William Shatner may be an overstuffed egotist given to the hammiest acting this side of Miss Piggy, but he’s not what his CD title suggests. The former Capt. James T. Kirk of “Star Trek” fame just won an Emmy for a guest appearance on ABC’s “The Practice” and he’s starring in its new spinoff “Boston Legal.” He’s no has been.

He’s no singer, either. But don’t worry. On “Has Been,” his follow-up to his infamous 1968 spoken-word LP he’s speaking, rather than singing.

Hard to know what to make of this CD. On the noisily percussive “I Can’t Get Behind That,” one of Shatner’s many gripes is “so-called singers that can’t carry a tune, get paid for talking.” On the even more weird “You’ll Have Time,” Shatner cheerfully informs us, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But you’re gonna die!”

But some of this stuff is oddly affecting, thanks to his expressive delivery – especially when he talks about finding his wife’s body at the bottom of their swimming pool or trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter after 20 years.

Helping goose a few cuts to Warp One speed, if not Warp Two or Three, is an eye-opening and diverse crew of musical collaborators including arranger and pianist Ben Folds, Brad Paisley, Joe Jackson, Aimee Mann, Adrian Belew, “High Fidelity” author Nick Hornby and punk poet Henry Rollins.

-Howard Cohen

Combining the ferocity and energy of “Fijate bien””” with the emotional and musical sweetness of “Un dia normal,” “Mi sangre” (“My Blood”) is the best yet of Colombian rocker Juanes’ albums. It’s more musical, humane and mature, and should cement Juanes’ status as an artist who’s the real thing.

If “Dia normal” was often about the dreamy excitement of falling in love, “Sangre” is filled with the agony and ecstasy once you’ve gone over the edge. Love is a religious experience on “Para tu amor” (“For Your Love”), “Today and always I give thanks to you, my love, for existing.” The melodies are gorgeous, luxuriously lovely; “No siento penas” (“I Don’t Feel Pain”) booms with happiness, a triumphant “All You Need is Love” march.

But love’s darker side is here, too. The bouncy cumbia strut and humorous double entendres of “La camisa negra” (“The Black Shirt”) only sharpen its bitter subject of unrequited love. Underlying “Mi sangre” is the knowledge that once you’ve fallen in love, the risks of being hurt and the need for affection are much greater.

Co-produced by Juanes and Gustavo Santaolalla, “Sangre” is more musically complex and confident; Juanes’ guitar solos explode with emotion, and there are echos of the Beatles, the Eagles, Colombian folk and more. Juanes invests simple pop lyric structures with inventiveness and depth, playing with similar sounding words like “el mundo” (the world) and “inmundo” (obscene) in “Que pasa?,” an indictment of a terrorism-torn globe; or putting rhymes on unexpected beats.

Yet it’s when Juanes plunges straight in that “Sangre” is most affecting. The most moving song may be “Tu guardian” (“Your Guardian”), a song for his infant daughter that swings between sweet lullaby rocking and ecstatic rock guitar. “I’ll always be at your side,” he tells her, an impossible promise you believe as long as he keeps singing.

– Jordan Levin

Hometown favorite Volumen Cero follows up its major label debut with another album of tightly honed, ‘80s and electro influenced rock and roll. With guitars ringing and synthesizers keening over thundering drums and an occasional burst of punk energy, Volumen is a close cousin to the Cure and early U2 – but with a velvety lushness laid over its hard rock bones. “Estelar” (“Spectacular”) doesn’t capture the explosive energy of the group’s live shows. But it’s still a satisfying experience, hypnotic and seductive.

The only things that marks Volumen as Latin are lyrics (mostly) in Spanish and a kind of emotional over-the-top-ness you’d never find in an aspiring Wilco. Singer Luis Tamblay’s voice is full and gorgeous even when he howls. Lyrically, songwriter/guitarist Marthin Chen is caught between full-out romance – “save me from my mind” he writes in “Despiertame” (“Wake Me Up”) – and young American alienation, where he’s “Feeling uninspired, I’m hanging out to dry and there’s no one,” in “Biscayne.” The insights don’t get much deeper than the kind of existential angst that comes when you leave the club at dawn. The songs tend to sound alike, but they stay with you, as beautiful and haunting as night time lights.

– Jordan Levin


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.