My lovely bride — who, as you might expect, has had to put up with a lot the past 39-plus years — is going to hate me this holiday season.
Sorry, my dear, but I have landed upon THE ABSOLUTE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT I could receive.
Yes, that intergalactic heavyweight of self-promotion, self-preservation and self-parody ... Capt. James Tiberius Kirk ... himself has released a Christmas album.
And, the only thing I can add is ... it’s about time.
You might be familiar with William Shatner’s career as a (and I’ll use the word loosely) vocalist — from his rambling, cigarette in hand, definitive rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” to his 2004 album “Has Been” — a collaboration with alternative rock icon Ben Folds that climbed the Billboard charts to as high as No. 22 and spawned a dance interpretation by the Milwaukee Ballet.
“Shatner Claus,” however, is something else entirely. And thank goodness, since everyone from Eric Clapton to Diana Ross to Engelbert Humperdinck (no, not the “Sherlock” actor) has more traditional collections of holiday favorites for sale.
Not since Bob Dylan sent my for-better-or-for-worse partner screaming from the room with his rendition of “Must Be Santa” off his 2009 Christmas offering has there come such an elixir for yet another round of warblers shmaltzing their way through “White Christmas.”
Clapton, Miss Ross and Humperdinck, by the way, each offers a take on the Bing Crosby standard — as does The Shat, although he has the good sense to perform it as a duet with Judy Collins.
It’s the lineup of guest artists, meanwhile, which gives “Shatner Claus” an extra layer of sparkling tinsel.
Along with Collins, you get a version of “Winter Wonderland” featuring both Todd Rundgren and Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle. Shatner shares the vocals with Brad Paisley (fresh from his nationwide tour with Peyton Manning) on “Blue Christmas,” Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on “Silver Bells” and blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker on “Little Drummer Boy.”
And could anything be better for bringing forth the true meaning of Christmas spirit than hearing the man who starred in the short-lived sitcom “$#!+ My Dad Says” croon his way through “Silent Night” with the help of the estimable Iggy Pop?
Glad you asked, because YES INDEED there is something better: The piece de no resistance of “Shatner Claus,” a mind-bending take on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
More precisely, the video for the children’s classic begins with your ol’ Priceline pitchman doing his spoken-word interpretation to a rapturous, audience of disoriented elves and extras from “Children of the Corn” then segues into a glitzy Vegas number with Capt. Kirk decked out in Starfleet-gold lame as the frontman for a zonked-out band led by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
I would say this is easily the most over-the-top music video of Shatner’s career, but for two things: There truly isn’t a top to go over for his brand of creativity, and I’ve seen the video for his version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Multiple times just ask the woman now shutting her eyes and covering her ears in a futile attempt to avoid assimilation. (Yes, yes, I know that’s Picard, but if last week I can murder (oops, kill) a signature quotation from “The Princess Bride” and get only one email noting the mistake, then I’m going to cross the streams of my Trek universes here.)
On Thanksgiving morning, we had the fire going — well, the continuously televised Yule Log at least — and whiled away the hours guessing the vocalists for the rotation of holiday songs.
Crosby, Sinatra, Mathis, Bennett, those were expected and easy enough to identify. Nat King Cole, of course. We’re pretty certain we heard Patti Page and Doris Day and, wait, was that Al Martino or Vic Damone?
The truth is, there simply aren’t many instant classic Christmas songs by contemporary artists out there.
I mean, sure, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” could go toe-to-toe with any holiday season pop song of any era. And Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is a fun curiosity. But, after that?
Whatever you do, don’t even suggest Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time,” a song that’s such a piece of treacly commercial claptrap it makes you want to scour the record bin for anything as antidote — even Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Christmas Song” which, as it happens, is being covered this year by Humperdinck.
(Note to self: “Covered By Humperdinck” would be a great name for a garage band.)
My favorite modern Christmas musical memory was the nearly annual appearance by Darlene Love singing her 1963 hit “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s late-night shows from 1986 to 2014.
It was the combination of the song — a spiritual ancestor to Carey’s classic, the singer, and the joy the moment would impart in such an unlikely setting.
But Letterman retired after that 2014 Christmas season, and while other shows tried to bring out Love for their own shows (particularly tone-deaf is the pairing with “The View” morning gabfest), the dare I say magic of that holiday moment can’t be recreated.
Which is why the utter originality of “Shatner Claus” is the present we didn’t know we needed, delivered by a man who himself is the gift that keeps on giving. Unexpected, spirit-lifting, unable to be duplicated, it shall be in continuous rotation for years to come.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a pair of earplugs for that special someone.
If you watch the aforementioned pieces of Shat, send your thanks to Mail Tribune columnist Robert Galvin at firstname.lastname@example.org.