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REVIEW: Leonard Nimoy & William Shatner – Spaced Out! (1997)

LEONARD NIMOY & WILLIAM SHATNER – Spaced Out! (1997 MCA)

Although William Shatner has enjoyed a slightly more high profile musical career, it was actually Leonard Nimoy who struck musical gold first!  Nimoy’s debut solo album Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space beat Shatner’s The Transformed Man by a year, in 1967.  Both records are considered novelties, yet were followed up by even more albums.  Shatner’s last, Ponder the Mystery (2013) featured Steve Vai and Rick Wakeman among many others.

In 1997, the Space Channel assembled a fantastic greatest hits compilation of both Starfleet officers’ best.  In 2017, Sir Aaron the Surprising sent me a sealed copy on a lark.  It was meant to be a gag gift, but little did Aaron know I’d actually wanted this CD for a long time!  After all, Shatner’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” has long been a hilariously bad favourite, and Nimoy’s “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” truly is a hoot.  Spaced Out! is a blast-off!

Shatner’s material tends to the so-bad-it’s-funny side of things.  His spoken-word vocals definitely re-imagine many classic songs, including “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”.  Nimoy, meanwhile, uses his baritone to sing charming ditties like “I Walk the Line” and “If I Was a Carpenter”.  In character as Spock, “Highly Illogical” is highly fun.  Nimoy also had a knack for ballads, and perhaps just missed out on a career as a crooner?

Less successful, Leonard goes country on “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”.  He may have been able to play cowboys in movies, but playing one in music is much more difficult.  Nimoy’s music leaned more to the mainstream, while Shatner’s was experimental, bombastic beat poetry to music.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  “It Was A Very Good Year” is highly questionable.

Top Star Trek geek moment:  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) took its name from a line in Shakespear’s Hamlet (1602).  In Shatner’s musical recording, “Hamlet”, he actually recites that line a couple decades before the movie was made.

Who would fardels bear
To grunt and sweat under a weary life
But that the dread of something after death
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action

For fans, it’s ultimately cool to have a copy of Shatner reciting those lines.

Let’s not deceive anyone, Spaced Out! is a novelty.   You will chuckle and cringe more frequently than you will tap your toes to the music.  Trekkies/Trekkers owe it to themselves to add this to the collection to expand their own universes.

2/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Death on the Road (2005)

Part 36 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

SAM_1615

IRON MAIDEN – Death on the Road (2005)

When Death On The Road came out, I was very excited. When a band of Iron Maiden’s age (or Rush’s, for that matter) put out great new studio albums, I like a live album to follow. Back in the 80’s I would have found this unnecessary  However, let’s face it — how many more Maiden tours will be there be? How many times will Maiden play “Passchendale” live? It may never happen, so a souvenir like this is important to me.  Some fans would simply choose not to buy an album like this since they may already own Rock In Rio, and that’s fine.  For me, I want to hear more.  I want to hear “Dance of Death”.  I want to hear “Passchendale”.  I want to hear “Journeyman”.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is: If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. If you love Maiden, and if they never play these songs again, then why miss out? New fans would be better off picking up Live After Death or Flight 666 (which we’ll get to in due time) for a better overview of the whole Maiden shebang. For the diehards, this is solid.

Death On The Road, recorded in Dortmund Germany on 24 November 2003, has a good mix of newer “reunion” era Maiden with the classics. Yes, I could probably go the rest of my life without ever hearing another version of “Run To The Hills” or “Running Free”, but it’s a double CD and you may as well get the whole setlist. If Maiden didn’t play those songs live, there would be riots. The real treats here are the Dance Of Death material.  There’s a DVD too, which I don’t have — very expensive and hard to get here.

The show opens with one new track, “Wildest Dreams”, the first single from Dance of Death.  While this was never a personal favourite of mine, it is better live than on the album.  Also better live is the single “Rainmaker”.  It just has a little more energy which helps compensate f0r the “repetitive chorus syndrome”.  “Wrathchild” and a somewhat flat “Can I Play With Madness” represent the early material right off the bat, before Maiden slam into “The Trooper” which was the single from this album.

“Dance of Death” begins with Bruce quoting Hamlet:  “There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  I love this song. The afforementioned “Rainmaker” and “Brave New World” follow.  Surprisingly, “Brave New World” is the only song from that album, where Rock In Rio had plenty of material from it.  This is why it is important for a band of Maiden’s stature to keep releasing live albums.  The setlists change drastically tour to tour.

The best of the new songs, “Passchendale” (with more poetry, this time from Wilfrid Owen), stokes the fire, taking its place in Maiden history as one of their best live epics.  It shines live.  It is followed by a lackluster “Lord of the Flies”.  While these Blaze Bayley songs sound awesome with Bruce’s pipes, it was probably past time to retire them from the set.  After all, they could have played “The Wicker Man” or an older song like “Powerslave” instead of this tune that, frankly, isn’t up to the quality of the rest of the concert.  Anyway, it’s nice to have a Blaze song “sung properly” so to speak, although Bruce has to awkwardly shift from his low voice to high.  It was clearly not written for his voice, but he does his best with the material at hand.

It is on disc two that the classics come out.  After a repetitive “No More Lies” that goes on a bit too long, you are assaulted with “Hallowed”, “Fear of the Dark”, “Iron Maiden”, “Beast”, and of course “Run to the Hills”, with only the acoustic “Journeyman” breaking up the slew of hits.   “Journeyman” was a brave choice live, but the crowd know every note.  Judging by the sequence this seems to be the first song of the encores.  Wonderful soloing here.

Production by Kevin “Caveman” Shirley and Steve Harris is fine, but a little bit more dull than the stellar Rock In Rio. Cover art (once again by Melvyn Grant who did Fear of the Dark) is a bit cheesy and I’m not too much into the choice of colours. The booklet, as always, is loaded with awesome live shots.

With this album in the can, Bruce had time for another solo album.  How could he possibly top or even equal The Chemical Wedding?  With a Tyranny of Souls

4/5 stars

SAM_1616