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Let’s assume he’s serious. Simplifies matters. And unlike his previous, Seeking Major Tom, this one has no well-known originals to brain-sprain yourself over. He’s by turns polemic, stumbling, provocative, gravely. You need his grit, too, to stay upright through Billy Sherwood’s smooth-as-a-fruit-shit musical backings with aerosolized backing vocals. No worries — as New Age music, Sherwood could send you into a cozy snooze. As a setting for Shatner, he’s half of a useful dichotomy.

And Shatner’s half is a long, dark night. Honest dark, from a man desperate enough to talk spontaneous, to ferment his own poetry and not care who thinks it stinks (“the night spreads the music/ nothing’s quite loud”). Not relentless soul-dark, either. He’s “missing something — give it back!”; still, the sunset and the evening hold their fascination. The full-body, full-consciousness pleasures of a night-tripper.

Laugh at him if you must, but if you do, ponder this: are you limiting yourself with your sequestering? You could call this a concept/prog record, and I’m with the proggers if by that you mean, I feel honesty, and yes, excess, trump a turning away. Not the ascetic mystic seeking, however long the shot, revelatory wholeness. Turning away as the reflexive, sheltering rejection of truth, curling into the hipster-fetal, to avoid actual pain and that unthinkable concept, death (truth’s fellow traveler). The dark night’s shaped a little like that from St. John of the Cross. Separation, and pain with perception. Then union, with, if not a Creator, then Creation. And that works. Wonders.

  • Artist: William Shatner
  • Album: Ponder the Mystery
  • Label: Cleopatra
  • Songs: (1) Red Shift (2) Where It’s Gone…I Don’t Know (3) Manhunt (4) Ponder The Mystery (5) So Am I (6) Change (7) Sunset (8) Twilight (9) Rhythm Of The Night (10) Imagine Things (11) Do You See? (12) Deep Down (13) I’m Alright, I Think (14) Where Does Time Go? (15) Alive
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