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John Elefante: The Amazing Grace
John Elefante - The Amazing Grace Album Art

John Elefante: The Amazing Grace

Melodic Hard Rock/AOR

For most genre fans John Elefante needs no introduction. But for the youngsters out there ... Vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer John Elefante is the guy who replaced the guy, Steve Walsh, in Kansas in 1981. (Elefante beat out, among others, Sammy Hagar and Doug Pinnick for the job.) He would record two albums with Kansas, Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures. To the former, he was the vocalist on the mega-hit, Play The Game Tonight; to the latter, he wrote Fight Fire With Fire, Kansas' biggest single to date.

John Elefante Click For Larger Image

John Elefante

Later, with his brother Dino, they created the studio project Mastedon which produced more heavier melodic metal rock. Their debut album,It's A Jungle Out There, was a fantastic CCM album and is still one of my favorites. (Find it, if you can.) Elefante would proceed to sing, write, and produce for many bands and projects (too many to mention but includes Guardian, Petra, and St Elmo's Fire) over the years as well as releasing a few solo projects. His last solo album, On My Way To The Sun, arrived in 2013. Now Elefante, who is also a longtime Christian, returns with a new solo recording, The Amazing Grace.

After such an auspicious historical introduction, what can we expect from Elefante's new venture? Let's establish these personal notes: I'm a huge fan of Elefante and my context for speaking to the new album is based on his early history. Speaking to the first, John Elefante is an extremely talented fellow. His vocal talent is excellent: clear, clean, and melodic. He should be put into the same clan of astounding vocalists like Steve Perry. He's also a terrific songwriter. Needless to say, his songwriting is greatly influenced by his vocal skills. Ergo, every song on this album turns on the vocal arrangements working in tandem with song melody and harmony. But that's only the beginning of an Elefante arrangement. The best components of AOR melodic hard rock are self-evident: rock rhythm and groove, AOR to pop accessibility, and compositional ingenuity. That latter element is not to say that his songs are strictly technical, like prog, but the are dense, substantial, and well-crafted in arrangement and instrumental participation.

Regarding that second notion, my historical context, the songs within The Amazing Grace are more akin to post-Walsh Kansas and less like the bolder Mastedon albums (although songs such as Stronger or Time Machine can sound heavier at times). That is also to say, I have never heard any of his preceding solo albums. But, fundamentally, if you like any of the aforementioned aspects of his vocal and songwriting style (or simply a huge AOR fan), you will absolutely love this album. Additionally, thanks to his Christian faith, most songs have a faith-forward positive lyrical message. (Which is cool with me because I am also a Christian and happy to say so.) All said then, John Elefante's The Amazing Grace is a fantastic slice of well-crafted, expertly written and produced, and immensely entertaining AOR melodic hard rock. Quite recommended. Get it. Now.

As an aside: I made a recommendation to the folks at Escape Music: Escape should talk to John about getting his back catalog re-released, specifically Mastedon and his solo albums. - New fiction, crime fiction by Craig Hartranft

The Take Away

John Elefante's The Amazing Grace is a fantastic slice of well-crafted, expertly written and produced, and immensely entertaining AOR melodic hard rock. Quite recommended. Get it. Now.

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