Aldo Nova [Bonus Track]

by: Aldo Nova

Aldo Nova's 1981 eponymous debut is a masterpiece from a style that didn't have too many masterpieces, period: early-'80s album-oriented rock. Nova's album has all the hallmarks of the time, particularly in its sleek surfaces, yet its blend of pop and hard rock points forward to some trends that surfaced later in the decade. Yet even if it could be convincingly argued that the album laid some of the groundwork for pop-metal -- it's true that its radio-ready blend of loud guitars, pop hooks, and a sentimental streak became commonplace in the late '80s, but hair metal bands had a greater debt to Van Halen, Aerosmith, and Kiss, not to mention Def Leppard, who truly defined the style with Pyromania -- but the album is equally tied to the sounds of AOR in the pre-MTV days, thanks partially to Nova's use of keyboards and the spacious rhythm tracks. So, Aldo Nova straddles its eras, which would make it interesting in and of itself, but what makes it such a terrific record is that it's a great hooky pop album touched with a hint of a mad maverick sensibility. This is nearly a one-man-band album, with Nova producing the record and playing all the guitars, keyboards, and vocals, in addition to most of the bass (Michel Lachapelle handles most of the drums), and this lends the album a driven intensity as well as an inventive, wide-open sound that is commercial but never pandering. It may still sound of its time, but there's energy to the productions and elastic musicality in the arrangements, so it still sounds pleasing even if it does sound dated. A large reason that it sounds so pleasing is that Nova's songwriting is excellent. He's a good pop craftsman, with his vocal melodies complementing and expanding his riffs, whether it's on rockers or ballads. The over-amped, anthemic "Fantasy" was the hit, a favorite on album rock radio and MTV, with the surging ballad "Foolin' Yourself" also making some waves on the air, but they're just peaks on a record that is rock-solid, filled with terrific arena rockers and big ballads -- and that's an important distinction, because AOR albums were often filled with filler. Aldo Nova kicks off in grand fashion with "Fantasy" and "Hot Love" and it sustains its momentum until the end, and years later, it still is an unabashed pleasure, one of the great AOR records and an unacknowledged power pop treasure. [Aldo Nova was reissued in 2004 in a remastered edition by Epic/Legacy, featuring one bonus track: an alternate mix of "Foolin' Yourself."] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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