on March 1, 2004
Has any recorded moment surpassed the intense dementia of Shatner's final scream in "Mr. Tambourine Man"? Do we really want to know?
This absurd CD opens the window to two cult favorites who found second careers as outlandishly kitsch performers. Much has been said of Nimoy's earnest, flat baritone; the reams of Shatner critiques could fill a large, easily combustible windmill -- but that would be too convenient, and a loss to people like me who occasionally need to be reminded why they (and others) actually listen to this stuff -- closely.
These recordings are either dizzying, hardcore, lovable dreck, or, to some, aural manure. History won't decide: you will, if you dare.
I have a complaint about this disk. Yes, just one, about two selections. One of the "Nimoy" tracks doesn't belong here for any reason, as it's nothing more than forgettable lounge muzak with zero artistic input from the Green One. "Music to Watch Space Girls By" sounds like a Herb Alpert outtake where he forgot his trumpet. Also, "Spock Thoughts" is just "Desiderata" recited blandly over third-rate background noise. I can do better, and so can you.
Instead, the compilers should have included "You Are Not Alone," a hideously warbled message of solidarity in this vast, impersonal universe (certainly a theme dear to Spock), and "Alien," a superior spoken dissertation on, well, alienation. They're featured on some other CD that costs nearly $60 used. I'll stick with my cut-out bin cassette for now.
The highlights of "Spaced Out" for me are the most famous offerings: the delirious Shatner takes on Dylan and the Beatles, plus the Nimoy novelty "Bilbo Baggins." The "Golden Throats" CD includes a quizzically-voiced, faded-in lead-in to Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky" edited off for this CD, but it seems we completists will always suffer a little. Also not to be missed are the bathyspherical depths of Nimoy's faulty tone and phrasing found on "Where is Love" and "Sunny"; the pure, howling turgidity of his deconstruction of "Proud Mary"; and a horror actually released as a single (according to the entertaining sleeve notes), and possibly written just for the Vulcan maestro -- "I'd Love Making Love to You," which exudes as much sultry seduction as a frozen duck on an antenna.
I try to imagine how the backing musicians made it through these sessions without screaming themselves, and wetting the floor with laughter.
P.S. I don't know how to create the "voting buttons."
on January 24, 2003
Being a fan of the Golden Throats Great Celebrity Sing-Off, I thought "Spaced Out" would be a worthy addition to my collection of weird music. And this disc definitely does not disappoint in the weird department.
Nimoy has more disc time than Shatner does, but since Shatner tends to recite Shakespeare at loud decibels more than anything else, this really isn't a problem for me (though I must confess his "Hamlet" is strangely catchy). And if you're in a bad mood or have had a rotten day, "Spaced Out" will definitely bring a smile to your face.
Certainly, we're not talking great musicians or great music here, which anyone even casually acquainted with Nimoy's and Shatner's musical efforts should already know. Nimoy doesn't screech like Shatner, which is in his favor. However, though Nimoy tries really hard, he can't seem to stop himself from going off key from time to time, as is the case in his rendition of the legendary Bobby Darin's "If I Were A Carpenter."
But - it's his very off-keyness and his earnest enunciation (he pronounces EVERY syllable of EVERY word, unlike most rock "artists" who think mumbling is cool) that makes this disc...well...hysterically funny. (And his spoken-word Spock-isms like "Highly Illogical" are a scream too). And of course, Shatner's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" are always good for a laugh. It's so bad, it's good, as the saying goes.
But for the record, I also want to note that some of Nimoy's tracks actually aren't that bad. For example, he does a very passable rendition of "If I Had a Hammer" wherein he actually does sing on key, and his "I Walk the Line" is certainly no worse than Johnny Cash's. In fact, Nimoy's "I Walk the Line" may even be better than Johnny Cash's, since Nimoy actually sings, whereas Johnny Cash talks his songs.
So - to sum up - buy this disc. It's a great cure for a bad mood or a rotten day - and you may be surprised at how some of Nimoy's tunes aren't half bad!
on October 29, 2000
Do not misunderstand me here, I am not of the opinion that this album is good in the sense that it's a musical masterpiece or anything. On the contrary, it is quite possibly the worst album ever recorded. The two "artists" knew this of course, they were never under the impression that they were any good at music. When Shatner was asked about this classic piece of dribble on his latest TV biography, he almost burst into tears (or so I've been told) with laughter. And of course he did, him and Nimoy never expected to sell a single copy. Now they're laughing all the way to the bank, because of two kinds of people:
1) The fanatical star trek maniac who absolutely has to have everything related to the classic TV show. He/She is so blinded by their love for the Captain's character that they don't realize that the album is crap, and they actually take it seriously. (I've become aware that some people actually refer to this garbage as a concept album?)
