William Shatner: Ponder The Mystery (2013)
Fundamentally, the notion of actor William Shatner reciting his poetic verse atop progressive rock compositionsperformed by many of this genre's eliteincluding solo spots by Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Steve Vai (guitar), and Edgar Froese (guitar) may seem like an anomalous concoction. It doesn't end there. Jazz-fusion icon Al Di Meola (guitar) amid county music and rock stars such as guitarist Vince Gill and saxophonist, keyboardist Edgar Winter lend their talents, Yes multi-instrumentalist, producer Billy Sherwood lays down the core bass, guitar, keys and drum parts.
Shatner's infamous role as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek emerged as a major stimulus for progressive rock and space rock, imparting phantasmagorical romps through the universe. Many traditional facets of this genus are melded within slow to medium tempo grooves, shaped by sweeping synths textures, acoustic interludes and Sherwood's background vocals. But if you're anticipating a conglomerate of prog-like, supernova style soloing forays and ultra-complex time signatures then you'll need to look elsewhere.
Each composition features artists stepping out for a solo or two, as Shatner steadily narrates his lyrics with a conspicuous sense of ownership. Yet, the final oeuvre "Alive," offers more velocity than the preceding works. It's an up-tempo straight-four groove, where Shatner ruminates about a day being "alive with color and sound" and carrying "the scent of hope and joy." Perhaps a few more up-tempo numbers would have spawned a tad more diversity, when considering the overall game plan. Otherwise, guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo (Captain Beefheart's Magic Band) adds emphasis via resonating slide lines and deft picking, as he conjures a bluesy vibe, rendered with heartfelt passion. Shatner's prophetic oration casts an optimistic slant.
Ponder The Mystery isn't akin to Franz Kafka-centered existentialism, but more about a contemplative series of musings. Replay value may be moderate, but kudos to Shatner for thinking outside the box and sharing his poignantly articulated insights.
Track Listing: Red Shift; Where It's Gone...I Don't Know; Manhun; Ponder the Mystery; So Am I; Change; Sunset; Twilight; Rhythm of the Night; Imagine Things; Do You See?; Deep Down; I'm Alright, I Think; Where Does Time Go?; Alive
Personnel: (Alive) William Shatner: voice; Billy Sherwood: background vocals, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards; Zoot Horn Rollo: guitar solo.
Also featured on select tracks are: Mick Jones: guitar solo; Simon House: violin solo; Steve Vai: guitar solo; Al DiMeola: guitar solo; Rick Wakeman: keyboards solo; Joel Vandroogenbroeck: flute; Edgar Winter: saxophone & Moog solo; Nik Turner: saxophone and flute; Vince Gill: mandolin and acoustic guitar solos; Edgar Froese: guitar solo; Robby Krieger: sitar and guitar solo; Dave Koz: saxophone; George Duke: keyboard solo.
Record Label: Cleopatra Records