The last year or so has seen a lot of anniversaries for Jean-Michel Jarre, from his debut single La Cage / Erosmachine, which celebrated its forty-fifth anniversary last year, to Oxygène celebrating its fortieth, and its sequel celebrating its twentieth. Many of those have been celebrated here too.
A decade ago, for the thirtieth anniversary of the original release of Oxygène, Jarre went back and re-recorded the whole thing using exactly the same sounds and instrumentation, giving his lawyers a somewhat inevitable headache when his original record company decided to object. But more interesting than that is the DVD which accompanies the New Master Recording of Oxygène. Entitled Live in Your Living Room, it’s a fantastic live experience.
It opens with Prelude, a beautiful jam built around the sounds from Part I and Part II of Oxygène, which wanders along very pleasantly for just a touch over six minutes before passing the baton back to the first side of the original album. While the DVD’s sound quality is far from perfect, it’s a great and refreshing new way to relive an exceptional piece of music.
What I wouldn’t necessarily recommend is the 3D experience – there were four versions of the album when it came out: one free with a famously racist British newspaper; one as a single disc; then a double disc with the live DVD; and a separate double disc with the 3D version of the live DVD. At the time, the latter sounded pretty exotic, but as we now know after a decade or so of being forced to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in 3D, there’s really very little special about them.
Broadly, these versions are similar enough to the originals, although Part II now has a stomping bass part. But it’s the Variations that really steal the show here – after Part III ends, rather than you having to get up and flip the record over to Side B, you’re treated instead to another gentle piece, rippling along with shades and echoes from the first three tracks. Variation I is really a rather wonderful surprise.
This broader take on the album is expanded out to a full hour, but side B opens, as it should, with Part IV, sounding quite fantastic, again with a large stomping bass part, before the surprising appearance of Variation II, initially sounding a bit like a precursor to Part VI. Much as I love the second and third Oxygène albums, it is perhaps a bit of a shame that the Variations have never yet made it onto a full album release.
After the longest track on the album Part V, we get the last of the new tracks, Variation III, which frankly is brilliant – definitely the best of the new interludes, and possibly even one of the best tracks on here. Honestly, it’s just a continuation of Part V, but whereas the original is long and pensive, this is energetic and beautiful.
All you need after all that is the serene Part VI, and you have an exceptional anniversary celebration – something that’s possibly actually better than the original. Maybe in a decade or so, he could celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Oxygène 7-13 with something similar?
This album is sadly no longer available – hopefully you can find a second-hand copy for a sensible price.