When the history books are written, 1998 will be remembered as a turning point year for fans of The Beatles and in particular for fans of the Lennon family tree. First up among the Beatles-related highlights in 1998 were two new albums from Fab four timekeeper Ringo Starr, the first of which -his brilliant Vertical Man - come just weeks after the arrival of Paul McCartney's late '97 masterpiece Flaming Pie. Also released at the end of '98 was the extensive four CD John Lennon box set entitled The John Lennon Anthology. On the other hand, Lennon fans witnessed the mid '98 release of Into The Sun, the debut CD from John & Yoko's son Sean Lennon. To top things off, there was Photograph Smile, the long awaited comeback album from Sean's older brother and John Lennon's first son, Julian Lennon. The inaugural production on Julian's new record label -which he calls Music From Another Room - Photograph Smile was actually released in England sometime in mid '98, although it finally saw an official U.S. release this post February 23rd on the L.A.-based indy label Fuel 2000.
Issued after Julian's seven year, self-imposed withdrawal from the music world, Photograph Smile come not a moment too soon for his many fans. Looking back on his time away from the rigors of the music world, Julian reflects, 'I needed to think about a life outside of the industry. I've always been interested in architecture and interior design, and even cooking ... but in the end I started playing again because of my love of music.' With it's cross-section of compelling rock tracks and thought provoking ballads, Photograph Smile has, not surprisingly, received numerous accolades from a variety of music critics, with one pronouncing Julian as an 'elder statesman of the Beatie-esque' and another describing the album as 'something indeed, for Dad to smile about'. When asked to articulate about the album himself, Julian carefully adds, 'It's a reflection of every emotion I've ever been through. I spent a lot of time thinking and writing and putting something together that meant a lot to me.'
One of the keys to the success of Photograph Smile is Julian's recently established co-production alliance with album producer Bob Rose. The fortuitous pairing of the young Lennon with Rose sparked the album sessions resulting in a prodigious outpouring of new songs from Julian. Recording for his own label gave Julian the freedom to create, free of any interference and restrictions, while the discerning co- production by Bob Rose has certainly resulted in the most impressive album Julian has ever made. Recorded in London, Rome, Dublin and Wales, Photograph Smile includes an assortment of fine supporting players including Julian's long time guitarist and songwriting partner Justin Clayton, Manny Elias (drums) and Simon Edwards (bass) along with Gregory Darling and Bob Rose both appearing on keyboards. Photograph Smile clearly fulfills the promise of Julian's now-classic 1984 album Valotte, which came as a revelation for Beatle fans who were still torn apart by the tragic passing of John Lennon. Julian swiftly followed his critically acclaimed debut with two further late '80s albums, The Secret Value Of Daydreaming (1986) and Mr. Jordan (I 989), and his first album of the '90s entitled Help Yourself (1991).
Decorated with a backdrop of sumptuous strings -not unlike the famous 'Flux Fiddlers' employed by his father on album classics such as Imagine and Walls And Bridges - Photograph Smile is without a doubt Julian's finest musical achievement to date and carries on the Lennon legacy with style and grace. Maybe the best thing to come out the sessions is that Photograph Smile has rekindled Julian's interest in the music world again, giving him the proper setting to create his music as art once again. Perhaps Julian sums it up best when he Says, 'Now that I've proven my worth as a songwriter, who knows what's next? One ambition of mine is to sing with an orchestra, but I'm also influenced by more contemporary sounds ... the future is unlimited.'
Recently, 20th Century Guitar music editor Robert Silverstein had a chance to speak with Julian about his new album, his new label and of course about the Beatles. The following interview took place on March 12, 1999.
© 1999 20th Century Guitar
Background/Flowers from the 'Photograph Smile'
CD inlet by Angelika Letsch.
'Hey Jules' © 1998 - 2002 CJ Burianek