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160 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Surprise Of The Year
I would never have believed I'd give a five star review to a William Shatner album, and be serious about it. But I am serious. Kudos to both Shatner and to the producer Ben Folds for this brilliant little gem of an album.

For those sneering without hearing, I'll merely note that if you remember the William Shatner Priceline commercials, you'll have some idea...
Published on October 9, 2004 by Dean Esmay

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars It was at best odd
He is a very talented man but this was strange and I suggest you save your money for something else.
Published 10 months ago by stuff


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160 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Surprise Of The Year, October 9, 2004
By 
Dean Esmay (Westland, MI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
I would never have believed I'd give a five star review to a William Shatner album, and be serious about it. But I am serious. Kudos to both Shatner and to the producer Ben Folds for this brilliant little gem of an album.

For those sneering without hearing, I'll merely note that if you remember the William Shatner Priceline commercials, you'll have some idea what this CD is like. Only it's even better than those were.

The hard-rocking (yes hard-rocking!) Common People kicks the album off perfectly. From there we have an astonishingly wide array of tracks, some moody, some wistful, some funny, but none of it ever truly descending into camp or schmaltz. One track is a genuinely moving tribute to his tragically deceased wife. Another is one that every child of divorce will recognize and empathize with. Then there's the duet with Henry Rollins, in which both men are simply hilarious.

Quite simply, this album is excellent listening. It's the surprise of the year: a good, genuinely very, very good, William Shatner album. It's worth owning just for the title track alone, but everything on here is good. Highly recommended.
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103 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shatner Comes Alive, Or, I Can Get Behind That, October 10, 2004
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This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
This CD is not at all what I expected. I have long been a fan of William Shatner's "singing" most notably on the Golden Throats CDs and on his remarkable album "Transformed Man" from many years ago. The reason that I liked the previous efforts was clearly due to the over-the-top cheese value of an untalented singer crooning out classics like "Mister Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" with severe rhythm impairment, not to mention original efforts like "Spleen" featuring such delicious phrases as "my bent skull" peppered throughout. Everyone laughed at these songs, and as he got older, so did Shatner himself. I thought it was great when he signed up to sing in the Priceline.com television commercials. He clearly realizes in his own self-deprecating way, that he is a poor singer, and that that is why people beg for him to sing.

When I saw he was releasing a CD of new material, I feared for the worst, but I was most certainly wrong to be concerned. Shatner still can't sing, but has now written material that largely allows him to get by with his sing-speaking technique that is more akin to a dramatic recital set to music than a real song. In this case, Shatner teamed up with talented pop star Ben Folds, who scored most of the music and produced the CD, and much to my amazement, the album isn't especially funny in the traditional sense, but it is good. Mostly it is interesting and introspective into Shatner's real life. Some of the songs are really dark and almost painful to listen to, where others are lighthearted and wacky. My favorites on the CD are "Real" written by country star Brad Paisley (who also sings on the track), and the odd title track "Has Been" which has an interesting backing track. My hands down favorite on the CD, though, is "I Can't Get Behind That" performed with co-writer Henry Rollins (!), which is at once a hilarious rant, and simultaneously a legitimate and valid piece of societal criticism. I too am especially annoyed by leaf blowers (the most futile machine in the universe) and inattentive drivers talking on their cell phones, and I love hearing Bill and Henry screaming about these issues and more.

This CD is absolutely impossible to categorize: it isn't so bad it's funny like "Transformed Man", and Shatner still isn't a great singer, but I really enjoy this CD. I like that Shatner is secure enough to relax and laugh at himself. It took guts to make this album (without trying to be excessively camp), and took guts for Ben Folds and other guests to put their reputations on the line collaborating on this. It was certainly worth the risk: without question "Has Been" is far better than anything currently in the Top 40 and is funny and charming to boot.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, isn't it?, October 23, 2004
By 
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
I approached this album with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, having heard Bill's jaw-dropping cover version of Common People. I was looking forward to hearing it, expecting lashings of excrutiating yet laugh-a-minute so-bad-it's-good comedy.

And yes, I found it, the comedy's there. On songs like You're Gonna Die and the magnificient title track, but it's genuine, ballsy, rapier-edged wit - not half-assed, lame attempts at laughs.

But what I wasn't expecting was the genuinely heartfelt warmth of feeling on some of the other tracks.

That's Me Trying, Real and - one of the standouts - Together, really are emotionally moving; the musical arrangements are effortless yet exemplary, and Shatner's lyrics are nicely poetic but still accesible.

However, the most striking thing on these more contemplative tracks is the man's voice. Shatner moves away from the deadpan bemusement we might be familiar with on the more humorous songs - and his voice becomes remarkably tender and touching.

