Review Summary: A hugely enjoyable and satisfyingly consistent merging of Irish folk and buoyant pop
Despite the varying degrees of quality exhibited on their releases, Irish family pop rock band The Corrs can always be counted on to keep their trademark sound. Having released 5 albums, as well as a truly superb MTV unplugged recording, they have proven themselves again and again as excellent musicians. On their 1995 debut Forgiven, Not Forgotten
, their songwriting is at its peak. The percussion/ guitar/ violin combination is heartwarming and the influences from traditional Irish compositions, particularly on the instrumental tracks, is a pleasant addition. On this release is where their charm was rooted in the simplicity of their music, with graceful rhythms and beautiful melodies, which combine with Andrea Corr’s voice to create a soothing tandem of lullaby harmonics and classical, ethereal tones. Over their career, their efforts admittedly became more pop-centric to capitalise on the unprecedented success that came their way- but they never lost their vision; a sound truly rooted in the tones of their homeland, leaking melodies and overflowing with positive energy.
Opening with a striking instrumental composition- a motif that will pepper the album’s tracklist- the tone is immediately set as one of calm, easy vibrancy. The violin is the most notable instrument, and a signature sound of the band’s homeland, both in tone and methodology. The title track serves as a perfect introductory piece, the wistful strains of folkloric whimsy married with the more modern intonations of the electric guitar, piano and percussive instruments. The harmonies on the chorus on this particular track are heartfelt and produced with a clarity that is both rousing and subdued. On Forgiven, Not Forgotten
, it tends to be that the more tranquil tracks oftentimes become a little too weighed down in sentimentality- a trait that is not lamentable per se, but which does sap some of the album’s unusually vivacious production. Possibly the band’s most popular song, ‘Runaway’ is a perfect example of this. Undeniably beautiful in melody and with an undeniably superb vocal performance, the overall content and feel of the song is nonetheless so weighted down by wallowing emotionality it feels almost like an assault of grim feeling. Contrast this with later track ‘Closer’, which is a staggeringly good example of soul and melody in almost perfect balance, and ‘Runaway’ feels truly as though it is overcompensating with it's pandering hurt and yearning.
Despite the album being very easy on the ears, there are certainly occasions when the band do switch the formula somewhat and develop their sound into one of slightly louder energy. Tracks such as ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘Someday’, ‘Secret Life’, and ‘Leave Me Alone’ show a pleasant flair for notably more lively composition. This is unfortunately at the expense of the melody the outfit are so proficient at creating, but ‘Secret Life’ especially allows for a different side of vocalist Andrea Corr’s style to let itself be known. The attempts at attitude here and there may be questionable, but they are still endearing enough that they succeed admirably, even if the composition is not the album’s strongest. Structurally, with the exception of the instrumental tracks, every song is of a traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus standard. However, The Corrs manage to make this work by maintaining a strong substance behind their style that does not fast wear out. An accomplishment by any account, but a particularly impressive achievement when the music is as classically simple as shown here. Despite this ‘The Right Time’ and ‘Love To Love You’ allow for slightly different styles to make an appearance. The latter especially displays an almost reggae-esque pace and sombre yet uplifting chorus instrumentals that, unfortunately, the band have seldom revisited since.
Although it is clearly a very simple style that thrives based on the use of melody rather than sonic expansion or musical subtlety, Forgiven, Not Forgotten
is The Corrs at their most accomplished. Everything from the gorgeous, if a little brief, instrumentals to the painstakingly arranged harmonies is fitting and suited to the consistent tone. Although there are a few tracks that could benefit from a slight trim and a few too many somewhat cliché lyrical themes, the album stands tall based on the strength of its songwriting- clearly an album written by a group with a single, discernible vision. This vision is transmitted through every track of The Corrs’ debut album, and the intended meaning finds its’ way to the listener flawlessly. A diverting, pleasant and altogether lovable release, its foibles and quirks nothing more or less than a testament to the endeavour involved in crafting it.