I like William Shatner. I like rock ‘n’ roll, but I don’t think the two mix very well. Ponder the Mystery is a collaboration between Shatner and Yes’ Billy Sherwood that while it lists a whole host of featured players, has great production values, but the execution of Shatner’s spoken word script and Sherwood’s production yields a CD that just doesn’t work.
Ponder the Mystery is a progressive rock CD that sounds for all the world like a lost Yes album with a story scripted by Shatner, about an older man walking along a beach, realizing his mortality and asking where his life went. Unfortunately Shatner’s poetic and philosophic insights are puerile which any teenager would consider a pretty simple philosophy. This should be a warning for actors who want to write because they’ve read a lot scripts and picked up some poetic phrases here and there, and even though they may have a felicity for words, this is one of those things you shouldn’t try at home folks, it’s dangerous territory out here in the world of words.
Sherwood’s playing, while very reminiscent of Yes at the groups best, has it’s interesting moments but his background singing interjections become annoying very quickly, and while meant to highlight and punctuate Shatner’s themes only detracts from them. Ponder hosts a wide range of guest performers with varying and distinctive styles, from Edgar Winter, Robby Krieger, Edgar Froese, and even Vince Gill but those styles aren’t put to good use, they’re invisible in the fabric of the music and melt into the background. For instance Robby Krieger of The Doors is credited with playing guitar and sitar on the track Deep Down, and anyone even casually familiar with Krieger’s guitar work in The Doors and his sitar work on The End specifically know he has a very distinctive style but in Deep Down, it is exactly that deep down you can’t hear the influence or the playing even if you have the track listing with the guest performers list right in front of you.
The past few days I’ve been listening to Ray Manzarek’s and Michael McClure’s The Piano Poems (see related articles below for The Doors Examiner review) and that is music and spoken word that works. In comparison Shatner’s and Sherwood’s contributions to Ponder the Mystery seem like two different projects in search of different vehicles to successfully realize them.
Ponder the Mystery is available at Amazon.
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