Tuesday, November 13, 2012


YEAR:  1984
LABEL:  Atlantic
TRACK LISTING:  Valotte,  O.K. For You,  On the Phone,  Space,  Well I Don't Know,  Too Late For Goodbyes,  Lonely,  Say You're Wrong,  Jesse,  Let Me Be
IMPRESSIONS:  Being the son of a murdered, martyred rock god can lead to all sorts of insurmountable problems if you're interested in a music career; especially if you look just like him and sound uncannily similar when you sing.  This is the peculiar double-edged sword faced by Julian Lennon in 1984 when he released his debut single and album "Valotte".  While the eponymous debut single sounded very much "in the style" of John Lennon, the rest of the album -- I think wisely -- stayed well in the pop realm.  I think that was the only way to do it.  Those are some REALLY big shoes to fill and, for a kid just barely 21 to try to write and perform songs in the same "genre" of a mature John Lennon would've been fatal and probably embarrassing.  I mean, John Lennon himself didn't start off writing "Imagine"; it all began with things like "Love Me Do".  So the slightly spooky "Valotte" single got all our attentions sounding hauntingly like John Lennon.  But then, the rest of the album (or most of it) and the succeeding hit single "Too Late For Goodbyes" was firmly bubble gum and quite successful.  Having just written all that, I'll now contradict myself in saying that I enjoyed the stuff on the album that was a little less poppy:  songs like the title track, the floating, ethereal "Space"or the keening "Lonely".  Still pop but less bubble gum.  I found some good things on his next two follow-up albums as well: the hit single "Stick Around" and "You Get What You Want" featuring Billy Joel on piano from the 2nd album "THE SECRET ART OF DAYDREAMING" and the single "Now You're In Heaven" from 3rd album "MR. JORDAN".  By the third album, however, Lennon had bizarrely chosen to mimic the singing style of David Bowie; perhaps this was an effort to shed his father's voice and constant comparisons?  I will say it worked wonderfully on the single "Now You're In Heaven" but such a conceit cannot be sustained over more than one song.  That was in 1989 and that's pretty much the last I heard of Julian Lennon except for the excellent "Saltwater" from 1991's "HELP YOURSELF".  Having such a father makes a singing career almost impossible to pull off and I think Julian's output is remarkable for succeeding as much as he did.
MY FAVOURITE TRACKS:  Valotte,   On the Phone,  Space,  Too Late For Goodbyes,  Lonely
GUEST ARTISTS:  Toots Thielemans (harmonica on "Too Late For Goodbyes"), Michael Brecker (saxophone on "Lonely")
FACT SHEET:  VALOTTE is the first album by Julian Lennon.  The album was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and at The Hit Factory in New York City.  The song demos for the album were actually sent in anonymously before Julian revealed who he actual was in order to have them judged solely on their own merit.  The title of the album is taken from the name of an old French chateau "Manon de Valotte" which Julian Lennon particularly loved.  The album went platinum. 

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