The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles 1967 album Sgt Pepper is often cited as the most influential and important album of all time. In what I consider to be a reactionary backlash to this praise Sgt Pepper is also often cited as one of the most over rated albums of all time.

This year this monumental album turns 40 years old. So where does it stand now? In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the 1 album of all time. It doesn?t fair quite as well on the popular music rating website Rate Your Music where it ranks 27 of all time which is behind four other Beatles classic albums Revolver (#1), Abbey Road (#2), The White Album (#10), and Rubber Soul (#21).

Personally while it?s not my favorite Beatles album (that honor has to go to The White Album) I do believe it is the most important and most influential album of all time and I do rank it above Revolver, Abbey Road, and Rubber Soul.

I?ve heard some people say it doesn?t hold up well with time but I disagree entirely. I think this album is absolutely timeless. I don?t think the songs sound like they are from the 1960s necessarily. They sound like they are from the future and the past simultaneously.

I believe all 13 songs from this album to be absolutely essential to the album and this is a very rare thing. What set this album apart from most of the albums that came before it is that it truly plays like an album. While definitely somewhat in debt to The Beach Boys classic Pet Sounds, Sgt Pepper takes things a big leap forward. In many ways I still feel that Sgt Pepper is the perfect cohesive album. It doesn?t take the ?concept? and wear it thin but it also holds together as one work very well despite, and maybe because, the fact that the songs are of such varying styles.

Song by Song Breakdown:

1 Sgt Pepper

The album starts off with the crowd noise which goes into the first song which shares the same name as the album: ?Sgt Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band.? This is a great song and also sets up the rest of the album as part of this loose concept of watching a band perform. This is all made to come together even more by the later inclusion of the Reprise of this song! Paul McCartney came up with the idea of the Beatles pretending to be this different band. The idea being that they could really branch out into all sorts of different styles with no limitations. They could also break free of their image. There?s quite a few layers to the idea but it?s also a very simple idea that isn?t overbearing unlike some later prog rock attempts at ?concept albums.?

2 With A Little Help From My Friends

This track was written by lead songwriters and singers Paul McCartney and John Lennon specifically for the drummer Ringo Starr to sing. This adds another layer to the lyric ?I get by with a little help from my friends.? This song was a hit for Joe Cocker (his cover version was used on television program The Wonder Years.) It also contains a reference to marijuana with the line ?I get high with a little help from my friends.?

3 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

This song is inspired by LSD in my opinion although Lennon denied this and said it was merely inspired by his son?s painting. Many years later McCartney admitted the influence of LSD on this track. This song is often cited as a prime example of 1960s psychedelic music. Besides the other worldly fantastical lyrics the song has a dreamy quality to both the music and the vocals. This song uses a flange effect on the drums and the bass is very prominent in the mix.

4 Getting Better

There?s so many great things about this track I have a hard time deciding what to talk about first. One thing that really does stand out for me though is use of sitar in this track. It?s subtle and yet very effective. A great example of the sort of unique tracks on this album that don?t really have any direct comparison to anything else in rock music, even to this day. I think the sharp down stroke style used on the guitars in this track has been extremely influential in rock to this day.

5 Fixing A Hole

This is another amazingly unique song that has so many layers and so much to discover. I?m still hearing new things in it now and I must have listened to it over 1000 times. The harmony vocals are absolutely incredible (listen to the right side)

6 She?s Leaving Home

This song features McCartney and Lennon on vocals but no Beatles play in the instrumentation. The song was scored for classical musicians. The twists and turns in this album are startling but they somehow all make sense. So much variety. All beautifully and masterly done.

7 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Lennon got all of the lyrics off of an old circus poster he had. A great example of the avante garde attitude of the Beatles at the time. I like to picture this as the wild place she goes after she leaves home. I don?t hear 60s when I listen to this track. I hear another time, another place. A warped distorted but still very relevant version of our own reality. This song is absolute psychedelic weirdness. It?s overflowing with ideas and imagination. The instrumental breakdown after ?Henry the Horse Dances the Waltz? and at the end of the track includes bits of real circus sounds which were all cut up and taped back together randomly. This type of thing you could do quite easily today with Pro Tools but in 1967 it was a very inventive and creative technique. The way it was done also lends to it a timeless quality that isn?t connected to any particular recording technique or trick. This sort of experimentation has been very influential on countless artists.

8 Within You Without You

This is probably the least popular song on the album amongst your average rock fan because unfortunately too many people have a hard time opening their minds towards other types of music. This song, just like ?She?s Leaving Home?, features no Beatles on the instrumentation. The music is all recorded by Indian musicians under the direction of George Harrison. Harrison sings and wrote the music. This song to me is absolute essential to the album. ?Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite? should have opened your mind a little bit but this one should really blow your mind right out of your head. You are now in a completely different world. This is an album that deftly takes you all over the world with an incredible journey through the middle of your mind. I really don?t think I?m overstating this or exaggerating. I simply feel if you don?t hear this, then you haven?t really listened to this album and fully experienced it. I think in some ways this is the most psychedelic song on the album. It?s a true journey and it?s very beautiful. I believe the laughing at the end of the album symbolizes your average person who laughs at things that are different or thoughtful.

