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‘Talk On Corners’: The Folk-Pop Triumph Of The Corrs’ Second Album
In Depth

‘Talk On Corners’: The Folk-Pop Triumph Of The Corrs’ Second Album

Taking their Celtic roots to new commercial heights, The Corrs’ second album, ‘Talk On Corners’ became a watershed moment for Irish pop-rock.

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In the mid-90s, the County Louth-based folk quartet The Corrs – comprised of siblings Andrea, Sharon, Caroline and Jim Corr – emerged from Ireland ready to cast their musical spell across the globe. With their first album, Forgiven, Not Forgotten, the group had already proven themselves as ones to watch, largely thanks to the single Runaway, which went Top 10 in their homeland, Top 50 in the UK and charted at No.68 in the US. However, it was their second album that would truly establish The Corrs’ rising status as folk-pop superstars. Stepping into the limelight with the finesse that only seasoned professionals can bring, The Corrs unveiled Talk On Corners, a sleekly-arranged labour of love that not only exceeded expectations but also elevated the band to unprecedented heights.

This is the story of how Talk On Corners combined the wistfulness of Irish folk music with the upbeat melodicism of pop music, forever etching The Corrs’ name into the annals of music history…

Listen to ‘Talk On Corners’ here.

The backstory: “We go from nothing to lose, everything to win, to get it wrong and it’s all over”

With Runaway having proven The Corrs could write hit singles, the siblings were under pressure to turn out more songs of a similar ilk when they started working on their second record. As Andrea Corr stated in her memoir, Barefoot Pilgrimage, “We go from nothing to lose, everything to win, to get it wrong and it’s all over.” Expectations over what would become Talk On Corners were rising, but writing what Andrea Corr called the “H word” wouldn’t be easy.

Luckily, the group had more than enough talent to step up to the challenge. But though all four siblings had sufficient songwriting chops, the very idea of writing hit singles to order took some adjusting to. For this reason, The Corrs were encouraged to collaborate with other industry heavyweights, such as US producer Glen Ballard, the man who had overseen Alanis Morrisette’s massively successful 1996 album, Jagged Little Pill.

The band subsequently flew out to California to take part in group songwriting sessions, and they soon found themselves rubbing shoulders with numerous songwriters of high renown. “Apparently a ‘hit’ (there, I said it) wasn’t something we could write alone,” Andrea reflected. “So the writing sessions in California began. Pairing each of us off with different, tried-and-tested ‘hitmakers’.” Reportedly, this didn’t sit easily with Jim Corr, who retreated to his bedroom with a guitar to prove to himself that he could do it alone. It’s all well and good having a helping hand to write a hit, he reasoned, but if The Corrs could do it themselves, the success would be theirs to own.

The recording: “There are songs that we all love now and that we would never have written alone”

From California’s fabled Record Plant to Dublin’s Windmill Lane, The Corrs’ second album, Talk On Corners, was recorded in a variety of studios, with a team of top-tier producers: Glen Ballard, David Foster, Oliver Leiber, Rick Nowels and Billy Steinberg, with the group’s manager, John Hughes, and Jim Corr even muscling in on the action. The songs that stemmed from their West Coast writing sessions were arguably the most radio-friendly collection of new material the group had ever amassed, having been workshopped with songwriting legends such as Carole Bayer Sager (A Groovy Kind Of Love), Glen Ballard (Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror) and Billy Steinberg (Madonna’s Like A Virgin). “There are songs that we all love now and that we would never have written alone,” Andrea wrote in her memoir.

As Talk On Corners took shape, Andrea in particular felt as though she was advancing as a songwriter. “Personally, I feel I became a lyricist then, albeit a quirky one,” she said. “And there were days that the words came, like I was transcribing something that had always been.” As The Corrs began to record their new songs, they also worked on finessing their fusion of Celtic folk and contemporary pop-rock, putting in long hours to combine their roots-based inspirations with a sleek 90s gloss. “I felt like I was made of veins in those days. With coffee for blood,” Andrea later admitted. “It was unrelenting.”

Reportedly spending over 40 hours of studio time on overdubbing, it was a long and difficult process to finally complete Talk On Corners to the band’s satisfaction. When the higher-ups at their label heard the results, however, they still felt the album lacked the requisite hits, and the band were dismayed to be asked to record yet more new material. Manager John Hughes stepped in, however, and assured the execs that Talk On Corners would be a success, going so far as to sign a contract taking personal liability in the event that it was not.

Released as the album’s lead single, in September 1997, Only When I Sleep was co-written with Oliver Leiber (son of the legendary rock’n’roll songwriter Jerry Leiber), Paul Peterson (of the Prince protégé group The Time) and Melissa Etheridge’s guitarist John Shanks. With a glamorous music video shot in LA’s Alexandria Hotel – the haunt of famous stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood – Only When I Sleep was a dream-like ballad well worth waking up to, and it vindicated both band and manager when it peaked at No.10 in Ireland.

The release: “‘Talk On Corners’ was everywhere… The biggest-selling record in the UK by an Irish band, ever”

Released on 17 October 1997, The Corrs’ second album, Talk On Corners debuted at No.7 in the UK and would go on to spend a whopping 164 weeks in the Top 100. Eventually peaking at No.1 only 12 months on from its release, the album would in time go on to sell almost three million copies in the UK alone, establishing The Corrs as one of the best bands of the 90s. “‘Talk On Corners’ was everywhere,” Andrea Corr wrote in Barefoot Pilgrimage. “Singing out of car windows. The biggest-selling record in the UK by an Irish band, ever.”

