William Shatner’s Has Been


In light over my guest blogger Amy, the mood has called for a comedy album review. William Shatner’s 2004 release Has Been is one that while not strictly a humour album is difficult to listen to without a smile. While certainly not featuring any stand up comedy, the music that fills this album is full of superbly crafted wit and irony.

With the help of producer and co-writer Ben Folds, Has Been is an album of almost undefinable proportion. The eleven songs that feature in this album cross multiple genres, from country to rock, to pop to poetry. The use of Shatner’s iconic singing/acting style bring home the meaning behind the lyrics, with moments and core lyrical elements of the song often being brought to attention.

Has Been however is not without its serious side. Fiction, nonfiction and deeply personal songs feature heavily on the album. ‘What Have You Done,’ a 1.46 minute song that details Shatner’s experience at finding his third wife’s body is a particularly haunting one. The softly spoken soliloquy captures the pain and anguish ever so beautifully.

Tracks such as ‘It Hasn’t Happened Yet’ and ‘That’s Me Trying’ explore aging, perceived happiness and regrettable family relationships. Themes such as these flesh out the album and make it feel almost like a poetry reading. A number of songs, such as the romantic ‘Familiar Love’ and funny ‘Ideal Woman’ coupled with Shatner’s iconic style are what really make the album difficult to define. The emotion and wide-ranging topics behind the lyrics provide this album with a refreshing depth. At first glance this album may seem like an indulgence by Shatner, especially with his talk singing style, but once the album has finished so much has been laid bare that it’s hard not to respect the man.

Despite all the sadness and pain, for me, Has Been is still a humourous album. One that manages to draw in and include the listener. This involvement and happiness that can be taken from listening, is one that has seen me return many a time. Has Been elicits the feeling of a shared joke, a shared pain, and a shared existence. This offbeat album is one that is not only a pleasure to experience, but one that should open your eyes to the versatility and sheer awesomeness that is William Shatner.


Guest Review: Voltaire’s BiTrektual

BiTrektualCoverPreliminaryWEBI was first introduced to the music of Voltaire a year and a half ago. Since then I have fallen further in love with his work and I feel his music needs to be shared with as many people as possible.  Real name Aurelio Voltaire Hernández, Voltaire is a Cuban/American gothic artist known predominantly for his dark cabaret songs but he is also a creator of comic books, animation, toys, and most recently an author. BiTrektual is his ninth album and is a Star Wars/Star Trek parody album. Compared to his previous albums, BiTrektual is more upbeat and obviously comical, yet still retains the dark humour seen in all his work.

Back in 2001 Voltaire released a four track album titled Banned on Vulcan that also included songs based around Star Trek. BiTrektual revisits these songs with slight variations, as well as his Star Wars song Cantina from a later album Ooky Spooky. These previous songs, combined with brilliant new ones create a fantastic, funny, and addictive science-fiction parody compilation.

Star Wars and Star Trek are not the only franchises parodied, Voltaire has one Doctor Who song on there for all of us Whovians as well. Voltaire himself describes his Doctor Who song “It’s Bigger on the Inside” as ‘50% Mary Poppins and 50% Benny Hill’; and having listened to this album about 30 times since its release I can assure you they are all pretty much like that in some way.

Personally I don’t think you need to be a huge fan of Star Wars or Star Trek to enjoy this album. I knew very little about Star Trek when I first heard these songs but you love them just the same. If anything it manages to teach you more about the show, and the songs are funny and terribly catchy even without knowing the exact connection to the original. There are a few references like tribbles or red shirts that may be lost on someone who does not know the Star Trek brand, similar with Star Wars or Doctor Who, but a lot is actually explained through the songs.

There are numerous guest vocalists and musicians on this album, made greater by the fact some are from the franchises themselves. Garrett Wang, Tim Russ, and Robert Picardo, the actors from Star Trek Voyager, are just some of the people who lend their voices to this album. BiTrektual contains both songs and spoken word tracks as Voltaire uses the monologue to discuss topics pertaining to either Star Wars or Star Trek, these also work well as an introduction to the next set of songs. The monologues are recorded in front of a live audience but the rest of the album is studio recorded.

What makes Voltaire so likeable in many ways is his ability to be different. He does not limit himself to staying within a single style of music. His 2010 album Hate Lives in a Small Town was country, while his other songs and albums can change between slow and menacing to upbeat and comical, all the while still embracing the dark cabaret/dark wave style he is known for. As an artist I think that not only are his songs clever and insightful, but his outlook on life and commitment and connection to his fans is wonderful as well. According to Voltaire, amazing author Neil Gaiman has on several occasions called him a ‘Dark Elf Lord.’ I find this to be very complimentary and why would you ever not believe anything Neil said.

There is swearing and adult themes in these songs but this is not out of the ordinary as Voltaire fans will know. Even sensitive issues are approached with humour and context which makes them suitable in my mind. Definitely a favourite album, but when it comes to Voltaire his style can change from album to album so you always get a new surprise.

This album is available iTunes and CDbaby and is strongly recommended for fans of science fiction, if you don’t mind them being toyed with that is, and a must for all Voltaire fans.

Guest reviewer Amy’s blog, Lost in a Good Book, can be found here.