Vinyl Moments – Jean-Michel Jarre

What’s great about listening to Oxygène on vinyl is that this is entirely how it’s meant to be heard. I’m lucky that this copy was owned by someone other than me, so is in fantastic condition, sounding crisp and clear, but you can still tangibly feel the warmth of the vinyl.

IMG_0956OK, maybe that is nonsense, but it does sound great, listening the soft introduction to Part I, it does feel as though you have a tangible connection to the young Jean-Michel, recording this on analogue equipment in his bedroom back in the mid-1970s. The deep synth that turns up, a few minutes in, reverberates and sounds every bit as dramatic as it was meant to.

I think Part I and Part II might be my favourites of this album – the mega-hit Part IV is great, but it’s the atmosphere of Side 1 that makes Oxygène so special for me. I wasn’t going to listen to Part II this time, but as the rippling arpeggios mix in, it would seem extremely rude to stop the needle from playing.

What’s fascinating about Oxygène for me is that it really hasn’t dated particularly. The drums sound a little bit naff when they finally turn up a minute or two into Part II, but other than that this sounds amazing.

Of course, this being vinyl, it perhaps isn’t surprising that I need to take the needle off and adjust the head weight, as it starts to skip. There is a downside to this obsolete format too – I’ve lost my place in the music now, and worse – it’s spoilt the mood. Perhaps this isn’t such a great copy after all. Time to change the record.

My copy of the Orient Express single includes an edit of Équinoxe (Part IV), from The Concerts in China, which I’ve always preferred to the original version. I picked this up at a tiny record store in Surfer’s Paradise, in Australia, about twenty years ago, and it still sounds fantastic.

Strangely, at a time when many electronic artists were flourishing, the late 1980s and early 1990s weren’t kind to Jarre, and it wasn’t until 1997 that he was able to forge much of a comeback. Now a quarter of a century into his career, revisiting his biggest hit was seemingly the only way of clawing his way back to popularity, and the first single was Oxygène (Part 8).

Unfortunately in the 1990s, the trend was for the most part not to release your own tracks on vinyl, just remixes, so I’m faced with a slight dilemma about which to pick – I go with the first track on Side B, which is mislabelled in every way – this is the twelve minute Sunday Club “edit”, remixed, apparently, by Takkyu Ishino (it’s actually the Sunday Club mix).

Having skipped twenty years in a couple of minutes, it’s interesting to hear how Jarre’s remixers are now shaping their sound around him. The most commercial of the tracks on Oxygène 7-13, it’s pretty much a four minute pop song on the album, but here it’s been reshaped into a huge, atmospheric piece. It really is very good indeed.

A lot of purists probably hate Sash!‘s take on Oxygène (Part 10), but I’m rather fond of it. It doesn’t sound much like the original, it’s true, but across the three or four different versions he put together, he takes the original track off in very varied directions. If you needed a quick introduction to Jean-Michel Jarre in the mid-1990s, this was a great way to get it.

But that brings this week’s Vinyl Moment to a close – some great slices of soft, gentle, atmospheric synth music, and the dance remixes they inspired, all enjoyed in the way they were meant to be. There is one more – the most recent 12″ single I have for Jarre is a promo for his often overlooked 1998 single Rendez-Vous 98, a collaborative reworking of Fourth Rendez-Vous with Apollo 440, but since I’ve got some singles of theirs as well, I’m going to save that one for next time instead.