2)Then there's people like me, who buy it for the sole purpous to share the joke with Nimoy and Shatner.
True, you can only listen to this stupid CD once in a while, and then only to cheer yourself up. It is quite possibly stronger than prozak in that sense. Come one people, how can you not burst several internal organs during a raucous fit of laughter when Shatner starts his insane psycho ramblings or when Bilbo's story is rendered beautifully (cough, cough) by Nimoy. I don't think I've laughed so hard in my entire life, so then, why shouldn't I buy it. $18.00 is a small price to pay for infinite laughter. Yes, I get harrassed by friends, and why shouldn't they harrass me? I just "wasted" money on a piece of crap. But I enjoy it, just by imagining what it would have been like to record an album like this. With Nimoy on the verge of cracking up during "the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" and Shatner flamboyantly overacting each line in his trademark Cpt. Kirk voice. This is the kind of thing that 20 years from now, my kids will find in an old box covered in dust,to be put into the ole' Compact Disc player and enjoyed again. A true relic, and a treasure.
on May 17, 2000
. . . It's One of the Greatest Things I've Ever Heard!
In the Brian Wilson documentary, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, Tom Petty opines that the Beach Boys' auteur is one of the Greats: "You just can't make music any better than that." By the same token, here is something equally Great, because it is music as bad as it could possibly be -- as ANY music could possibly be -- which makes it more than just an album -- it's an artifact -- and I'm not talking about Nimoy's songs, which are merely mediocre, but instead directing your attention to those of his swashbuckling Star Trek co-star, which defy every rule of good taste in the brash, bold strokes that characterizes only the best television work of this august, earthbound god I've come to know as the Shat. Most of the Shat's 1968 landmark recording The Transformed Man is included here and to be truly appreciated it must be heard in the proper sequence, in its entirety of gleeful wretchedness -- it's a better concept album than Sgt. Pepper and its version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" beats the Beatles' hands down in its fully-rendered approximation of drug-induced psychosis, but then so are all the standards enriched as they could only be when voiced by Big Bill, that unique talent -- but it's only in print intermittently, so this import comp will have to do. Thank God for programmable CD players! No opportunity is squandered, be it the obvious, unimaginitive song selection, the contemptible arrangements, the bad poetry, or Shatner's holy gift for steamrolling over the subtlety in whatever material given him. This is truly the standard of badness against which all other bad works must be judged. That said, even worse was to come, and this disc suffers from the absence of the penultimate Shatner "performance," "Rocket Man," and omits his take on Guns 'n' Roses' "You Could Be Mine" from the 1991 Video Music Awards. Still, the work included here is miraculous and essential listening; one cannot call himself a serious music listener without owning something by William Shatner.
on February 3, 2004
In this world, there are some highly, um, "unique" individuals dedicated to the pursuit of the most godawful, obscure, unintentionally comedic films ever made. These people (the demented folks found at jabootu.com number among them) seek out these paragons of epochal cheesiness and morbid stupidity and turn them into objects of cult worship for their unintentional badness. From silly low-budget B-films to massive Hollywood failures, no target is safe from these fanatics.
I mention jabootu.com in particular, for contained on their site lies an in-depth (and totally spot-on) analysis of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, absolutely the worst Star Wars film to make it to theatres. That movie was a complete vanity picture devoted to Mr. Shatner's character, Capt. James T. Kirk.
Which brings us to the topic of this review. The "Best" Of compilation dedicated to Shatner and his co-star Leonard Nimoy, appropriately titled Spaced Out is the direct musical equivalent to the aforementioned waste of cinema. Shatner and Nimoy lend their "talents" to this album, and the result is complete unintentional hilarity. From Shatner's hammy, dead-serious, overdramatic readings of Dylan and Sheakespeare to Nimoy's earnest yet completely off-key renditions of pop tunes and silly spoken-word bits (done in Vulcan mode), the discriminating conoisseur of all that is tasteless and awful will be in stitches.
