Rick Altizer

Blue Plate Special

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The debut offering from Rick Altizer, a Christian rocker with a decidedly mainstream bent and a love for chunky guitar riffs and meaty rock & roll, is a promising, if unrealized, effort. Altizer clearly knows his rock history, so he chooses to infuse his fairly standard power pop songs with a lot of instrumental window-dressing, mainly in the form of glowing new wavey synthesizers and Adrian Belew's elaborate guitar work. The choice of Belew, the longtime guitar virtuoso from King Crimson, is no coincidence: it's obvious that Altizer has listened to a few Matthew Sweet records and realizes that a wily guitar attack is a great way to dress up a fairly standard verse-chorus-verse pop/rock song. That said, Blue Plate Special's flaws are equally obvious. Altizer relies too heavily on a stale-sounding drum machine, and his lyrics often slip into banality (like, "You know, it's got a funny smell/Never noticed it before/I'm not hungry anymore -- no, no" on the title track). But he laid out a formula here that would stick for several releases, and when he nails a good hook -- as he does on the God-questioning rocker "Never Shake His Hand" or "Tape Gun Baby" -- it's instantly memorable. [There are two versions of Blue Plate Special. There is the original CCM version and a European version, which cuts some of the more religiously oriented tunes in favor of more secular material. A few of the cuts were later recycled on Altizer's 2001 (All Tie Zer), a quasi best-of set on secular power pop label Not Lame Records.]

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