Friday, November 15, 2013

Song #422 of 9999 - Spleen/Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds by William Shatner

Song #422 of 9999

Title: Spleen/Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Artist: William Shatner
Year: 1968
Album: The Transformed Man

My sincere hope is that you will come to this blog post late tonight in a haze of one too many glasses of whatever intoxicating beverage makes you feel warmest during this unusually cold November (here in the Northeast US at least).

Here we have William Shatner, star of the television series Star Trek (still running at the time of this record), with his debut album of spoken word poetry and music. The poems are classics (Hamlet, Cyrano de Bergerac, Romeo and Juliet) paired with arrangements of popular songs of the day. The orchestrations are clever and professional and Shatner is....Shatner. 

Is he serious? Is this a joke? It is bad or is it good? These are all the wrong questions. Is it entertaining? That's really all we should be concerned with and I say yes! Shatner is 100% game and he gives his all on each and every track. The original music that accompanies the poetry is well-composed and expertly orchestrated. The pop songs are chosen carefully and the matches work.

"Spleen" is a poem by the provocative French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), drawn from his famous collection Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). The poem is dark and introverted. Maybe I'm being influenced by what I've read about Les Fleurs du mal, but the despair and loneliness depicted in the poem seem rooted in an urban society. Grey walls close in on a soul trapped within the confines of a rapidly developing city.

By contrast, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" renders a fantastic countryside offering a feast for all the senses. Tangerine trees, marmalade skies, cellophane flowers, bridges and fountains, marshmallow pies—what's not to like? But most of all, there is the girl. She's the protagonist's way out, even when he sadly finds himself "on a train in a station," just the kind of urban environment this fanciful world was meant to replace.

Is this brilliant or absurd? Has the protagonist of Baudelaire's poem lost it completely and retreated into his own mind? Or is the message here that love (in the form of the "girl with kaleidoscope eyes") can save you from the pressure, the noise, the enormity of modern life by keeping you grounded or— perhaps in this case—skyborne. I'll let you decide.

Need to hear this again but with pictures? May I suggest this mashup with some Japanese animé!

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