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Has Been

4.6 out of 5 stars 270 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 5, 2004
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Product Description

More than 35 years after the release of his debut solo album, William Shatner teams up with Ben Folds to create Has Been, a surprisingly pop-driven, lyrically potent collection of songs written by the duo. With the exception of 'Trying,' co-written by Folds and novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy), 'Real' by Brad Paisley, and Pulp's 'Common People,' Shatner proves to be a witty and self-deprecating poet, while Folds' talent for crafting the perfect pop melody has never been more evident. Has Been will be released on October 5th by Shout! Factory.

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After his rendition of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" on the infamous Golden Throats album (though it first appeared on the Transformed Man LP), one could argue that the world needed a new William Shatner album about as much as it needed a big-screen remake of TJ Hooker. But Shatner's back all the same with an intriguing, introspective collection of mostly spoken-word tracks that are all the more compelling when it becomes clear that Has Been is, in fact, no joke. Ben Folds played on and produced the record, creating rich, melodic, and varied pop musical backgrounds to Shatner's world-weary, boozy-suave yet thoroughly impassioned delivery. Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins, Brad Paisley, and Adrian Belew also stop by to lend their divergent talents. Highlights include the Rollins/Shatner rant "I Can't Get Behind That" and the Folds/Mann/Shatner collaboration "That's Me Trying", which tells the painful story of an attempted family reconciliation. Shatner mixes a healthy amount of self-awareness with a just a dollop of self-mockery and then combines it all with plenty of raw vulnerability to create an effect that is surprisingly touching, highly entertaining, and unlike any music you've ever heard. --John Moe

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William Shatner was recently caught on tape by paparazzi responding to reports that some people hadn’t yet heard his new album. See him read Amazon.com customer reviews of Has Been as he makes his case: high bandwidth, low bandwidth.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 5, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Shout! Factory
  • ASIN: B0002RUPH4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (270 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,048 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dean Esmay on October 9, 2004
Format: 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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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.
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Format: 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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Format: 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.
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