Coming fifth in the BBC’s Fame Academy got Malachi Cush valubale exposure, not least for his relationship with fellow student Sinead Quinn. With the release of this eponymous debut album, Malachi becomes the first Fame Academy graduate to release an LP – and it’s a subdued affair.
The final five students were all very different to each other, with the Academy’s entry rules allowing entrants specialising in any kind of music, but to find someone whose output recalls Val Doonican, Daniel O’Donnell and even Ronan Keating amongst the mix is a genuine – and pleasant – surprise.
Relying heavily on covers of songs by Irish stars like Shane MacGowan, Van Morrison and U2, as well as less obvious songs by Don McLean, Cat Stevens and even The Bee Gees, this record has a distinctly Irish feel. This is brought about largely by the arrangements and despite production which resolutely blunders along in second gear throughout. Whistles, fiddles and even big drum fillers surround Malachi’s distinctively rich, warm and deep voice in this collection of ballads which, let’s be frank, is more likely to be enjoyed by anyone browsing the Easy Listening CD racks that those plundering the pop piles.
Malachi even thanks his granny on the sleeve – what an old softie! And somewhat predicatably, in amongst the gently meandering songs, space is found for a duet with Sinead – You’re The One, by Shane MacGowan. It might have been a more credible record had it featured more than just two co-writing credits for Malachi, but plenty of other stars have released covers records and received plaudits for their interpretations.
Where this one comes unstuck is in its overall feeling of blandness. The preponderance of slow ballad numbers make it more hip replacement than hip, but it’s a mushy, romantic record at heart, and the songs suit his voice well. It doesn’t rank alongside the output of fellow Academy graduate Ainslie, but that seems intentional. It is ultimately a bold attempt at pitching a young artist at a significantly older audience. You get the feeling that Malachi (or at least his record company) is less concerned with achieving no.1 in the singles chart than with being played on the Terry Wogan show. For courage, at least, he deserves respect.