It's interesting just how the tables have turned for Great White. On the morning of February 21st, 2003, you have to think that not a single member of this band, past or present, wanted to be associated with the band in any way. A decade later, there's two versions of the band floating around and trying to claim themselves as "the real" Great White. It's a sad state of affairs, really. Jack Russell is out and about doing his thing, and then this band with guitarist Mark Kendall, keyboardist Michael Lardie, drummer Audie Desbrow and XYZ frontman Terry Ilous are out doing another thing. The "Kendall" version of the band is the first to produce new music with ELATION.
The argument is always there with bands...is it still the same band when the singer leaves? In this case, not really. For all the bad things that can be said about Jack Russell's off the stage activities and near willingness to kill himself to continue to cop a couple of years ago, listening to ELATION makes it very clear that he IS the signature sound of Great White. While Ilous does a solid job singing these songs, and the band does a decent enough job playing them, there's not a single moment on ELATION that really captures that sound or vibe that fans of Great White have been in love with for 30 years now.
To be clear here, ELATION is not a bad album. The performances are solid. The songs are decent enough. Aside from being mid-tempoed throughout most of the album, there's little else that really reminds you of Great White. Ilous just doesn't ooze that bluesy grit that made people compare the band in the past to Led Zeppelin. For his part, Ilous has toned back his performance from past album like the brilliant, heavy LETTER TO GOD from XYZ. Songs like the ballad "Hard To Say Goodbye" are his best reaches to find the Great White blues vibe, but he's just flat in this area. Ilous is a great vocalist under most conditions, but on ELATION he's out out of sorts from what he does best.
As for the material, there's several songs that have a real "almost Great White" feel, but never fully achieve their classic sound. Songs like "Resolution" could have been taken a bit further and found the groove of a song like "Mista Bone", but fall flat with a dull riff from Kendall and a soft "yeah yeah" sing along chorus that pretty much ruins the vibe here. I realize they are getting older, but there's just not a lot of standout moments on ELATION from anyone in the band that makes you think, "yeah, this could work".
PITRIFF RATING - 51/100 - This is such a painful review to write, as I've had a great relationship with Mark Kendall and Terry Ilous in the past. They are two of the more upstanding guys in all of the music business to be honest, and I believe them when they say they are continuing on for the fans. That said though, the loss of Jack Russell's creative abilities in this band have left a much bigger hole than a lot of people would have expected. It's like replacing real supernatural magic with a magician who pulls that long handkerchief from his pocket. One is the real thing, and the other is meant to seem like the real thing. I wish the best for both Jack Russell and Mark, Terry and the guys in this version of Great White (all have always been beyond nice to me, personally). At some point though, Jack Russell needs to be back in this fold. ELATION just doesn't feel right.