Shatner and former Yes members put poetry to music
For more than half his life, William Shatner has been on a mythical mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before." Though he no longer commands the Starship Enterprise, the 82-year-old poet and TV pitchman is still visiting bizarre worlds. His most recent? That oddball realm known as prog rock.
His concept album, Ponder the Mystery, finds the man formerly known as Capt. James T. Kirk supported by a new crew that wields musical instruments rather than phasers. They include former members of the band Yes - Tony Kaye, Billy Sherwood, and Rick Wakeman.
Shatner's reason for the new journey is simple: He wanted a fresh forum to showcase his poetry.
Apparently, others beyond Yes thought it was a good idea, too. The record includes appearances by country guitar ace Vince Gill, arena rocker Mick Jones of Foreigner, and the late jazz-fusion keyboardist George Duke.
"The spoken word, I've always felt, is music," said Shatner, his speech punctuated with the same dramatically rhythmic pauses that have made him instantly recognizable, regardless of the role. Capt. Kirk, police Sgt. T.J. Hooker, lawyer Denny Crane on Boston Legal, and the celebrated Priceline.com pitchman all share that same halting cadence with Shatner the Poet.
Shatner has recorded before, sometimes just for the fun of it, as on his 1968 camp classic album Transformer Man, and sometimes with a more serious musical agenda, as with his 2004 collaboration with musician-composer Ben Folds for their album Has Been.
He's even had fun "recording cover songs where the lyric wasn't appropriate, like when I did [Color Me Badd's 1991 pop-R&B hit] 'I Wanna Sex You Up' on the [MTV] Video Music Awards. All I did was recite the lyrics," he said.
"But that's the ambition. I know I can't sustain the note to actually sing. But I have music in my soul, and I'm attempting to bring it out within the language, and along with the music."
Ponder the Mystery, released Tuesday, is a concept album revolving around, as Shatner describes it, "a guy in despair who is living on a beach, and it takes him through the last hour of the day at sunset through twilight, into darkness and the sounds of the night in which he regains his fervor, his love of life based on the beauty of what he's seeing around him."