Oct 112011

It’s a rare enough thing to get a full covers album based on a conceptual theme. It is a once-in-a-lifetime cover album when that theme is space and the artist is the man who has boldly gone where no man has gone before. Canadian-born actor, musician, author, producer, and director, William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk from the ’60s TV series Star Trek, is that man.

Set for release this Tuesday October 11, Shatner’s Seeking Major Tom will be available as a one volume digital download, two CDs and three vinyl LP set. The album is being released along with his new book Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large.

Last month when we brought you a preview of Shatner doing Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” feat. ex-Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde, we knew this album was going to be something special. Besides Wylde, the all-star cast of guest musicians includes Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Ritchie Blackmore, Lyle Lovett, Steve Miller, Peter Frampton, as well as members of The Strokes, The Kinks, Tangerine Dream, Alice In Chains, Deep Purple, Yes, MC5 and more. Shatner has chosen to cover a selection of the galaxy’s greatest hits by David Bowie, Queen, Deep Purple, Elton John, Pink Floyd, U2, Black Sabbath, The Police, and more

The first word that came to mind when reading the line-up of guest artists and the list of twenty galactic anthems covered was “Epic.”  With his patented dramatic-pause, spoken word, interpretive delivery, Shatner has produced what could be the pièce de résistance of his 40 plus year musical career.

The production on the album is top-notch and opens with what sounds to be authentic NASA space mission audio, which is used again as songs fade in and out. Shatner ties in the concept of ‘Seeking Major Tom’ with not only the first track, German synthpopper Peter Schilling’s  Bowie-inspired “Major Tom”, but also as a narrative used as transition in between some of the songs. One of the lesser-known tracks, “Mrs. Major Tom,” is a companion piece to “Major Tom” and has Sheryl Crow singing a smooth ballad on the piano.

The album works as a concept piece from beginning to end, and each song stands on its own as well. Quite the difficult task with so many tracks, but with the passion Shatner brings to the project and amazing level of musicianship, it is easy to get lost in each track and then set course for the next space station.

When you arrive at “Silver Machine,” the Hawkwind song featuring Wayne Kramer of MC5 on guitar and Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge/Rod Stewart on drums, you feel as though you are sitting next to Shatner in a ’70s plush lounge with lava lamps lit. Keeping things funky, Captain Kirk has hailed ‘The Mothership’ and beamed Bootsy Collins aboard for the fabulous duet on Thomas Dolby’s “Blinded Me with Science.”

The closing track, Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth” features Shatner’s voice in a robotic staccato over the riffing guitar of Steve Howe of Yes and Asia fame. As the song ends, Shatner’s final words come in that signature timing “I…Love…You.” As someone who has appreciated Shatner’s bigger than life presence in pop culture, right back at ya Captain!

Searching for Major Tom Tracklist:
01. Major Tom (Peter Schilling cover) feat. Nick Valensi (The Strokes)
02. Space Oddity (David Bowie cover) feat. Ritchie Blackmore & Candice Night
03. In a Little While (U2 cover) feat. Lyle Lovett
04. Space Cowboy (Steve Miller cover) feat. Brad Paisley & Steve Miller
05. Space Truckin’ (Deep Purple cover )feat. Ian Paice (Deep Purple) & Johnny Winter
06. Rocket Man (Elton John cover) feat. Steve Hillage (Gong / System 7)
07. She Blinded Me With Science (Thomas Dolby cover)feat. Bootsy Collins & Patrick Moraz (Yes/Moody Blues)
08. Walking on the Moon (The Police cover) feat. Toots Hibbert (Toots & The Maytals)
09. Spirit in the Sky (Norman Greenbaum cover) feat. Peter Frampton
10. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover) feat. John Wetton (King Crimson / Asia)
11. Silver Machine (Hawkwind cover) feat. Wayne Kramer (MC5) & Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge / Rod Stewart)
12. Mrs. Major Tom (K.I.A. cover) feat. Sheryl Crow
13. Empty Glass (The Tea Party cover) feat. Michael Schenker (UFO/ Scorpions)
14. Lost in the Stars (Frank Sinatra cover) feat. Ernie Watts (Zappa/Rolling Stones)
15. Learning to Fly (Pink Floyd cover) feat. Edgar Froese (Tangerine Dream)
16. Mr. Spaceman (The Byrds cover) feat. Dave Davies (The Kinks)
17. Twilight Zone (Golden Earring cover) feat. Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule / Allman Brothers Band)
18. Struggle (original track William Shatner / Adam Hamilton)
19. Iron Man (Black Sabbath cover) feat. Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne) & Mike Inez (Alice In Chains)
20. Planet Earth (Duran Duran cover) feat. Steve Howe (Yes / Asia)

Buy ‘Seeking Major Tom’ at iTunes or Amazon.

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  7 Responses to “Review: William Shatner, ‘Seeking Major Tom’”

Comments (7)
  1. Shatnerific! Can’t wait to hear the records…yes, vinyl is the way to best enjoy William Shatner’s musical gifts. I’ve loved the original “Transformed Man” for decades (“Mr. Tambourine Man” & “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” are cheese-rock classics!)…his video awards rendition of “Rocket Man” must be seen to be fully appreciated! Great piece, Peter!

  2. Fun review to read. I’ll reserve judgement on the album till after I’ve heard it.

  3. I’ve known about this for months -when Bill first Tweeted about it last spring. His last full-length LP, “Has Been” with Ben Folds, is a phenomenal piece of pop culture and offers the occasional glimpse of Shatner’s personal motivations (and it’s a wonderful companion to his “Up Till Now” autobiography that followed soon thereafter). I cannot wait for Amazon to deliver Bill’s newest LP and accompanying book.

  4. Great review and an outstanding lineup of superstar guests. Look forward to hearing this “Epic” release. Thanks for all the detailed information!

  5. I actually like William Shatner, and respect his ability to attract this calibre of musicians
    to his projects. But his “musician” schtick is getting pretty old. Four and a half stars? That’s the kind of rating I’d expect for a “Sgt. Peppers” or “The Soft Bulletin,” not a bunch of half-baked covers that Shater most likely phoned-in. I don’t expect to be paying much attention to your reviews in the future. But thanks for the links to mp3s.

  6. I wish to point out an obvious error. Track 1 is not (NOT) a David Bowie cover. “Major Tom” was written and performed by Peter Schiller. Please correct your attribution.

  7. This is one of the best things I’ve heard this year.

    Always been a shatner fan, Spaced Out often gets a listen, his speak-sing style is both hilarious and powerful in equal doses. If you can make people laugh and deliver good tunes at the same time, your a talented man.

    Even the artwork for the album is something to behold. It takes skill to be able to create something that’s so bad it’s amazing. I have the vinyl box set and can safely say the poster is getting framed, and ‘she blinded me with science’ will featuring regularly on my vinyl player.

    all the tracks are worth a listen, but ‘Space truckin’, ‘planet earth’, and the unique take on ‘bohemian rhaosody’ all stand out for me.

    Shatners not for everyone, but those who enjoy something with novelty value, always delivered with passion, and themed around space, will enjoy themselves with this.

    Tops Steven Seagal: mojo priest, and that’s saying something. Sorta

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