Reconnecting with this mortal coil, Captain Kirk sets his sights for the earthliest songs of all and infuses them with twists and turns of his inimitable own.
On the recent years, William Shatner’s space credentials have been exploited quite abundantly, with prog albums such as "Ponder The Mystery" shipping him as an elder statesman of cosmic consciousness. Given the veteran’s gravelly voice and gravely delivery, it’s hardly surprising that, whether the “Star Trek” star performed original cuts or covers, all these projects were about guest soloists, not him, no matter how prominently he stood at the front.
“Blues” is different, though, informed with a different sort of gravity, because due to their very nature its numbers are down-to-earth. While William’s previous efforts seemed to be fashioned specially for him, here he’s got to shine on classic material – and shine Shatner does, often overshadowing stellar six-stringers – for the most part crème de la crème of Cleopatra Records’ roster – who lay down melodic lines that carry the weight of the good ol’ Captain’s voice.
Sounding more deranged, and hilariously entertaining, on “I Put A Spell On You” than its creator – not a mean feat! – the singer, or rather narrator, doesn’t let Pat Travers to the fore, and he doesn’t only bring the best out of Ritchie Blackmore on “The Thrill Is Gone” but also pushes this piece’s romantic fatigue from Leonard to Leonard: from former crewman Nimoy to fellow countryman Cohen – in terms of style, of course. Shatner effectively transforms every track on offer, filling “I Can’t Quit You Baby” with demented hedonism – as if the artist was addressing his mind and letting Kirk Fletcher pad the walls of the aural cell – or infusing “Sunshine Of Your Love” with menacing creepiness that Sonny Landreth’s parping riffs and slider pin to the ground. Yet whereas spoken word might feel like the order of the day here, William actually sings, with a lot boasting gusto, on the opener “Sweet Home Chicago” which Brad Paisley’s licks set on fire, and roars through “Mannish Boy” to show, in the company of Ronnie Earl, his command of the American idiom.
Boisterous and theatrical on “Smokestack Lightnin'” that Jeff “Skunk” Baxter fingers lead to delirium, Shatner beams a smile into the darkest corners of blues, with moans eliciting laughter, but there’s cinematic serenity in “As The Years Go Passing By” too, as Arthur Adams frets host genuine sorrow for William to tap into. It doesn’t matter that he’s banished the tune from “Route 66” because Steve Cropper is taking care of the chugging which vocals dictate as much as this record mastermind Jürgen Engler’s rhythm axe; what must matter is how elegantly the Captain and Albert Lee smear patina all over THE DEAD SOUTH’s “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company”… and how Shatner goes about the album’s finale.
The only new composition here, “Secrets Or Sins” will draw comparisons to “My Way” – yet, in fact, it’s no more a sign of age in the same measure than his holler “Don’t hurt me, I’m old!” is. The 89-years-young’s insistence he’d “restart the game” and “do everything the same” if there’s a chance to do so proves that William Shatner’s quest is far from being over. Long may he look into the darkness – into the space – with “Blues” anchoring him to this world.