William Shatner – Seeking Major Tom William Shatner – Seeking Major Tom

Alright, once everyone stops laughing I’ll begin. No seriously get all your yucks and chuckles out now. This is going to be a serious review. Go ahead. Penis! Alright are we done? William Shatner needs no introduction. If you do not know the Canadian actor’s work in the original Star Trek series, then you will not be invited over to my place on Friday nights. During the height of Star Trek, Shatner released an odd, yet well-received album of spoken word music. The Transformed Man combined spoken word interpretations of Shakespearean plays juxtaposed with popular songs of the day. It was amazing, partly because it was so fucking weird. Part of the charm William Shatner has is drawn from the actor’s confident approach to everything he does. He never asks whether or not an audience needs his dramatic readings of pop music, rather he just does them.

William Shatner’s music career was put on hold for 36 years due to extensive television, film and sci-fi convention appearances. In the early 2000’s Shatner returned with his second spoken word album Has Been. I really enjoyed Has Been — more than I should. While Shatner’s work has always been a bit goofy, Has Been incorporated a self deprecating attitude which transformed the album into a silver year epiphany on fame, recognition and failure. His reading of Pulp’s “Common People” was endearing when delivered by a man who went from Captain James T. Kirk to the “Priceline Negotiator.” Additionally, Shatner’s poem describing the death of his wife was heartbreaking when most people were expecting laughter. All and all, Shatner is very much aware of his triumphs and failures which merely fuel his spoken word. I keep telling myself this when listening to his third album Seeking Major Tom.

From interviews with Shatner, Seeking Major Tom is a concept album based around the 1969 David Bowie song “Space Oddity.” The original Bowie song was a conversation between ground control and astronaut Major Tom. Shatner’s album deals with the search for Major Tom contrasted against the hallucinations of a space lost astronaut. The album would be constructed with a bevy of guest musicians and spoken word interpretations of popular songs. The concept alone is mind boggling, bordering on genuis. Shatner could have just ridden the science fiction train until his last days but chose to do a re-interpretive album based around an already established storyline. I keep telling myself this when listening to his third album Seeking Major Tom.

The guests for Seeking Major Tom are high profiled, including contributions from Bootsy Collins (Parliament), Lyle Lovett, Edgar Frose (Tangerine Dream), Wayne Kramer (MC5), Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow and Brad Paisley and at least 10 other well known musicians. The songs chosen for this album are also varied including covers of Queen, Hawkwind, David Bowie and Black Sabbath. The common thread behind these collaborations is hinged on legends contributing to songs they have little or no association with. I have no idea why Zakk Wylde is doing “Iron Man” or why Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple is signing a David Bowie song. This disconnected and surreal performance is the lifeblood in Seeking Major Tom. In theory, the album is amazing. Too bad, the music is mediocre and slightly terrible.

Despite a cast of a thousand, the majority of songs are a meandering heap of middle of the road popular music. Country, reggae, classic rock and terrible metal all populate the album with little uniqueness from the Billboard 100 thus alienating the audience who could actually appreciate the purpose. If Shatner spoke over ambient noise it would be better. If Shatner had the backing of a high school marching band it would be better. If it was just Shatner and a chorus of tribbles it would be better. If Shatner did anything else than gather a room full of talented musicians producing a C grade album, it would be better. Besides the album’s three original songs (“Major Tom” / “Mrs. Major Tom” / “Struggle”), the collection of covers never come to the level which the album promises. This is disappointing because if anyone could pull off a record of this caliber, it is oddly, James T. Kirk.

William Shatner turned 80 this year. The mere fact that someone his age is doing something this daring is respectable. If he were my grandfather, I would be fighting for this album’s solidarity. Shatner’s obsession with the STS-135 shuttle launch is apparent throughout this record. Seeking Major Tom is an album best in theory but nowhere close in practice. It misses but the majority of people will never know how close it actually came.

Searching for Major Tom Tracklist:
1. Major Tom (feat. The Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Zakk Wylde on guitar and and Mike Inez (Alice In Chains) on bass)
2. Space Oddity (David Bowie) [feat. Ritchie Blackmore (ex-Deep Purple) on guitar and Alan Parsons on keyboards)
3. In a Little While (U2) (feat. Manuel Göttsching from Ash Ra Tempel on guitar)
4. Space Cowboy (Steve Miller) (feat. Brad Paisley on guitar and vocals)
5. Space Truckin’ (Deep Purple) (feat. Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice and Johnny Winter on guitar)
6. Rocket Man (Elton John) (feat. Steve Hillage (ex-Gong member) on guitar)
7. She Blinded Me With Science (Thomas Dolby) (feat. Bootsy Collins on bass and Patrick Moraz (ex-Yes and Moody Blues) on keyboards/synth)
8. Walking on the Moon (The Police) (feat. Toots (Toots & the Maytals) on vocals)
9. Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum) (feat. Peter Frampton on guitar)
10. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) (feat. John Wetton (Asia) on bass and vocals)
11. Silver Machine (Hawkwind) (feat .Wayne Kramer (MC5) on guitar and Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge/Rod Stewart) on drums)
12. Mrs. Major Tom (feat. Sheryl Crow)
13. Empty Glass (The Tea Party) (feat. Michael Schenker (UFO/Scorpions) on guitar)
14. Lost in the Stars (Frank Sinatra version) (feat. Ernie Watts on saxophone)
15. Learning to Fly (Pink Floyd) (feat. Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream) on guitar and keyboards)
16. Mr. Spaceman (The Byrds) (feat. Dave Davies (The Kinks) on guitar)
17. Twilight Zone (Golden Earring) (feat. Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule/Allman Brothers) on guitar)
18. Struggle
19. Iron Man (Black Sabbath) (feat. Zakk Wylde on guitar and vocals)
20. Planet Earth (Duran Duran) (feat. Steve Howe (Yes) on guitar)

William Shatner - Seeking Major Tom, reviewed by Kaptain Carbon on 2011-11-22T13:54:20-08:00 rating 2.5 out of 5

Comments are closed.