|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: John Elefante|
|Record Label: Kingheir Music||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: John Elefante|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 56:19|
After spending the past several weeks listening to On My Way To The Sun, the spring of 2013 fourth solo release from vocalist John Elefante, we can confirm that it is indeed a very special album. Elefante might be best known for his stint in Kansas, fronting the group during its early eighties Vinyl Confessions (1982) and Drastic Measures (1983) era, but potentially hit his stride with the projects he later recorded under the Mastedon moniker, It’s A Jungle Out There (1989) and Lofcaudio (1990). Elefante continued to make music throughout the nineties, having put out his first three solo albums in Windows Of Heaven (1995), Corridors (1997) and Defying Gravity (1999). The artist remained on the sidelines until 2009 when he resurrected Mastedon for its aptly entitled third release, 3.
On My Way To The Sun finds Elefante heading in a direction not unlike that of 3 by joining aspects of Kansas (in terms of occasional 70’s influences and progressive overtones) and Mastedon (touches of melodic rock and hard rock) with that of his solo material (from a smooth AOR and commercial standpoint). It is this tasteful mirroring of styles - and the creativity and inspiration therein - that helps make On My Way To The Sun, as already noted, such a special work. It begins and ends with songwriting, which reflects the significant time, thought and effort the artist put into the project (it is clear Elefante literally worked his fingers to the bone fine tuning the material here) to create what amounts the artistic magnum opus of his career.
The progressive side to the artist can be found in “This Is How The Story Goes”, a delightful eleven minute epic in which Kansas members Rich Williams (guitars) and David Ragsdale (violin) make guest appearances. The heavier rocking stance of “Where Have The Old Days Gone” (this one is as close to hard rock as it gets) hearkens back to his Mastedon days, as does other guitar driven pieces “Halfway Home” (with its big doses of polished vocal melodies) and “Don’t Hide Away” (groove-driven front to back).
The album, otherwise, approaches things from a delectable melodic rock and AOR standpoint. “On My Way To The Sun” interweaves a mirthful melody with acoustic guitars, while “All I Have To Do” takes a similar heading but with the bigger keyboard emphasis. “The Awakening” impresses with its low-end and gritty blues flavorings. Of the albums ballads, “We All Fall Short” highlights some classically done symphonic elements and “This Time” a moving and emotional ambience. “Confess” shines with its prayerful and hymn-like simplicity.
One cannot help but appreciate the freshness and vibrancy to Elefante’s classic melodic flavored voice. If anything, the guy has not lost anything since his eighties heyday, effortlessly exhibiting his full range at a moments notice (on the albums more up-tempo pieces) or lending some lower register qualities when need calls for it (to that taking a calmer heading). It adds up to a flawless complementing of the songs at hand.
Also standing out is the heaviness to the On My Way To The Sun material, which can be traced to the guitar team of Elefante and Dave Cleveland. Yes, highlights includes the already referenced harder rocking pieces but others also flex their muscles, as can be found in the periodic moments when guitars drive to the front of the mix on “All I Have To Do” and “The Awakening”. The upshot is a basis of melodic proclivity but with more than adequate guitars to draw in those whose tastes stray towards the heavier side of things.
Production highlights the sterling qualities one would expect from an Elefante project. The guy, obviously, knows his way around in the studio, having produced albums for Barren Cross, Petra, Bride, Sweet Comfort Band, The Brave, X Sinner and a host of others.
Lyrics leave little doubt to not only Elefante’s faith but that On My Way To The Sun is a Christian project in no uncertain terms. Please see the track by track for further details.
On My Way To The Sun is indeed a special album, reflected in what amounts the best group of songs Elefante has put together backed by his signature melodic based vocal presence. The understated heaviness (again, not hard rock but guitars in just the right amounts all the same) and progressiveness (8 of the 10 songs extend past five minutes) only adds to the albums appeal. Fans of not just Kansas, Mastedon and the artist’s solo material stand to benefit from checking out On My Way To The Sun but also those into all facets of commercial hard rock, melodic rock and AOR.
Track By Track
Credit the artist for having the ambition to start the album with the eleven minute “This Is How The Story Goes”, a similar pattern followed by Theocracy who also opened its latest release with an epic (“I Am” off As The World Bleeds). Despite differences in style, Elefante strains towards a progressive rock based sound and Theocracy a metal interpretation of the genre, similarities are striking: An intricate piece with a myriad of creative twists and turns and abounding melody that remains relevant despite the length. Also of note are Kansas guest appearances by David Ragsdale (whose violin adds a classical slant) and Rich Williams (lending a heavier edge with his trademark edgy guitar work). Lyric snippet:
Now you lie here silent, you can’t move nor can you speak
I know that you feel helpless, but your faith has not grown weak
You’ve overcome the darkness by the Blood of the Lamb my friend
Now rise up from here, you are healed no longer broken
No more pain and no more fear, I am a witness to your miracle
I will tell what I’ve seen
Cause a virgin had a Son, and a stone was rolled away
So how can we be terminal, because He lives today…
“Where Have The Old Days Gone” takes a heavier stance. The song delivers copious touches of low-end groove and the hard rocking guitars to match, playing up an up-tempo disposition - allowing the uplifting chorus to shine in the process - but also occasional quieter moments laced by what sounds like more violin. An imposing stretch of soloing lends a fitting touch.
