CD Review by Matt West

William Shatner at the microphone.Anyone even remotely familiar with Shatner's The Transformed Man will undoubtedly approach this, his new album, with extreme caution.

There was nothing wrong with The Transformed Man as such. Part of the problem was the choice of material. But there was also a distinct lack of humility with Shatner back then. There can be no doubt that he believed in himself.

The Shatner of Has Been is a very different man, clearly older, wiser and most importantly very clever. The tone style and content of this album is spot on. It's a very long time since I heard an album and felt the need to play it through again immediately after.

Shatner has surrounded himself with talent: Lemonjelly, Ben Folds, Aimee Man, Henry Rollins - and in the middle the main man himself: Kirk!

I never liked Star Trek and still don't. When I see Shatner I don't think of him as Kirk at all. Two things come to mind: TJ Hooker and Airplane II. To me he's a capable but massively unpredictable actor, trapped with an image he could never shake off. Suddenly, probably just after Airplane II he seemed to realise that straight-acting was a mistake. Since then he's busied himself with high camp cameos and constantly flawless self-depreciating comedy roles.

So the long and the short of it is that this new album is very much HIS album. When he says "I'm just Bill" I believe him!

Common People is a surprising track as I'd always assumed it to be a little-known English song. I'd also assumed up to this point that Cocker’s songs couldn't be covered. This is, after all, the writer who rhymed Deborah with "suited yer". This cover version is clearly used to draw people into the album - but it's by no means illustrative of the entire album. It's fun - but the best is yet to come.

It Hasn't Happened Yet is far more indicative of the territory we're to expect; a sorrowful tale of failed ambition. Almost a fireside chat with Bill (forgive me but ever since Free Enterprise he's always been Bill), which is so ever so slightly trippy, with disembodied voices. Lovely sweet stuff with a gentle, catchy chorus.

You'll Have Time is a wonderfully dark lesson from a man who knows he's not long for this world. A jazzy number with strong echoes of Jim Morrison in there.

That's Me Trying is probably the highlight track on the album. A sweet tale of a daughter Shatner hasn't seen in 30 years. He rambles asking her questions, suggesting ways they could meet up. He makes no apologies - just amends. Some lovely backing vocals from Ben Folds and Aimee Mann make this a very enjoyable and listenable song. I hope he has met up with her.

What Have You Done? is easily the most personal and easy-to-decipher song here. Thanks to the press coverage, very few people don’t know about Shatner’s ex-wife’s drowning, and here he retells the event with only a slight musical hint. It’s sad to hear and he clearly means every word.

Together is pure Lemonjelly. I jaunty little tune which wouldn’t seem out of place on any of their EPs.

Familiar Love is the only track I felt was weak. It’s a fairly upbeat swing number but there’s little to recommend it and the album wouldn’t hurt without its inclusion.

Ideal Woman is hilarious. Comedy gold! A bit beat number with Shatner telling us precisely what he wants from his ideal woman, and occasionally what he could well do without. Just listen to the way he says “Snoressssssssssss…..”

Has Been – you would assume the title track would be something special – and it certainly is: a Country-style quirky song which seems to be very much targeted at all critics. This is probably the only track where you can feel Shatner is genuinely having fun.

Henry Rollins, Adrian Belew, Ben Folds and William Shatner.I Can’t Get Behind That – now we’re really rolling … this is a fast-moving abstract piece which reads more like a piece of Bill Hicks stand up. Henry Rollins and Shatner rattle on like two grumpy old men – with Shatner’s “Life time guarantee? I don’t have that much time left!” just pipping “It’s a computer!” to the post for highlight. After I heard this one I skipped it back again.

Real – final track, another melancholic number with some sweet sentiments from our good friend Bill. It’s good stuff.

All this leaves you wanting more. But by the same token I hope he doesn’t do another album. If he did and it was awful – I’d never forgive him.

Arguably Ben Folds’ influence on this entire album cannot be ignored and he’s done an amazing job in getting the singing parts sung and talking parts Shatnered. I’d recommend this album to anyone and since hearing it – haven’t stopped. Well worth a bite.

Final word to Bill:

“I’d love to save the world … but I’m just an entertainer”.









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