9 When I?m 64

As of this writing Paul McCartney is actually 64. As far as out as the last track takes you, this one places you right back somewhere else entirely. Such a strange trip, isn?t it? This is another song of many on this album that is not guitar based. The Beatles really were experimenting with instrumentation a lot on this album. This instrumental experimentation has been extremely influential on many bands

10 Lovely Rita

This is just an excellent fun song. The lyrics are fantastic. There are so many just out of this world sounds going on, really listen to everything going on in the mix. And for God?s sake, listen to the reverb on those backing vocals. Awesome. I also just absolutely love the way this song ends with all of the weird vocalizations with the delay. They?re just having a great time making this track that enjoyment directly leads right into my ears.

11 Good Morning Good Morning

This is probably my least favorite track on the album if I have to choose one. That being said it?s still a great song. I?m a big fan of the time changes and of Paul McCartney?s searing Hendrix like guitar solo.

12 Sgt Pepper (Reprise)

The sound of a rooster leads directly into a guitar squeal. One of the coolest segues ever. This version of Sgt Pepper is like the first except it rocks a lot harder. This is a great way to tie together the album and lead into the grand finale.

13 A Day In The Life

This may be the greatest song ever written. In my opinion it is just that. Certainly a fantastic way to end an album. The orchestral buildups are genius and perfectly capture the feelings that could never be put into words. The song itself is can sometimes sound deceptively simple but there?s so much nuance. So much you can hear even on the 1000th listen.

American Idol Season One – Where Are They Now?

If you’ve watched American Idol in the past, you may be wondering what has happened to the singers from American Idol Season One. Here is a brief look at how some of the more popular contestants have faired:

Top Ten Finalist ? Ejay Day

Ejay performed along with the other finalists on the 2002 U.S. American Idol tour. He?s sang at several events for boxing champ Muhammad Ali and assisted in writing Raven-Symone?s song ?Pure Love? for her Undeniable album. Currently, Ejay is performing on the cruise ship Explorer of the Seas.

Top Ten Finalist ? Jim Verraros

Jim has been active in both music and acting since American Idol ended. Jim recently released his album Rollercoaster, featuring the dance hits ?I Want You? and ?You?re Getting Crazy.? He starred in the 2004 film Eating Out and is set to reprise his role in Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.

7th Place ? Ryan Starr

Despite finishing 7th, Ryan has been one of the busier contestants from Season One. Her single ?My Religion? peaked at 7 on the American iTunes Top 100 and she plans to tour in 2006-2007. She made guest appearances on several shows and also appeared in the VH1 show The Surreal Life in 2004. She also starred in the movie Ring of Darkness.

6th Place – Christina Christian

After American Idol, Christina guest starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and is now a correspondent for the TV Guide Channel.

5th Place ? RJ Helton

RJ Helton made the top 10 as a wildcard choice. RJ signed with Gospo-Centric Records and released an album, Real Life, in 2004, which made the Billboard Christian Top 20.

4th Place ? Tamyra Gray

Tamyra had a reoccurring role in Boston Public that allowed her to sing as well. She also guest starred on Half and Half, Las Vegas, Tru Calling, What I Like About You, and All of Us.

She co-wrote and sang duet with winner Kelly Clarkson on ?You Thought Wrong.? She appeared on Season Three of American Idol and co-wrote the song ?I Believe? which was a number one hit for Fantasia Barrino. She received writing credit for ?If You Were Mine? and ?The Lover in Me? on Jessica Simpson?s A Public Affair album.

In 2004, she took to the stage with the Broadway show ?Bombay Dreams.? She had a supporting role in 2005?s The Gospel and one song on the movie?s soundtrack.

3rd Place ? Nikki McKibbin

Nikki signed with 19 Management and RCA Records after her American Idol success, although she is currently under contract with Astral Records. Her single ?The Lie? reached 1 on the Idol Waves online radio station.

She has appeared on several reality shows, including Fear Factor and Kill Reality and appeared in the made for television movie The Scorned.

Runner-Up ? Justin Guarini

After coming in second, Justin starred in the unsuccessful movie From Justin to Kelly with winner Kelly Clarkson. He secured a deal with 19 Management and RCA, but he had to wait until Kelly?s album was released before he could work on any solo projects. Because of this contractual obligation, he had to refuse a guest role on Friends, a role in The Fast and Furious, and a modeling contract for Tommy Hilfiger.

When his self-titled album did come out nine months after his American Idol success in June 2003, it flopped and he was eventually released from his contracts. His second album Stranger Things Have Happened was released in late 2005.

He appeared on stage in the musical Good Vibrations at Vassar College but declined to accept continue the role. He?s been in several independent films and is involved in many charities such as Support Music Education, Habitat for Humanity, and Children?s World Organization.

