DUNDALK'S FINEST DELIVER ANOTHER SUPERB EFFORT
Do The Corrs have a family portrait hidden away somewhere in a dusty Dundalk attic? Judging from the eye-pleasing cover of Jupiter Calling, the follow-up to 2015's well-received comeback album White Light, the four siblings obviously do.
While they've slightly aged, Andrea, Sharon, Caroline and Jim genuinely look almost as fresh-faced and wholesome as they did when they first arrived onto the international music scene in the mid-90s with Forgiven, Not Forgotten. That debut was released 27 years ago, but it was their 1997 sophomore release, Talk On Corners, that really propelled them to international stardom. Since then, they've sold in excess of 40 million albums, toured the globe several times over, graced countless magazine covers, picked up many awards and honours (they were the first quartet since The Beatles to receive MBEs), and generally had the kind of music career that most can only dream of.
The only downside of all of this success, perhaps, is that they've never been considered particularly cool by the cognoscenti. Not really their fault. Whether it's The Osmonds, The Jackson 5, Hanson or The Nolan Sisters, it's written in the laws of pop that family bands can never be cool (NB: Fat White Family aren't actually related). Admirably, though, The Corrs have at least managed to keep their cool. Jim's occasional internet misadventures aside, they've mostly stayed out of the headlines and kept any sibling rivalries under control. Families are hard work at the best of times, but family bands are even worse (just ask the Gallaghers).
During their near-decade long hiatus from 2006 to 2015, they all settled down and started families (although Andrea and Sharon both released well-received solo albums). Even so, their 2015 comeback White Light - which happened at Caroline's instigation - sounded as though they'd simply picked up where they'd left off. Fair enough. If it ain't broke, don't fix it
Which brings us to their seventh studio outing Jupiter Calling, which sounds very much like a Corrs album... or does it? Certainly, it has all the usual elements that have made them such a runaway success in the past; that moneymaking combination of soft rock, infectious pop, and Irish folk, all topped off by Andrea's sultry vocals.
However, there's a newfound maturity in both the music and the lyrics evident on this album, which was recorded in less than a month in London's RAK Studios. They drafted in the legendary T. Bone Burnett (who recently helmed Imelda May's Life Love Flesh Blood), whose working methods were far faster and quite different from any other producer they had ever worked with.
T. Bone had the band play live, with minimal overdubs, accompanied by bassist Robbie Malone (David Gray) and longtime guitarist Anthony Drennan (Chris Rea, Genesis). He also insisted that the studio source 40 spools of rare two-inch tape and a 1966 Ludwig drum kit to enhance the natural sound. Any occasional mistakes were left in rather than polished out. Not their usual modus operandi, but it works.
Unusually for a Corrs album, proceedings kick off on quite a sombre note. 'Son Of Solomon' is a wistful traditional number featuring a truly mesmerising vocal performance from Andrea: "I'm the darkest of them all/But you see the light in my soul/Will you kiss me on the mouth?/Will you love me like I'm wine?/Son of Solomon".
While the album features its share of love songs, there's also a bit of a twist, in that some of them are more about love in a time of terror, displacement, demonisation and fake news. The Corrs have never been a political band, but it's hard for anyone to avoid the harsh realities of the world today. When they were touring White Light, they were in France during the Nice attacks, and in Brussels when it was locked down. As Andrea sings on 'Butter Flutter', "2016 never felt so fragile/We're playing in the garden of glorified/Loving in the rubble of a landslide".
Jupiter Calling takes its title from its centrepiece song, 'SOS (Song Of Syria)'. Despite its subject matter and grim imagery, it's actually quite catchy and uplifting: "A doll in the water/Her hair out like tendrils/But it's only a bad day/That I've ever rescued".
Of course, it's not all so heavy. There's plenty here that will appeal to their more traditional fanbase. The jaunty, trad-based 'Dear Life' could have been an outtake from any of the last six records, as could the poppy 'A Love Divine' (not a complaint). Meanwhile, a song such as 'No Go Baby' sounds like it could have been taken from a feelgood 1960s musical. At almost eight minutes long, the Sharon-penned album closer, 'The Sun And The Moon', is apparently the result of an unplanned studio improvisation. It's a gorgeous way to end an album, Andrea gently crooning, "Maybe one day will come when all is quiet." But not for a while yet.
Thoughtful, reflective, contemporary, and as marvellously melodic as ever, Jupiter Calling won't lose The Corrs any fans. And it will most likely earn them a whole raft of new ones.
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