First things first… you’ll need to get very drunk. No, I mean it. Open that bottle of plum brandy you’ve had since returning from that works trip to Poland where you won Employee of The Month during the firm’s Katowice shindig. Whaddya mean, you’re not sure? What special occasion are you waiting for? Are you waiting for Karen from HR to offer a repeat of the drunken messy encounter in room 408 of the Katowice Ibis? Or maybe for Americans to be suddenly possessed of enough self-awareness to vote the Orange Shitgibbon out? Neither of those things are happening, and you know it, so just open the damn thing, pour out an over-large measure, and down it as fast as possible. Done that? Right, do it again.
Now the sickly sweet and very alcoholic beverage is working its magic, you’re in the just the right state of uncoordinated incoherence to enter the strange, wobbly and queasy fat kaleidoscopic netherworld of almost-nonagenarian William Shatner. Never knowingly undersold, if Bill was any more hammy, he’d be made of more gammon than Kent.
Bill’s latest musical misadventure starts off hilariously, and only gets weirder. Bill shouts into the mic with a vocal power someone half his age would be proud of, “C’mon, baby don’t you want to go… to Sweet Home Chicago”, in a comically vaguely threatening manner. If baby has any sense, she’ll stay home. Next up, listen in awe as Bill wails “Weeeelllllllll, I caaaan’t quit you baby”, putting his back out, as he needs to “put you down for a while”. He sounds like a wounded bull seal, the poor bugger. Later he implores of us “I don’t know what to do, my heart is filled with pain”. Ha! He should be so lucky!
The Thrill Is Gone sees Bill improvising on a theme of “Waiting for me to die. No, waiting for you to die”, while Ritchie Blackmore twiddles away in the background like he’s phoning it in, which he probably was, metaphorically speaking. Ah, yes, there’s guest plank spankers aplenty, all giving it their best 12-bar fret wrangle while Bill staggers through the lyrics, adding his own words in random interjections that pay little attention to the beat. Don’t forget, this is a man who claimed to have taught his daughter to ride a horse “in a prog rock way”.
As y’all know, the blues is 50% tragedy writ large, and boy does Bill write it LARGE, and 50% boasting of sexual prowess, so I’m A Man goes: “I’m good, but I’m old… don’t hurt me child, cos I love ya. Know why I love ya? Cos I’m a man, oh yes.” Muddy will be laughing his socks off.
By now, you may be feeling a little like one of those always doomed “red shirts” from Star Trek. The excess Slivovitz has made you wonder if you’re feeling sick because of the drink, or from listening to Bill thesp to the max as he hollers at you he was “born under a baaaaad sign…”. Only one thing for it, must be time for more of Poland’s finest doncha think? Pat Travers knocks out a mean guitar accompaniment to I Put A Spell On You, while Bill lurches around the studio looking for a stage to fall off. “Cos you’re mine”, he bellows at no-one in particular, pressing his bleary face against the control room window, leaving a trail of slobber as he falls to his knees, imagining he is a Betazoid Elvis on a space unicorn.
Smokestack Lightening sees our indefatigable troubadour a-weeping and a-moaning as crocodile tears of pure bathos (ham flavoured) splatter in pools of sticky schmaltz around his cowboy boots. This is actually painful to listen to. Or hilarious. See… I told you that being seven sheets to the wind was an essential prerequisite for listening to this musical aberration. What I want to know is, who in this dimension, or any other, come to that, is actually going to buy this? If you know anyone who is likely to, it means either they need a shrink, or they missed their last couple of AA meetings.
Funny, or simply tragic, it has to be said that Bill’s pulling power is amazing, just look at that list of guitar players! Even James Burton makes an appearance. Bill probably wanted Jimi too, but he was unavailable, being in an alternative universe at the time. He’ll be there next time, just you see. William Shatner is an actor. He is 829 years old.
01. Sweet Home Chicago (2:54)
02. I Can’t Quit You Baby (4:38)
03. Sunshine of Your Love (4:21)
04. The Thrill Is Gone (4:53)
05. Mannish Boy (5:01)
06. Born Under A Bad Sign (2:44)
07. I Put A Spell on You (2:35)
08. Crossroads (3:12)
09. Smokestack Lightnin’ (3:06)
10. As the Years Go Passing By (3:49)
11. Let’s Work Together (2:45)
12. Route 66 (2:53)
13. In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company (3:47)
14. Secrets or Sins (3:12)
Total Time – (Sometime after closing time… which is quite early these days.)
Record Label: Cleopatra Records
Catalogue#: CLO 1943
Date of Release: 2nd October 2020