Monday, October 29, 2012

My Trekie side comes out "The Touch of Leonard Nimoy"

C'mon, you know you want to have at least one Leonard Nimoy album in your collection ...  Think of how impressed your friends would be - vinyl and Star Trek cache too boot ...   You'll be a hero in your social circle !!! 

1969's Charles R. Greane produced "The Touch of Leonard Nimoy" was Nimoy's fourth studio set and is considered by many fans to be his artistic and creative zenith. The irony here is that most Nimoy fans are going to be Trekies, yet this was the first album where with the exception of the track 'Contact' Nimoy largely ignored his Star Trek roots (he didn't even sport the Vulcan ears on the back cover photo).   I have no idea if he really thought he could make it as a musician, or perhaps this was one of those contractual obligation albums, but Nimoy and company played it pretty straight ahead this time. Musically most of the album had kind of late-'60s  singer-songwriter/folkie vibe ('I Search for Tomorrow'), with Nimoy's vocals surrounded by tasteful and mostly subdued arrangements.  So it would be very easy to dump all over this album and while it isn't anything awe inspiring, in the realm of celebrity albums, this one wasn't half bad.  Nimoy already had an advantage over most celebrities, given he could actually carry a tune (as a comparison baseline, think along the lines of Tele Savalas, or William Shatner) and he seemed to have good taste when it came to covering outside material - Barry Mann, The Blue Things Val Stoecklein, and Randy Newman.  Add to that, producer Greane and arranger George Tipton actually seemed to have personal interests in the project, avoiding the usual boilerplate production-line approach, instead showing considerable care across these eleven tracks - check out the nice arrangement of Randy Newman's ' I Think It's Gonna Rain Today'.    

- A pretty folk-tinged ballad, 'I Search for Tomorrow' served to showcase Nimoy's decent voice.  Yeah, he didn't have a great deal of range, or inflection, but give the man a break in that he really could carry a tune.  rating: *** stars
- Built on what sounded like a traditional folk melody, 'Maiden Wine' was one of four Nimoy originals and is the one Trekies are most familiar with.  Nimoy actually performed a stripped down version of the song in a Star Trek episode - the third season's "Plato's Stepchildren".  To my ears it sounded like one of those songs you were first to sing in elementary school, which probably explains why I'm not a big fan.    Anyhow, if you haven't heard/seen it, YouTube has a number of clips of the original Start Trek performance:  rating: ** stars
- Penned by The Blue Things Val Stoeckein, 'Now's the Time' found Nimoy doing his best Dylan impression.   Since he was channeling Dylan, it really didn't matter that the vocal was gruff and only marginally in tune.   rating: *** stars
- 'Cycles' was another folkish tune that didn't require a lot of vocal dynamics from Nimoy.  Pretty tune so, you could kind of overlook the vocals.   rating: ** tunes
- I'm sure some folks will think I'm being a dick, but with a straight face I can say I actually liked his cover of Randy Newman's ' I Think It's Gonna Rain Today'.   I don't know how many folks have ever heard the Newman original (found on 1971's "Randy Newman"), but in terms of being listenable, Nimoy's orchestrated cover was certainly no worse than the Newman original - his voice certainly wasn't any worse than Newman's.   (If you want to hear really stunning versions of the song, I'd suggest looking for the versions done by Peter Gabriel (the track's dark soul actually sounds like a Gabriel composition), Nina Simone, or Dusty Springfield.   rating: *** stars
- 'I Just Can't Help Believin'' wasn't any worse than a Jimmy Webb song - in fact the song's MOR pop flavor sounded very similar to the kind of stuff Webb was writing for Glen Campbell.  As for Nimoy, his easy-going delivery gave the song a surprisingl low-key charm.  rating: *** stars
- Nimoy's speak-talk version of Eden Ahbez's 'Nature Boy' was entertaining, though it won't make you forget the original.  Wonder how he came across this obscurity ...   rating: ** stars- One of two tracks co-written with arranger George Tipton, 'Contract' was the one track that connected with his Star Trek history - in this case a 'Major Tom' piece of sci-fi.  Kind of spooky ...      rating: *** stars
- Another Nimoy-Tipton collaboration, 'The Man I Would Like To Be' was another slice of MOR-pop with Nimoy finding a comfortable groove that he didn't stray from.  This one could've been released as a single.   rating: *** stars
- Complete with heavy orchestration and shrieking background singers, to my ears 'A Trip To Nowhere' sounded like a Jacques Brel tune.  That wasn't meant as a compliment.   rating: ** stars- Another Nimoy original, 'Piece of Hope' was clearly a '60s time-piece ...  peace, love, and happiness to all ...  interestingly you could also see the song as having an activist political stance.  rating: *** stars 

Nah, you won't play this very often, but so what ...   how many LPs do you play on a regular basis ?

"The Touch of Leonard Nimoy" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) I Search for Tomorrow  (Paul Evans - Paul Parnes) - 2:25
2.) Maiden Wine   (Leonard Nimoy) - 1:40
3.) Now's the Time   (Val Stoecklein) - 2:38
4.) Cycles    (Gayle Caldwell) - 2:52
5.) I Think It's Gonna Rain Today   (Randy Newman) - 3:05   

(side 2)
1.) I Just Can't Help Believin'    (Barry Mann - Cynthia Weil) - 2:34
2.) Nature Boy   (Eden Ahbez) - 2:15
3.) Contract   (Leonard Nimoy - George Tipton) - 2:13
4.) The Man I Would Like To Be   (Leonard Nimoy - George Tipton) - 2:35
5.) A Trip To Nowhere   (Cymbal - Costa) - 2:14
6.) Piece of Hope   (Leonard Nimoy) - 2:24

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