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Julian Lennon: Somnolent Son

March 23, 1986|TERRY ATKINSON

"THE SECRET VALUE OF DAYDREAMING." Julian Lennon. Atlantic.

Frank Sinatra Jr. has made a nice living out of being an ersatz version of his father, and in a brief time Julian Lennon has had even greater success in a similar role. With this second album, John's offspring continues to take the slickest and most colorless facets of his father's latter-day sound and combine it with even smoother and blander aspects of contemporary commercial pop.

If anything, "The Secret Value" out-fluffs Lennon's debut LP. Musically, it's so unremittingly listless it could replace Valium. As a songwriter and bandleader, singer-keyboardist-bassist Lennon is content to let the album float from track to track across a never-ending stretch of horse-latitude settings--the sort of homogenized pop arrangements and rhythms that only succeed if they become beautiful or affecting. With Lennon, they just leave you thinking, "Get on with it."

He's particularly fond of a loping reggae beat that's had all the soul extracted from it and simply serves as a kind of offbeat metronome in easy-listening tracks like "Let Me Tell You." And seldom have keyboard sounds been so far up in the mix without being able to carry their weight--they alternate between accordion-like pumpings and characterless drones. But then, producer Phil Ramone didn't have much else to work with--the other instruments are played in corny, near-amateurish styles throughout.

To cap the numbing effect, Lennon and his musicians play everything as if half-asleep, and the lyrics consist of little more than obvious expressions of mundane thoughts, questions, assertions and desires. For example: "Want your body / Want your mind / Why are people so unkind?" Youth can be forgiven a lot, but there are limits.

Of course, the younger Lennon's second container of drivel is going to have "adult contemporary" appeal to the many people who never could abide the John Lennon of "Cold Turkey" and his other abrasive and/or exciting music. They will be delighted that Julian's voice sounds so much like his father's yet the kid sticks to songs that take Dad's milkiest numbers a few steps further.

For others, this has its horrific side, like the sound track to a Beatles fan's ludicrous nightmare. Imagine: John Lennon singing the Barry Manilow songbook. Julian Lennon's music is all too close to that ridiculous combination.

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