|It's been seven years since Julian Lennon has had a new album or toured
the U.S. But he's back, headlining a four-week American tour that kicks
off tonight in Chicago in support of his new CD, ''Photograph Smile.''
He'll play Bogart's in Cincinnati Wednesday night.
''If I was gonna write again I had to live again.... I had to look deep inside myself and start again,'' Lennon has told interviewers about his return to the music business.
Lennon quit the world of entertainment and retired to private life in Italy in 1992, saying he'd tired of the media circus and wanted to enjoy the personal pleasures he'd been denied in life. He said he even considered a career change, but eventually decided he loved music too much.
His ''Photograph Smile'' album came about after he was tempted back in the studio after a chance meeting with producer Bob Rose.
The 35-year-old singer had his biggest success in 1984 with ''Valotte,'' a debut disc that sold a couple of million copies and produced the hit ''Too Late for Goodbyes.'' As John Lennon's son, he fostered high expectations. But the release prompted critics to tee off on the famous offspring for failing to come up with his own sound or, even worse, played to a teeny-bop image that never quite rang true.
After toying with some styles of his own (which strangely sounded too much like David Bowie) and taking an extensive break, Lennon's new album celebrates his bloodlines.
''How Many Times'' is modeled after early Beatles rock 'n' roll, while ''Day After Day'' (surely a reference to the first line of ''Fool on the Hill'') swells with strings and the same sort of grand orchestral touch that his dad and George Martin used to dream up.
In case anyone missed the connection, Lennon pushes it over the edge on the album-closing ''Way to Your Heart,'' on which he throws in a line from ''Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.''
''Photograph Smile'' isn't all regurgitated ideas three decades old, though. Lennon remains partial to slight melodies and a clean, acoustic sound, but he's now more confident with both his voice and his songwriting. ''I Should Have Known'' is a smooth if melodramatic ballad about broken hearts, ''Crucified'' has a hint of Middle Eastern flavor and ''Kiss Beyond the Catcher'' is a sprightly shuffle.
Lennon might be a long way from living up to his dad's legend, but on ''Photograph Smile'' he's at least willing to acknowledge and echo it, which is his right as much as anyone's.
Julian Lennon performs at Bogart's at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Opening act: the Push Stars. Tickets are $12.50 advance (513-562-4949); $14 day of show.
Background/Flowers from the 'Photograph Smile'
CD inlet by Angelika Letsch.
'Hey Jules' © 1998 - 2002 CJ Burianek