This October will see something that should have been released years ago. A William Shatner Christmas Album.
Titled Shatner Claus and arriving on October 26th, it is filled with well known and beloved songs for the season. Featuring a cast of incredible supporting players like Henry Rollins, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Brad Paisley, Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren, and many more, it looks to be an eclectic mix of old music in varied styles.
This is not Shatner’s first foray into music, in fact, his first album came out while Star Trek was still on the air, in 1968. Here is a look back at his oeuvre in the musical arts.
For the uninitiated, their first knowledge of Shatner as a singer came from his performance of the Elton John song “Rocket Man” in 1978 on the Science Fiction Film Awards.
He would record the song again on an album but we’ll talk about that later.
First, let’s look at the album that started it all and gave us signs of his love for spoken word. (you can click the album covers and buy these things on Amazon!!!!)
The Tranformed Man (1968)
The concept of this album was to juxtapose famous poetry and bits of Shakespeare’s plays with modern pop lyrics. The tracks show this intent clearly:
- 1. King Henry the Fifth/Elegy for the Brave
- 2. Theme from Cyrano/Mr. Tambourine Man
- 3. Hamlet/It Was a Very Good Year
- 4. Romeo and Juliet/How Insensative
- 5. Spleen/Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
- 6. The Transformed Man
To boost sales, the label made sure to mention that it was “Captain Kirk of Star Trek” so fans would be more likely to buy it. Most critics commented that it was hard to tell with his spoken word styling if he was serious or just enjoying himself. It is usually ranked on most lists of the worst albums ever.
You can hear it in all it’s glory here:
William Shatner Live (1977)
This live double album was released in 1977 (and re-released in 1978) where he did dramatic readings of War of the Worlds and Cyrano De Bergerac but also spoke about the forthcoming film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While it was not well received it did set a precedent for his future. This was a prototype for not only his panels at conventions but his several one man shows (like 2013’s Shatner’s World).
Shatner would go on to write novels based on the character of Captain Kirk and his own memoirs related to the series and would record audio book versions of them himself but his next musical album wasn’t even his own. It was a compilation made for the thirtieth anniversary of Star Trek.
Spaced Out: The Very Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner (1996)
In reality this seems like more of a cash grab (and a veiled insult to both Nimoy and Shatner) than a true attempt at showing their range. All of Shatner’s bits were taken from The Transformed Man. He only had 8 tracks out of 24 so it is easy to see that Nimoy’s actual ability to sing was more on display as he had done five mucial albums previously. Nimoy’s The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins is perhaps his best known work in music.
Has Been (2004)
After over thirty-five years, Shatner finally put out his second musical album. Getting together with Ben Folds they put out an album of Shatner’s prose-poems, with Folds creating musical arrangements to accompany his words. That album saw Shatner’s first collaborations with Henry Rollins and Brad Paisley who are both on the forthcoming Christmas album.
Seeking Major Tom (2011)
As promised early in the article, this is the album that saw the first “official” release of the song “Rocket Man.” Take a listen:
With this album he embraced his relation to Star Trek and Captain Kirk by performing covers of space-themed songs like “Major Tom“, “Space Oddity” (both by David Bowie), “She Blinded Me With Science” (Thomas Dolby), “Spirit in the Sky” (Norman Greenbaum), and “Planet Earth” (Duran Duran).
The album featured appearances by Sheryl Crow, Alan Parsons, Peter Frampton, Zakk Wylde, Dave Davies, Johnny Winter, and many others. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
Ponder the Mystery (2013)
Shatner dived into progressive rock with this album. Teaming up with Billy Sherwood from the band Yes, he created an album that showed surprising depth and was enjoyable.
The album was Shatner’s attempt to describe his feelings and thoughts on life and his fear of death. Here is a video for the title track:
Why Not Me (2018)
For this album he teamed up with Jeff Cook from the band Alabama to make a country album. Yeah, you read that correctly. A country album?!?!?!?!?!
Shatner was quoted as saying,
“Country music is the epitome of reaching out in pure terms from a musical and a lyrical standpoint. It’s that purity that I love.”
Here is a sample for the recently released single “Beam Me Up.”
The album was released on August 10th of this year.
It will be interesting to see how he reinterprets the classics of Christmas. The songs included on the upcoming release are:
- Jingle Bells
- Blue Christmas
- Little Drummer Boy
- Winter Wonderland
- Twas the Night Before Christmas
- Run Rudolph Run
- O Come, O Come
- Silver Bells
- One for You, One for Me
- Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
- Silent Night
- White Christmas
- Feliz Navidad
It is even available on vinyl!!!!
As a final treat (as if that was needed after all this), here is a tribute from Family Guy in its third season: