Wednesday, July 8, 2009

William Shatner's 'The Transformed Man' a truly entertaining album

Perhaps the greatest paradox regarding the critiques of albums I've provided on this blog is that an album does not have to be great to get noticed. It does not even have to be good. Or mediocre. Or poor. Sometimes an album can be so unusual that the sheer impact of it makes it an essential album for any collection. In other words, this album is a guilty pleasure.

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.


Anonymous said...

Ease up on Shatner. Everybody swings and misses sometime.

Anonymous said...

It may be the crown jewel, indeed. And the way the bidding is going on e-bay, i may just make enough to retire off the pending sale of another jewel you may have heard of - Trout Mask Replica, by Capt. Beefheart and his Magic Band!

Chris said...

Ah, yes, Captain Beefheart.... Truly, a memorable album. With the proceeds from that sale, you can buy that yacht you've always wanted.

Joltin' Django said...

I've always heard that Michael Myers was wearing a Shatner mask in the original "Halloween." Looking at that LP cover you posted, I see it now ...!

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