Winner – Kelly Clarkson

The most successful of all the American Idol contestants, Kelly signed with RCA and released two singles. ?A Moment Like This? shot to 1 on the Billboard charts. In 2003, she released her debut album, Thankful, that certified double platinum, selling over 2 million copies. Her single ?Miss Independent? reached the Billboard Top 10 and earned her a Grammy nomination in 2004.

Her second album, Breakaway, produced four top 10 singles and she won the Grammy award for ?Best Female Pop Vocal Performance? and ?Best Pop Vocal Album.?

She?s appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The View and she is scheduled to headline an HBO concert featuring her greatest hits in February of 2007.

The Top 10 Rock Albums Of All Time According To Rateyourmusic.com

I?m a big fan of the site RateYourMusic.com (I?m also a huge fan of the site http://www.MusicByDay.com by the way!) and one thing I really like to look at is the overall charts to see which albums have been the top rated of all time. If you don?t know what RateYourMusic.com is, it?s a site where music lovers (like myself) rate all of the albums they?ve listened to. Some raters also write their own reviews which can be very interesting to read.

This article is a review of the top 10 rock albums listed (removing the jazz albums that are listed in the top 10 because while I do enjoy jazz I don?t feel I know enough about it to really review it.)

1 The Beatles ? Revolver

As a huge Beatles fan I?m definitely glad they have the 1 spot although personally I feel that Revolver has become a bit overrated in the backlash to Sgt Pepper?s supposed overrated-ness! As great as Revolver is (and it is really great) I don?t feel it should rank above either Sgt Pepper or The White Album. That being said the songs on Revolver are truly timeless and beautiful. The album was also extremely groundbreaking and has been almost incalculable in it?s influence.

2 The Beatles ? Abbey Road

I?d personally probably rank Abbey Road as the fourth best Beatles album so I think it?s slightly overrated as well here. It?s still a great album but for my tastes it?s not quite ?far out? enough in comparison to some of the other great Beatles albums. The second side is quite glorious though.

3 Bob Dylan ? Highway 61 Revisited

I?m not sure you could go wrong with about 5 different Dylan albums here. ?Ballad of a Thin Man? is my personal favorite track on this album.

4 Bob Dylan ? Blood on the Tracks

I don?t quite enjoy this Dylan period as much as his 60s stuff. I think I may even prefer his recent trilogy (at least Time Out of Mind & Modern Times) over Blood on the Tracks, not sure why. This is still a great album, don?t get me wrong.

5 The Velvet Underground ? The Velvet Underground & Nico

I?m a fan of The Velvet Underground yet I do think this album is probably a little overrated here.

6 Radiohead ? OK Computer
This album is now nearly 10 years old and it is the most recent album on the list. I certainly believe it belongs on the list, although I think Kid A should be ranked just as high, if not higher!

7 The Beatles ? The Beatles (The White Album)

This is my 1! I would rank this as the greatest album of all time because of it?s expansiveness and how many times I can replay it without ever getting tired of it. It?s not as cohesive as most (any?) of the albums on the top 10 and it has a few tracks that aren?t that great by Beatles standards yet somehow it all just works perfectly together for me.

8 Bob Dylan ? Blonde on Blonde

I?d rank this one over Blood on the Tracks for sure. Not sure vs. Highway 61 Revisited.

9 Bob Dylan ? Bringing it all Back Home

This is the fourth Dylan album on the top 10 to go along with the 3 Beatles albums. It?s no surprise really. There?s really no competition when it comes to who are the two most important acts in rock music history. It?s Dylan and the Beatles.

10 Pink Floyd ? The Dark Side of the Moon

I actually feel this album should probably rank even higher. It?s a timeless psychedelic classic. This album is just about as close to perfection as you can find.

Seven Reason I’m Addicted To Last.fm

I believe that Last.FM is the music site we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the site that all of the previous music related sites have been building up to. There are sites like garageband.com and there was the old mp3.com that were/are decent places for new artists to be heard but let’s be honest, the average music listener doesn’t want to hear a barrage of new stuff they’ve never heard before by unsigned artists. That’s why I think Last.FM is a much better avenue for new artists. It plays their music alongside better known established artists so you get to really hear it in context. It’s also much better for music listeners in helping them to discover great new music. Now that I’ve set things up a bit let me get along to the 7 reasons why I’m addicted to Last.FM

1 My Personal Listening Stats

I’ve always been a bit of a stat geek and I’ve also been a long time music geek and last.fm combines these passions! I can keep track of all the music I listen to, what music I’ve listened to the most and what music I’ve listened to the least. Sometimes I’ll look at my charts and it’ll give me a cool idea of something to listen to I haven’t listened to in awhile. It’s also cool that you can easily put your “top 10 list” on other sites like MySpace.

2 The Overall Last.FM Charts

Although I feel bad for caring about stuff like this. I can’t help it. I’m curious to see what the most popular music (atleast among internet music geeks) is. I’m also pleased that the music charts here are usually substantially less disgusting than the Billboard charts. For example this is this weeks top 10:

1. The Beatles – Yes. Now this is a beautiful thing, to think of all the people still getting enjoyment from the Beatles music. Their music is truly art and it truly lasts the test of time. It makes me feel all warm inside to see this.

