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William Shatner launches unconventional album

By Michelle Cooley
On October 17, 2011

Alright geeks: it's time to get your yellow uniforms and cigarettes lighters out, because Captain Kirk is going to sing.

William Shatner, best known for his younger days acting in "Star Trek," recently released the album, "Searching for Major Tom," which displays his talent (or lack thereof) for music. To describe it simply, the album is...interesting. It is a far cry from what most people would consider good music, but it has a unique draw that will surely please any fan of Shatner and his work.

Throughout his career, Shatner has displayed a wide variety of talent inside the entertainment industry. Besides his infamous role as the womanizing explorer Captain James Tiberius Kirk, he has written autobiographies and extensions to the Star Trek universe, worked in movies outside that universe and starred in other TV series, like "Boston Legal." Shatner's persona centers around his unique style, shown especially through his. Dramatic. Pauses. Followed by quick phrases. His career can probably be best described as embracing his role in Star Trek while expanding on his talents in different mediums and genres. This album is no different.

Sure, there is not a single Star Trek reference in any of the 20 songs, but the theme of the album is "Space Western," and it features a male explorer played by Shatner going off into unknown depth. The parallels are not that hard to spot.

Before you get your hopes up too high, Shatner does not sing. He has many, many other artists sing for him, but we don't get to hear what Kirk would have sounded like if he was a band captain instead of a space one. Instead, he speaks in prose, in a way that makes it sound like he's almost going to start singing, but not quite. The closest he gets to singing is when he does a cover, like in "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The opening of the album tells the story of Major Tom, which we can quickly surmise to be an astronaut. He gets launched into space, but something happens to his ship and it becomes questionable whether he will survive the trip or not. Following along with the story is a series of songs that loosely tie into the main song, with forced attempts to bring it closer by repeating parts of previous songs. Then we get more directly involved in the story by listening to the only song that Shatner doesn't "sing" in: "Mrs. Major Tom," sung by Sheryl Crow.

Even though it got really repetitive, the background music was pretty good. The genres of the songs varied: some would be more rock, like "Spirit In the Sky," or techno-ish, like "She Blinded Me With Science" or something more country like "Mr. Cowboy."

Shatner also put a lot of thought into his lyrics, a rare anomaly in mainstream music. Basically every song had a space or rocket theme, with lines like "I'm wrapped up in silence, all the circuits are dead," from "Twilight Zone" and "Like stars that fall to Earth too fast," from "Empty Glass." Some of the lyrics are funny, like in "She Blinded Me with Science," where he says "[She] blinded me with science and failed me in biology."

There were a couple songs that were surprisingly good. "Lost in the Stars" was more of a poem reading with a nice sax solo, but it was very beautiful. Shatner's style seemed to work well here. The opening song to the album, "Major Tom (Coming Home)" and the closing song "Planet Earth" are actually enticing once the song gets started. It was also a lot of fun listening to Shatner read/sing out covers of other songs, especially "Rocket Man," "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Iron Man."

The average song was around four to five minutes. The longest song, "Twilight Zone," clocked in at 7:24 minutes. The length of the songs came more from the repetition of previous songs mixed into later ones, and some sweet instrumental solos that had been scattered here and there. Has it been mention how repetitive the songs can get? Even a die-hard fan of Shatner is going to have a hard time listening to this album in one sitting.

Shatner's egocentric nature is hard to sit through. Anyone familiar with his acting will know ahead of time that Shatner is very much in love with himself. This album is no exception. It's purpose is to focus on an astronaut named Major Tom experiencing many aspects of space. Major Tom's part is spoken by Shatner. It feels like the whole purpose of the music is to experience Shatner starring himself in another space story. And, despite all that, he still refuses to sing.

In short, the music was interesting, the story intriguing and some of the poetry beautiful. However, this is an album that is only going to be a hit among those who started out as fans of Shatner. His voice and stylized pauses are an acquired taste, and anyone looking for a song-song is going to be very disappointed with the captain.


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