June 04, 2011

The Transformed Man - William Shatner [1968]

Captain's log:
"...the thrill I got from hearing this album all the way through was deeper and more satisfying than anything I had ever experienced…I walked out of the studio on air and soared through the rest of the day. I was really in orbit!" 

- liner notes, Shatner

Cack, but not as we know it.

Unexplored space, somewhere beyond shit, kitsch, pretension and brilliance. Concept: set Shakespearean dramatic monologues to music (nothing too overreaching - "once more into the breach", "to be or not.."  "but soft, what light...?"), add psych pop narrations twelve months too late to be of the moment (Mr. Tambourine Man, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), blend with epic doggerel by no-mark poet, and pair each set piece so as to "unfold multiple perspectives of the same subject, like the two sides of a coin, tension and resolution" [producer's note]. All James T. Kirk mannerisms are present and correct: stop-start, slow-fast diction ["tension and resolution" perhaps?]; intonation rising and volume building to crash at the end of each sentence with a porcine bellow; moments of lip-biting wonder where Jim is just...well, in awe.... 

Full warped speed opener  - William giving righteous welly as King Henry - proceedings peak early with highlight Mr. Tambourine Man. A quite good actually arrangement: bimbo chorus provide  "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man" hook around which Jim exhorts all and sundry in the jingle jangle morning. Coup de grace is a finishing primal scream signifying "total psychopathic subservience". A tambourine is mistreated throughout. 

Plenty of belly laughs then and a sneaking suspicion that everyone in the studio was spliffed to eyeballs and pissing themselves, everyone that is, except Jim who is in sphincter-tightening earnest. At bottom fundamental naivety - our Jim's utter obliviousness to the turd steaming under his nose  - raises the album to semi greatness: transcending novelty and transforming poo into gold. 

Oddi wrth y brawd
go along with the charade


Pagan Dad said...

Truly, a most uplifting record. Although his 'Rocket Man' is, perhaps, his finest moment and I urge you to watch it :

Y Brawd said...

Truly. Give in to the urge.

Phil said...

Just donwloaded this. I think it may be the funniest thing ever recorded- but only because he's so obviously in earnest. And yet I secretly love this. Your dissection of it is also very witty!