2. The Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m personally not much of a fan, but things could be much worse (check the Billboard charts.)

3. Radiohead – Yes, I definitly approve.

4. Coldplay
5. Muse
6. The Killers
7. Death Cab For Cutie
8. Metallica
9. Nirvana

10. Pink Floyd – Again like the Beatles it’s nice to see this sort of timeless music still being listened to today by new listeners.

3 The Top Tracks By Artist Charts

It’s always interesting (and usually a bit dissapointing) to see what the top tracks for any particular artist are. Looking at a “one hit wonder” is always quite telling as you’ll see 95% of their listeners all for one song.

4 Using the Last.FM Radio Player to listen to “Similar Artists Radio”

Using the Last.FM Radio Player you can listen to “similar artists” of any band or artist you like. This can be an absolutely awesome way to find new music you haven’t heard before. In fact I’m doing it right now and I’m listening to a band I have heard a bit about before but hadn’t heard previously called Architecture In Helsinki. The song is called “Fumble” and I am really enjoying it. Last.FM has a feature where you can press a heart icon which means you love that track. This is a great way of keeping track of new music that you like and you heard for the first time.

5 Using the Last.FM Radio Player to listen to “Artist Fan Radio”

This is similar to the above reason except with this setting you get a bit more varied results. This is really great for really expanding your horizons but still upping the chances that you’re actually going to like what you hear. I can’t even imagine why anyone would listen to the real radio when Last.FM is around. The real radio is predicable and boring and almost always plays the same old songs over and over again. Last.FM is a way to hear great music that you may not have heard before but that also fits in well with your tastes (and if you don’t like the song you can always just skip to the next one!)

6 Using the Last.FM Radio Player to listen to “Tagged Radio”/Tag Charts

Using this you get to hear all the tracks/albums/artists that were “tagged” a certain term by other Last.FM listeners. This is truly awesome! It’s really cool to go through and tag different artists and songs with different terms. I’m a huge lover of psychedelic music so I spend some time tagging psychedelic music as such. It’s great because I can listen the Last.FM Radio Player for music tagged as “psychedelic” and I get to hear a bunch of cool psychedelic music I haven’t heard before (usually mixed in with some that I have heard before which makes it less overwhelming!) Also really cool are the tagged charts. For example the top 5 artists tagged for “Psychedelic” are 1 Pink Floyd, 2 The Doors, 3 The Beatles, 4 Jimi Hendrix, and 5 The Velvet Underground.

7 Discovering new bands/artists!

There’s a great number of bands/solo artists I’ve discovered via Last.FM that I don’t think I would have ever heard otherwise. The best example of this is the indie psychedelic rock band Scumbo.

These are just 7 of the many reasons why I’m addicted to Last.FM and why I highly recommend it to any music lovers out there who haven’t discovered it yet. It’s the best music site on the internet and a great place to find new music that you’ll really be interested in.

Seven Reason I’m Addicted To Last.fm

I believe that Last.FM is the music site we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the site that all of the previous music related sites have been building up to. There are sites like garageband.com and there was the old mp3.com that were/are decent places for new artists to be heard but let’s be honest, the average music listener doesn’t want to hear a barrage of new stuff they’ve never heard before by unsigned artists. That’s why I think Last.FM is a much better avenue for new artists. It plays their music alongside better known established artists so you get to really hear it in context. It’s also much better for music listeners in helping them to discover great new music. Now that I’ve set things up a bit let me get along to the 7 reasons why I’m addicted to Last.FM

1 My Personal Listening Stats

I’ve always been a bit of a stat geek and I’ve also been a long time music geek and last.fm combines these passions! I can keep track of all the music I listen to, what music I’ve listened to the most and what music I’ve listened to the least. Sometimes I’ll look at my charts and it’ll give me a cool idea of something to listen to I haven’t listened to in awhile. It’s also cool that you can easily put your “top 10 list” on other sites like MySpace.

2 The Overall Last.FM Charts

Although I feel bad for caring about stuff like this. I can’t help it. I’m curious to see what the most popular music (atleast among internet music geeks) is. I’m also pleased that the music charts here are usually substantially less disgusting than the Billboard charts. For example this is this weeks top 10:

1. The Beatles – Yes. Now this is a beautiful thing, to think of all the people still getting enjoyment from the Beatles music. Their music is truly art and it truly lasts the test of time. It makes me feel all warm inside to see this.

2. The Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m personally not much of a fan, but things could be much worse (check the Billboard charts.)

3. Radiohead – Yes, I definitly approve.

4. Coldplay
5. Muse
6. The Killers
7. Death Cab For Cutie
8. Metallica
9. Nirvana

10. Pink Floyd – Again like the Beatles it’s nice to see this sort of timeless music still being listened to today by new listeners.

