Pop Culture Alert: William Shatner – yes that Shatner – just released a concept album about the ongoing adventures of Bowie’s Major Tom, made up of covers that famous people helped him record, and it’s actually good. Go ahead, roll your eyes! I’ll wait, because Seeking Major Tom is the silliest and most sincere spoken-world album you’ll hear this year.
Shatner’s space-age love letter is a tough one to categorize: ‘vocalist cover-album’ doesn’t do it justice, since here rarely ever sings (save his bizarre and glorious “Bohemian Rhapsody“). It clearly isn’t a linear story-piece either, since whatever cohesion Tom’s tale might possess is listener-generated, drawn from Shatner’s re-appropriated space imagery, and made up of reassembled metaphors by everyone from Hawkwind all the way to, of course, Elton John (“Rocket Man” gets a chance for redemption, don’t worry). Keenly self-aware, Will never seems to worry either way: his perpetually off-time delivery and deadpan humour carry real emotional resonance, handily one-upping his (cookie-cutter, capable-but-bland) all-star cohorts.
Coming from a man in his eighties, songs like “Iron Man” and “Spirit In The Sky” take on a new and hilarious life – and a charisma that simply begs re-listening.
Originally published in The Peak, October 2011.