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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jean Michel Jarre

Oxygene

Review by Larry Toering

Many critics have considered it one of the first new age albums. It can also be categorized as electronica, but it fits well into the category of progressive rock alongside similar artists. Jean Michel Jarre is a keyboard/electronic musical genius of maximum proportions and this is most often considered his defining magnum opus. I’m not sure that’s true but it started something that’s still brewing in him to this day. His work is pioneering here, simply over and above his peers (assuming he has any). I still find it mesmerizing to this day. This is not an easy thing to review track by track, although it fades between tracks it is of course a six part concept that basically runs together. I’ve still never known exactly what the concept is, except that of an impression of oxygen itself combined with a wordplay factor, however it has always had a truly satisfying effect on the ears, intensely soothing and relaxing, it still thrills me and calms me simultaneously, every time I hear it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Oxygene pt.1
The first part runs at seven-minutes and forty seconds, and sets the entire concept up so well with its moody introduction. This leaves a most intriguing impression on the ears and the rest proceeds to deliver where no one had managed to do so before it.
Oxygene pt.2
This is where things begin to take off as Jarre begins to let one know what he’s doing. There is no looking back at this point. It clocks in at a little over eight-minutes. One can tell where things are headed by this point.
Oxygene pt.3
This is rather brief at two-minutes and fifty-four-seconds but helps take the listener into uncharted territory as it sets things up for the next part. This is where I always begin to get excited when I play it, because it acts like such a prelude to the rest of the disc.
Oxygene pt.4
Now Jarre really lets it fly for once and shows his overall chops by introducing some skills that the preceding parts don’t even indicate are in his possession. There are a lot of chimes and other atmospheric flurries to round it out.
Oxygene pt.5
This is where the whole concept comes together, a ten-minute and twenty-three-second masterstroke. All of a sudden one is battered and bruised by the sheer excitement of his intensity and diversity. This is probably one of my favorite keyboard instrumentals of all time. It stands to this day as one of the greatest pieces in his illustrious career. With the addition of more chimes and other effects it features the vernacular of Jarre’s keyboard wizardry. He simply flies on this like no other.
Oxygene pt.6
After such a ride through time and space, this chills things back down a bit, as if the former track renders it below the peak of the rollercoaster and lets the ears settle. This is a most satisfying outro experience at a very appropriate six-minutes and forty-seconds of sheer futuristic ear candy. This last part is a perfect way to end such a pioneering and hugely progressive recording for its time and well beyond. Oxygene to this day stands the proverbial test of time so very well.
 
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