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Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygène CD (album) cover


Jean-Michel Jarre


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3.92 | 351 ratings

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2 stars I have a feeling that Oxygene was a groundbreaking work in its time, but let's face it: this thing is dated, and severely so. Oxygene violates one of my ultimate cardinal rules of musical success, that rule being: Never, never put all of your eggs into the synth basket; doing so very often damns your album to the fate of "period piece" instead of "timeless classic". While I'm an unabashed synth enthusiast, I still think this was overkill. That is not to deny the innovativeness of what Jarre was doing at the time, when synths had just become a respected part of music. Vintage synth and keyboard enthusiasts will certainly drool at the lineup of synths and keyboards: ARP synth, AKS synth, VCS-3 synth, RMI Harmonic Synth, Eminent, Rhythmin' Computer, even the great Farfisa Organ and the first sampler in history, the Mellotron. Unfortunately, because there is nothing else to this album, that's probably the only crowd to whom it will appeal. I myself am a vintage synth buff, and even I can hear its weakness. I guess this is really a 2.5 for its historical significance, but I don't think this compares to the albums I've given a 3 to.

The problem that often prevents this album from being truly soulful is that it's based almost totally on repeating riffs rather than solos that really let the emotions come out. It's not a problem with the technology, really. In more skilled hands, like those of PINK FLOYD's RICK WRIGHT, I have heard synthesizers from this same period sing, scream, cry, even seem to "talk". And with nothing to balance it out, all of the weaknesses of each synth emerge in glaring fashion, sometimes hiding their strengths, rather than being balanced out by traditional instruments. That's not to say there are no beautiful moments; Part II is in my mind the standout track in its second half. One synth in the background starts to reach a state of soulfulness akin to WRIGHT's work on "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", and it was the one part where I was genuinely moved. Alas, it was too faint and too short. Part IV, incidentally, is the famous song, the one heard on the first Pure Moods compilation. Part V seems to have a reference to the symphony "Bolero", and the 2nd half isn't too bad.

Still, Oxygene is very much what its title suggests: atmospheric...that is, ambient, with little substance or soul to cling to. It can be a chore to take on as a whole, because quite frankly, it's boring even when fast-moving. Parts of it overstay their welcome by quite a lot. I suggest that most people choose instead PINK FLOYD's Wish You Were Here (1975) to hear many of the same synthesizers played in harmony with more timeless instruments, and played by someone who really puts his soul into it. For something a bit more recent than Oxygene but still vintage, I suggest VANGELIS' soundtrack to Blade Runner, where he shows a similar talent to RICK WRIGHT with his ability to wring emotion out of machines.

If you are not a vintage keyboard and synth enthusiast who would have reason to be interested in this as a period piece, much better, much more timeless, and much more soulful work than this can be found. Despite the favorable reviews here, I have to warn people--this is one to be very careful about before purchasing.

FloydWright | 2/5 |


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