1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear #5

MATT KELLY continues his epic new series with his review of an album that’s been dividing critics since its release in 1968.


1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear

#5- William Shatner – The Transformed Man (1968)


I’ll stop you before you start about Shatner’s atrocious singing. This is a complete misunderstanding of the album. Shatner is not singing. He is doing daring spoken word reinterpretations of a diverse range of famous texts with musical backing. And it shows you how bad it is, that even when framed sympathetically it’s still nuts.


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You could make the case this album is not so much bad as it is strange and alienating, and some of the discourse surrounding it is reminiscent of the endless Trout Mask Replica debate. However, there’s an absurdity, an “I can’t believe this exists” quality, to The Transformed Man that makes laughing at it too tempting to pass up.

The simultaneous highlight and lowlight is doubtless the deranged, inexplicable intonation Shatner produces for ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, though ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ here presented as a slow, creeping, psychotic breakdown is also highly memorable.

That the music is actually very straightforward and genre pigeon-holed adds to the surreal clash with Shatner’s unhinged performances.
At times it almost works – I’m pretty sure his hammy reading of an excerpt from Cyrano de Bergerac is intentionally funny, plus his sombre, reflective take on ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ maintains its dignity and gives you a glimpse of what Shatner was attempting.

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