3 The Top Tracks By Artist Charts

It’s always interesting (and usually a bit dissapointing) to see what the top tracks for any particular artist are. Looking at a “one hit wonder” is always quite telling as you’ll see 95% of their listeners all for one song.

4 Using the Last.FM Radio Player to listen to “Similar Artists Radio”

Using the Last.FM Radio Player you can listen to “similar artists” of any band or artist you like. This can be an absolutely awesome way to find new music you haven’t heard before. In fact I’m doing it right now and I’m listening to a band I have heard a bit about before but hadn’t heard previously called Architecture In Helsinki. The song is called “Fumble” and I am really enjoying it. Last.FM has a feature where you can press a heart icon which means you love that track. This is a great way of keeping track of new music that you like and you heard for the first time.

5 Using the Last.FM Radio Player to listen to “Artist Fan Radio”

This is similar to the above reason except with this setting you get a bit more varied results. This is really great for really expanding your horizons but still upping the chances that you’re actually going to like what you hear. I can’t even imagine why anyone would listen to the real radio when Last.FM is around. The real radio is predicable and boring and almost always plays the same old songs over and over again. Last.FM is a way to hear great music that you may not have heard before but that also fits in well with your tastes (and if you don’t like the song you can always just skip to the next one!)

6 Using the Last.FM Radio Player to listen to “Tagged Radio”/Tag Charts

Using this you get to hear all the tracks/albums/artists that were “tagged” a certain term by other Last.FM listeners. This is truly awesome! It’s really cool to go through and tag different artists and songs with different terms. I’m a huge lover of psychedelic music so I spend some time tagging psychedelic music as such. It’s great because I can listen the Last.FM Radio Player for music tagged as “psychedelic” and I get to hear a bunch of cool psychedelic music I haven’t heard before (usually mixed in with some that I have heard before which makes it less overwhelming!) Also really cool are the tagged charts. For example the top 5 artists tagged for “Psychedelic” are 1 Pink Floyd, 2 The Doors, 3 The Beatles, 4 Jimi Hendrix, and 5 The Velvet Underground.

7 Discovering new bands/artists!

There’s a great number of bands/solo artists I’ve discovered via Last.FM that I don’t think I would have ever heard otherwise. The best example of this is the indie psychedelic rock band Scumbo.

These are just 7 of the many reasons why I’m addicted to Last.FM and why I highly recommend it to any music lovers out there who haven’t discovered it yet. It’s the best music site on the internet and a great place to find new music that you’ll really be interested in.

American Idol Season One – Where Are They Now?

If you’ve watched American Idol in the past, you may be wondering what has happened to the singers from American Idol Season One. Here is a brief look at how some of the more popular contestants have faired:

Top Ten Finalist ? Ejay Day

Ejay performed along with the other finalists on the 2002 U.S. American Idol tour. He?s sang at several events for boxing champ Muhammad Ali and assisted in writing Raven-Symone?s song ?Pure Love? for her Undeniable album. Currently, Ejay is performing on the cruise ship Explorer of the Seas.

Top Ten Finalist ? Jim Verraros

Jim has been active in both music and acting since American Idol ended. Jim recently released his album Rollercoaster, featuring the dance hits ?I Want You? and ?You?re Getting Crazy.? He starred in the 2004 film Eating Out and is set to reprise his role in Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds.

7th Place ? Ryan Starr

Despite finishing 7th, Ryan has been one of the busier contestants from Season One. Her single ?My Religion? peaked at 7 on the American iTunes Top 100 and she plans to tour in 2006-2007. She made guest appearances on several shows and also appeared in the VH1 show The Surreal Life in 2004. She also starred in the movie Ring of Darkness.

6th Place – Christina Christian

After American Idol, Christina guest starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and is now a correspondent for the TV Guide Channel.

5th Place ? RJ Helton

RJ Helton made the top 10 as a wildcard choice. RJ signed with Gospo-Centric Records and released an album, Real Life, in 2004, which made the Billboard Christian Top 20.

4th Place ? Tamyra Gray

Tamyra had a reoccurring role in Boston Public that allowed her to sing as well. She also guest starred on Half and Half, Las Vegas, Tru Calling, What I Like About You, and All of Us.

She co-wrote and sang duet with winner Kelly Clarkson on ?You Thought Wrong.? She appeared on Season Three of American Idol and co-wrote the song ?I Believe? which was a number one hit for Fantasia Barrino. She received writing credit for ?If You Were Mine? and ?The Lover in Me? on Jessica Simpson?s A Public Affair album.

In 2004, she took to the stage with the Broadway show ?Bombay Dreams.? She had a supporting role in 2005?s The Gospel and one song on the movie?s soundtrack.

3rd Place ? Nikki McKibbin

Nikki signed with 19 Management and RCA Records after her American Idol success, although she is currently under contract with Astral Records. Her single ?The Lie? reached 1 on the Idol Waves online radio station.

She has appeared on several reality shows, including Fear Factor and Kill Reality and appeared in the made for television movie The Scorned.