Shatner's renditions are definitely the best..er, most memorable of the lot ("Mister Tambourine Man......MISTER TAMBOURINE MAN!!!!") but he doesn't get as much time as Nimoy, whose renditions of pop and soft rock standards of the day such as If I Had A Hammer, Sunny, and Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town "benefit" from his mediocre baritone vocals. Of special note on the Nimoy side is The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins, an abridged version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit set to music that is wonderfully deranged, and almost as funny as Shatner's material.
I can't reccommend this guilty pleasure to everyone, as not all will have a taste for music that is almost completely without any technical merit. However, those of the "so bad it's good" persuasion (like me, I suppose) will find this gut-bustingly hiliarious. If you are such an individual, this is indispensable to your collection. Spaced Out also makes the ideal gift for, say, your inlaws. For similar badness, also seek out non-music by Yoko Ono, David Hasslehoff, and Rhino's Golden Throats compilations.
on April 25, 2003
I used to think the funniest unintentionally funny thing I'd ever heard was Lorne Green, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon butchering the theme from "Bonanza." Then I got this album. The tone-deaf stars of "Bonanza" have nothing on "Star Trek's" William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, whose insatiable TV-star egos pushed them to record music and monologues that transcend mere mediocrity and ineptitude, constituting an alien art form that defies earthly description. Whatever it is, it's the best of it, or the worst, depending upon your point of view. You'll love it passionately, like I do, or you'll despise it with every fiber of your being, like my wife does. There's no middle ground here.
Shatner's contributions, dramatic monologues set to florid music and rock songs performed with straightjacket intensity, are all taken from his legendary album "The Transformed Man." No one is safe from the shame of Canada: The hallowed words of Shakespeare, Lennon-McCartney and Bob Dylan are trampled and tortured in Shatner's patented overripe acting style, turned up to eleven. Shatner's anguished cry of "Mr. Tambourine Man!!!!" at the end of that song is so unexpected and frightening, it would kill a strolling minstrel dead in his tracks. I must confess, I'm a sucker for Shatner's histrionics, and I admire the chutzpa it took to be a performance artist of such...uniqueness. "It Was a Very Good Year," with Shatner exercising restraint (for him), actually achieves a certain elegance. It's my favorite burst of Shatnerian flatulence.
Nimoy was much more ambitious than Shatner, churning out a mind-boggling five albums of folk, country-western and soft rock covers. Saccharine ballads such as "Sunny" and "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" painfully expose the limitations of Nimoy's earnest baritone as he croons in keys that would make a stuffed dog howl. (Remember how Spock sounded in the throes of a Vulcan mind-meld with the Horta? Put that to music and you get the idea.) To be fair, some of his efforts are admirable. Nimoy's yearning vocal on "Where Is Love" is heart-rending, and he does a pretty fair imitation of Kenny Rogers on "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town."
There's also a smattering of screamingly hokey spoken word pieces written by one Charles R. Grean, which Nimoy delivers in character as Spock amid clouds of celestial music reminiscent of the work of "Star Trek" composer Alexander Courage. The best of these is "Spock Thoughts," a litany of hilarious platitudes that includes this priceless advice: "Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant. They, too, have their story to tell!"
The album's Masterpiece is surely "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," Grean's musicalized Cliff Notes retelling of Tolkien's "The Hobbit." Demented, charming and impossible to dislike, it's a groovy tune straight out of Monty Python, and Nimoy sings it with gusto.
While most of Nimoy's efforts are laugh-fests, it's hard to fault his commitment: He was clearly serious about his music. Luckily for his ardent fans, no one in Nimoy's orbit had the guts to tell Spock he had no clothes.
on March 4, 2002
This is a swell compilation for having a laugh with your friends, parties, driving , whatever. Musically, it never surpasses 'mediocre' but when i bought this i bought it for a laugh, i had heard bits of shatner singing and thought it was funny. So the first track i played was Shatner's 'lucy in the sky with diamonds' and it was the hardest laugh i had in years. Years. Mr tambourine man is very funny too. He shouts really loud at the end of the song. He does amusing renditions of henry fifth and a very good year, and is more heartfelt and sensitive on how insensitive and elegy for the brave. Nimoy has much more cd time but is less entertaining. He gives passable renditions of some songs like 'ruby don't take your love to town' and 'if i was a carpenter', some dubious covers like 'sunny'(he nearly loses the plot here) and 'both sides now'. There is a silly but fun song about the hobbit bilbo baggins with psychedelic music; a ridiculously patriotic song 'if i had a hammer'; a nonsensical spoken item, 'spock thoughts', where he spouts some corny spock wisdom. Corny is the best word to describe the whole album, buy it especially for the shatner cuts. The liner notes are very good too ('...Nimoy's difficult third album...').
