|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: John & Dino Elefante|
|Record Label: Regency/Frontiers||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1989/2009||Artist Website: John Elefante|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 57:04|
Vocalist John Elefante began his musical career in 1981 when he replaced Steve Walsh in the classic rock group Kansas. He spent the next four years on tour – a period in which the albums Vinyl Confessions (1982) and Drastic Measures (1983) were recorded - only to part ways with Kansas following the departure of its other Christian members, Kerry Livgren (guitars/keyboards) and Dave Hope (bass). The artist proceeded to put together a seven song demo, but when unable to secure a solo deal, joined forces with his brother Dino and helped produced the California Metal compilation for Regency Records. The two ended up one track short and, as a result, added a song originally written for Kansas entitled “Wasn’t It Love” under the Mastedon moniker. When Regency later requested a full length album, the seven songs from the demo formed the foundation of Mastedon’s 1989 full length debut It’s A Jungle Out There.
It’s A Jungle Out There eventually went out of print and became a hard to find and highly sought after collectors item. In late 2009, however, the album was re-issued by Frontiers Records with “Wasn’t It Love” and live versions of “Islands In The Sky” and “Right Hand” (both performed at the Cornerstone 1991 Festival) as bonus tracks.
Please note that the brothers did not approach Mastedon as a John Elefante solo album or even as a band but rather a project. And when factoring in that a total of five lead vocalists participated on it in addition to three drummers, four bassists and three guitarists, it remained a project in the truest sense of the word.
The most easily recognized names include vocalists Dave Robbins (X-Sinner), Dave Amato (Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon), David Pack (Ambrosia) and Perry Lee (Tracer Fox), guitarists Steff Burns (Y&T) and Dave Amato and bassists John Pierce (Richard Marx) and John Patitucci. John (lead vocals & keyboards) and Dino (rhythm guitar & bass) lend their abilities to the album as well.
As a result of the numerous guest appearances in question, Mastedon cannot help but bring to mind the “all-star” project Liberty ‘N Justice.
Musically, It’s A Jungle Out There presents with a joining of AOR, melodic rock and melodic hard rock. Yes, the album flexes its muscles in places (such as on “It’s A Jungle Out There” and “Love Inhalation”) but otherwise it delivers a commercial based sound perfectly suited for FM radio (“Glory Bound”, “This Is The Day” and “Love That Will Survive” reflect this best). You will also find a couple of customary - and very well done – ballads, “Islands In The Sky” and “Shine On”, along with a piece bringing a trace of the progressive, “Right Hand”.
It’s A Jungle Out There showcases a professional sounding production job with polished big budget-like sonics.
The albums driving title track perfectly complements Dave Robbins scratchy vocal style. A gritty hard rocker, “Its’ A Jungle Out There” brings guitars in abundance along with a game chorus shored up by polished backing vocals. A literal ton of groove is delivered in the process.
The classic rock flavorings of Dave Amato bring out the best in “Glory Bound”. Up-tempo melodic hard rock might be the best way to describe this one, as the guitars are not quite as pronounced while distant hints of keyboards highlight the backdrop. “Glory Bound” details the believer’s eternal destiny:
And I can't slow down 'till I touch the ground
When this place that I call home, becomes a faraway land
Yeah, then the Savior comes to take, take me by the hand
I've got this feelin' in my heart
That's when I'm ready to depart
John Elefante makes his first vocal appearance on “This Is The Day”, a classy melodic rock excursion in which the up-tempo propensities are maintained. Keyboards play the more distinct role, aligning themselves with refined vocal melodies that border on the prevalent.
“Love Inhalation” represents a return to hard rock territory. With Perry Lee’s raw and raspy voice leading the way, the song proves an explosion of non-stop energy with its walls of bristling guitars and penchant towards the resolved. Amato tops things off with the albums best stretch of flashy lead work.
