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

Renowned kids performer coming to Wetaskiwin

Fred Penner’s free show will be in the Drill Hall Mar. 16

UPDATE Police find missing 81 year old Thorsby man safe and sound

UPDATE Thorsby RCMP announce Jan. 23 Alvin Carlson found

In Wetaskiwin, Angus Watt says no, we’re not heading into recession

Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce speaker says economy was down but not out

County resident’s subdivision halted by Alberta Transportation

Provincial department has problem after approving ASP, re-zoning

Respect for pedestrians seems to be thing of the past

Latest death in Edmonton was large truck hitting person in wheelchair

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

Eckville man charged with making child pornography

ICE Unit arrested the man on Jan. 10, he was again arrested by Sylvan Lake RCMP on Jan. 18

New food guide addresses ‘elephant’ in the room – alcohol

Experts welcomed the tougher stance on an issue they say demands a co-ordinated strategy

Cannabis sales up 25% in November as overall retail sales fall 0.9%

Cannabis store sales totalled $54 million in the first full month of legal recreational pot sales

Red Deer RCMP arrest eight in stolen vehicle operation

During the project, six stolen vehicles were located and recovered

$20K pay gap between women, men in Canadian tech jobs

The report defines tech workers as people either producing or making extensive use of technology, regardless of industry

Catholic student says he didn’t disrespect Native American

Many saw the white teenagers, who had travelled to Washington for an anti-abortion rally, appearing to mock the Native Americans

Top Canadian athletes inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour

Athletes doing incredible things for communities are inducted into Hall of Honour, says Games CEO

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Most Read