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Reviews

Ivor Game Ivor Game
Album: Be Good To Yourself
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.ivorgame.com

In 2016, I was lucky enough to review Ivor's sprightly 9 track 'A New Start' and with 2018's 'Be Good To Yourself' he keeps up his prodigious release rate of a new album every 2 years. To date, quantity has not been at the expense of quality and Ivor seems to have a bottomless pit of inspiration in which he turns ordinary moments into something rather wonderful.

As well as listening to him on record, I have also caught Ivor live many times on the London circuit and his songs always hook in the crowd with their brevity, strong melodies, witty word play and propulsive guitar.

Ivor has not been idle in the 2 years since his last release and along with his normal musical exploits, an undoubted highlight in 2017 was his song 'Highbury' being broadcast at the Emirates Stadium to a 59,530 crowd before the Arsenal v Tottenham derby. It's a lovely little ode to the club from a terrace fan, but I fear these sentiments might have been lost on Arsene Wenger!

All of the 12 songs on 'Be Good To Yourself' are Ivor Game originals and, I believe, were recorded and produced by him in his home studio.

With opening track 'Things Happen When They Do' it's straight into Ivor's trademark rhythm guitar in which he manages to seamlessly incorporate strum, pick and backbeat beneath his timeless vocals. Lyrically, his observations bring new life to the obvious and when he sings 'Isn't it amazing, things happen when they do' it feels as though he is in awe at having just made this discovery, which is then infectiously passed on to the listener. As is normally the case with Ivor, these are guitar and vocal recordings, but to my ears the production is slightly darker and his voice is sitting a bit deeper in the mix - a little less pop, a little more earthy and organic. At times, this means catching the lyrics is slightly more difficult but the punchy sound makes this compromise more than worthwhile.

'Be Good To Yourself' carries on the wellbeing vibe and boasts a full on vocal from Ivor as he introduces a bit of rasp in the chorus while 'Only A Moment' is a little more reflective and restrained.

'Back To The Drawing Board' is an early favourite of mine. I particularly like the little guitar runs under the backbeat and clever couplets, 'Back to the drawing board, back to the table in the back room' which are so marvellously visual in nailing the words to a setting. 'Sunrise' is more of the same but Ivor pushes his voice into a higher register for the chorus, which melodically lifts the song into Folk territory. Early in 2018, Ivor released a splendid single version of 'Sunrise' in which he added multiple harmony lines, as opposed to the guitar and vocal take here, and I strongly suggest popping onto his website and checking it out as well.

'Canals And Tunnels' is propelled along by a particularly jaunty alternating bass line with a lovely instrumental fade out and 'I Go For A Walk' proposes a gentle stroll as a way of working out life's difficulties. "When my head is spinning and I'm too tired to talk, I get off the sofa and step on to the porch, then I go for a walk".

'Watching The World Go By' could be the sister song of 'I Go For A Walk' and this leads us into my favourite song on the album, 'Beautiful Umbrella'. With its courtly, ballad strum and sweetest of vocals this could easily pass as a song lifted from the sound track of 'Singing In The Rain'. "I'll buy for you this beautiful umbrella, to stop the rain from getting through and when you put it up the day just gets better, but it'll never be as beautiful as you". In Ivor's inimitably minimalist way, that is the entire lyric of the song as the second half drifts into an exquisite guitar piece before it's all done and dusted in a 1 minute 35 second musical Polaroid.

'That's The Life For Me' is back to a more jaunty vibe despite a rare downbeat, almost resigned lyric from Ivor, "Tired of having to be, someone I am not really". The gloom does not last long though and not just because the song is one of his shortest ever at 61 seconds! The last two tracks are wonderfully optimistic with the appreciative 'All That You Are' affirming a friend "Because you've always had to do this and that, you rarely get chance to pat yourself on the back, here's just a little song for you". Then album closer 'Together' is the celebration of knowing when a relationship just fits, "There's a certain something in the air and I only feel it when you're near" and "I can make you laugh until it hurts and I'm not all that funny".

So there we have it, another Ivor Game album and another bunch of great songs, supple guitar playing and artful vocals with each track an immediately infectious earworm. For the record, I will add just my usual token quibble about wanting some of the songs here to be a little longer so we can savour them a bit more, but I have also accepted he is not for changing! As always, Ivor manages to be both current and contemporary but there is equally something sepia tinged about his more retrospective musical reference points. My ears pick out old time Music Hall, Gene Kelly, The Ink Spots, early Beatles and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band to name just a few.

The economy of his lyrics is an object lesson in painting a picture and if Ivor were to get himself a decent Publisher, his songs are a media companies dream. Imagine any number of the tracks here as the backdrop to a TV advert where the ubiquitously quirky young couple are looking for their dream house but without any luck until their kindly bank stumps up the cash. Perhaps, on the other hand, popping up in the soundtrack of the next British Rom - Com as a foppish, Hugh Grant type character is reflecting on what really matters on his life.

However, until the advent of the Ivor Game brand, his music will have to suffice and it does so admirably. Lovely stuff as always.

Paul Jackson