Monday, April 18, 2011

William Shatner Gets All Outer-Space: Five Songs for His Next Album

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 9:45 AM

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Last week, William Shatner unveiled the tracklist to his third studio album, Searching For Major Tom. Regardless of how you feel about the actor or his musical career, it's imperative you look at it right now. The album comprises nineteen covers of mostly space-themed songs like "Space Oddity," "Spirit In The Sky," and "Walking On The Moon," but also leaves room for classics like "She Blinded Me With Science" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." (!)

Yet as promising as Major Tom appears, there are still a few songs missing from the tracklist. Each of these five songs would be slam-dunks for Shatner, and he would be well advised to consider them for his next record. As a bonus, we recommend which rock stars he should pick to help do these songs justice.

Why the rock star features? Judging by the guest list on Major Tom, there is no end to the final frontier of musicians wanting to rock with Captain Kirk. Legends Bootsy Collins, Peter Frampton and Toots of Toots & The Maytals take turns with such contemporary stars as Brad Paisley and Nick Valensi (of The Strokes) jamming with the 80-year-old master thespian. Considering that people went from laughing at Shatner's music to laughing with it with 2004's shockingly good Has Been, this album should at the very least be entertaining. On to the next one...

5. "The Swish" by The Hold Steady

Early in the Hold Steady's career, Craig Finn supplemented his singing with talking verses that split the difference between spoken word monologues and borderline rap. The band's first classic song, "The Swish," features this style at is best, as Craig tells tales of reckless partiers through rhythmic rhyming and similes that reference famous musicians. Backed by classic rock guitars and pounding drums, Finn comes off like a townie telling his buddies crazy stories about his life at their favorite bar. We suggest Shatner take a different approach wherein he speaks verses from "The Swish" over just one acoustic guitar that peppers in harmonics and as many ostentatious guitar flourishes as possible. This way, Shatner can come off as a wistful, wizened man telling his children tales of his youth while flirting between overly serious pretension and silliness. And he could change the Star Wars reference at the end to "I had a couple flings with some girls that looked like Klingons."

Guest star: Jimmy Page is one of the forefathers of the classic rock sound favored by The Hold Steady and he can also wow on acoustic, making him an ideal fit here.

4. "Tha Bullshit" by Jeru The Damaja

Jeru Tha Damaja is most remembered by hip-hop heads for his two albums in the '90s produced by renowned beat-maker DJ Premier and for his unorthodox flow that featured irregular pauses in his lines. Sound familiar? He's also known for aiming his material at the hood and dismissing crass materialism and the assorted decadence celebrated by many popular rappers. Jeru often has clever insights but sometimes undercuts his message with a tone that makes him come across as a bitter old man yelling at noisy kids.

Case in point: "Tha Bullshit," in which Jeru spends almost half of the song's two-minute run-time introducing his verse while dropping the title word an astounding fourteen times before portraying a caricature of a gangster in a single verse. The introduction alone is perfect for Shatner and his latest TV character; he could change the song's title to "Bullshit My Dad Says." Just read this in your best Shatner voice and try not to blow your mind knowing how amazing this could be: "This bullshit is so bullshit, I never want to hear this bullshit on the radios or in my children's ears, cause it's bullshit." Or try to picture Shatner taking on the verse's character, with his "squad of killer bitches that all carry uzis." And if you have any doubt that Shatner can handle rapping, watch this:

Guest Star: It would only be proper to have DJ Premier reprise his minialist-funk beat and throw in a few cuts. After all, if that isn't a Star Trek sound effect he spliced into the "N 2 Gether Now" beat he co-produced for Limp Bizkit, it might as well be. 3. "Lakini's Juice" by Live

Between its string section, a bass that sports an industrial grind, overblown lyrics ("It was an evening I shared with the sun to find out where we belong"), a howling chorus and lyrics spoken through a megaphone, the pretentious bombast of "Lakini's Juice" nearly killed Live's career. If you can get past its ridiculousness though, it's a powerhouse of a song, and it's flowery lyrics could be killer in the hands of the Shat.

Guest Star: Shatner would have to grab a conductor and some players from whatever premier philharmonic he prefers to handle the string arrangements, and he'd need a diva to handle the "Let me rise!" chorus, which needs to be properly sung. We suggest someone like Celine Dion or Mariah Carey, or the choir from "Under the Bridge," because it will take a lot to exceed the original's ambition.

2. "Losing My Edge" or "Time To Get Away" by LCD Soundsystem

This is a tough call, as doing two LCD Soundsystem songs would be too gimmicky, and Shatner is by no means a gimmick artist. On one hand, the-hipster-becoming-increasingly-less-cool story of "Losing My Edge" would work splendidly in the hands of the man who recorded Has Been, and the lyrics are all spoken. On the other, Shatner is at his sharpest and funniest when vindictive, which gives an advantage to "Time to Get Away." If forced to choose, we'd give the edge to "Edge," just to see if Shatner would replace the music references with actors he's worked with and/or roles he missed out on, and because listening to him rant for eight minutes will never get old. Either way, Shatner doing an LCD song would serve the valuable service of needling every music critic who wrote over the top dissertations on how important the band is.

Guest Star: As one of LCD's biggest influences, Giorgio Moroder would be the perfect choice to assemble a propulsive repeating beat for Shatner to unleash his insecurities over.

1. "Spill The Wine" by Eric Bourdon and War

In all seriousness, we don't know how this hasn't happened yet. Bourdon's psychedelic shaggy-dog tale would sound great in Shatner's voice. It contains a diverse number of emotions and enough weird pauses to let Shatner give it a great dramatic reading. Also, the idea of Shatner trading licks with a jazz flautist is enough to make us feel hot flames of fire roaring at our backs.

Guest Star: Sly and The Family Stone would do a great job on this.

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