William Shatner
Has Been


5.0
classic

Review

by David James Young USER (181 Reviews)
September 17th, 2007 | 57 replies | 16,818 views


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A truly unique musical experience you should hear and then believe.

7 of 7 thought this review was well written

William Shatner and Ben Folds are an extremely unlikely combination. One is best known to the world as either Captain James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek, or as notorious lawyer Denny Crane on Boston Legal. The man is also a television star, an author, a producer, a director and even work as a celebrity pitchman.
Ben Folds, on the other hand has never acted in his life. He is a piano whiz, rising to fame in the nineties with his band Ben Folds Five and notable hits like “Underground”, “Army”, “One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces” and, of course, “Brick”. Still to this day the man retains a huge popularity worldwide, with a successful solo career and hits with “Rockin’ The Suburbs” and “Landed”.
So, what happens when the two unexpectedly collaborate and create an album? The first word that comes to mind, for me, is magic. The production is great, the musicians are tight, creating great atmospherics when needed, and Shatner’s lyrics are that of a truly understated poet.

Shatner’s only previous record, 77’s “The Transformed Man”, was widely mocked and featured many covers (everything from Shakespeare readings to what some regards as the worst Beatles cover of all time in Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds). This time around, however, there is only one cover song, and it’s on first, maybe just to get it out of the way. Fortunately, it’s a cracker. The song is Common People, a cover of a famous Pulp tune from back in the 90s. Shatner’s interpretation, taking on the role of the confused college student with the naïve rich girl, is quite charming and funny. Joe Jackson on guitar and chorus vocals are a great addition to the song too. Like a few of the songs on the record, it involves a top-sounding choir and also sounds like it was a lot of fun to record.

This, however, is one of the few really fun tracks on the record, as with lyrics written by Shatner comes a lot of emotional baggage. Life, it seems, is not all great as a celebrity- “Yes, there are nods in my direction”, he says on “It Hasn’t Happened Yet”; “But still, I’m scared again”. He goes on in the song to describe his dissatisfaction with what he has done with his life- not financially, but emotionally. “I would be the best, I would make my folks proud, I would be happy. It hasn’t happened yet”.
Shatner states in the liner notes of the record that the lyrics are really from his heart, and you feel that deeply on songs like this.

Along with this personal dissatisfaction, Shatner also appears to have family problems too- “That’s Me Trying” sees Shatner writing to his estranged daughter in somewhat of a dramedy style. You can feel the sincerity of Shatner’s words when he says “I haven’t been the best of dads” and moves to rekindle his relationship, but you can’t help but s****** when he tries to talk away his errors as a father: “I’d like to explain…but I can’t…so…”.

Has Been also features not one but three truly outstanding songs. I will not include my personal anecdotes, but I shall discuss these songs in slightly bigger detail here.

The first of these is also the shortest- a poem called “What Have You Done”, written by Shatner about his late wife. He describes coming home and seeing her dead after drowning, diving in the pool and taking her to the surface. It seems that he has blamed himself for what has happened- “My love was supposed to protect her- it didn’t”. Once the impact of the message sets in, it will truly move you, possibly even make you shudder as it did to me. The soft buzzes and faint double bass in the background create the best atmosphere on the whole record. To me, it is possibly the most heart-wrenching song since Korn’s “Daddy” back in the 90s.

Secondly, the longest song on the album in the near-six-minute “Together”. All production and instruments on the song are by British electronica duo Lemon Jelly, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Even with the best music on the album, don’t think the lyrics are secondary. Shatner describes a relationship between two lovers, albeit with minimal lyrics. However the message comes across well: "So much to learn…together" he nearly whispers. The minimalism of the vocals works to perfection, and brings LJ’s instrumentation and production right to the forefront of the song. I have always enjoyed Lemon Jelly’s original style and approach, and this track is no exception. Absolutely brilliant.

Finally, the absolutely hilarious spoken-word duet of “I Can’t Get Behind That”. Featuring the always-pissed-off-about-something Henry Rollins, the two wage war on everything that they, well, can’t get behind.
Example:

SHATNER: I can't get behind the Gods, who are more vengeful, angry, and dangerous
if you don't believe in them!
ROLLINS: Why can't all these Gods just get along? I mean, they're omnipotent and
omnipresent! What's the problem?


And things get even crazier from there.
The two seem to be MADE to work together, the result a twistedly funny take on modern life.
Another example:

SHATNER: My phone rings!
ROLLINS: “Make millions in minutes!”
SHATNER: It's a computer!
ROLLINS: “Lose inches in hours!”
SHATNER: LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!
ROLLINS: “EAT MORE! SPEND LESS!”


