I don't know if John Elefante's religious devotion has played any part in him gaining his talent, however this man certainly has the voice of an angel. It's powerful, rich, deep and melodic, having elements of some of the greats such as Lou Gramm or Paul Rodgers whilst always being instantly recognisable as his.
John came to prominence when he replaced Steve Walsh in the band Kansas who he recorded two albums, Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures with. After Kansas dissolved, Elefante teamed up with his brother Dino, who had helped write much of Drastic Measures with John and the pair became respected album producers with their credits including Sweet Comfort Band and Petra. Around this time they also began putting together their own project which became Mastedon. The first album It's A Jungle Out There was very much a project affair where John and Dino sang and played, but various other guitarists and lead vocalists were also used. Underground classic Lofcaudio, which also employed a wide variety of musicians alongside Dino and John, came next and whilst the debut was a strong collection of AOR/melodic rock tracks, the 1990 follow up is regarded as a genuine classic of those genres and original copies of the album still fetch considerable sums on the likes of ebay.
Since 1990 John Elefante has, still with the help of his brother, released three excellent Christian rock solo albums that have fused together the sound of Mastedon and the more polished commercial sound of John's era of Kansas. With the last of those albums coming out some ten years ago, it was a bit of a surprise when the news of Mastedon's reformation was announced.
Simply titled 3, although it would appear that the US release will be relabelled as John Elefante and Mastedon – Revolution Of Mind, this album picks up as if Mastedon never went away. Unlike so many reformed bands Mastedon have used the same blueprint that made them popular in the first place to base their new music on. Wonderful silky smooth melodies and hook laden choruses abound on this album and the decision to both hand all the vocal duties to John and to have less guests and a more structured band feel definitely pay off.
Anthony Sallee handles bass duties and Dan Needham plays drums, while the brothers Elefante cover most of the work on keyboards and rhythm guitars. As for lead guitar duties, well Dave Amato of REO Speedwagon who featured on the first two albums returns, however this time he is alongside John's ex Kansas band mate Kerry Livgren. It's the first time that Livgren and Elefante have teamed up since they both left Kansas, however it's a wonderfully productive reunion. Listen to the tremendous "One Day Down The Lake (See You Real Soon)", with its Kansas feel and structure, right down to the synthed violins, and there's no doubt that this is a band who have gelled perfectly. John's vocals are as powerful and believable as ever and Livgren's guitar work is uplifting.
"One Day Down..." is definitely a highlight of the album, however there's so much quality to be found that singling tracks out is incredibly difficult. Whether it's the powerful driving almost Cheap Trick like guitar of "Water Into Wine (Fassa Rokka)", or the Bostonesque "Lying" every song is a joy to behold.
John Elefante cements his reputation as one of the best singers in the business, however it's no one man show. Dino's guitar and keyboard work is tasteful and inspired, Sallee and Needham put in stellar performances and the guitar work of Amato and Livgren is just sublime.
Other than the performances the albums strength lies in excellent song writing, and the understanding that just because all the songs are melodic rock verging into AOR, that does not mean that they all have to sound the same. "That's What You Do" has a tough insistent riff and soaring guitar solo, whereas "Nowhere Without Your Love" is a keyboard heavy melodic beauty which could have been lifted straight off one of John's solo albums and "Revolution Of Mind" with its stomping beat is a great introduction to the album.
Closing out with a sleek reworking of the Kansas classic "Dust In The Wind" is also a nice touch, although it has to be said that while it's still a great version, the original still stands tall in comparison.
This is a fantastic album and with the year drawing to a close it's a safe bet that 3 will be among the best, if not the best melodic rock release of the year.
1. Revolution of Mind
2. Slay Your Demons
3. Nowhere Without Your Love
4. One Day Down by the Lake (See You Real Soon)
5. Water Into Wine (Fassa Rokka)
6. Questions (It's About Time)
7. You Can't Take Anything
9. The Western World
10. That's What You Do
11. Dust in the Wind
Added: October 25th 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Artist Website
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