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William Shatner 

Has Been

Wednesday, Nov 17 2004
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Hey, who ordered the ham on wry? William Shatner, the greatest overactor of our time, returns to recording (you mean you've never heard Capt. Kirk's primal-scream take on "Mr. Tambourine Man"?) with a cutting-edge crew of has-beens-to-be that includes Ben Folds, Lemon Jelly, and Joe Jackson. Shatner recites his lyrics here in a stentorian yet swaggering, seen-it-all manner to rousing mod-rock (Pulp's "Common People") and folky electronica ("Together," on which the Cap'n attempts to follow the arty, angst-ridden footfalls of existential avant-crooner Scott Walker: "Phoenix/ Pegasus/ Grecian urn/ Midwest turn/ So much to learn"). What makes Has Been fun is Shatner's satirical self-awareness -- he's in on the joke, even if it is, in part, on him -- and Folds' lean, retro-elegant arrangements. "I Can't Get Behind That" finds T.J. Hooker trading mad-as-hell rants with spiritual descendant Henry Rollins alongside a sonic rush that's part jungle, part Beat jazz, part Hawaii Five-0 theme. Less than brilliant yet more than a Hollywood vanity project, Has Been is an entertaining diversion with more than a touch of gravitas.

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Mark Keresman

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