Celtic Thunder hits the wrong note with new album




The first thing you notice when you look at the CD cover of the new Celtic Thunder CD, That’s Entertainment, is Damian McGinty, the apple-cheeked teen who stole our hearts with a jolly good read of Donny Osmond’s “Puppy Love.”

The lad is growing up before our eyes! He now has the black tuxedo jacket slung over his shoulder as the dark tie hangs precariously on his chest.

Puberty is obviously here, but in case the fans of the show hadn’t noticed, the producers waste no time trying to con us into thinking he has transformed into a Rat Packer playboy with a read of Michael Buble’s “Home.” He doesn’t have a thimble full of Buble’s swagger, and it’s the first sign of trouble for my favorite Irish franchise.

I really love Celtic Thunder because you want to see a friend succeed, and I consider Phil Coulter a friend. I am a huge fan of songs like “The Town I Loved So Well” and “The Old Man,” and it was a thrill to watch Coulter gain new fans when these timeless tunes were dropped into the Celtic Thunder setlist.

Coulter’s arranging genius was on full display as he punctuated his songs with tunes from Foreigner and the Moody Blues to create a uniquely Irish musical conversation. But over three Celtic Thunder albums of flawless execution, proof that Coulter loses his touch can be found when he casts the gorgeous tenor of cast member Paul Byrom onto the farcical “Doo Wacka Doo.” Doo Wacka Dude, what were you thinking?

This new CD makes me wonder if it’s too late to end things on a high note. As if to prove Celtic Thunder has “jumped the shark,” there is “Surfer Medley” which is so pale and devoid of sunshine that Keith Harkin, the talented singer songwriter with the blond surfer dude mop-top, comes off sounding more like Salthill than Santa Monica.

Just when you think he’s reached the shore, he is forced to swim back into the saccharine for Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and holds on to that buoy for 3:46 of rough musical seas indeed. If I was on the Love Boat and this was playing, I would have Isaac whip me up a Dramamine smoothie, hold the pineapple wedge!

Ryan Kelly’s rakish good looks and arched eyebrows made him the perfect bad boy of the group, so it would be only natural to have him sing the seventies Jim Croce chestnut “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” The bare-knuckled blues piano riff of the original has been replaced by a whimsical trumpet and vaudevillian arrangement that completely castrates this once randy bull.

Credit must be given to Coulter for including the Proclaimers’ “My Life Without You” because the world needs to know that this band is more traveled than the “500 Miles” that made them famous.

That said, there’s a cold wind from the schmaltzy Catskills Mountains that blows through most of That’s Entertainment. It makes this writer suspect that the cast and crew are turning their back on their young demographic in favor of the Golden Girls set when they send teen heartthrob McGinty into the studio to sing “Standing on the Corner” from the Broadway musical The Most Happy Fella. Again, the lad will have to put a few more hairs on his chest and add a few new notches on his belt before taking on this crooner persona.

Maybe this collection of songs will make more sense in the context of the new Celtic Thunder show coming to us later this year. Something tells me that calling “that’s a wrap” on Celtic Thunder and That’s Entertainment will kick me off the free ticket guest list.

Oh, great -- like my mother needs another reason to hate this column!

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