Spit out the gum it doesn't work
How? How did this happen? How does a man responsible for one of the worst albums of all time to one of my favourite albums of the year?
It's probably a combination of things. 35 years later, Shatner has traded in his bizzarro wailing for a quieter, more intense sort of hamming. There is still the token weird cover (of Pulp's "Common People," which you will either love or despise,) but for the most part, this time the lyrics are his own. And surprise... they're good, covering the spectrum from clever satire to sincere introspection.
His voice changes to compliment the message -- at times he is an author reading you one of his short stories, or a guy having a conversation with you in a bar, or a crazed preacher giving a sermon from his podium. The accompanying music, written by the incredibly talented Ben Folds, covers an equally broad range of styles -- gospel, jazz, tango, western, rock -- but is a perfect fit with the lyrics every time.
I'm a big Ben Folds fan, but that's not why I like this CD. No question, he is a huge contributor to the album's quality, but most of these songs sound nothing like his usual work. Folds is an incredibly gifted songwriter, and as it turns out, Shatner is a pretty solid writer. They're a heck of a team, and it's a killer disc.