I think every track on this album hits the target it aims for. The grumpy-old-man rant he shares with Henry Rollins on I Can't Get Behind That captures quite perfectly the feeling of frantically struggling with the pace of change in the modern world. And of course that cover of Pulp's classic Common People is just great, Shatner's North American (I know he's Canadian) take on singing about such British concepts as fags, flats and chips achieves just the right level of wry detachment - just as Jarvis Cocker did in his arch original perfomance, though in a subtly different way.

Spot on!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Album of the Year!, October 28, 2004
By 
W. Griffiths "Student" (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
Honestly, when I first heard it I thought it was a joke. William Shatner, master of the cheesy Priceline commercial, making a serious attempt at music? I anticipated huge amounts of cheese in this album, and bought it thinking it would be amusing.

Boy, was I wrong.

What Shatner has done here is a transcendent work of art. The skillful arrangements by Ben Folds have an undeniable catchiness, and the roster of guest artists is impressive. Instead of erring on the side of courage like Leonard Nimoy and attempting to sing rhythmlessly to blaring music, Shatner relies on his considerable speaking talent for his performance. The guest artists provide the musical backdrop for what is basically a series of brilliant monologues.

From the first song, a remake of the classic "Common People," Shatner lets us know he's not taking himself too seriously. The treatment of the song is fun, funny, slightly campy, but doesn't come off as cheesy at all. It's definitely musical, moreso than many albums being put out these days.

Then, just when we think he's all about fun and games, he pulls "What Have You Done?" on us. Heartwrenching, entirely nonmusical, but nevertheless the emotional core of this album, Shatner outdoes himself with perfect vocal acting of well-written material. It'll send a chill up your spine the first time you hear it. Maybe even bring a tear to your eye.

In one last show of versatility, Bill Shatner gets mad. Really, really mad. In "I Can't Get Behind That" he attacks overpriced gas, general stupidity, and some of the idiotic foundations to our messed up society. In the album's title track, "Has Been," he stares all the people who voted this album a one straight in the eye and raises a big vocal middle finger to all of them. It's great fun, and the Spaghetti Western-style background music makes it even funnier.

While many will disagree with me, I feel this album deserves recognition at the Grammies. It took a great deal of courage to produce a set of songs so emotionally varied and intensely personal. It's the truest definition of art, revealing sides of the artist we might not see otherwise. Thank you, Bill Shatner, for the best album of 2004.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, Haunting, Genius from the former King of Camp, October 7, 2004
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This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
I didn't really know what this was before buying it. I just knew there was another "William Shatner" album coming out and I was curious. The inclusion of Ben Folds in most of the writing credits was my only clue that "Has Been" might be something quite different from what Shatner had done in the past with his "spoken word meets music" outings. So last night here I am with the CD in the player, reading along with the liner notes, and names like Joe Jackson and Aimee Mann start popping up. And then I start hearing the substance of the music... the words... the presentation. Wow. This is a glimpse into the frailty of humanity, insecurity, with a little bit of humor. Not campy humor, but you'll laugh when Shatner emotes over and over again in "Ideal Woman" that "I want you to be you," and then casually mentions that maybe she could stop chewing gum, lose the irrational moods, etc... The opening rocker, "Common People" snags from the start with its catchy rhythms, and "You'll Have Time" is a gospel tune, complete with organ, about living life to the fullest. Many of the tracks seem autobiographical, and provide perhaps a closer look at Shatner's personal life than anything he's ever revealed to date. I'll be listening to this one for a long time.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most positively surprising album I've ever listned to!, October 6, 2004
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
I knew I was going to laugh, but I never expected be moved by a William Shatner album. I honesly expected this album to be one of the novelty items in my CD collection; something to pull out once a year and laugh at. I've been playing the thing all day, and the more I listen, the more I'm shocked that someone who could make an album as legendarily bad as his debut "The Transformed Man" could make something as musically succesful as this. This thing will be in my CD changer for a LONG time.

The album is often as personal, intimate and deconstructed as the final Johnny Cash albums. The songs are an honest look at the man, his humor, and his regrets.

The somber side of the album:

You'll Have Time" is a darkly comedic look back at life with feelings of regret, with a Sinatra vibe. "That's Me Trying", a song with Ben Folds sharing the vocals, is a hard listen for anyone with an estranged father. "What Have You Done" is a chilling spoken word piece, in which Shatner recalls the highly-publicized drowning of his wife in the family pool. Hearing the details of his discovery of his wife's body is haunting. Hours after my first listen, I'm still reeling.

