Cleopatra Records [Release date 26.10.18]
Yes it’s that time of year again, when the Christmas album start appearing. But rather than the usual churning out of the same tracks, some other piss poor excuse for a compilation no different to any other, we get some class. Pure class. OK it’s Chintzy but so much so it’s class.
On the back of the re-showing (in touched up form) of the original 60′s Star Trek, Captain Kirk aka William Shatner boldly goes back on record, with guests, with this festively themed album.
Previous albums have included his 1968 debut of spoken word covers. A method he has oft returned to (and subsequently much parodied), with lyrics orated as if he was delivering Shakespeare.
On this set, there’s a mix of delivery styles, all accompanied, and featuring notable guests.
The opener ‘Jingle Bells’, a duet with Henry Rollins, is gently orchestrated, the vocals are jolly and pick up pace in a tumble fun fashion. Reminiscent of the Muppets’ Christmas Carol with Michael Caine.
There’s a countrified ‘Blue Christmas’ (yes that of the Elvis song) featuring Brad Paisley; vocals half sung half spoken (actually something Elvis nodded to), and some twangy guitar. Then ‘Little Drummer Bo’y features blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker.
A little more rocking is ‘Winter Wonderland’ featuring Todd Rundgren and Skynyrd’s Artimus Pyle. Very enjoyable, in a festive way, quite uplifting. Saxophonist Mel Collins (ex-King Crimson) plays on the gentle ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’. Shatner’s story telling here is like Jackanory on speed.
‘Run Rudolph Run’, featuring Elliot Easton, sees William rock out. Very much his own style but def gets the head nodding.
Much more stylised is ‘Oh Come Emmanuel’, featuring the piano and keyboards of Rick Wakeman, and some operatic female vocals. Very much in the style of a ballad/break/narration combo in the middle of a concept album. Or the Orson Welles intro to Manowar’s ‘Defende’r.
Moving on, Ian Anderson guests on ‘Silver Bells’, ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ features Billy Gibbons. Some serious kitsch here, yes it’s cheesier than a teenager’s socks but a lot of fun too. Then it suddenly picks up in almost hillbilly fashion.
Fourteen tracks in total, Iggy Pop, Judi Collins and Dani Bender also guest. The closer is another rework of ‘Jingle Bells’, again with Henry Rollins. This is a more punk rock version.
In a fun and festive way, very enjoyable. To be taken with spirit rather than seriousness. ****
Review by Joe Geesin
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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