The ballad “Islands In The Sky”, the second Elefante fronted track, features accenting acoustic guitar touches and keyboards in ample amounts. Layers of big vocal harmonies step forward to drive its heartfelt chorus. "Islands In The Sky" talks about following your dreams:
Someday I'll be there, I just don't know when
It's so far away now, but it won't be then
I don't know, I don't know
Every needs a dream
Everybody needs an Island in the sky
Elefante makes his final appearance on “Get Up”. The song made its initial showing on the California Metal II compilation and proves and up-tempo piece – any track entitled “Get Up” has to be, right? – driven by a pronounced low end and plethora of hard rocking guitars.
Amato returns to the helm on “Love That Will Survive”, an outstanding commercial rocker that had the potential to dominate FM radio. The song puts in place a mid-paced setting with a punchy bass line sustaining its verses, initiative not picking up until the rhythm guitar establishes itself for what is nothing less than a brilliantly executed chorus. Great song that ranks with the very best from the brothers Elefante.
I find “Innocent Girl” to be the albums least inspired track. The song takes a melodic hard rock approach and Perry Lee performs admirably, but I have never been able to warm up to what I might describe an ordinary chorus and overuse – or perhaps I should say abuse? – of vocal harmonies (they are otherwise put to good use throughout the album).
Those of you familiar with Kerry Livgren’s 1980 solo release Seeds Of Change will recognize vocalist Dave Pack, who lent his abilities to the albums final track, “Ground Zero”. Pack comes through with a performance every bit as strong on the ballad “Shine On” with his Rob Rock-like vocal presence. If anything, the song borders on the worshipful with its Gospel-like feel and immaculately done chorus. "Shine On" compares eternity to a graveyard of lost ships:
Far beneath the raging sea
On the ocean floor
So many ships, are lost eternally
With no light to guide them
To the safety of the shore
They go down for evermore
However, only one true Light points the way to eternal life:
Though Your warning often goes unheeded
Though there are still many lost at sea
Let Your light so shine
For the few who seek to find their way to safety
From the deadly undertow that lies below
A touch of the progressive is conveyed on “Right Hand”. With Amato’s smooth sounding touch leading the way, the song puts in place a regal setting for its emotionally charges verses and sweeping chorus detailing the authority of God:
Sitting at the right hand of God
All my hopes and dreams they stand in front of me
As I gaze upon the Savior's glory
Reaching out and touching His hand
To know the world that I must leave behind
Is a grain in all the sands of time
Where “Right Hand” shines – and displays its progressiveness in the process – is in the instrumental moments covering its first minute and final two and a half (Amato also stands out on lead guitar here).
The California Metal bonus track “Wasn’t It Love” brings an upbeat melodic hard rock feel, although its production is not quite as polished as the It’s A Jungle Out There material.
The two live songs from Cornerstone 91 – “Islands In The Sky” and “Right Hand” - are well performed, nostalgic and without a doubt worth hearing. Production wise, they do not showcase the polish of a professionally recorded live album but do a good job representing the Mastedon sound at the time.
I would rate It’s A Jungle Out There the better – and heavier – of the three Mastedon releases. The album had the potential to be a hit making machine when considering its catchy melodies and polished vocal harmonies found throughout. It is too bad FM radio and MTV were not paying attention. The excellent production and guest appearances only add to its appeal.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "It’s A Jungle Out There" (3:52), "Glory Bound" (4:18), "This Is The Day" (4:12), "Love Inhalation" (4:40), "Islands In The Sky " (3:45)," Get Up" (4:00), "Love That Will Survive" (4:04), "Innocent Girl" (3:39), "Shine On" (4:26), "Right Hand" (6:04)
John Elefante, Dave Amato, Perry Lee, Dave Robbins & Dave Pack – Lead Vocals
Dino Elefante, Dave Amato & Steff Burnbaum – Guitars
John Elefante – Keyboards
Dino Elefante, John Pierce, John Patitucci & Jimmy Johnson – Bass
David Raven, Phil Rowland & John Elefante - Drums