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Album 109 I Seeking Major Tom (2011) by William Shatner

This would be a bizarre album if William Shatner, best known as Captain Kirk from Star Trek, hadn’t already done something like it with the album, The Transformed Man all the way back in 1968. If you ever heard his rendition of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” from that album, you know the drill. He resurrects it here. Same joke, different century. I think it is supposed to be funny, and for a while it is. What is it? Shatner, reciting the lyrics to song in a spoken-word style, against the backdrop of the song’s original music (or newly recorded versions of the original music). The theme of this particular album is, not surprisingly space. So, we have William Shatner doing his spoken word schtick with space songs, several of which make reference to Major Tom, including, of course, “Space Oddity.” The problem is that the joke gets old quickly and, as I was forcing myself to listen to this, I was thinking about how much more I would have liked to have been listening to the original songs that Shatner was covering.

So, the album has that going for it. It is a good selection of songs that work together. And there’s twenty of them. Twenty songs covered by William Shatner! While not quite painful to listen through, it was somewhat boring. Actually, Shatner is joined on some of the songs by singing guest star partners, and one of the songs, “Mrs. Major Tom,” is entirely covered by Sheryl Crow (no Shatner). It is well done and the album’s highlight. Between songs, Shatner interjects repeated words from either “Space Oddity,” “Major Tom (Coming Home)” or “Rocket Man,” all of which he covers on this album, as well as space-to-ground chatter. The album is nothing if not thematic.

Actually, the theme is not just space but really is, to the extent possible, Major Tom. In addition to the aforementioned songs, this album is how I learned that “Empty Glass,” originally by a band called the Tea Party exists at all. It is not only another song that mentions Major Tom, but it contains several other Bowie references and will get its own post in my “Divine Symmetry” series. So, thank you William Shatner for that.

After a while, the experience of listening to this album became less unpleasant and more… I don’t know…hypnotic. Maybe that’s the intent. It’s hard to imagine busting this out to listen to the whole thing, in sequence again. Nonetheless, I count this as a Bowie-related album. It’s just one that can probably be skipped.

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