The way that they play off each other works to great effect.

Listening to these songs, you can see that Shatner most probably had a LOT to get off his chest when he recorded this, as there are a lot of issues that he covers. He lashes out at people who have dismissed him on the title track (worth it for the hilarious line “They laugh at other’s failure/But they have not done ***” alone), reminisces over an old love on the beautiful, swaying ballad “Familiar Love” and does his best to explain to Trekkies worldwide that he’s really not a superhero on “Real” (though it’s a little hard to take this one seriously, especially with the huge cheese factor of the country-pop backing music and the drawling chorus performed by Brad Paisley– “Sawreh tuh dissuhpawnt yew, buht ahm reeeel” (sorry to disappoint you, but I’m real; for those of you playing at home). The reason why this album is so fantastic is that you’re not bored with this record at any point- clocking in at just forty minutes, it’s hardly stretching it out. And when Bill says something on this album, he really really means it.

This is a truly worthy addition to any music collection. Smart, funny, charming, heartwarming, endearing, inspiring- all through the art of spoken word.
A truly magic album; quite possibly the highlight of Shatner's long career.

Oh, and just before I go...
Denny Crane!



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user ratings (35)
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4
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Comments:Add a Comment 
tribestros
September 17th 2007



918 Comments


Are you for real?

AtavanHalen
September 17th 2007



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No, I wrote a whole review to pull your leg.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
September 17th 2007



2634 Comments


Bartender reviewed this album once upon a time in the old archives, and it was arguably the best review out of the entire archive.
Great job on your review, dude.

MeowMeow
September 17th 2007



662 Comments


why are you a contributor with only 15 reviews?


Quality over quantity. Great review. I remember hearing Common People when this album came out, but never looked into his musical career any further.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 17th 2007



16081 Comments


Kills the Leonard Nimoy albums, albeit I do not have this anymore.
Great review dude. Review more often.

Iai
Emeritus
September 17th 2007



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

5 stars is exaggerating. "That's Me Trying" is really, really good though.

morrissey
Moderator
September 17th 2007



1688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I bought this album a couple months after its release, expecting a really gimmicky throwaway album. It was really gimmicky, yes, but I was unexpectedly drawn to it. From the quirkiness of the Pulp cover to the humour of "Ideal Woman" to the startling frankness of "What Have You Done". It was a pleasantly surprising record.

One correction, he didn't write all the words on the album, and I'm more than positive that the words to "That's me Trying" were written by someone else.

And yes, Bartender's review was second to none but you've done alright too.

Phil
September 18th 2007



1473 Comments


I think Ben Folds has been in a movie. Not sure which one though. I laughed when I saw this in a store, I may or may not check this out in the near future.

emogangstascotty
September 18th 2007



472 Comments


Haha I never knew the man could write a record. Hell, sing too? Beam me up, Scotty

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
September 18th 2007



17920 Comments


zero hour




nine am




and im gonna be




high




as a kite




by then







emogangstascotty
September 18th 2007



472 Comments


Peace and Prosperity *Star Trek sign*

br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 18th 2007



2125 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great album and review. I agree with the rating.


Bartender's review really was the greatest.

AtavanHalen
September 18th 2007



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks everyone for your comments!

[QUOTE=morrissey]One correction, he didn't write all the words on the album, and I'm more than positive that the words to "That's me Trying" were written by someone else.[/QUOTE]

Yeah, I checked the liner notes and it said that That's Me Trying was co-written by Nick Hornby (I think?).

Man, now I really want to see Bartender's review.
Is he/she still around?

And CONTRIBUTOR FTW!

JumpTheF**kUp
September 18th 2007



2710 Comments


Common People is so good.

Confessed2005
September 18th 2007



3314 Comments


lol I think Shatner was on an advert for Weetabix or something.

Kaleid
September 18th 2007



710 Comments


Seems very interesting. Nice work

PhoenixRising
September 18th 2007



277 Comments


weird.
yet i feel compelled to check it out.

Fort23
September 18th 2007



2474 Comments


Excellent review, what iluvatar said, review more often.

CushMG15
September 18th 2007



1802 Comments


Seriously? I had no idea he was actually legit. I'll look into this.
Awesome Review.

AtavanHalen
September 19th 2007



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

weird.

yet i feel compelled to check it out.

That's exactly how I felt!! And now I love it.



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