Julian Lennon Finds 'Truer Self' 
On Photograph Smile

By Russell Hall, Rocktropolis February 24th, 1999 

Photograph Smile

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Julian Lennon 
With the offspring of '60s icons populating the music landscape like manic fruit flies, it's easy to forget that Julian Lennon was, in a sense, a pioneer. 
Unlike, say, Jakob Dylan, Adam Cohen, and little brother Sean -- who are pretty much allowed to go about their business unencumbered by comparisons to their famous fathers -- Lennon's early career was punctuated by criticisms that had little to do with his music, and everything to do with his lineage. 
"It was an impossible situation," says Lennon, whose new album, Photograph Smile (Feb. 23, Fuel 2000) is his first in seven years. "They were comparing one album of mine to the Beatles' entire catalog. Certainly there weren't many kids in my position, who were trying to do what I was. But it was all a good learning experience. [Nowadays], when people say, 'You know, you sound just like the Beatles,' or, 'You sound just like your dad,' I say, 'Well, yes I do. Now that we both recognize that, can we move on?' The comparison bit has been done for more than 10 years now. It's time to let it go." 
Although Photograph Smile probably won't dissuade people from insisting upon the obvious -- Lennon does, after all, carry a hefty share of his father's chromosomes -- the album's lushly melodic flavor is actually more evocative of Sir Paul than John, if such comparisons are to be made. Freed of outside constraints -- the album is the first to be released on the singer's own record label -- Lennon elected to explore his classical impulses, although his pop sensibility remains very much intact. 
"I'm finding that the older I get, the truer to myself I become," he says. "I'm sure I'll be doing more classically- oriented, ballad- type things further up the road. I love going in that direction. Before I ever started writing actual songs, I was writing improvisational, 20- or 30- minute pieces. My primary influences then were people like Keith Jarrett, and they still are. It was only later that I started to think, 'Well, if anyone's going to listen to me, I'd better try to create a song.'" 
While it's no secret that his relationship with Yoko Ono is strained (he hasn't heard the Yoko- compiled John Lennon Anthology, and, if his tone is any indication, doesn't care to), Lennon remains close to Sean, although the two rarely see one another. Asked what he thought of his half-brother's debut album, which, coincidentally, was released in the U.K. on the same day as Photograph Smile, Lennon offers a generous and honest assessment. 
"I was a bit surprised," admits Lennon. "I felt it was maybe not as strong as it could've been, particularly if he wants to stay in the business and make it his career. But I'd have to say that his trying to blend the highly melodic side of what he does with the more grunge- oriented stuff was really interesting. Whether or not he's worked out that balance yet, I don't know." 

-- Russell Hall