A MU­SI­CAL MIS­SION

Shat­ner gets po­etic once again with his fourth al­bum

Calgary Herald - - YOU - BILL BRIOUX

TORONTO 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 Why Not Me, it is a blend of Shat­ner’s ur­gent, spo­ken­word style, in­fused with Cook’s coun­try twang.

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.

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 ‘n’ 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.”

STEVEN SENNE/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

When it comes to talk­ing about his new Christ­mas al­bum, ac­tor Wil­liam Shat­ner, seen dur­ing the 2012 Junos in Ot­tawa, is full of con­fi­dence, de­spite his ad­mit­ted lack of mu­si­cal ta­lent. He says he can’t sing, but then who’s lis­ten­ing?

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