“On My Way To The Sun” maintains the inspired disposition but wrapped in an acoustic laced package. No, guitars do not play the same forthright role, but tempo is every bit spirited and hints of the same engrossing qualities. Luxurious doses of vocal melodies add some atmospheric flavorings. I cannot help but be reminded of Stryper’s more commercial material. Lyric snippet:
Then if I’m alright, but everything’s wrong
Then why can’t I seem to find my way home?
The fields have all dried up, so desperate for rain
No wonder why the harvest never came
A knock on my door this time I’m answering
I’ve waited too long to put a crown on my king
This time it’s everything
On my way to the sun…
“All I Have To Do” continues the melodic rock trend but with keyboards and piano highlighting the backdrop. The upshot is some grandiose and palatial qualities - in a positive sense either way - aligning with the mostly upbeat nature to the song. Impetus briefly descends, however, to a sweeping mid-paced form for the elegantly done chorus. Guitars briefly impel to the front of the mix for the songs instrumental moments.
Opening to a regal stretch of organ and lush vocal melodies, “The Awakening” takes a bottom heavy direction for its swarthy verses as a gritty and blues driven mentality holds sway. Impetus at once picks up as an angelic chorus in which a worshipful proclivity is maintained. Similar to “All I Have To Do” guitars briefly flex there muscles (this time near the end of the song) and push things towards a hard rock leaning. Lyric snippet:
Angelic voices fill the air
It’s a joyful occasion to bring to the nations
This truth that must be shared
A time for repentance and a time to show reverence to the One who can take you there
And the time has drawn near for those who have ears
To believe or be left behind, to believe or be left behind
Why did it take so long to come together as one
And lift our hands unto the Lamb of God…
A decisive edge of rhythm guitar carries “Half Way Home” front to back, merging with big doses of polished vocal melodies (that almost have a Beattle-esque feel to them) which lend some regal if not grand components to what amounts quite the sublime track. The song, otherwise, grooves and flows perfectly in coming across heavier rocking but luxuriously done at the same time.
“We All Fall Short”, the first of three ballads here, takes an acoustic based bearing. The use of a string section builds up a classical focus, accentuating the standout melody and Elefante’s heartfelt vocal performance in the process. Once more I cannot help but be reminded of Kansas (there is an almost symphonic, progressive feel here). Of note, this is the first of the seven opening tracks to come in at under five minutes. Lyric snippet:
Why do we bury treasure, why do we stow it away?
Why do we dim the lights down low, instead of letting it glow?
And we say we trust, and we say we have faith
We say we’ll never fall away, and then we find ourselves in a constant rain
No shelter from the fray
But we don’t have to sit ashore and watch the ocean
We have the power we can overcome the waves
We don’t have to fear and always run for cover,
We have a love like no other
A return to an up-tempo guitar driven course can be found in “Don’t Hide Away”. No, not hard rock, but enough guitars to push things in such a direction with traces of keyboards helping play up the majestic scene. The upshot is a smoothly flowing but wired up song with the enticing melody and edgy intensity to rank with the albums finest.
“This Time”, with its focus on a young girl about to have an abortion but with God stepping in and intervening at the last moment, is one of those rare songs in which lyrics transcend the music:
She sat cold in a waiting room, frightened and all alone
Watched the clock tick down knowing
That here baby would soon be gone
Her head slung low so embarrassed, she was thirteen years old
She felt a kick inside as a reminder of a life she couldn’t’ show
Then she heard a voice inside saying run away
It was a mistake, but don’t throw your child away
No doubt music is quite good, the second ballad here which also takes an acoustic direction interwoven with a string section, but it is the poignant rending of the subject that puts things over the top. Chorus, as a result, proves spine tingling:
Right then the Lord began to speak, you’re not taking this one she’s mine
She’ll grow up to seek my name, you’re not taking her this time
I decided before time began, her name is written in the book
They didn’t have the power to take her life, they’re not taking her she’s mine
And you’re not taking her this time, no you’re not taking her… THIS TIME
A fitting emotional guitar solo helps spice up one of the finer ballads this reviewer has heard in some time.
Closing ballad “Confess” proves simple but effective in its hymn-like capacity: Slowly moving and acoustic based in upholding a worshipful slant:
Blameless and innocent He was a target of hate
Cause the truth revealed darkness
That shined light in their face
But they carried on anyway no guilt or no shame
They tortured the Savior like a prize in a game
Cried Father forgive them they do not what they do
He obeyed the Father He had to see it through
Fall down on your knees…
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “This Is How The Story Goes” (11:06), “Where Have The Old Days Gone” (5:17), “On My Way To The Sun” (5:08), “All I Have To Do” (5:24), “The Awakening” (5:10), “Half Way Home” (5:10), “We All Fall Short” (4:14), “Don’t Hide Away” (5:15), “This Time” (5:06), “Confess” (4:24)
John Elefante - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards
Dave Cleveland - Guitars
Rich Williams - Guitars
Matthew Pearson - Bass
JR McNelly - Bass
Dan Needham - Drums
Sam Nicoletta - Keyboards
Erick Darkin - Percussion
Chris Carmichael - Strings
David Ragsdale - Violin