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Shatner Comes Alive, Or, I Can Get Behind That,
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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.