WILLIAM SHATNER - HAS BEEN
CD Review by Matt West
even remotely familiar with Shatner's The Transformed Man will
undoubtedly approach this, his new album, with extreme caution.
There was nothing wrong with The Transformed Man as such. Part of
the problem was the choice of material. But there was also a distinct lack
of humility with Shatner back then. There can be no doubt that he believed
Shatner of Has Been is a very different man, clearly older, wiser
and most importantly very clever. The tone style and content of
this album is spot on. It's a very long time since I heard an album and
felt the need to play it through again immediately after.
Shatner has surrounded himself with talent: Lemonjelly, Ben Folds, Aimee
Man, Henry Rollins - and in the middle the main man himself: Kirk!
never liked Star Trek and still don't. When I see Shatner I don't
think of him as Kirk at all. Two things come to mind: TJ Hooker and
Airplane II. To me he's a capable but massively unpredictable
actor, trapped with an image he could never shake off. Suddenly, probably
just after Airplane II he seemed to realise that straight-acting
was a mistake. Since then he's busied himself with high camp cameos and
constantly flawless self-depreciating comedy roles.
the long and the short of it is that this new album is very much HIS
album. When he says "I'm just Bill" I believe him!
is a surprising track
as I'd always assumed it to be a little-known English song. I'd also
assumed up to this point that Cocker’s songs couldn't be covered. This is,
after all, the writer who rhymed Deborah with "suited yer". This cover
version is clearly used to draw people into the album - but it's by no
means illustrative of the entire album. It's fun - but the best is yet to
It Hasn't Happened Yet
is far more
indicative of the territory we're to expect; a sorrowful tale of failed
ambition. Almost a fireside chat with Bill (forgive me but ever since
Free Enterprise he's always been Bill), which is so ever so slightly
trippy, with disembodied voices. Lovely sweet stuff with a gentle, catchy
You'll Have Time
wonderfully dark lesson from a man who knows he's not long for this world.
A jazzy number with strong echoes of Jim Morrison in there.
That's Me Trying
the highlight track on the album. A sweet tale of a daughter Shatner
hasn't seen in 30 years. He rambles asking her questions, suggesting ways
they could meet up. He makes no apologies - just amends. Some lovely
backing vocals from Ben Folds and Aimee Mann make this a very enjoyable
and listenable song. I hope he has met up with her.
What Have You Done?
is easily the
most personal and easy-to-decipher song here. Thanks to the press
coverage, very few people don’t know about Shatner’s ex-wife’s drowning,
and here he retells the event with only a slight musical hint. It’s sad to
hear and he clearly means every word.
is pure Lemonjelly. I
jaunty little tune which wouldn’t seem out of place on any of their EPs.
is the only track I
felt was weak. It’s a fairly upbeat swing number but there’s little to
recommend it and the album wouldn’t hurt without its inclusion.
is hilarious. Comedy
gold! A bit beat number with Shatner telling us precisely what he wants
from his ideal woman, and occasionally what he could well do without. Just
listen to the way he says “Snoressssssssssss…..”
– you would assume the
title track would be something special – and it certainly is: a
Country-style quirky song which seems to be very much targeted at all
critics. This is probably the only track where you can feel Shatner is
genuinely having fun.
Can’t Get Behind That
– now we’re really
rolling … this is a fast-moving abstract piece which reads more like a
piece of Bill Hicks stand up. Henry Rollins and Shatner rattle on like two
grumpy old men – with Shatner’s “Life time guarantee? I don’t have that
much time left!” just pipping “It’s a computer!” to the post for
highlight. After I heard this one I skipped it back again.
– final track, another melancholic number with some sweet sentiments from
our good friend Bill. It’s good stuff.
this leaves you wanting more. But by the same token I hope he doesn’t do
another album. If he did and it was awful – I’d never forgive him.
Arguably Ben Folds’ influence on this entire album cannot be ignored and
he’s done an amazing job in getting the singing parts sung and talking
parts Shatnered. I’d recommend this album to anyone and since hearing it –
haven’t stopped. Well worth a bite.
Final word to Bill:
“I’d love to save the world … but I’m just an entertainer”.