...Elefante delivers an almost hour-long stampede of big, epic sound that blends classic rock and AOR with a sophisticated pre-prog sensibility...
The Amazing Grace
Artist: John Elefante
Label: Deko Entertainment / Escape Music
11 tracks / 56:21
John Elefante is a mammoth talent. The general public became aware of the young man from a Long Island suburb when he became the lead vocalist for the iconic band, Kansas in 1981. As his last name implies, Elefante has a big voice and makes big music (followers of his career know that one of John’s bands was called Mastedon and that he and his brother formed a label called Pakaderm. Decades later Elefante is a solo artist in his own right, and his latest project, The Amazing Grace, proves that his skills as a vocalist, writer, producer, and instrumentalist are in peak form. With his new album, Elefante delivers an almost hour-long stampede of big, epic sound - a sometimes cinematic, sometimes apocalyptic, yet hopeful listening experience that blends classic rock, AOR, and sophisticated pre-prog styles in a way that’s sure to please fans of John’s earlier work and fans of Kansas, as well.
City of Grace” opens the album with a montage of sound that blends into the deliberate, heavy dream-like musical landscape. Elefante’s unmistakable vocals emerge through the mix and ride over the sound:
I look out as far as I can see / The Morning Star has darkened / Oh where is the dawn’s first sign of light? / Is it gone or is it just hiding away? / On the horizon (Oh) I see smoke and ashes / How I wish it were a dream that I could awake from / But for now it’s all for real... Before the wonderful extended fade, Elefante offers hope and a way out of the dark scenario with the words, “Come, come on in / To the City of Grace / Come, come inside...
“Stronger Now” follows with a sharp hard rock riff starting things off. The song is very much in a classic rock mode, almost flirting a bit with a hint of prog-rock, has a nice, very unexpected bridge and a classy Harrison-like slide guitar solo. The title track follows, sounding very cinematic and well-orchestrated. The hooky “all the King’s horses” chorus will stick with you long after this strong ballad ends.
Tight, feisty guitar licks and punchy horn/guitar riffs make “Time Machine” five minutes you’ll want to revisit again and again. This is heavy, tasty stuff with just enough intricacy and changes to convince anyone that you can rock hard, with intelligence and sophistication. “But now my past is history,” sings Elefante, “it can’t be rearranged / Now I move in Your direction / Show me Lord all I can be.”
“Won’t Fade Away” is a highlight of the project for me: a multi-part song with tempo changes, a Kansas-like violin riff, excellent instrumental passages, great melodic sense, and an excellent vocal showcase. This track would certainly feel at home on any prog album. The big, slow-paced, powerful “You Are Not Alone” is a comforting, pleading call from God: “When you hear the wind blow by, please remember My voice / I will keep on beckoning, you'll always have a choice / The Sun will rise again, and bring a brand-new day / All you need to do my friend, is let Me show you the way.” The plaintive, yearning guitar solo at the end adds an appropriately emotional punch.
The hopeful, encouraging “Falling Into place” needs to be playing over the end-credits of a movie. This is possibly the most commercial song on the album - a song with a wide appeal and positive, uplifting feeling.
“We Will Be Fine” follows, with an unusual, jazzy shuffle from the Dan Needham’s drums. A strong, unique song packed with great vocal, string, and guitar parts, the track is a master-class of production and arranging.
A barrage of drums and a gritty rock riff launch “My Little Brown Book,” some advice about not neglecting The Book (you know the one...). This is gritty, smart rock ‘n roll with a take-no-prisoners attack. A tender tribute to his mother follows, as Elefante delivers “And When I’m Gone,” a great melodic ballad
Rounding out the album and in some ways creating an endless loop, is the ‘longer’ version of “City of Grace,” which started this musical journey. The return to this opening theme brings us full-circle, lending an appropriate sense of gravitas to The Amazing Grace.
This music was created by: John Elefante (vocals, keyboard), Jonell Mosser (vocal), Dave Cleveland (guitar), Frank Boxberger (guitar), Dave Cleveland (acoustic guitar), Dustin Blatnik (acoustic guitar on “Not Alone”), Jimmy Nichols (piano on “When I’m Gone”), Anthony Sallee (bass), Dan Needham (drums), Eric Darken (percussion), and Chris Carmichael (strings, string arrangement). The Amazing Grace was produced and engineered by John Elefante.
All songs were written by John Elefante and Frank Boxberger except “My Little Brown Book,” which was written by Elefante, Boxberger and John Schlitt, “The Amazing Grace,” written by Elefante, Boxberger and Mark Lee Townsend, and “Falling Into Place,” by Richard Page.
It goes without saying that John Elefante is one of the great singers in or out of the Christian Music scene. His writing and producing are in a class of their own. As his current project can attest, this Mastedon is far from extinct.
- Bert Saraco
You can see concert photography by Bert Saraco (including John Elefante) at the link below.