solo debut, Rice shows off his compositional chops with a solid program of instrumentals, as well as his legendarily tasteful bass playing and his often-overlooked production skills. He has an uncanny ability to evoke the magically cramped and swampy style of some of the great Jamaican recording studios during reggae's heyday -- "Twins," with its compressed drum sound and far-away trombone, could have been recorded at the Black Ark; ditto for "Northern Standard Time." "Lefty" is a guitar-driven ska instrumental that sounds like a modest tribute to Ernest Ranglin. Connoisseurs of the Version City oeuvre will notice that "Blue Dub" is the rhythm used by Rocker-T for "Grow Mi Locks" on his solo album (Nicer by the Hour). Excellent.

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