on June 25, 2001
In the words of Tom Hulce's Mozart in _Amadeus_:
"I never thought music like that was possible!" "One hears such sounds, and what can one say but - ??!!"
I have "Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy" on vinyl - a Christmas present from a sister Trekkie back in 1973 - so some of his tracks were familiar to me - but I had never heard any of Shatner's tracks - I'd heard _of_ them by reputation...
I can truly say that this disc took me where I have never been before. Since I am listening to track 8 ("It was a Very Good Year") as I write this, I am probably still "wherever" I have gone. Will it be possible for me to return from this space/time/musical anomaly? Or will I languish in the outermost reaches of the Shatmoy, unable to find the wormhole that will bring me back? Will my skeletal infrastructure be able to withstand the stress of repeated, escalating bouts of manic laughter? Will I run out of tissues and float from my chair on a sea of hilarious tears?
I really wasn't ready for the opening of Track 1 ("Henry V") - I almost jumped out of my chair. And then, I almost fell on the floor in a body-wrenching spasm of utter and insane hilarity... mmm, if flying scissor kicks could be done vocally...
This CD was the perfect mood-altering substance to pull me up from what was an absolute donkey's-butt nightmare of a day. When I return home, I'll file it in my special CD section, along with Leon Redbone and James Brown and Ween ...
I think it's time to get "Transformed Man" now - I'm ready! Yeah, let's go - make it so!!
on March 20, 2001
I have read through all of the previous reviews on this CD. Actually I was startled that no one mentioned that several years after William Shatner's gut-wrenching take on Elton John's "Rocket Man" (or was that "Rock! It! Man!"), Chris Elliott recreated it PERFECTLY on the David Letterman show of the time. My god, you get a sense of what Chris Elliott is capable of. Now The Shat and Nimoy, who by turns take themselves both not seriously and FAR too seriously, would have no "music" careers at all if a couple of quick-buck rekkid exec's hadn't decided, back in 1967, that these actors' sudden success on TV wouldn't translate to big buxx at the rekkid shops. These executives... were WRONG. They brought upon the world an unspeakable darkness, a blight which even dares speak its name - and this name is... SHATMOY (sounds better than NI-NER). Mu only problem with "Spaced Out" is that by the time it gets to Nimoy's laid back country selections, you're kind of out of ribs to burst from laughing. Did The Shat not realize the effect his overacting would have? Did Nimoy - who was known to be "difficult" on the set of Star Trek in defense of his character - not see the problems his career would have as the result of filming a Scopitone-style VIDEO of "Bilbo Baggins"? And the big question... why would a god fueled by anything beyond mere vengeance allow this HORROR to exist??? (okay, now think to yourself... there were OTHER great overactors in the 60s too! What would LARRY STORCH have done differently from The Shat? How would FRANK GORSHIN have done it better? And would LARRY OLIVIER really have turned "Mr. Tamborine Man" into such an exegesis of excess?)
on January 24, 2001
Okay. You know 'em, you love 'em. But what are they doing singing and romping through musical mayhem? Nimoy comes off a bit worse than Shatner in my opinion because he actually sings, but with such profound mediocrity that he comes off looking amateurish. Still, it's Spock for goshsakes!
Shatner, on the other hand, does not attempt to sing at all. He is offering dramatic readings of songs, and I think this was his aim. He is not trying to get away with talking through the songs; he is interpreting the songs dramatically. In 1978, at a Sci Fi convention, he performed Elton John's "Rocket Man" in similar fashion. There was music, he was speaking, and his little oral interpretation exercise came off as just that. So my judgement of Shatner is better than my judgement of Nimoy, simply because seen as dramatic readings, they work. If you try to put them into the category of "singing" or even "music," these are not appropriate categories.
So get the CD, especially if you are a Star Trek fan. How can you live without it?