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Pop Music Reviews : Julian Lennon On Bubblegum Trail

July 24, 1986|CHRIS WILLMAN

"The way things are going, they're gonna crucify me," somebody famous once sang, and Julian Lennon must feel that way sometimes. Neither his second album nor second tour--which touched down Tuesday at the Universal Amphitheatre--are selling nearly the way their predecessors did, which lends credence to the many naysayers who see the junior Lennon's vapid pop as being a disgrace to his legacy.

Legacy, schmegacy --such ambitious comparisons are unfair when Lennon is modestly content to churn out what in a not-so-distant era would have been called bubblegum .

Not that he tops that list, either, but let's at least get him on the right scale. On the lightweight DeFranco Scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, Lennon's live performance gets six popped wads.

Lennon has written two albums' worth of lyrics as banal as any pop music in memory, but he has come up with some nice hooks amid the clumsy song structures (cf. "Valotte"). Much credit must go to the powerful proficiency of the mostly New York studio pros--with especially noteworthy sax from Frank Elmo--for putting some distracting window dressing on some pretty limp goods.

The newly short-haired Lennon's former awkwardness on stage is all gone this time around--he's all practiced confidence and show-bizzy patter these days, strutting in place while banging his tambourine and pausing at the ends of songs to give the girls a chance to scream.

They did, on cue, especially at the end when Lennon put his own unceasingly soft, mid-tempo material aside and got around to dad's stuff: a nice "It Won't Be Long" and a crummy, wimped-out "Day Tripper."

Lennon will be at San Diego State University tonight and Irvine Meadows Friday.

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