The Corrs,
Unplugged
(Atlantic, 1999)

This album is, I think, the band's masterpiece. Everything that is great in their music -- vocals, musicianship, catchy rhythms -- is present here, with the bonus of an intimate setting of a live performance. Yes, it's probably starting to sound like I'm a bit biased, and the truth is that I am. But after listening and getting to know the Corrs, I can pretty much guarantee that you will be too.

The four siblings -- sisters Andrea, Caroline and Sharon, and brother Jim -- show off their talents in an outstanding live performance. The album is actually the soundtrack from the MTV Unplugged video, which is also worth a watch. A great decision was the inclusion of an orchestra accompaniment, which adds a very nice touch to the songs.

The album kicks off with "Only When I Sleep," a wonderful opening number first heard on Talk on Corners. There are few bands that have the vocal talents of the Corrs, led by the youngest sister, Andrea. This song showcases their voices wonderfully. It also gives you a taste of how the orchestra adds to familiar songs. The next song, "What Can I Do," from the same album, has seen two different versions already, and so they combine the original and the remix alteration to create the best version yet.

The next song was new at the time of this concert, although "Radio" would later be heard on In Blue. This is a great, catchy song, and it sounds very nice unplugged. If there is a stand-out song on this album, this is it. Following it up is the instrumental "Toss the Feathers," and the band shows off their prowess with their musical intruments. Sharon leads with her violin, and Andrea follows right along with her tin whistle. Caroline takes a break from the drum set and plays the bodhran (with a cool solo, too!), and Jim takes over on the piano.

Next is the band's first breakout hit (at least here in Canada), "Runaway." This is off Forgiven Not Forgotten, their first album. "Runaway" is a beautiful song, the one that made me go "Wow, who is this? I want that album!" It's one of the best love songs I've heard. (The ending of this song is a lot better on the video, 'cause Caroline messes up the last note on the piano, and we get to see a little bit of sibling teasing.) Sharon starts of the next song with a nice violin solo a la Erin Shore, which leads into the title track from their first album, "Forgiven Not Forgotten." I like how this song builds up throughout, and Andrea lets her voice soar.

"At Your Side" can also be heard on In Blue, but I think the live version is much better. It's a comforting song, sort of reminiscent of Ben E. Kings "Stand by Me" except sung with a smile. The next song is a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," which they did on Talk on Corners. What a gorgeous song! I love how magical and dreamlike it sounds. It's given a Celtic twist, but the guitar is still great thanks to a solo by Anthony Drennan (no, he's not a Corr). The next song is also a cover, Jimmy McCarthy's "No Frontiers." For a change, Andrea takes a break and sisters Sharon and Caroline share lead vocals, and do a wonderful job at it too -- the harmony is beautiful. "Queen of Hollywood" is next, and Andrea sings like she's out to remind everyone who the lead singer really is. Personally, I think the version on Talk on Corners has an edge over this one, but nothing too drastic.

"Old Town" is the only song that for some reason doesn't hit me as hard. It's still a good song. It has a great horn solo, and it's a fun. "Lough Erin Shore" is another wonderful instrumental song, very relaxing and, well, pretty. I think "So Young" is probably the best song for the live format of the album; the orchestra plays wonderfully. It's a up-tempo love song, and the Corrs are masters at that type of song. And finishing off the album is a cover of REM's "Everybody Hurts." This is Andrea's spotlight song, and her beautiful voice grips you throughout. Well, maybe that's not entirely fair, because Sharon's violin is indispensible to the mournful feel.

So, in case you haven't been able to tell yet, I really like this album. It's a must for any Corrs fan, but it's also great to introduce you to the band as well, as a "greatest hits" of sorts. The Corrs are wonderful live performers, and my secret goal in recommending this album to you is that you will go out and buy all their albums and finally break them into North America the way they should have a long time ago so that they will come do a tour here and I can go see them. It's not entirely selfish, c'mon.

[ by Patrick Derksen ]



Buy Unplugged from Amazon.com.