Runner-Up ? Justin Guarini

After coming in second, Justin starred in the unsuccessful movie From Justin to Kelly with winner Kelly Clarkson. He secured a deal with 19 Management and RCA, but he had to wait until Kelly?s album was released before he could work on any solo projects. Because of this contractual obligation, he had to refuse a guest role on Friends, a role in The Fast and Furious, and a modeling contract for Tommy Hilfiger.

When his self-titled album did come out nine months after his American Idol success in June 2003, it flopped and he was eventually released from his contracts. His second album Stranger Things Have Happened was released in late 2005.

He appeared on stage in the musical Good Vibrations at Vassar College but declined to accept continue the role. He?s been in several independent films and is involved in many charities such as Support Music Education, Habitat for Humanity, and Children?s World Organization.

Winner – Kelly Clarkson

The most successful of all the American Idol contestants, Kelly signed with RCA and released two singles. ?A Moment Like This? shot to 1 on the Billboard charts. In 2003, she released her debut album, Thankful, that certified double platinum, selling over 2 million copies. Her single ?Miss Independent? reached the Billboard Top 10 and earned her a Grammy nomination in 2004.

Her second album, Breakaway, produced four top 10 singles and she won the Grammy award for ?Best Female Pop Vocal Performance? and ?Best Pop Vocal Album.?

She?s appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The View and she is scheduled to headline an HBO concert featuring her greatest hits in February of 2007.

10 Greatest Martial Arts Movies Of All Time

After hundreds of movies, thousands of eye-popping fight scenes and millions of punches thrown…which ones are the best? Which ones have I been missing out on my whole life? Which ones must I have in my collection in order to not bring shame upon my family name?

We?ve scoured the internet. Reviews. Forums. Amazon. Postings. Bulletins. And this list is what we?ve come up with as the greatest Kung-Fu movies of all time and why you should watch each one. Pay attention to movies involving Yuen Wo-Ping as either director or action director, there’s a reason why half this list is movies where he was involved!

If you want to watch trailers of these movies, go to: http://www.experiencemartialarts.com/articles/movies.html

(you can also get directly to these movies in http://Amazon.com from this website)

1 – Way of the Dragon (1979)

This is the only finished film to be written and directed by Bruce Lee. (Game of Death is the other one but is unfinished) We could write a lot about the plot, characters or fight scenes…but all you really care about is watching Bruce Lee fight Chuck Norris in the final battle.

Martial Artists: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris
Director: Bruce Lee

2 – Shaolin Temple (1982)

Depicts the amazing history of the Shaolin Temple, the focal point for Chinese Martial Arts. Think of the Shaolin Monks as Jedi Knights (an elite group of fighters) and the rest of China as the messed-up universe that Star Wars takes place in (people who are afraid of the elite fighters and want to take them out of power). Much work to do, you have, young Jet Li. *picture Yoda?s accent on that one* Define Irony: A movie shot at the site of the Shaolin Temple, telling a story about the fall of the Shaolin Temple, sparks so much public interest that the temple was re-opened shortly after the movie released.

Martial Artist: Jet Li (His debut movie)
Director: Chang Hsin-Yen

3 – Ong Bak (2003)

Raw action without wires, Tony Jaa brings a new martial arts style to the big screen and does so in style. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is stronger and more direct than the Chinese styles you?re used to seeing with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, giving a new look to how a martial arts movie can be done. You?ll be seeing more of him…guaranteed.

Martial Artist: Tony Jaa
Director: Prachya Pinkaew

4 – Iron Monkey (1993)

Doctor by day, thief by night…Iron Monkey is your classic Robin-hood meets Kung Fu. It?s an action packed flick that can?t go 5 minutes without an excellent fight scene. It all comes down to a battle between Iron Monkey (ie Robin Hood) and an ex Shaolin Monk (remember, these guys are like the Jedi Knights of Chinese martial arts…they?re elite). Remember that guy Yuen Wo-Ping I mentioned? Well he’s the director in this one, so you know it’s good!

Martial Artists: Yu Rong-Guang, Donnie Yen
Director: Yuen Wo-Ping
Action Directors: Yuen Cheung-yan, Yuen Shun-yi

5 – 5 Deadly Venoms (1978)

No room form “martial arts beauties” in this one, there’s so much blood and action that they only cast male actors. Exit the traditional elaborate costumes and enter the muscular, skin-bearing, bloody martial arts style that would become a trademark for director Chang Cheh. Each cast member is trained in an art resembling one of 5 venemous creatures (Scorpion, Snake, Centipede, Gecko, Toad) with the 6th cast member being trained in all 5. Six main martial arts actors = LOTS O? ACTION

Martial Artists: 6 Martial Artists (yes, 6 main characters)
Director: Chang Cheh

6 – The Seven Samurai (1954)

One of the greatest classic kung-fu movies of all time and arguable Kurosawa?s best work. Some Samurai of the time were down on their luck (homeless) and willing to do anything for a meal. A village under attack by bandits recruits a group of seven such Samurai warriors and asks them to help defend their village. The movie is about the Samurai teaching the village how to fight and culminates in a massive battle between a village and almost 50 attacking bandits. The acting is superb, the emotions run high and Kurosawa keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

Martial Artists: 7 Martial Artists (all names you won’t know since this movie is so old)
Director: Akira Kurosawa

7 – Legend of Drunken Master (1994)

Some will say this is the greatest martial arts movie of all time because of it?s balance between plot-line, comedy, drama and amazing kung fu sequences. Probably Jackie Chan?s best martial arts performance. You?re going to love the final scene where you learn what ?Drunken Master? really means. We?re talking box-splitting, fire-spitting craziness!

