Before the Idols could play instruments, before they sang British Invasion and Beatles tunes. Before there was a live band. Back when American Idol was (mostly) all R&B all the time, there was Jon Peter Lewis. He got my attention during the Season 3 auditions, while in the midst of a sea of Stevie covers and Whitney belters, JPL appeared to audition in front of the judges with a Van Morrison song. Van freaking Morrison! Yeah, that got my attention. My Season 3 favorite had arrived.
While his stint on the show never produced a performance that matched the potential I saw in that initial audition, his post Idol work has exceeded my expectations.
What’s totally cool about the trajectory of JPL’s post Idol career is that he could’ve taken offers that would have attempted to mold him into the next Jesse McCartney or capitalized on the crazy-dancing-guy (pre-Taylor Hicks, people!) image that secured his wild-card spot in Season 3’s Top 12. Instead, he took some time off to develop into a serious artist. He networked, wrote music and learned as much as he could about the music business. The result of that period of introspection was Stories From Hollywood, an eclectic and often fine collection of pop rock songs.
His brand-new recently released effort Break the Silence, is a more focused and cohesive effort than his first. And I will go out on a limb to say Break the Silence is one of the best Idol records out there. As a matter of fact, it’s my personal favorite of all the Idol records so far. Even further–forget Idol–this record stands on it’s own.
A track by track review follows, after the Jump
Click the links for iTunes tracks…
- Break the Silence – Big, giant choruses and chiming guitars characterize the album’s first single. The catchy chorus (and JPL making the radio rounds, of course) helped the song make it to #50 on the Mediabase Hot AC chart. Not bad for an independent release!
- Now That I’m Kneeling – More chiming guitars, more great hooks, and a soaring vocal from JPL.
- Beautiful – Ditto above. Plus, a lush, beautiful chorus.
- Winning Streak – Between the trite lyrics and syrupy strings, I’m just not feeling it. Not one of my favorites
- No Fire – My favorite cut on the album is this gorgeous piano ballad that showcases JPL’s ability to deliver an emotional vocal. Stunning.
- Everybody Falls – Here, the disc shifts gears. This simple, plaintive number features JPL’s pretty falsetto. Very nice.
- Bridges – A Mid-tempo blues number very much in the 70’s Southern California rocker tradition. Think Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne. Soulful vocals give the tune a nice, easy groove.
- Something Almost Sacred – A mid-tempo rocker accented by jangly guitar flourishes.
- Make You Feel My Love – JPL’s sublime vocals are front and center on this gentle, acoustic cover of the Garth Brooks/Bob Dylan song.
- Came Here For – I adore the surf-inspired guitar riffs on this moody, atmospheric track. Very Brian Wilson. Very cool. Listen on headphones, with the lights off.
- If You Don’t Mean It – The hooky, guitar-driven chorus makes this song single material.
- Have I Told You – A love song that’s romantic, but with an edge that keeps it from drifting into trite sentimentality. JPL wrote two songs on the album, and this is one of them. I’m not sure why he didn’t write more, because they’re both solid efforts.
- Tonight – The other self-penned cut, a bittersweet love song, has a lovely, lilting melody, set to acoustic guitars. This song is killer done live.
- Things I Didn’t Know – This tune, featuring a catchy, propulsive melody, closes the album. Growing up and growing wise is the theme of this song, written by Sky Elobar, the songwriter on some of the best cuts from Stories From Hollywood. Another one of my favorites.
The iTunes version features “Crazy Love” the perfect bonus track for those of us who dug his audition. The features a more mature vocal and does not disappoint. Awesome.
Favorite cuts: “No Fire”, “Things I Didn’t Know”, “Tonight”, “Make You Feel My Love”, “Came Here For”.