Monday, July 27, 2009

William Shatner - The Transformed Man

10/10

Unlike the 10 which I gave to Christian and the Hedgehog Boys on April Fool's Day,* this 10 is completely non-ironic. This album is entertaining as hell. Admittedly, it can't be called "good" by any stretch of the imagination; it's pretentious as hell, and Shatner's performance here is just as responsible for his reputation as his work on Star Trek.
I'm sure you've heard his renditions of Mr. Tambourine Man and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds already, so I'm not going to discuss them. They're probably the best parts of the album, but the monologues are nearly as good; Shatner does deliciously over-the-top readings from Henry V, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet. (I suspect that the casting of Patrick Stewart was a shot at Shatner in two ways; casting a Shakespearean actor was mocking Shatner's monologues here, and casting a bald actor was mocking Shatner's various hairpieces.) The title track is also a riot; Shatner talks about how he abandoned the shackles of society and embraced nature, climaxing in the line "I HAD TOUCHED THE FACE OF GOD!"
The backing music is a very important component in this album's success (is that even the right word?) It's hilarious 60's soundtrack music that's about as restrained as Shatner's performance; some of the most amusing music occurs in the reading from Cyrano de Bergerac, which starts out with a harpsichord and ends with lounge music. The production isn't especially good, though (there's a very obvious edit on the line "somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly" on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds).
It's difficult to say what was going through Shatner's mind when he conceived this album. I've heard that he was trying to say that the pop song lyrics were the modern equivalent to the Shakespearian monologues, but some of the poetry sections are just completely inscrutable. It doesn't really matter what he was trying to say, though, because the results are an absolute hoot. The Transformed Man is essential listening for all lovers of the eccentric, bizarre, and just plain wrong in music.

*That was a one-time joke; I'm not reviewing his second album (which hadn't even been recorded when I reviewed the first one)

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