Martial Artist: Jackie Chan
Director: Lau Kar-leung

8 – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)

Based on a Pentalogy (yes, that?s 5 books) written by Wang Dulu, this movie covers mostly the 4th book. Critically acclaimed to cross international borders with it?s amazing character development, intricate plot, martial arts ideals, stunning special effects and quicker-than-the-eye fighting scenes, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon set a new standard for martial arts movies. Telling Zhang Ziyi (the lead female character and an amazing martial artist) to get back in the kitchen would likely cost you 50 punches to the ?bags?. Be ready for subtitles, ?cuz turning on the English track is like watching…uh…like watching a kung fu movie in English.

Main Martial Artist: Chow Yun-fat
Other Martial Artists: Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei-pei
Director: Ang Lee
Action Director: Yuen Wo-Ping

9 – Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003)

You?re going to want your home theatre room for this one. It?s tough to beat beautiful women beating the crap out of each other in fast-paced, action-packed, make you cringe, bloody, gory, cut-?em-up (more buzz words go here) movie jam packed with as much martial arts death as possible. Tarantino expertly uses every camera angle and a plethora of special effects to deliver a better-than-real visual experience that gives this blood-and-guts thriller an artistic feel you?ll appreciate at the end. Did I mention is has Uma Thurman in it?

(?Kill bill vol. 2? brings closure to the set, but hey…we had to choose one movie. Say ?Five-Point-Palm Exploding Heart Technique? 5 times fast.)

Actors: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Action Director: Yuen Wo-ping

10 – Fist of Legend (1994)

A classic story of Chinese vs. Japanese martial arts, Fist of Legend is actually a remake of the original Bruce Lee movie, Fist of Fury. If Bruce Lee is like the original James Bond, Jet Li is the Pierce Brosnan. He?ll never be the original, but the modern film-making and larger budget bring the entertainment value just a hair above the original Fist of Fury. (The ghost of Bruce Lee is probably going to strike me down for writing that) The Yuen Brothers are known for amazing action choreography, and they totally deliver on this one. (Casting Jet Li may have helped them a little too.)

Martial Artist: Jet Li
Director: Gordon Chan
Action Directors: ?The Yuen Brothers?

The fun doesn’t stop there.

We tried to stop at only 10…really, we did. But we just couldn’t control ourselves.
“Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!” – Will Ferrell in “Old School”

To see the movies that deserve “Honorable Mention”, go to http://www.experiencemartialarts.com/articles/movies.html

Whether you enjoyed this list or think we snuffed your favorite movie, we’d love to hear what you think. Post your comments at: http://www.experiencemartialarts.com/blog/archives/16

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles 1967 album Sgt Pepper is often cited as the most influential and important album of all time. In what I consider to be a reactionary backlash to this praise Sgt Pepper is also often cited as one of the most over rated albums of all time.

This year this monumental album turns 40 years old. So where does it stand now? In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the 1 album of all time. It doesn?t fair quite as well on the popular music rating website Rate Your Music where it ranks 27 of all time which is behind four other Beatles classic albums Revolver (#1), Abbey Road (#2), The White Album (#10), and Rubber Soul (#21).

Personally while it?s not my favorite Beatles album (that honor has to go to The White Album) I do believe it is the most important and most influential album of all time and I do rank it above Revolver, Abbey Road, and Rubber Soul.

I?ve heard some people say it doesn?t hold up well with time but I disagree entirely. I think this album is absolutely timeless. I don?t think the songs sound like they are from the 1960s necessarily. They sound like they are from the future and the past simultaneously.

I believe all 13 songs from this album to be absolutely essential to the album and this is a very rare thing. What set this album apart from most of the albums that came before it is that it truly plays like an album. While definitely somewhat in debt to The Beach Boys classic Pet Sounds, Sgt Pepper takes things a big leap forward. In many ways I still feel that Sgt Pepper is the perfect cohesive album. It doesn?t take the ?concept? and wear it thin but it also holds together as one work very well despite, and maybe because, the fact that the songs are of such varying styles.

