Ivor Game,
Happy Face
(self-produced, 1998)

Ivor Game is a young singer/songwriter from London who in 1998 produced his second CD, Happy Face. A musician from the age of 10, Game played in various types of bands until his 20s, when he finally found his milieu as a lone singer with just a guitar. It is a milieu he much enjoys as he likes the intimacy of playing to a small audience of loyal fans. He has played extensively in the London acoustic clubs, as well as touring Los Angeles, Nashville, and parts of Europe and Ireland (where he particularly likes to play).

Game lists the Beatles as one of his major influences, and one well-known music publication has compared him to Paul McCartney. While I do hear some of that vocally, in his best songs I can hear traces of the acoustic Donovan in the songwriting.

Happy Face contains twelve songs, all written by Game. The entire CD is just he and his guitar, with one song recorded live. Every song is upbeat, with a positive message which seems to tie in with the title Happy Face and tell us that Ivor is doing what he loves to do.

Four songs stand out above the rest: "You," "Highbury," "I Live Alone" and "The Life You Know." "You," a very nice love song, and "Highbury" particularly remind me of Donovan in his folk period or even his Gift from a Flower to a Garden period. Another song which stands out is "As Blue As You" and has a real ragtime feel to it. One would suspect from hearing this that Ivor would have felt at home on the Vaudeville stage. Other songs are "From a Plane," "I Wonder Where You Are," " The Newspaper Man," "You Look Different," "Don't Be Afraid To Open Your Heart," "Everything Or Nothing" and "Happy Face."

And all of that is the good news. I sincerely liked his rich voice, the pleasant melodies of some of the songs and the charming lyrics. However, there are things that keep me from recommending this as wholeheartedly as I might have liked. For one thing, while there are a dozen songs, the total time of the CD is just 25:11, which means the songs average just over two minutes each. While this would have been a program director's dream in the '60s, when radio stations liked to play short songs, today one tends to feel cheated if a CD is not over 50 minutes. Another negative is that, aside from the standout tracks mentioned, the other songs tend to sound the same.

I suspect that Ivor Game is about to hit his stride and I look forward to good things to come from this talented musician.

[ by Robert Buck ]