Friday, March 30, 2007

Jon Peter Lewis - Stories From Hollywood

One of the beautiful things about being a music blogger and critic is the opportunity to uncover and tell people about music that they might not have heard before. It's usually a happy rarity when I run across something that's actually really good, and it's even more rare when an artist that's actually good approaches ME to get my take on his music.

My good friends over in Jon Peter Lewis's camp have been quite gracious to me lately, though, and it was only a matter of time before I would get my chance to talk to the man behind the fans and hear his debut CD, Stories From Hollywood.

Jon Peter Lewis from American Idol, you're asking? Yes. Those of you who have been long-time readers ought not to be terribly surprised that I'd tackle an American Idol CD. It's just that you might be a little surprised that I'd choose to do this one instead of more obvious ones, like Katharine McPhee or even Elliott Yamin's new CD. Why did I choose this one? Truthfully, it's because I've enjoyed it more than a lot of recent Idol fare. It's one of those rare CDs that I can actually listen to over and over again, continue to enjoy, and still get something new out of it with each rotation.

Comparing it to other Idol fare is a bit unfair... to the other Idols that is. Whereas recent efforts, such as the so-so Katharine McPhee CD and the less-than-what-we-expected Taylor Hicks release have had major studios and labels behind them dumping millions of dollars into marketing and promotion of CDs that obviously don't completely reflect the artist in question, Jon has had little more than his own gumption, a small army of online fans, and a management team that fights tooth and nail to keep him working. And they're not fighting for nothing. Jon Peter Lewis's music is worth listening to. Where you might find hits and misses on records with the 19 Entertainment label on them, you will find very few shortcomings on this indie release.

The real power behind Stories From Hollywood isn't slick production and flashy videos; rather it's the soul-felt stories that Jon weaves. It's the freedom with which he does what he does. It's the fact that you know that this is the music he truly wanted to make. It's quite obvious throughout the CD that these are songs that Jon feels. The lyrics are laced with raw emotion and tell one man's story better than you might expect. By the time the CD finishes, you've been there with him, you know what he was thinking, and you want to go back, again and again and again. Jon himself described this album as sort of a photo album for himself. Any time he wants to reflect on a certain memory, all he has to do is go to the song. We're taken along on the journey with him.

On the other hand, if you're looking for light fluff, then you might want to listen elsewhere.

This album has something for everybody. There's the ring of old 60's and 70's rockers in the title track, "Stories From Hollywood." There's a mellow love ballad in "Man Like Me." There's edgy rock in "Gypsy Queen." And there's fun in songs like "Rodeo." Jon's sentiment runs deepest perhaps on "Man From Amsterdam," which is an incredibly fun song for me, and it's also Jon's personal favorite. The CD is solid, though, with any track you might pick. Small wonder that this CD has debuted to widespread critical acclaim.

And Jon has done all this without anybody at 19 Entertainment lifting a finger. It's true that being on American Idol brought offers from major labels flooding to his door, but in the end, the appeal of doing something and making it his own won him over. Unwilling to allow himself to be crafted into something that wasn't a true representation of himself, Jon struck out on his own, creating his own label, Cockaroo Records, and surrounding himself with all the right people. Oh, by the way, this is the first time that an American Idol contestant has ever produced and distributed their own debut album.

Stories From Hollywood comes with my highest recommendation. If you want to purchase his CD, you can do so a number of ways. His entire album is available via iTunes. You can also order it from Amazon, Napster, Yahoo, Rhapsody, Sony Connect, or

And if you're still not convinced, why not go sample some of the songs at Check around the site, read about Jon, and take a few moments to say hi to my friends over at his message board. And don't forget to add him as a friend on Myspace.

Trust me: this is one CD purchase you should make. Give it a chance, and you'll understand why Jon is, indeed, the "Indie Idol."


At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Karin said...

JD, that was a beautiful review. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth and thoughtful piece.

And the best part is, I couldn't agree more. The album really is well worth its price.

At 1:15 AM, Anonymous artslvr said...

You have great taste in music, JD. This album is getting many excellent reviews, but yours is especially insightful and well developed and well written.

My favorite track on the album changes freqently. You are so right that it is the kind of album people can listen to over and over and come away with something new every time. Music that has richness, depth, and heart is like that.

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Deborah said...

If I wasn't already a fan, I would be now. Thanks for the great review JD. You have a good ear! :)


At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Taylor said...

You have amazing taste i music! i am huge fan of jon and want to say how happy i was to hear such an awesome and wonderfully written review:]

At 9:45 PM, Anonymous robby said...

i love idol so much that i put up with a lot of the crap that most of the artists end up putting out. i think that jon peter lewis' album is a welcome surprise in that it's very heartfelt and raw, completely different than any other idol contestant i've heard before. i had to seek it out after listening to a few songs, but i'm glad i did.

At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so terrible I missed this! J.D., this has to be the best review I have ever read of anyone’s album. Thank you for taking the time to write such a heart felt review.


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