By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
JULIAN LENNON – VALOTTE (1984)
When I dug this album out of the Big Box of Cassettes, I was brought back to 1984 and reminded of the time when I first heard the title track to the album. I can’t remember if it was part of the regular rotation on 92 Pro FM out of Providence, Rhode Island or if it was on their Sunday morning broadcast of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, but for some reason the song struck a chord with me.
But in all honesty, I really haven’t thought much about the song over the last 35 plus years. I never owned the album itself and while I’d heard “Too Late For Goodbyes” over the years, I had no current knowledge of the “Valotte” song. So it was a little bit of a disappointing surprise to me that as I heard it as an “almost-new” song, I was left wondering why I loved it so much back then. While I still think it is a decent song, I found that the track just had a different tone to me than I had remembered from back in the day. I don’t know if it just was that it seemed somehow slower in tempo than I remembered or what, but it just wasn’t the same to me.
But as that song faded, I had to quickly turn the page and get on with my impressions of the rest of the album. As I said, this was the first time I’d heard the official album in total so there was some discoveries to be made.
The first side of the album was packed with some really intriguing songs. “O.K. For You” had a earworm of a guitar sound to it. The track had an uptempo bounce to it, which was nice considering it followed the “Valotte” song, so the energy pick me up was a nice immediate change of pace. I also really got into the song “On The Phone” which featured a big band sound particularly in the middle of the song.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that about the song “Space”. I thought the presentation of the song was more than a bit hazy, as if Lennon was casting about for some definitive direction and just never really found it. Overall, I thought this one was kind of drag.
But Side One finished strong with “Well I Don’t Know”. It featured an uptick in the music’s pacing and the song, which was written for Lennon’s father John (and if I have to explain that connection further, stop reading this article!), ended up being a rather interesting musical nugget.
As for Side Two, that opened up with the aforementioned “Too Late For Goodbyes”. I’d like to say that I remembered that this song was on the album BEFORE I listened to it but I’d be lying. However, I did remember the song and whether it was due to actually having heard it over the years or just because it hit me stronger, it is my favorite cut on the album overtaking my initial belief back in 1984 that I liked “Valotte” more as a song.
I can’t say I was completely into “Lonely” or the closing piano based “Let Me Be” but I did quite enjoy “Jesse” and “Say You’re Wrong”, which had a crackling urgency fused with a really cool pop sensibility to it.
Julian Lennon has released six solo albums over his career, but Valotte is by far his most successful in terms of sales and chart success. I have to say that I had a great time experiencing this album for the first time. There may be songs on it that didn’t quite cut the mustard with me, but perfect albums being few and far between, it was still a thrill to discover new songs that actually did make my musical heart go all pitter-patter.
I know that fans of The Beatles will likely lay claim to some of the music’s influences belonging to the Fab Four, but if you like straightforward pop music (that would now be referred to as Adult Contemporary), you’ll find that Julian Lennon’s first solo album Valotte has him standing quite capably on his own two feet.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The Valotte album (which was certified platinum) was produced by Phil Ramone. His list of credits is both extensive and a who’s who of some of the biggest names in music history. He would win 14 Grammys for his work before his death in 2013.
The “Valotte” song hit #9 on the singles chart, while “Too Late For Goodbyes” went to #5. The latter is Julian Lennon’s most successful single. The videos for both songs were directed by the legendary movie director Sam Peckinpagh.