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Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygène CD (album) cover


Jean-Michel Jarre


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3.91 | 338 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars By 1976 Kling Klang was well underway and "Stratosfear" was on many a speaker. Even the hairy simians of rock and roll were becoming familiar with the sound of technology as more complex and compelling synthesizer technology infiltrated all corners of the musical landscape. Yet the idea of an accesible and succesful all-synth album seemed somewhat unlikely, as the general record-buying public still tended to regard such artists as Wendy Carlos to be more of a novelty act (despite buying his/her "Switched on" albums in impressive numbers).

Enter a diminuative showman from France. Previous to this offering, Monsieur Jarre had made a respectable (if largely unrecognized) mark in songwriting and film scoring, but had also been tending to a growing obsession with electronic music. The rest is history; "Oxygene" quickly catapulted to worldwide success, assisted in no small part by Jarre's tremendous stage shows- and his Gallic good looks probably didn't hurt one bit. The influence of this album is immeasurable; Jarre stands as one of a small handful of major pioneers and inspirations for anyone who came after that made music which required circuitry.

In my opinion, "Oxygene" struggles a bit to live up to its own acclaim. It's undoubtedly a work of startling originality and enveloping atmospherics, but the sounds themselves waver between timeless and kitschy and the actual musical content is spread rather thin. Jarre couldn't quite match KRAFTWERK's quirky minimalism or OLDFIELD's musical menageries. It's understandable that a newcomer to the album, in these days of MIDI sequencing and virtual synth technology, might be a little underwhelmed; any half- decent ambient DJ can now crank out albums like this in a matter of days. As a piece of musical history, it deserves everything it is awarded- but taken on its own, it is not an entirely satisfying experience.

If you have any interest at all in electronic music, you should own this album. You may well find that you like it very much (I certainly did, when I first heard it). However, a true classic should probably have a little more musical meat on its bones, and repeated listenings of "Oxygene" do not tend to reveal any hidden depths. Jarre live is an unforgettable experience; Jarre recordings, however, aren't nearly as impressive.

James Lee | 3/5 |


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