John Elefante, the voice of the chart topping hits by Kansas, like “Play the Game Tonight” and “Fight Fire with Fire” is back with a brand new studio album, The Amazing Grace. This is his first solo album since 2013’s “On My Way to the Sun” and as Elefante explains, it was two years in the making. “The Amazing Grace was recorded during a dark and very unusual two year period in all of our lives. COVID-19 rocked our world in a way we’d never experienced, at least not in my lifetime, it made me reflect on my own mortality, my family and those who I love. I was forced to get used to a new normal or you could say abnormal. Somehow in spite of social distancing it brought me closer to friends and others.”
One of the very first albums I bought as a teenager was Kansas’ Leftoverture which was one of the most monumental releases of 1970’s (and that’s against the backdrop of a lot of great music in that decade). I must admit that at the time, the music pulled me with the unique blend of strings, guitars and keyboards. It wasn’t until much later that I began to fully appreciate the spiritual nature of the lyrics and the depth of their meaning.
The Amazing Grace contains ten brand new songs (but eleven tracks, as there are two versions of “City of Grace”) and it is sure to please Kansas fans with tracks like “Won’t Fade Away” and the first single, “Stronger Now.” Deko Entertainment’s Bruce Pucciarello comments, “John takes us on a spiritual journey, with a stop in Kansas and then this beautiful album. It is uplifting and catchy and contemporary with a little bit of throwback. Deko is really stoked to release this one.” Pucciarello has definitely hit the nail on the head, as there are elements of the album that echo an earlier time in rock but with a fresh approach.
The standouts on the album include the slower tempo “City Of Grace” which has a Chris Tomlin vibe to it with an uplifting chorus. There are two versions of the song included here, the first is a shorter version and the second an extended version that closes out the album. “Stronger Now” stirs echoes of those late 70’s/early 80’s stalwarts, Styx and Toto with a very polished production and incredibly crisp vocals.
However, my two favorites on the album are probably the harder rock tunes, “Time Machine” and “Little Brown Book”. Both have some searing guitar riffs and strong rhythmic feel. Even with the rougher edge, the lyrics should not be overlooked. “Time Machine” is a bit of introspection with the singer asking how he might change his life if he could go back in time. “Little Brown Book” is like a sonic gut punch with an ode to the Bible and importance incorporating it into our daily lives.
Overall the album is very listenable and inspiring. Hopefully John won’t make us wait another ten years until his next album.