Altizer - Blue Plate Special
by Paul M. Carhart
Originally published in The Lighthouse Electronic
After listening to his debut release, Blue Plate Special
several times, I have come to the realization that Rick Altizer
must be someone who likes to break the rules.
of all, and thankfully so, Altizer doesn't take himself too seriously.
Perhaps it is this reason alone that makes this remarkably different
project so much fun. And fun it is, from the "dead fish on a plate"
motif carried throughout the packaging and liner notes to the hilarious
multiple incarnations of Altizer on the inside portraying each of
his fictitious band members (some of these photo-sketches are truly
inspired and quite hilarious). This representation is not altogether
untrue because, except for the occasional guitar solo by co-producer
Adrian Belew, Altizer plays nearly every instrument and sings every
vocal part on the project. Clearly, Altizer is a multi-talented
performer who has every right to take himself seriously, even conceitedly,
yet chooses to mix it up in a fun and friendly manner and give the
glory to God.
doesn't mean there aren't any serious issues tackled on this project.
You may not, however recognize some of these issues right off. The
fun and rockin' first track, "Make A Monkey" pokes fun at evolution
and living an impulsive life while the sarcastic title track, "Blue
Plate Special," compares society's constant repackaging of the things
of old to "yesterday's chicken," which makes for quite a humorous
analogy. The standout track is probably the Dylanesque "Jan's The
Best," which is dedicated to Altizer's wife, Jan... apparently because
she's "the best." Other, more serious tracks, include the other-worldly
"Oxygen Tank," the haunting "River Of Grace" and the somber last
track, "When You Walked Up That Hill."
Altizer seamlessly melds Eric Champion's glitz with Bob
Dylan's stories, U2's melodies and Steve Taylor's
or Randy Stonehill's humor. Every track is heavily layered
with extra instruments, percussion to spare and a multitude of Rick
Altizers singing along for good measure. Although Altizer could
have easily played every instrument on the project, Adrian Belew's
screaming guitars are interspersed throughout, adding an edge that
would otherwise be missing. Some of the guitar solos don't sound
exactly like guitars and there are some other instruments floating
around in there that I don't even recognize, allowing for a variety
of textures that explore many different moods, thoughts and emotions
. Blue Plate benefits from not having the standard Nashville
session players sitting in and definitely does not sound like any
other album being released these days.
addition to hogging all of the instruments and all of the vocal
chores on his "first album ever," Altizer also wrote every track,
proving himself to be one of the more refreshing songwriters in
Christian music. One of the great things about Altizer's music is
that he is able to transform his unabashedly upbeat, hooky pop songs
into cool, unique, slick, brain-teasing rock/pop, framing his lyrical
messages in everyday terms that anyone could relate to. The twelve
songs on this project are radio friendly ear candy that would be
just as at home on mainstream top forty radio stations as within
the Christian market.
bonus is Altizer's insightful, yet brief liner notes where the reader
will find little behind-the-scenes tidbits and sparks of inspiration
for each song. These notes really are interesting and entertainingly
written and, once read, sometimes even add another level to the
meaning of a song.
main downfall I see concerning Rick Altizer's future is that he
is going to have a heck of time topping this album with his next
release. Maybe by then he'll find some more rules to break and we'll
be ready for him to "serve up" another new dish. Any way you look
at it though, Blue Plate Special is no "yesterday's chicken."