A notable album highlight was Queen Of Hollywood, which was co-written with Dane Deviller and Glen Ballard. The song’s lyrics were written by Andrea Corr after watching a documentary about prostitution and drugs in New York City. “It’s really the tale of a girl pursuing a dream, and what it looks like on the outside and what actually is happening to her is not quite the same picture,” Andrea explained to the BBC in 2001. “Just kind of a tragic tale of someone pursuing a dream, and it doesn’t work out, but she feels there’s something different about her. It’s kind of a tragic song.”

Released as the album’s second single, in December 1997, I Never Loved You Anyway remains instantly recognisable, in part thanks to the heavy radio play it received at the time. Co-written with Carole Bayer Sager, it was what Andrea called an “F-U” song that is sweetened by resplendent fiddles and angelic vocals. Widely considered to be one of the best Corrs songs, I Never Loved You Anyway was another conversation-starter from Talk On Corners.

The remixes: “I remember Radio 1 just playing it and playing it and playing it”

Largely dominated by boy bands, girl groups and club hits, the late 90s was a unique time for pop music. To help The Corrs find their place in this pop-cultural landscape, US DJ Todd Terry was asked to remix their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours-era hit Dreams, originally released on a Fleetwood Mac tribute album, but later added to Talk On Corners as a bonus track. Transforming The Corrs’ mellow Irish folk rendition into a thumping house jig, Terry’s Dreams remix took its sonic cues from Everything But the Girl’s 1995 hit Missing and successfully scored the band their biggest hit single to date. “Before that we really hadn’t heard our music being played,” Caroline Corr admitted in the documentary All The Way Home. “Maybe the odd radio station here and there, but never to that same extent. I remember Radio 1 just playing it and playing it and playing it.”

Peaking at No.6 in the UK and selling over 200,000 copies, the Todd Terry remix of Dreams took the melancholy of the Stevie Nicks-penned original and set The Corrs on a path to clubland. Despite their life-long fondness for Irish folk, the band had never made a secret of their pop-rock ambitions, and seeing Dreams become a massive dance hit only furthered their collective goals. Even Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood himself had taken notice, joining the group onstage at a Royal Albert Hall show on St Patrick’s Day in March 1998. “He was just this gentle giant,” Caroline Corr said in an interview on The Eleventh Hour with Dave Fanning in 2009. “He was so lovely and so happy to do it. He enjoyed every moment of it. He was great.”

The Corrs’ next single was a re-release of What Can I Do, now also given a remix, this time by Tin Tin Out. Taking the folk-pop charm of The Corrs’ original and giving it a downtempo makeover, the London-based dance duo helped propel the song to No.3 in the UK, giving The Corrs their biggest chart success yet.

By now, it was clear that these well-chosen remixes were proving to be the lifeblood of Talk On Corners’ promo campaign. Not only were they giving The Corrs heavy exposure on BBC Radio 1 but they were also causing sales of the album to skyrocket. Having been a solid presence in the UK Top 20 for many months, DJs K-Klass were assigned the job of remixing the group’s next single, So Young, a song written by Sharon Corr in dedication to her parents while she was staying in a Dublin hotel. “I wrote it about my parents because they have been young forever,” Sharon said during a solo gig at Howard Theater in Washington, DC, in 2013, “and I love that about them that no matter how old they got they were always young in spirit and in their heart and in how they approach life.”

Taking one of The Corrs’ poppiest melodies and giving it a swanking R&B-style groove, K-Klass turned So Young into something as loose-limbed as any trip hop cut of the era. Released in November 1998, their remix peaked at No.6 and became The Corrs’ third UK Top 10 hit in a row, proving that the Irish band’s melodic instincts were well in tune with the public mood. Combining the radio-friendly nous of club floor-fillers with the innate melancholy of pop-rock, The Corrs had found their sweet spot.

The legacy: “It takes an enormous amount of hard work to sell a million records”

From their modest beginnings in Dundalk, Ireland, to rapidly escalating levels of fame, The Corrs secured their place in pop history with Talk On Corners. Selling more than seven million copies worldwide, the album established the folk-pop band as one of Ireland’s best-selling acts of all time. At the heart of the album’s story is the four siblings’ unwavering dedication to developing their songwriting talents to complement their remarkable musical prowess.

“Without wanting to get egotistical about it, I think success has got to be celebrated,” Jim Corr told Q magazine. “It takes an enormous amount of hard work to sell a million records.” With each sibling pouring their heart and soul into every note, every lyric and every arrangement, the group created an album that transcended national borders and successfully introduced millions to traditional Irish music with a decidedly modern twist.

Across haunting acoustic ballads and infectious pop anthems, the album’s subtle fusion of Irish folk with contemporary pop showcased The Corrs’ ability to bridge cultures through their music, strongly resonating with listeners across the generations. Their collaborations with esteemed producers and songwriters further enriched Talk On Corners, creating a slew of late-90s hits that held their own on the charts, The Corrs brandishing a fiddle as their weapon of choice.

When their manager signed a contract assuming full responsibility for the album’s success, things could still have gone either way for The Corrs, but John Hughes’ belief in the strength of the group’s songwriting knew no bounds, and Talk On Corners ultimately proved that his instincts were right. To this day, the album remains a jewel in The Corrs’ discography, and a testament to the enduring legacy of a band that dared to dream and who worked tirelessly to turn those dreams into reality.

Find out where The Corrs rank among the best 90s musicians.

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