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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
'll be honest and say that the latest Rick Altizer record, Go Nova, has the worst cover art I've ever seen. It looks like it was slapped together in five minutes in Photoshop. However, my mother always told me to never judge a book by its cover, so I gave Go Nova a second chance. Altizer is well capable of making a good record (as his debut, Blue Plate Special, proved), although his songwriting and arranging techniques have always struck me as somewhere in between genius and CCM cliche'--never fully on either side, but taking bits from both of them.
The first song here, the Tom Petty-meets-John Lennon "Resurrection," leans more toward the genius side. Altizer's voice can be a bit grating at times (as indeed can Petty's). This song is no exception, but the arrangement of the song, coupled with the knowledge that Altizer played all the instruments and performed all the vocals himself, moves the listener past this problem and shows what Altizer is capable of.
Unfortunately, the benevolence that "Resurrection" instills in me doesn't last long. A whopping four songs of Go Nova's ten have been previously released in some form. While none of these songs are necessarily bad (aside from the trite and musically weak "Gold Coast," originally performed by Rebecca St. James on the Surfonic Water Revival album), their inclusion gives the impression that Altizer is dry on ideas and desperate for tracks.
What's more, the new material on the record is hit-and-miss. Though "Resurrection" and "Trash Can Darling" are dead-on, "C M Superstar" displays the same banality it purports to mock (Altizer's sarcasm is not quite wry enough), and Altizer's attempts at making "I Don't Deserve You" his next moving worship song (a la "River of Grace," the standout track from Blue Plate Special) fall decidedly flat.
Altizer definitely has the songwriting and musical chops to become the next Terry Taylor, but I'm afraid that too many songs on Go Nova don't live up to the potential it is obvious that he has. Maybe next time around.
Michial Farmer (3/7/00)
The name of the radio show which follows mine on Sunday night is called The Sonic Attack. This title could very well describe the third release by artist Rick Altizer. With each album this guy just keeps getting better.
Sure, on the first album it was a great calling card to say that Adrian Belew played guitar on some cuts. On Go Nova, it is hard to say whether it is Rick or Adrian filling in the guitar parts. Just to let you know, in most cases, it is Mr. Altizer. He plays all of the instruments on the album, with few exceptions; he handles all the vocals.
Rick's lyric writer, Dwight Lilies, is outstanding at painting word pictures in such songs as "Gold Coast," "Last Day Of Summer" and "Risen". there are outstanding lyrics which demand the listener's attention.
From "Last Day of Summer":
The last day of summer drifts out on the wind,From "Risen":
Shadows are melting into the sun,There is only one non-original tune here, the Daniel Amos tune, "I Love You #19" originally recorded for the Amos tribute album. It is a welcome repeat here in a collection of tunes that makes me want to put the top down on the convertible and head out on the road to the beach. These are some fine drivin' tunes.
The only problem is that I can't dance to the extended ending of "Risen" while I'm driving.
Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock 5/26/2001
Rick Altizer is a lot like the Little Engine that Could: a happy, humble creature that by the sheer force of will and the application of inherent talent struggles and finally manages to climb over a challenging mountain. In Alitzer's case, he writes, plays and produces entire albums of modern pop bliss in the often competitive landscape of Christian modern pop rock. The only downside to his magical, musical journey is that in the past there has been little fanfare when he's pulled into the station and unloaded his noteworthy trainload of tunes. Sometimes fairy tales do come true, however, and Altizer may yet prove himself a hero worthy of such celebration. Regardless, the new disc deserves a wider, more appreciative audience
Go Nova marks Altizer's third official release. The preceding albums, 1998's Blue Plate Special and 1999's Neon Fixation, were, depending on with whom you talked, either modestly promising efforts or the second coming of a Terry Taylor prodigy. Some have even called Altizer an unsung musical genius and shared their hopes that he might single-handedly save the banality of the CCM scene someday. Now with three increasingly impressive albums under his belt, he's certainly off to a good start.
Regarding the Terry Taylor comparisons, they are not entirely unfounded. Both Taylor and Altizer have a similar range and twitter to their voices, and a penchant for creating left-of-center pop tunes full of snappy wit and charm. Although no blasphemously direct descendent of Terry Taylor's work, Altizer is a sort of disciple insomuch as they both share a fondness for reinventing The Beatles and Tom Petty. (Altizer's palette also skirts such influences as Cheap Trick, The Cars, and The Steve Miller Band, among others, in a way that updates them for 21st Century listeners.) One also easily imagines that Taylor's work was an influence on Altizer, a theory that is substantiated by Altizer's playful cover here of Taylor's "I Love You, #19" from the Daniel Amos Horrendous Disc album. What Altizer lacks in Taylor's overall level of lyrical wit and clever satire, he makes up for with a musical accessibility that should earn him a solid fanbase in his own right. It appears to be Altizer's mission to not mime Taylor's trajectory so much as to create something in a kindred spirit with an eye on a broader audience--a goal that seems largely attainable.
The association between the granddaddy of Christian Alternative music, and the new bloke on the block, is also further solidified by their prior collaboration on the Surfonic Water Revival album. Some of those songs reappear here in altered states, including "Last Day of Summer," and a fetching rendition of "Gold Coast," which formerly featured Rebecca St. James as the vocalist. Given that too few people were acquainted with the Surfonic project, the reinterpretation of a few songs is an entirely appropriate measure for gaining a wider audience for them.
Highlights include the aforementioned songs, as well as the celebratory bombast of "Resurrection," the bittersweet bounce of "Love to You," the sly single "CM Superstar," and the moody modern hymn with a Middle-Eastern music break "Risen." Given that this project is largely a home-cooked compilation, the production value is superb.
Notwithstanding Adrian Belew's (King Crimson) contributions of a few well played guitar solos, much has been made of the fact that, like Prince, Altizer pretty much does everything on his albums himself. That would be accomplishment enough, yet it's buoyed by the result: a bright example of what modern pop rock from a Christian perspective can and should be. Fans of bands like All Star United, Skypark, Fono and Fleming & John should also "Go Nova." If sufficient word gets out about this little engine, don't be surprised to find it deservingly flirting with a lot of Top Ten lists at year's end.
Steven S. Baldwin 5/26/01