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Universe Productions 290262

Mageean; Collins; Sea Shanties. The words slip off the tongue with ease and familiarity, and so they should, we've been saying 'em for twenty-one years. That's the whole point of this album, recorded live in the "Doopsgezinde Kerk", Workum, Friesland, circa 1992-1995, to celebrate the twenty first anniversary of their shanty singing partnership.

It all began at the Berkshire Festival in Reading 1975. They were guesting individually, met up at the shanty sessions, tried a few out, and just went on. Wherever the shanty fraternity met, whenever the Tall Ships gathered in harbour, Jim 'n Johnny would be there. They travelled to all parts to perform, indeed the venue for this album has seen them every October since 1979.

Now you don't sing together for as long as that without being something special, and these blokes are. Each one is a strong soloist, well equipped with volume and range, but in duet they bring the very best out of each other to produce something extra. Shared experience and knowledge of their subject, plus tangible zest for singing generates a chemistry that projects to their audience and defies them not to enjoy themselves.

And that's what I like about this album, with it's twenty-one shanties, one for every year of the partnership. The singers are having a great time, launching themselves into familiar songs like "General Taylor", "Rio Grande" and less well-known - "Herzogin Cecilie", "Blackbird Get Up", and the entrancing West Indian whaler "John Dead", and their audiences have a great time too, roaring out the choruses in impressive English. It's this live quality the atmosphere that makes you feel you're right THERE, that sets this one apart from the many other shanty albums extant. For me it's the most enjoyable shanty record the revival has produced so far. I've heard 'em all, and I know.

I do have one quibble. Not with the singers, but with Universe Productions who brought out the album. The inlay advertises a Stan Hugill video, with Mageean & Collins and others. I wrote to you to ask where in England I could buy this, but I have had no reply. How about it, Universe?

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.