Song by Song Breakdown:

1 Sgt Pepper

The album starts off with the crowd noise which goes into the first song which shares the same name as the album: ?Sgt Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band.? This is a great song and also sets up the rest of the album as part of this loose concept of watching a band perform. This is all made to come together even more by the later inclusion of the Reprise of this song! Paul McCartney came up with the idea of the Beatles pretending to be this different band. The idea being that they could really branch out into all sorts of different styles with no limitations. They could also break free of their image. There?s quite a few layers to the idea but it?s also a very simple idea that isn?t overbearing unlike some later prog rock attempts at ?concept albums.?

2 With A Little Help From My Friends

This track was written by lead songwriters and singers Paul McCartney and John Lennon specifically for the drummer Ringo Starr to sing. This adds another layer to the lyric ?I get by with a little help from my friends.? This song was a hit for Joe Cocker (his cover version was used on television program The Wonder Years.) It also contains a reference to marijuana with the line ?I get high with a little help from my friends.?

3 Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

This song is inspired by LSD in my opinion although Lennon denied this and said it was merely inspired by his son?s painting. Many years later McCartney admitted the influence of LSD on this track. This song is often cited as a prime example of 1960s psychedelic music. Besides the other worldly fantastical lyrics the song has a dreamy quality to both the music and the vocals. This song uses a flange effect on the drums and the bass is very prominent in the mix.

4 Getting Better

There?s so many great things about this track I have a hard time deciding what to talk about first. One thing that really does stand out for me though is use of sitar in this track. It?s subtle and yet very effective. A great example of the sort of unique tracks on this album that don?t really have any direct comparison to anything else in rock music, even to this day. I think the sharp down stroke style used on the guitars in this track has been extremely influential in rock to this day.

5 Fixing A Hole

This is another amazingly unique song that has so many layers and so much to discover. I?m still hearing new things in it now and I must have listened to it over 1000 times. The harmony vocals are absolutely incredible (listen to the right side)

6 She?s Leaving Home

This song features McCartney and Lennon on vocals but no Beatles play in the instrumentation. The song was scored for classical musicians. The twists and turns in this album are startling but they somehow all make sense. So much variety. All beautifully and masterly done.

7 Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite

Lennon got all of the lyrics off of an old circus poster he had. A great example of the avante garde attitude of the Beatles at the time. I like to picture this as the wild place she goes after she leaves home. I don?t hear 60s when I listen to this track. I hear another time, another place. A warped distorted but still very relevant version of our own reality. This song is absolute psychedelic weirdness. It?s overflowing with ideas and imagination. The instrumental breakdown after ?Henry the Horse Dances the Waltz? and at the end of the track includes bits of real circus sounds which were all cut up and taped back together randomly. This type of thing you could do quite easily today with Pro Tools but in 1967 it was a very inventive and creative technique. The way it was done also lends to it a timeless quality that isn?t connected to any particular recording technique or trick. This sort of experimentation has been very influential on countless artists.

8 Within You Without You

This is probably the least popular song on the album amongst your average rock fan because unfortunately too many people have a hard time opening their minds towards other types of music. This song, just like ?She?s Leaving Home?, features no Beatles on the instrumentation. The music is all recorded by Indian musicians under the direction of George Harrison. Harrison sings and wrote the music. This song to me is absolute essential to the album. ?Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite? should have opened your mind a little bit but this one should really blow your mind right out of your head. You are now in a completely different world. This is an album that deftly takes you all over the world with an incredible journey through the middle of your mind. I really don?t think I?m overstating this or exaggerating. I simply feel if you don?t hear this, then you haven?t really listened to this album and fully experienced it. I think in some ways this is the most psychedelic song on the album. It?s a true journey and it?s very beautiful. I believe the laughing at the end of the album symbolizes your average person who laughs at things that are different or thoughtful.

9 When I?m 64

As of this writing Paul McCartney is actually 64. As far as out as the last track takes you, this one places you right back somewhere else entirely. Such a strange trip, isn?t it? This is another song of many on this album that is not guitar based. The Beatles really were experimenting with instrumentation a lot on this album. This instrumental experimentation has been extremely influential on many bands

10 Lovely Rita

This is just an excellent fun song. The lyrics are fantastic. There are so many just out of this world sounds going on, really listen to everything going on in the mix. And for God?s sake, listen to the reverb on those backing vocals. Awesome. I also just absolutely love the way this song ends with all of the weird vocalizations with the delay. They?re just having a great time making this track that enjoyment directly leads right into my ears.

11 Good Morning Good Morning

This is probably my least favorite track on the album if I have to choose one. That being said it?s still a great song. I?m a big fan of the time changes and of Paul McCartney?s searing Hendrix like guitar solo.

12 Sgt Pepper (Reprise)

The sound of a rooster leads directly into a guitar squeal. One of the coolest segues ever. This version of Sgt Pepper is like the first except it rocks a lot harder. This is a great way to tie together the album and lead into the grand finale.

13 A Day In The Life

This may be the greatest song ever written. In my opinion it is just that. Certainly a fantastic way to end an album. The orchestral buildups are genius and perfectly capture the feelings that could never be put into words. The song itself is can sometimes sound deceptively simple but there?s so much nuance. So much you can hear even on the 1000th listen.