Enter William Shatner. Like any successful actor, I guess Shatner felt the need to expand into other mediums to scratch his creative itch. While it is admirable that he tried to stretch himself creatively, The Transformed Man is an astonishing creation. If ever there were a time for you to believe me, this is the time.
Recorded in 1968, the album was recorded during Shatner's stint as Captain James T. Kirk on the television series Star Trek. Just as the series sought to 'boldly go where no man has gone before,' Shatner tried the same on this album. And he succeeded.
The album is a concept album of sorts. With collaborator and producer Don Ralke, the album grouped songs together in pairs to bring contrasting perspectives to the same subject.
"The idea of grouping the numbers together in pairs is to unfold multiple perspectives of the same subject, like the two sides of a coin, tension and resolution," Ralke wrote in the album's liner notes. "For example, in 'King Henry the Fifth,' the intense speech inciting the soldier's to battle is contrasted with the quiet and poignant aftermath of war in 'Elegy for the Brave.' The other pairs have a similar design."
You may have noticed Ralke referring to an "intense speech" in one of these songs. That is important because Shatner really does not sing any of the songs. The songs are spoken word with musical accompaniment.
Two songs that deserve special recognition are Shatner's version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Shatner's interpretation of these rock classics is jaw dropping. I never thought I would ever hear bongos on a version of "Mr. Tambourine Man," but now I can die a happy man because Shatner took me there.
I could go on and on and on here, but I want to save some surprises for you if you ever listen to it. It is truly a memorable listening experience. Entertainment can be defined many ways, and this album provides a very unusual definition for that word.
But wait a minute. Maybe it is me that has it all wrong. Maybe this album is so far over my head that I just don't get it. Maybe Shatner has introduced a genre so unique that musical historians will only appreciate it in the decades and centuries to come.
Maybe this album is the glistening jewel of my album collection, and I just don't realize it.