Monday, September 28, 2009

Musica Obsura #1

Today begins a new series of entries in the Grimoire. Musica Obscura will be a look at artists/albums that you may never have heard of, or that you've likely forgotten over time. This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while now and I expect to be able to do quite a few of these, as my musical taste tends toward the strange and unusual.

Given that this blog is called "The Geek's Grimoire," the premiere Musica Obscura needs to be appropriately geeky.

So, with that in mind and without further ado, I present to you...Musica Obscura #1, William Shatner!

Right now, you're probably thinking that I've lost my mind. You may be right, but just hear me out.

I'll start with Bill's first album, The Transformed Man. This album earned Mr. Shatner a lot of ridicule, not least for his trademark delivery. True, the lyrics are spoken in a rather over-the-top manner and yes, the backup music does sound like it was lifted straight out of an episode of Star Trek. Go ahead, have a laugh at it, this much, at least, is pretty funny.

Once you're done laughing, take another look at the album as a whole. Look beyond the funny bits, and you'll see an interesting concept emerge...

Notice how the songs are paired. Each pair starts with a "classical" piece, followed by a more contemporary piece (song), inviting a comparison between modern lyrical poetry and its predecessors. In essence, he was saying, "Look at this! Song lyrics can be great poetry, too!"

His second album, Has Been, is much easier to justify. As he described in his autobiography, Bill's idea with this one was to make an album that's "actually good." In this, he succeeded.

The songs on Has Been range from the heartfelt "That's Me Trying," a tale of attempting to reconcile things with his estranged family, to the energetic "I Can't Get Behind That," in which Bill gets in the vocal booth with Henry Rollins and they go back and forth on a very entertaining rant. There's not a song on this album that I don't like.

I'll admit, The Transformed Man is the kind of album that I normally have to be in the right mood to properly enjoy, but Has Been is enjoyable any time. Check it out - it just might surprise you.

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