William Shatner’s on a musical mission, despite not being able to really sing

Shatner wasn’t the only ‘Star Trek’ actor to release what would later be considered a camp classic

When it comes to talking about his new album, William Shatner is like a kid on Christmas morning.

“I’m scared, I’m frightened, by how good I think the album is,” says the 87-year-old TV icon.

Shatner made the comments last August when he was in Toronto guest starring on the Jason Priestley/Cindy Sampson detective drama “Private Eyes.” He reprises a role he previously played on the Global series as a rival private investigator. The episode will air next year.

The new Christmas CD, “Shatner Claus,” features mainly holiday standards such as “Jingle Bells,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “White Christmas.” Earlier this year, he released a country album — “Why Not Me?” — a collaboration with Alabama’s Jeff Cook.

Two albums in one year? Not bad for a guy who admits he can’t really sing.

What the Montreal native does is interpret song lyrics as if they were poetry, wringing out meaning while surrounded by talented musicians and singers who carry the melodies. In the case of “What About Me?” it is a blend of Shatner’s urgent, spoken-word style, infused with Cook’s country twang.

READ MORE: William Shatner tweet boosts B.C boy’s bid to get levidrome in the dictionary

.It’s an experiment in music that began in 1968. That’s when Shatner, then rocketing to fame as the captain of the starship Enterprise on the original “Star Trek,” recorded “The Transformed Man.” To reviewers at the time, his halting, high-volume take on Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sounded like bad trips.

Shatner wasn’t the only “Star Trek” actor to release what would later be considered a camp classic. His cast mates Leonard Nimoy (who took a wild whack at “If I Had a Hammer”) and Nichelle Nichols also recorded albums.

It was 36 years before Shatner tried again. His collaboration with producer Ben Folds on 2004’s “Has Been,” however, was warmly received by many critics. That was four albums ago, as the actor continues to boldly go on a musical mission that has lasted 50 years and counting.

If anything, Shatner’s voice sounds better with age, or, as one reviewer put it, “as soothing as a warm cup of eggnog.” On the new album, Shatner says he’s tried to “bend the Christmas music a little bit, give it a little slant that an actor might give it.”

That includes teaming with Iggy Pop on a not-so “Silent Night,” amplified on a robust punk rock reprise of the same tune with actor/singer/commentator Henry Rollins.

Giving punk rock spins to Christmas classics might not be on everyone’s Christmas list. Some might prefer listening to Judy Collins take over on vocals on “White Christmas.” Shatner also gets festive with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and does jingle jam sessions with keyboardist Rick Wakeman (from Yes), guitarist Todd Rundgren, flutist Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) and singer Brad Paisley on a countrified “Blue Christmas.”

The all-star collaborators are as eclectic and unique as snowflakes. “We get into rock and roll,” says Shatner, “and I have these great artists, working with me, great musicians working on each song.”

The actor is most proud of one song that came about through a random charity connection. Shatner, who breeds and shows American Saddlebreds and Quarter horses on his Kentucky ranch, met a former marine at The Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

“This guy wrote incredibly beautiful poetry,” says Shatner, “but they were all about how ugly battle is and how fearful it is.”

Shatner asked the soldier if he could write something for a Christmas album. He did, and Shatner took the poem to his producers at Cleopatra Records. He said to the orchestrator, “There’s a military thing here, and then, he has sadness and there’s a battle…” The result is the album’s sole original track, “One for You, One for Me.”

And that is how, says Shatner, “there is embedded in this Christmas album, an epic poem.”

Throw a captain’s log on the fire and listen.

Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Nanaimo baseball team builds practice facility inside recycling depot

Mid Island Pirates held first training session inside Regional Recycling on Tuesday

Regional District of Nanaimo committee chairs appointed

Coun. Ben Geselbracht to chair RDN solid waste management committee

Cedar Yellow Point Artisan Tour marks 30 years of handmade art

Around 20 artists and artisans south of Nanaimo to open their studio doors

Fired Nanaimo CAO’s peace bond hearing won’t be until the new year

Tracy Samra’s three-day hearing scheduled for March 27 in B.C. provincial court in Nanaimo

Nanaimo actress wins two Joey Awards for young Canadian actors

Hannah Zirke, 13, won for her TV roles in ‘When Calls the Heart’ and ‘Sacred Lies’

Family-friendly production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ comes to Nanaimo

Local playwright describes adaptation as ‘less Alastair Sim, more Muppet’

UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP look for tips about suspected poppy donation thief

Police have released images of a man suspected of stealing poppy donation cans

Regional District of Nanaimo to review water infrastructure

Region to make assessments of each of its water service areas

Trial: Witness describes encounter with accused murderer while tending to fatally injured Descoteau

Wright said he was working in his yard when he heard a woman screaming.

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

Most Read