I have never heard anything remotely like William Shatner’s music. I’ve listened to opera, metal, dub, spoken word and everything in between. Until a few days ago, I considered myself very musically literate.
But this was until I heard Shatner’s latest album, Seeking Major Tom. The album is enthralling, and I felt a bit conflicted when it was over.
However, that doesn’t mean the album is any good or worth anyone else’s time.
Shatner, for the uninitiated, is most famous for his role as Captain James Tiberius Kirk on the original Star Trek series and for his recent bout as a creepy old man in Priceline.com commercials. Since the late 1960s, Shatner has periodically released albums of cover songs. Seeking Major Tom is his third.
Before proceeding any further, it is vital to understand how Shatner approaches his music. He never once sings on the album. Rather, he delivers the lyrics in a deadpan and possibly ironic spoken word style. His speech matches the melody and timbre of the song, and apart from the occasional emotional voice crack, he never deviates from this delivery.
The album consists of cover songs dealing with the themes of space and science. The first released song, a cover of Thomas Dolby’s ’80s new wave song “She Blinded Me With Science,” hit the Internet earlier this year.
Possibly the most remarkable thing about this album is the sheer number of famous musicians that appear on it. Members of the Strokes, Alice in Chains, Deep Purple and Yes are just a few of the guests appearing on the album. The star power of Shatner was something I very much underestimated.
And yet, it all comes down to the music. This album is not good. Despite all the guest musicians, too often the background music sounds like karaoke cover songs. It also quickly becomes apparent why Shatner’s delivery in Seeking Major Tom is so unique: because it sucks.
Ultimately, his style quickly becomes repetitive and predictable. The space theme makes sense given his career history, but it limits his ability to choose songs that fit his delivery. Many of the songs are simply not good enough to warrant covering in the first place.
I would recommend everyone listen to his cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” simply for sheer novel joy. Otherwise, stick to watching Trek reruns or Priceline commercials. You’ll get the same amount of Shatner for a lower price.
1 star out of 5