Julian Lennon: Photograph Smile (Music From Another Room, CD/tape). Sean Lennon: Into the Sun (Grand Royal, CD / LP). Are chord progressions hereditary? Is there any scope for the Lennon half-brothers to sound more like their dad than the legions of Beatle impersonators already out there? Julian and Sean would protest that this line of questioning is irrelevant, but tough luck: they wouldn't be on the receiving end of any questions at all if it weren't for their surname, and for the coincidental release of an album each on the same day.
Julian in particular has no right to complain about comparisons. His first LP in seven years opens with the utterly Beatley "Day After Day", which may as well be named "Private Pepper". And "How Many Times" borrows the tune of the recent "new" Beatles song, "Real Love". Sadly, that's where the similarities with the Fab Four end. Photograph Smile is solid, middle-of-the-road, grown-up singer-songwriter stuff, with Julian's obvious sincerity undermined by the clumsily cliched imagery of his lyrics, and by music which exudes professionalism and experience but no originality.
Sean's debut has less to do with his father than with his record label, the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal: lo-fi easy listening with jazz-influenced melodies is the order of the day. Comparisons with Money Mark leave Sean looking just as inadequate as comparisons with John, however, as Into the Sun is an underwhelming hotch-potch of sketches, which you'd call "sunny" if you were feeling generous. Sean has potential, but, unfortunately, he's also got the weediest voice ever. Maybe he should team up with Julian. Nicholas Barber
Lisa Ekdahl: When Did You Leave Heaven? (RCA Victor, CD). Ekdahl is a Swedish singer who has somehow acquired a Chet Baker fixation. Her first jazz album, accompanied by the excellent Peter Nordahl Trio, is surprisingly good and her fragile vocals on a set of limpid standards summon up all those old female jazz singer cliches of vulnerability and loss. Though the tracks are variable, this is pleasing late-night stuff.