reviewed by John W. Herbert
These legendary albums, both recorded during the filming of the original Star Trek in the late 1960s, have been recently reissued on CD by Varese Sarabande Records. (Please don’t send them hate mail. They put out some good stuff, too.) It goes without saying that William Shatner’s versions of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” are the stuff that nightmares legends are made of (if John Lennon wasn’t already dead, listening to this would probably kill him), but when one listens to all of The Transformed Man, one gets the sense that Shatner is at least trying to make a statement of some kind. It’s a shame no one, probably including Shatner, knows just what the hell it is. Shatner recites some poetry and text pieces (including three Shakespeare pieces) against orchestral backdrops, which mysteriously segue into spoken-word versions of 1960s pop songs. Some of the text pieces are nearly effective, and the liner notes claim that the pieces are thematically linked. Yeah, right. But at least give Shatner credit for trying something different, and for not attempting to actually sing.
Leonard Nimoy, on the other hand, has no excuse. He does sing, and the results are even more excruciating than Shatner smarming his way through “It Was a Very Good Year.” Shatner’s album is at least funny (in the Ed Wood sense), whereas Nimoy’s album is just painful (in the Irwin Allen sense). His album consists of lame instrumentals, terrible readings, and actual singing (only in the strictest of definitions). While both albums are examples of commercialism at its most crass, Nimoy goes a step further than Shatner by prostituting the Spock character by his performing some truly hideous Spockian soliloquies. And sadly, although some bonus tracks are included, Nimoy's "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" is does not appear in this collection of songs (and I'm using the word loosely).
If you, like me, are a fan of “it’s so bad, it’s good” stuff, then the Shatner CD is must. Nimoy’s is just painful.
Originally published by Under the Ozone Hole Number Fourteen – June, 1996