William Shatner’s on a musical mission, despite not being able to really sing

Shatner wasn’t the only ‘Star Trek’ actor to release what would later be considered a camp classic

When it comes to talking about his new album, William Shatner is like a kid on Christmas morning.

“I’m scared, I’m frightened, by how good I think the album is,” says the 87-year-old TV icon.

Shatner made the comments last August when he was in Toronto guest starring on the Jason Priestley/Cindy Sampson detective drama “Private Eyes.” He reprises a role he previously played on the Global series as a rival private investigator. The episode will air next year.

The new Christmas CD, “Shatner Claus,” features mainly holiday standards such as “Jingle Bells,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “White Christmas.” Earlier this year, he released a country album — “Why Not Me?” — a collaboration with Alabama’s Jeff Cook.

Two albums in one year? Not bad for a guy who admits he can’t really sing.

What the Montreal native does is interpret song lyrics as if they were poetry, wringing out meaning while surrounded by talented musicians and singers who carry the melodies. In the case of “What About Me?” it is a blend of Shatner’s urgent, spoken-word style, infused with Cook’s country twang.

READ MORE: William Shatner tweet boosts B.C boy’s bid to get levidrome in the dictionary

.It’s an experiment in music that began in 1968. That’s when Shatner, then rocketing to fame as the captain of the starship Enterprise on the original “Star Trek,” recorded “The Transformed Man.” To reviewers at the time, his halting, high-volume take on Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sounded like bad trips.

Shatner wasn’t the only “Star Trek” actor to release what would later be considered a camp classic. His cast mates Leonard Nimoy (who took a wild whack at “If I Had a Hammer”) and Nichelle Nichols also recorded albums.

It was 36 years before Shatner tried again. His collaboration with producer Ben Folds on 2004’s “Has Been,” however, was warmly received by many critics. That was four albums ago, as the actor continues to boldly go on a musical mission that has lasted 50 years and counting.

If anything, Shatner’s voice sounds better with age, or, as one reviewer put it, “as soothing as a warm cup of eggnog.” On the new album, Shatner says he’s tried to “bend the Christmas music a little bit, give it a little slant that an actor might give it.”

That includes teaming with Iggy Pop on a not-so “Silent Night,” amplified on a robust punk rock reprise of the same tune with actor/singer/commentator Henry Rollins.

Giving punk rock spins to Christmas classics might not be on everyone’s Christmas list. Some might prefer listening to Judy Collins take over on vocals on “White Christmas.” Shatner also gets festive with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and does jingle jam sessions with keyboardist Rick Wakeman (from Yes), guitarist Todd Rundgren, flutist Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and singer Brad Paisley on a countrified “Blue Christmas.”

The all-star collaborators are as eclectic and unique as snowflakes. “We get into rock and roll,” says Shatner, “and I have these great artists, working with me, great musicians working on each song.”

The actor is most proud of one song that came about through a random charity connection. Shatner, who breeds and shows American Saddlebreds and Quarter horses on his Kentucky ranch, met a former marine at The Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

“This guy wrote incredibly beautiful poetry,” says Shatner, “but they were all about how ugly battle is and how fearful it is.”

Shatner asked the soldier if he could write something for a Christmas album. He did, and Shatner took the poem to his producers at Cleopatra Records. He said to the orchestrator, “There’s a military thing here, and then, he has sadness and there’s a battle…” The result is the album’s sole original track, “One for You, One for Me.”

And that is how, says Shatner, “there is embedded in this Christmas album, an epic poem.”

Throw a captain’s log on the fire and listen.

Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake businesses satisfied working in town, survey

The Chamber surveyed 100 local businesses and found 82 per cent are satisfied working in Sylvan Lake

UPDATE: Sylvan Lake RCMP on scene at serious, multi vehicle collision

There is no access westbound on Aspelund Road from the intersection.

Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce urges for end to rail blockades

Chamber President Keri Pratt urged the MP Blaine Calkins to help bring an end to the disruptions

Sylvan Lakers take a frozen dip for a cause

The annual Polar Bear Dip held during Winterfest is a fundraiser for organizations around town

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Two goals by Ben King pushes Rebels over Tri-city

7-5 game a high-scoring, runaway according to Rebels forward Chris Douglas

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

Alberta doctors getting ready for court fight against new pay, benefits deal

United Conservative government says Alberta doctors make more than physicians in other provinces

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

Most Read