Retro Candy

Life is a Game
Review by Doug Boynton

The Jive Aces can play. And play they do, both figuratively and literally. Based out of the U.K., they’ll perform more than 300 gigs this year, across several countries. Their musical talents and passion for up-tempo swing are delightfully evident on their latest release, Life Is a Game (Right Recordings). With just a couple of exceptions, the disc jumps from beginning to end.

Ian Clarkson’s vocals remind me of a young Louis Prima. In fact, the band’s whole sound reminded me of classic Prima and Sam Butera. It’s an image they’ve polished very well. The arrangements are first-rate, and 10 of the 14 cuts on Life is a Game are home-grown by the group itself. Highlights include the band’s theme song, “Jive, Jive, Jive Aces,” penned by bass player Ken Smith; “Long Distance Love Affair,” co-written by drummer Peter Howell; and an arrangement of “Singin’ in the Rain” that is simply aces. You’ll also want to hear the winning tune, “I’ve Got Affinity for You.”

Then, in the middle of the disc, there’s this three-cut…um…thing.

Think of it as a commercial break. First, there’s “High Energy Jive,” an ode to…well, high energy. The track is followed by “Only Mugs Take Drugs,” and really, how can you argue with that? Coming in at number three is “Clear Body, Clear Mind.”

That’s the one that sent me to their website.

Ah. I get it now. There’s a religious undertone to it all. Remember the guy who would come to some gathering when you were a kid, and he’d do a magic show, except you had to sit through five or ten minutes about Jesus somewhere in the middle? Same idea here, except the Jive Aces are Scientologists.

Ideological leanings aside, the disc is top-notch, even the advertorials really swing. Precision is this band’s long suit; every piece sounds hand-crafted, and fits well. My advice? Roll up the rug. Play this loud.

Doug Boynton is the bartender at

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