The lighter side:

The humor on the album is all intentional this time around. "Common People" just plain rocks! Shatner tells a story of a rich girl slumming, who is incapable of ever understanding what it means to be poor. "Has Been" is a sound alike of the country standard "Riders In The Sky" which the jealous "never was" critics of the world. "I Cant Get Behind That" is a classic over-the-top rant, with the over-emoting duties split between him and punk legend Henry Rollins. "Ideal Woman" is an amusing series of backhanded compliments directed at his lover. The album's closer "Real" (penned by country singer Brad Paisley) end the album with the message that as much as the hordes of Star Trek fans would like to believe otherwise, he's not Captain Kirk. He's a real person with real feelings. By the time to make it to this song, you already know him.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets better with each listen, October 8, 2004
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This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
I first heard clips of this record on Howard Stern, who pretty roundly mocked it, with Shatner and Folds on the phone during the interview. Bill was gracious, and in spite of the shock jock's jokes, the clips I heard were unlike anything I'd heard before. I absolutely loved "Common People," which rocks as well as anything you're likely to hear. And the other track intrigued me.

I gave the CD a shot, and I honestly can say it is one of the best music buys I've made in a long, long while. Some tracks grab you instantly. Others require multiple listens and consideration. It's simply a brilliant album, and Mr. Shatner should be commended for the risks he has taken as an artist. He aimed high, and hit the bull's eye.

For those wishing to simply dismiss this as some sort of joke (Shatner sings? Well, not exactly...), all one needs to do is to read the list of accomplished musicians contributing to this stellar effort to put that talk to rest.

Bravo on a brilliant album.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Has Been" an Artistic Triumph, October 23, 2004
By 
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
William Shatner's "Has Been" is an artistic triumph for a creative force long-ridiculed for his first album, 1968's "The Transformed Man." Heart may be the difference between the two albums. "The Transformed Man" wasn't lacking in creativity. It had a grandiose goal (showing the relationship between classical literature and modern literature as set to music), but Shatner was performing works whose subjects may not have been as close to his heart or to his personal experiences as the works on this album (many of which he wrote).

"Has Been" is an honest expression of a 73-year-old man's view on life, primarily his life. That view is at times poignant, heartrending, loving, curmudgeonly, and hysterical. However, it is always honest, which is the most impressive aspect of "Has Been." Shatner willingly portrays himself as a failed human being ("That's Me Trying," "Real"), vulnerable to the ravages of death ("You'll Have Time"), longing for a greater degree of success ("It Hasn't Happened Yet"), who is always willing to try to be better and dream bigger, no matter what others say ("Has Been"). He also emphasizes the meaning of love, both tragic ("What Have You Done") and true ("Together," "Familiar Love," and "Ideal Woman"). The cover song chosen for this album, "Common People," reminds people of Shatner's days spent in the poverty and travails of the average person, showing those who have never been common that, in order to understand the plight of the common man, you must have first lived in that existence.

Combine all of the above with Ben Folds' creative and diverse musical arrangements and his tastefully-placed guest stars (Brad Paisley, Aimee Mann, and Henry Rollins, to name a few), and you have an instant classic.

Hopefully, "Has Been" will be discovered by a greater audience. Shatner achieved the lofty goal he set for himself with "The Transformed Man" in this album, proving once again that true talent "always is" and never becomes "has been."
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bill comes into his own with Ben Folds at the controls, October 9, 2004
By 
Richard C. Moorman (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
Rex Harrison of "My Fair Lady" meets Ken Nordine. And rocks out. Jaw-droppingly good stuff, especially considering Shatner's previous appearances on novelty-embarrassment collections like "Golden Throats", Rhino's celebrities-murder-the-classics line. This is astounding, and is not a novelty, and I'm, like, astounded.

Astounded. I mean, jumping Jehosaphat, this is good!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh My Goodness!, October 11, 2004
By 
Brian B. Carter (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Has Been (Audio CD)
Wow. Wow. Wow.

You've probably heard one of Shatner's older singing efforts- it was a joke- that he would try.

BUT...

This is different. This is amazing. This is so mondo cool, so ultra hip, that it may even redefine HIP. I'm serious.

From the not-too bad-poetic stylings over jazz piano, to the pop-culture right-on-target live-now-because-YOU'RE-GOING-TO-DIE gospel chorus, this is mind blowing.

And I think the thing that really gets it is that it's good music. And Shatner not only doesn't screw it up - his cheezy, unmistakable Shatnerness MAKES this album. At other times, his voice, a combination of Dadness and a weird likeable acquaintance you don't want to get stuck alone with because he talks too much, just sort of reminds you how genuine he is. And maybe that's why we normally think he's cheezy. But it works here, so well!

It's self-conscious but not self-absorbed, hilarious but not chaotic, innovative but listenable. How did they do it?

Of course, you have heard of Ben Folds, because Ben Folds Five made some kind of mark on pop a few years back, in the tradition of major-chord, songwriting, piano men Billy Joel and Joe Jackson, updated with a rockin 90's electric bass sound... and you liked him then, maybe not enough to buy the CD, but you were happy when he came on the radio.

Now he's teamed up, a young prodigy with an old 'Has Been' (as the album says), giving the wizened one a melodic vehicle, given the brilliant youth a thoughtful depth. And, oh man, does it work!
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Has Been
Has Been by William Shatner (Audio CD - 2007)
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