William Shatner – Has Been
Would you be surprised if I told you that “Has Been” wasn?t William Shatner?s first record? In 1968, Shatner was on top of the world; his Sci-Fi T.V. series Star Trek was coming to a successful end and he also released his cult classic debut, Transformed Man. Fast forward to the present and Shatner seems to be pretty much in the same spot. He is still a T.V. star, albeit a commercial parody of himself, and he also just released “Has Been,” his wildly entertaining sophomore release.
On “Has Been,” Shatner puts tremendous faith in producer/writer Ben Folds; Folds takes the listener on a musical journey of rock, drunken bomba, spacey introspective jazz, and the occasional spaghetti western stomp. Despite a colourful palate of music, Shatner can?t sing worth a damn, but he does have his own spoken word flare which resides somewhere between Captain Kirk and a deranged self-help tape.
The lead off track is a rocking version of Pulp?s hit ?Common People? which features a full choir and a passionate guest vocal by Joe Jackson. Other highlights include the playful folk melody of ?Together,” Doo-Wop heavy ?Familiar Love,? and the crazed old man rant ?I Can?t Get Behind That? (featuring Henry Rollins).
In the end, the heart of “Has Been” relies on the honesty and humour that Shatner brings to the songs. One of the greatest lines on the album has to do with Shatner?s own weaknesses as an artist: ?I can?t get behind so-called singers that can?t carry a tune, get paid for talking, how easy is that? Well maybe I can get behind that.?
The song ?Real? (Brad Paisley) deals with Shatner?s own humanity. ?Just because you?ve seen me on your T.V. doesn?t mean I?m any more enlightened than you.? ?That?s Me Trying? (Ben Folds/Nick Hornby), is about trying to patch up his relationship with his daughters. Although not written by Shatner, the themes in these songs are given much more weight because you feel the emotion in his voice, and that more than anyone he has experienced these problems.
Shatner?s Has Been is honest, provocative, funny, and entertaining. All in all it is the most surprising release of the year, if you give it a chance.