Undoubtedly, one of the pioneers of electronic techno and chillout music, Jean Michel Jarre is probably best-remembered for his groundbreaking 1976 Oxygene Album and his spectacular outdoor concerts with dazzling light displays. Now well into his 60s, the French musician is still performing today and has, so far, released an impressive 18 studio albums, 8 live albums, 28 compilation albums, 41 singles and 11 books.
Personally, I would describe Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene album as and instrumental electronica masterpiece, with parts 2 and 4 being my absolute favourite tracks. The album also gave Jarre his first taste of commercial success. Released in December 1976 in France and during the summer of 1977 across the rest of the globe, the album reached #2 in the UK and topped the charts in Jarre's home country.
Oxygene 4 and 2 were released as singles, with the latter being recorded at home which was quite an achievement in the 70s.
Jarre's earlier work is considered his best - Oxygene remains the ultimate Jarre album for many, and although it had less depth than the follow-up album, Equinoxe, the young musican was still experimenting with analogue synths, vocoders and drum machines which created a pretty exciting sound. Indeed, many of today's artists can only dream of creating some of the sound's that this guy was creating way back in the 70's, andhe must have been doing something right, as he has sold over 80 million records Worldwide.
It's still hard to believe that the French composer could improve on Oxygene, but Jarre did just that on his follow-up album Equinoxe. With it's rapid arpeggios and sublime basslines, combined with infectious melodies and futuristic, squelchy sound effects, many would agree that this is Jarre's finest work.
Overall, the album has a deeper sound than Oxygene and at the time the sound was years, if not decades ahead of its time. In fact, it still sounds refreshing today which is quite incredible. Indeed, many of the numerous techno remixes of tracks from the album do little more than add a thumping beat, as all of the elements for modern techno music are already there - and this was 1978!
Parts 5 and 4 were released as singles, respectively, and on 14th July 1979 the French maestro performed a promotional concert at Place de la Concorde in Paris to more than 1 millions people, which broke the World record for the biggest outdoor concert.
I still remember the day when I heard the incredible Equinoxe 5 single on the radio. A tinny radio it may have been, but I'd never heard anything like this before and It gave me goosebumps like never before, too. Hearing the album on a decent system for the first time gave me a feeling that no words in the dictionary can describe. If you're an electronic music fan then you simply have to listen to this album which is a precursor to the techno sound of the 90s.
Released in May 1981, Magnetic Fields (Les Chants Magnetiques) was
Jean Michel Jarre's fifth album and reached #6 in the UK and #98 in the
U.S. The follow-up to Equinoxe saw a slight change in direction for the
French composer with the addition of sampling. In fact, this was one of
the first recordings of the 80's to feature samples - a great example of early 80s electronica.
As with many of Jarre's earlier releases, the album featured one track split into several parts. Side One (It's easy to forget that before Compact Discs there were two sides to an album!) featured Magnetic Fields Part 1, which was 17 minutes and 49 seconds long. Side Two featured Part 2 (3.59), Part 3 (4.15), Part 4 (6.18) and Part 5 (The Last Rumba) (3.30).
Personally, I found Part 1 to be the best track on the album, which is
close to eighteen minutes of sublime, almost trippy ambience. Not all of
the album is like this, though. At times the music ventures into
controversial, cheesy synth pop, particularly Part 5 which sounds like
it's been created using a rumba preset from a Casio keyboard. All of
Jarre's earlier works featured at least one track similar to this one,
and it is something you either love or hate.