Monday, March 2, 2015
Track of the Week: Leonard Nimoy "Highly Illogical"
Back when I was in college a friend had a compilation album of actors attempting to sing, including Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. For years I gravitated towards the Shatner stuff, mostly because his performances had a kind of crazed, irony-transcending quality to them. Nimoy's just sounded comically bad, considering that his voice had a range even less expansive than my own. Over the years, however, I've had a strange about face in regards to some of Nimoy's songs, mostly because of his own, less over the top commitment to the material. Case in point is something like "Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town," a grim tune sung from the perspective of a legless Vietnam vet threatening to kill his lady if she steps out on him. Nimoy's voice strains, but there is a fascinating level of evocative emotion that can't be ignored. I also enjoy his take on the great standard "Gentle on My Mind." When he had more story-telling material like this his speak-singing style actually worked.
My favorite, coming before his folky, countrified albums has to be the novelty song "Highly Illogical." Instead of singing in his earnest singing voice, Nimoy stays in character as Spock, his voice deep and stentorian. Spock points out the illogical behavior of 1960s-era humanity, including the worship of the car and working hard to make money that will be irrelevant once death inevitably gets its due. He's obviously having fun with the character, even if there are some serious messages about how out of whack most people's priorities are. Nimoy crafted an unforgettable and unique character, but still obviously maintained a sense of humor, which can also be seen rather memorably in Star Trek IV, which he directed. He used that non-human character to explore, in many ways, what it means to be human. And for all of Spock's logical nature, Nimoy himself wasn't afraid to get emotional or silly in his music, and was seemingly fearless in exposing his lack of singing talent. You might not like the songs, but I think they actually say something pretty profound about the man.