[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
In the pantheon of most-ridiculed albums of all time is William Shatner’s Transformed Man from 1968. Recorded while Star Trek was still on the air, Shatner’s concept was to connect some dots between the pop songs of the day with some of his favourite passages from Shakespeare and other classic stage productions. This was our introduction into the Shat’s unique, er, singing style. Not only was the album a flop — “I have a garage full of ’em,” Shatner says — it earned many requests for him to never try this kind of thing again. Ever.
Shatner, though, respectfully disagreed with his critics and after a decade-long recording hiatus, he picked things up with two (!) double (!!!) live albums recorded while on tour. But the Star Trek revival called and fans were deprived of any new albums until a strangely captivating album entitled Has Been in 2004. It included a cover of Pulp’s Britpop hit, Common People, that turned into a quirky alt-rock radio hit, thanks in large part to production and musical direction by Ben Folds.
Shatner has been regularly releasing albums ever since: Exodus: An Oratorio in Three Parts (2008), Seeking Major Tom(2011), and Ponder the Mystery (2013). This year saw two albums: a country record with songs written by a stable of Nashville composers entitled Why Not Me and the reason he’s called me, a new Christmas album entitled Shatner Claus.
The record — available on limited edition red vinyl — features all sorts of Christmas classics, ranging from Blue Christmas (with country star Brad Paisley) to White Christmas (featuring Judy Collins) to some traditional religious songs. This, at first glance, might seem like a strange repertoire.
Alan Cross: I really don’t know how to break this to you, but … you’re Jewish.
William Shatner: Oh? Well, yes I am. But the spirit of Christmas is one of forgiveness and joy and laughter, of family.