By MICHAEL HIXON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—William Shatner is 82, yet the sci-fi icon is showing no signs of slowing down. After more than five decades in the entertainment industry, he is as active as ever, from acting to performing his one-man show. The original James T. Kirk now has returned to one of the lesser-known aspects of his career with the release of his latest album, “Ponder the Mystery.”
In 1968, Shatner released “The Transformed Man,” which included songs that were a spoken word mixture of classic theater and pop music, from “Hamlet” to “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
“I found the music in the language and thought of the musicality, the rhythm in the English language … that spoke to me,” Shatner says. “I thought of this concept … the melody supporting me and saying the words as though it was an acting piece.”
Shatner didn’t release another album until the Ben Folds produced and co-written “Has Been” in 2004. “Seeking Major Tom” followed in 2011. Certainly Shatner was a busy man between “The Transformed Man” and “Has Been.”
Why such a gap between those recordings? Shatner replies, “Nobody asked.”
“Eventually somebody did and I jumped at the opportunity,” he adds.
According to Shatner, “Ponder the Mystery” is more personal than his previous albums since he wrote or collaborated on all of the songs. He co-wrote and produced the album with Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye, former members of the progressive rock band Yes.
“I write a piece of poetry and maybe I can grab a phrase that will be the bridge, but I don’t go about trying to devise a song,” Shatner says of his writing process. “I devise a hook and then I write the feeling of the song, the lyrics of the song. Then Billy and I will work on.”
Shatner recruited a world-class group of guest stars that volunteered their talents including Rick Wakeman (keyboards, also from Yes), Al DiMeola (guitar), Steve Vai (guitar), Robbie Krieger (guitarist for The Doors), Vince Gill, Dave Koz (sax) and Edgar Winter.
“I’m so overwhelmed by the fact they agreed to be on it,” Shatner says.
Shatner says “Ponder the Mystery” is more ambitious then his previous recordings, since the album tells the story of a man on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
“(It’s) an hour before sunset, the guy is sitting on the beach … he’s in despair about his life and where he is. Follow that through twilight, sunset, into the sounds of the night and as he begins to realize how beautiful life can be, he regains his joy of life. When you listen to the album, you won’t see that, you’ll here a series of songs. But the songs do have a sequence that starts with despair (and goes) to I’m glad I got my joy back.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Shatner had an “intense passion” for music, but he gravitated toward the stage and acting. From 1951 to 1966, he had numerous acting credits, including two memorable “Twilight Zone” episodes. But it was his role as Starship Capt. James T. Kirk on the short-lived “Star Trek” that turned him into a fanboy favorite. Over the decades he continued his “Star Trek” legacy with feature films, directing documentaries and writing novels, yet TV continued to give him memorable roles and Emmy and Golden Globes awards with “T.J. Hooker,” “Boston Legal” and “The Practice.”
“Doing a movie is a long, boring process … with moments of terror when you’re in front of the camera,” Shatner reveals. “You’re hoping what you’re doing is good … but on television you’re running as fast as you can and hoping it’s good enough because you don’t have enough time to perfect it. In a way both are exciting and in a way both are disappointing. I kind of like the excitement of television game and also you’re less likely to go to some foreign country and sleep in some flea-ridden bed as you would doing a movie on location. So if I had a choice of a great television show or a great movie I might take the great television show.”
For more information on Shatner’s latest endeavors, visit williamshatner.com.