Not all masterworks get the attention they deserve at the time of release. Looking at how music reviewers rated Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygène in 1976 is an interesting read. Music Week wrote: “Unfortunately Jarre has produced a work that is ponderous in its self-conscious musicality – he definitely wears his art on his sleeve. Unlike Mike Oldfield he never stands back and laughs at his own creation”. But luckily, the harsh criticism wasn’t to last and the album’s impact steadily grew alongside Jarre’s success. Within a few years the album had become something vital, something both reviews and listeners could not do without – much like oxygen. It truly is a one of a kind album.
To Jarre it was perhaps not a big shock that it took some time before Oxygène became a highly rated album. Not only had he released a few not that successful albums before. The surroundings for the recording weren’t the best either; it is a true low budget album. It was actually recorded on Jarre’s kitchen on a eight-track recorder. But all of this is unimportant, because the Oxygène went on to sell 15 million copies – and got the status it deserves.
An Uneven Classic
Oxygène is a quite different album; the songs doesn’t have names, but are identified as Oxygène parts. It is also highly uneven; some parts are, simply speaking, some of the best music ever released (Part 1, 2, 4) – while some are great, though far from the same masterful quality (I’m thinking about Part 3, 5 and 6).
I have always been amazed by the atmosphere in Part 1. Tangerine Dream may have invented the space style, but Jarre refines it in the Oxygène intro and takes it light-years further. The synths have a velvety yet orchestral feel. Part 2 is beautiful beyond words. It’s larger than life sound always gives me goose bumps. It’s so grand, yet somehow accessible. But even this is overshadowed by Part 4. This is the classic, the icon, the definition of Jarre.
After such groundbreaking tracks, the ten minute long Part 5 is to give the audience a chance to breath again – yet it doesn’t add much to the album. Part 6 is a cool and fresh end to the album.
Nothing can change the fact that Oxygène has become a timeless classic. Before this synth music was something artificial; Oxygene gave it life. It also was Jarre’s breakthrough album, which kick started one of the most successful music careers ever.
I dare you to try to live without Oxygène. It’s impossible.
Score: 100 /100 – See how I rate music here
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