Now largely retired and often forgotten, the grandfather of electronic music once made an enormous dent on the world of music by ignoring the typical trappings of success and just noodling on synths a bit. Never afraid to be a little cheesy, his music blends classical elements, synthesised atmospherics, and a whole lot of concept.
Oxygène (Part IV), and perhaps also Part II have been hiding at the back of your consciousness for decades even if you hadn’t realised. Best known for his spectacular live shows where he lights up entire cities with lasers and fireworks, or perhaps for being the first Western musician to perform in China.
Where to start
Jarre does have plenty of good compilations to pick from, but the edits will largely leave you feeling unsatisfied. So without question, start with the original Oxygène (1977). The 2007 reissue including the Live in Your Living Room disc is probably the best, but any remastered or reissued version should be fine.
What to buy
Make sure you buy the remastered versions, as the sound on some of the original CDs is exceptionally poor. Follow Oxygène with its original follow-up Équinoxe (1978), and then get a taste of the incredible live experience that Jarre offers with The Concerts in China (1982). Finally jump forward a couple of albums to the last of his largely faultless period, Rendez-Vous (1986).
Don’t bother with
Anything earlier than Oxygène, unless you’re feeling really brave. Revolutions (1988) is largely awful, and although it has its moments, Waiting for Cousteau (1990) is hard work. Some of the later albums have their moments, but you should probably steer clear of Téo & Téa (2007) for now.
Jarre’s two 1990s albums Chronologie (1993) and Oxygène 7-13 (1997) are a real return to form, giving his earlier sound a much more contemporary feel. His second remix album Odyssey Through O2 (1998) is particularly enjoyable, and the low-key 2002 album Sessions 2000 is full of surprises, particularly March 23.