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David Warwick of EDS

reviews Look Out! by White Star Lineup

When I first sang in the clubs in the 1960s, a song in my repertoire was simply entitled ‘The Titanic’. It was a jolly, rumbustious, tongue-incheek number: ‘It was sad when that great ship went down’, sung like some music-hall comedy routine, probably quite inappropriate for the huge tragedy which it chronicled. And maybe that was its appeal, counteracting the dark story within. (On the internet it’s described as a ‘campfire favourite’!). Later on, there was the fine comic song, masquerading as the plaintive cry of a polar bear: ‘Do you have any news of the iceberg? My mother was on it you see.’ I fully expected both to be on this double CD. Neither is. That’s not to say that there isn’t a good deal of fine singing and playing on this offering. It’s a compilation of songs and tunes (self-penned by the triumvirate of Jeff Henry, Brian Hooper and Barry Wake), which are usually played live, when ‘The White Star Line-Up’ perform their stage show Look Out!

The clever punning title comes from the story of Fred Fleet, a Southampton mariner, the lookout on the Titanic who was the first to spot the iceberg which sank the ‘unsinkable’ craft. The second of the CDs deals mainly with his story and the aftermath (he survived).

From the first CD I liked ‘21 Knots’, in the style of a modern shanty, sung a cappella by the male voices; ‘Pull Away Girls’, a plaintive melody handled skilfully by the three female voices (and with sensitive piano accompaniment by the fourth woman of the group, Vicky Couling). But most of the good work comes from the second CD: ‘The Lady on the Bicycle’, a compelling tale performed as well as any song I’ve ever heard; the haunting ‘Southampton Lullaby’; ‘Say The Word’, sung in the manner of a revivalist meeting; and the spirited ‘An Ordinary Bloke’. A result of a great deal of research by its three aforementioned shakers and movers, it borders on the ‘wasn’t it terrible!’ school of documentary writing. But the classy singing (particularly the women) drags it up from that potentially melodramatic level. The stage show will be touring during the year. Sadly, its narrator Martin Lee, an integral member of the ensemble, passed away in January; doubtless his strong presence will be sadly missed.