Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Shatner explores strange new world of prog

  • Print

LOS ANGELES -- For more than half of his life, actor William Shatner has been on a mythical mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before." Though he no longer commands the Starship Enterprise, the 82-year-old poet and TV pitchman is still visiting bizarre worlds. His most recent? That oddball realm of prog rock.

His concept album, Ponder the Mystery, finds the man formerly known as Capt. James T. Kirk supported by a new crew that wields musical instruments rather than phasers. They include former members of the band Yes -- Tony Kaye, Billy Sherwood and Rick Wakeman.

Shatner's reason for the new journey is quite simple: He wanted to find a fresh forum in which to showcase his poetry.

Apparently, others beyond Yes thought it was a good idea, too. The record includes country guitar ace Vince Gill, rocker Mick Jones of Foreigner and jazz fusion keyboardist George Duke.

"The spoken word, I've always felt, is music," said Shatner, his speech punctuated with the same dramatically rhythmic pauses that have made him instantly recognizable, regardless of the role. Capt. Kirk, police Sgt. T.J. Hooker, lawyer Denny Crane on Boston Legal and the celebrated Priceline.com pitchman all share that same halting cadence with Shatner the Poet.

Shatner has recorded before, sometimes just for the fun of it, as on his 1968 camp classic album Transformer Man, and sometimes with a more serious musical agenda, as with his 2004 collaboration with musician-composer Ben Folds for their album Has Been.

He's even had fun "recording cover songs where the lyric wasn't appropriate, like when I did (Color Me Badd's 1991 pop-R&B hit) I Wanna Sex You Up on the (MTV) Video Music Awards. All I did was recite the lyrics," he said.

"But that's the ambition. I know I can't sustain the note to actually sing, but I have music in my soul and I'm attempting to bring it out within the language, and along with the music."

Ponder the Mystery, released Tuesday, is a concept album revolving around, as Shatner describes it, "a guy in despair who is living on a beach, and it takes him through the last hour of the day at sunset through twilight into darkness, and the sounds of the night in which he regains his fervour, his love of life, based on the beauty of what he's seeing around him."

Unlike Has Been, for which Shatner and Folds worked together as a songwriting team, Shatner wrote all the lyrics for the piece, then handed them off to Sherwood, who composed the music.

In lining up the guest artists to flesh out the performance, Sherwood worked closely with Cleopatra Records chief Brian Perera, who invited Shatner to create a followup to Seeking Major Tom, the label's 2011 album in which he recited lyrics to outer space-themed rock songs.

"We didn't want to put out another William Shatner record just for the sake of putting out a William Shatner record," Perera said in a separate interview. "But he's such a wonderful artist and creative person to work with, we wanted to figure out what we could do next.

For Shatner, coming up with lyrics intended for songs is a different process than writing poetry.

"I sort of lurched into a method of writing everything that comes into my head, just spewing it out," he said of his old writing method. "Then along the way, I would discover a phrase, an attitude or a word that resonates, that captures what it is I think I'm writing about. I use that word, that phrase, that line to become the entity of the song."

The story on Shatner's new album begins with the central character in something of an existential crisis as he examines the fabric of his life for some meaning. It's punctuated by Shatner's dark, heavily dramatic and angsty voice.

By the end of the song cycle, however, the tone becomes considerably lighter, even joyful.

"I keep saying to people, 'I hope it's as good as I say it is.' I need the audience to tell me that. It's one thing to think you're good, but the public tells you whether you're any good," he said.

"It's a whole new venture," he added, sounding like a certain starship commander once again on the prowl for new life and new civilizations. "I have no idea what to expect."

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2013 G10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

City Beautiful trailer: How architecture shaped Winnipeg's DNA

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who will you vote for in Wednesday's mayoral race?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google