Tuesday, January 30, 2007

William Shatner - The Transformed Man

Okay, I know. William Shatner, can't sing, ha ha, right? Yeah, all the jokes have been done. But have you really heard it? Have you?

Even if it weren't for Star Trek, this album was destined to be a cult classic. It is so far beyond weird that it's hard to imagine a major label touching it, even with the star power. The vocals range from stately and impassioned, to confused, to manic and crazed, and that's just on his version of "Mr. Tambourine Man." The "spoken word" intros range from oddly inappropriate on a pop album (do we really need to hear his interpretation of Hamlet?) to downright terrifying ("The Spleen," his prelude to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds").

The first time I heard this, I was expecting a silly camp classic, but as the album went on, my eyes just kept getting wider. If it were just Shatner's perverse performance, that would be one thing, but the arrangements match him every step of the way: they walk the line between square 60's spoken word accompaniments to crazed orchestra-on-acid freakouts. It's not an album to play for the kids before bed. Actually, it's not an album for anyone to listen to before bed. It is, however, an album that's absolutely worth hearing.

If this were just a rote cash-in album, it wouldn't sound anything like this: there is passion and creative consideration in it. Whether the people behind it had the talent to make it art is still up for debate, but I keep going back for another listen to try to answer that question.

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