Cleopatra Records 2013
Not to get lost in space, Captain Kirk beams down to Earth for the ultimate cosmic adventure.
Never a singer but always a music fan, there’s not much to scare William Shatner away from rocking it in style, and such a swing doesn’t mean a rocking-chair for the 82-year-old. Emboldened by the success of his previous album, 2011’s “Seeking Major Tom,” a collection of thematically linked covers, this time the actor goes for even tighter concept and comes up with lyrics that spread common wisdom across the tracks fashioned and delivered by Billy Sherwood. Now, the latter’s production more often than not guarantees the involvement of heavy guests but, unlike its predecessor, “Ponder The Mystery” uses veterans almost exclusively for laying down a solo, and still their parts, while working nicely for the songs, snatch attention from Shatner’s spoken word spectacle.
The genuine cosmic nerve is hit with the Eastern motifs of “Change” where space orchestra meets Rick Wakeman’s electric piano, and with the dry “Do You See?” floating on Edgar Froese’s nebulous strings, but “Deep Down” offers a blissful danceable adventure with Robby Krieger shooting liquid gold into the funk. In places, though, his grave recital, contrasting Sherwood’s soulful vocals, adds poignancy to the melody, never more so than on “Where Does Time Go?” which features George Duke – and might be the fusioneer’s last ever recording – and “Where It’s Gone… I Don’t Know” with a tight romantic sway of Mick Jones’ axe.
It outweighs both Al Di Meola’s airy shredding in “So Am I” and Steve Vai’s expansive splinters in the heart of the title track, yet elegiac elegance is genuinely accumulated in Edgar Winter and Dave Koz’s saxes rolling through the short “Twilight” and the ripples of “I’m Alright, I Think.” Mostly, still, the drift follows progressive course here, as Nik Turner’s reeds exert bluesy moodiness in the otherwise superficial slap of “Rhythm Of The Night” and another HAWKWIND alumnus, Simon House, pours a psychedelic fiddle into the acoustic questioning of “Manhunt” before “Imagine Things” takes it to the more serene vistas with Vince Gill’s mandolin. Quite befitting the Captain at this stage of his life, his wide-eyed contemplation a zenith of mysterious ways.