1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear – William Shatner


1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#67: William Shatner – Shatner Claus (2018)

MATT KELLY for once is completely taken with an album from the original Star Trek actor that’s at least as great as it is terrible.

This is possibly my favourite album I’ve yet included on this list. It’s here anyway because it’s that sort of “what am I doing with my life?” experience. Shatner is able to put ludicrous meme music and moving, sincere moments on the same album and have it all be on-brand like few other artists could.

It opens with a delightfully mad ‘Jingle Bells’ over which the 87-year-old Shatner loses his mind as he excitedly recites the song rather than singing it. Oh, and the percussive, slamming chorus is roared by Henry Rollins, for the album is stuffed with appearances from Shatner’s famous friends such as Brad Paisley on an especially country ‘Blue Christmas’ and The Cars’ Elliot Easton contributing guitar to a hard rocking ‘Run Run Rudolph’.

The record’s goofy side comes across in ‘Little Drummer Boy’ where Shatner’s bizarre pa-rum-pa-pa-pums become unspeakably funny and an unhinged, fun ‘Winter Wonderland’. Yet what might catch people off guard are the genuinely good, interesting tracks. Shatner’s reading of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ is full of energy and joy and has a jazzy, evocative background provided by King Crimson flautist and saxophonist Mel Collins. A deadly serious ‘O Come O Come Emmanual’ is a revelation, Shatner’s solemn invocation of the words elevated by classical arrangements and dramatic organ from Rick Wakeman himself.

Shatner intensely laments about war at Christmas time on ‘One For You One For Me’ before it culminates in soaring symphonic metal. And how could you go wrong with Ian Anderson’s (Jethro Tull) smooth and soothing flute rounding out a relaxed ‘Silver Bells’? You want more? How about Iggy Pop crooning the chorus of ‘Silent Night’ around Shatner’s whispered, delicate verse, or a bossa nova ‘White Christmas’ duet with Judy Collins? Shatner’s Claus sack is stuffed with weird, surprising, yet always entertaining goodies.

A must for lovers of unusual albums, Shatner Claus has both the WTF-is-this factor Shatner’s recordings are known for along with some genuine moments of creativity and wonder.

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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