Death by Power Ballad: John Elefante, “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Written by Music, Power Ballads

Ex-Kansas vocalist John Elefante offers his cover of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and Popdose’s Death by Power Ballad is there to praise it, in the spirit of the holidays.

Although I have a stony little heart (just ask my wife), I must admit a fondness for the holiday season. There are, however, several things about it I cannot abide:

The “War on Christmas” kerfuffle. This is purely a Fox News– and social conservative-sponsored non-emergency, which means I should probably, if possible, ignore it twice, since neither group can hold my attention for any serious length of time. Say “Merry Christmas” if you want; say “Happy Holidays” if you prefer. Anyone who pillories one contingent in favor of another has way too much time on his/her hands and should probably be sent to one of those Obama socialist work camps Ron Paul invented during one or another ill-fated Presidential campaign. In fact, this issue (the “War on Christmas,” not Ron Paul) came up in my little corner of the world this very day, as I conversed briefly with a manager at my job:

Manager: Everything these days is so PC. How many people would really be offended if you said, “Merry Christmas,” instead of “Happy Holidays?”
Me: Who gives a shit?
[end of conversation]

Traffic and crowds. As I grow older, I grow increasingly less tolerant of people in general, and crowds of people specifically. Wherever two or more are gathered, you can usually find me, leaning against my shopping cart, eight people removed from the hapless cashier forced to count the change some half-wit, bottle-redhead sexagenarian in a muumuu just dumped on the counter to pay for her body wash, Massengil, three cartons of Kool Menthols, and case of Mr. Pibb. The only thing worse is getting behind the same half-wit, bottle-redhead sexagenarian as she coaxes her hatchback into the passing lane, doing 10 m.p.h. below the limit. For miles and miles.

Christmas music. I think the thing I dislike most about Christmas music is its utter sameness,  its redundancy. You have maybe a dozen and a half classic Christmas songs that are played every year, and often unnecessarily covered anew by contemporary artists. When Sinatra sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the song should have been retired. I don’t need to hear Mariah Carey or Harry Connick or Michael-friggin’-Bolton cover it. Elvis did “Blue Christmas,” and aside from the Partidge Family version, which I love, I don’t need to hear another person present their interpretation.

That’s why I love the Internet, where, in addition to this publication’s fine Mellowmas postings, I can find great Christmas and winter-themed songs that I’m not tired of, that I can’t imagine ever being tired of. I make a compilation each year for colleagues and friends, always subtitled “Christmas Music for People who Hate Christmas Music.” This year, I’ve included stuff from Pugwash, Barely Pink, Thea Gilmore, Andrew Dost, and others, stuff I’ve found on blogs and legitimate e-commerce sites alike.

All that said, there’s a wonderful version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” that was released too late to make this year’s compilation, but is nonetheless well worth checking out. It’s by ex-Kansas vocalist John Elefante, whom you might recall from an earlier DbPB piece that discussed his contribution to the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack, “Young and Innocent.” Elefante returned to active performing this year with a fine album (Revolution of Mind) that finds him in terrific voice, making solid, old-school melodic rock music once again (if you haven’t heard his track “Questions,” go here right now and check it out. I’ll wait).

Unlike the aforementioned Sinatra and Elvis classics, I have yet to hear a definitive version of “O Come All Ye Faithful” (chime in in the Comments section with your thoughts, if you wish). Elefante fills his rendition with multiple vocal tracks, building a veritable choir of Elefantes, backed with very sparse keyboard accompaniment. The voice is really the star of the song, which is as it should be—until encountering Revolution of Mind, I hadn’t realized how much I missed hearing the man sing. And unlike some of his arena-rock brethren who fancy themselves interpreters of classic Christmas material (yeah, REO Speedwagon, I’m looking at you), Elefante remains true to the spirit of the song while simultaneously placing his own stamp on it.

Perhaps best of all, it’s free—Elefante has made an MP3 of the song available on his Web site: http://www.johnelefante.com/ . All you have to do is provide your name and email address, and the track is yours. I encourage you to check it out.

Since this is the last DbPB of the year, I shall take this opportunity to wish all my fellow lovers of the power ballad arts a happy and safe holiday season. See you in 2010.