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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: The Concerts In China (1982)

“This is a remarkable work and a kind of compilation where Jean-Michel Jarre gives a new dimension to his music”

1-1 The Overture 4:47

1-2 Arpegiator 6:54

1-3 Equinoxe IV 7:49

1-4 Fishing Junks at Sunset 9:38

1-5 Band In The Rain 1:29

1-6 Equinoxe VII 9:54

2-1 Orient Express 4:22

2-2 Magnetic Fields I 0:21

2-3 Magnetic Fields III 3:48

2-4 Magnetic Fields IV 6:49

2-5 Laser Harp 3:35

2-6 Night In Shanghai 7:02

2-7 The Last Rumba 2:07

2-8 Magnetic Fields II 6:30

2-9 Souvenir Of China 3:54

Polydor ‎– 811 551-2 (2 CD 78:53)

(French School and easy E-Rock)

In October 1981, Jean-Michel Jarre became the first Western artist to play in China since the death of Mao Zedong. It took two years of negotiations before the Chinese authorities agreed to see the French synthesist landed in their country. Beijing and Shanghai were the town targeted and its people will be the privileged ones for to attend to the five mega concerts' events. And nearly 150,000 spectators, die-hard fans are talking about 180, 000, attended to this fascinating musical festival where Jarre and his friends gave five electric performances that amazed the Chinese and other fans of the French musician with the release of a splendid double album and a video which unfortunately has not aged well. CONCERTS IN CHINA also closed a first chapter, we didn't know at the time, of the great story of Jean-Michel Jarre; his fully analog and cosmic period.

The Overture starts the show. It looks like a new adaptation of Magnetic Fields' second part, the album was just released, with a slower, a more looped rhythm that enchants with an unsuspected richness of sound and new sharpness at the level of synth solos played with nervous keys. We barely recognize the title. Arpegiator, which is part of the unreleased tracks performed at the China mini-tour, follows with a wave of sequenced pulsations that roll in loops among percussions and other percussive elements, including those that mimic a rattlesnake shaking its metal tail. Well sat on its stationary rhythmic base, the sequenced beats become enveloped by synth pads filled of cosmic tones or by dramatic effects such as circular sirens before attempting a Funky approach that hops under orchestrations. This is a very good title that would have done well in Magnetic Fields. The big wooshh and waashh that surround the introduction of Equinox IV remain less seductive than its rhythmic opening. A very good performance a little slower, but more in mode cosmic rock than on the album including the addition of real percussion hammered by Roger Rizzitelli, a musician from Space Art. After this track, we are entitled to the first Polaroid samplings of the China trip. Behind a field of Chinese voices, a tourist photographs everything that moves. You can hear his photo film wrap in his camera flashing at a brisk pace. A harp opens Fishing Junks at Sunset. Gently the music becomes a mythical Chinese dance arranged by the Peking Philharmonic Orchestra but composed by the French musician. Synth layers and cosmic effects come to deposit an electronic shroud on this new title of Jean-Michel Jarre's repertoire which is more philharmonic than electronic. But it remains very good with some nice moving passages. Band in The Rain is the penchant for French folklore with its happy troubadour perfume playing the accordion on the banks of the Seine. This brief moment is deviating towards a fascinating shared introduction between the philharmonic and electronics of Equinox VII. This is a strong point here with this Chinese crowd who yells and claps hands in a respectful and clandestine way. This is a good adaptation that is in line with the interpretation of Equinox IV. This bit of slowness allows us to better discern and appreciate the unfolding of the sound effects and the multitude of layers and the drummer's great work. The finale is buried in mute by a carnival song or a national anthem ... That's how the CD1 ends!

Orient Express opens CD2. This other new composition is in the very commercial genre with a catchy rhythm and a great synth melody that screws an earworm straight to the bottom of our ears. The Chinese public is conquered but seems quite astounded in front of this virtual ping-pong game that became Magnetic Fields I. Original and fun, the title is melting on samplings of a virtual station and goes to the amazing interpretation of Magnetic Fields III, and finally to Magnetic Fields IV. Adding a real drummer to these titles makes a whole difference. And then it's the turn of Laser Harp that is more fascinating to see than to hear. At least in CONCERTS IN CHINA. This short intrusion into the world of musical unrealism is followed by samplings of the Beijing radio that makes announcements on the concerts of Jean-Michel Jarre in China. Another new title, Night in Shanghai unrolls its loops of analog sequences between lines of choppy orchestrations and bites of percussions' strikes. The illusion of an angry or a rebellion movement is noticeable on this song that feels improvisation and that is nibbled by good synth solos. Solos that brings us to The Last Rumba. Subsequently, it's the voice of an over-excited presenter who presents Magnetic Fields II that gives impetus and enthusiasm to a correct interpretation, but which obviously lacks resources at the sound and / or recording levels. As a result, the melodious portion of the synths plays like muted. But no matter, THE CONCERTS IN CHINA is a superb album filled with new titles that are all very good, like Souvenir of China whose many samplings don't manage to extinguish the very melancholy vision of this slow tempo. If for Jarre this album means the beginning of a new part of his career, for his fans it's also the beginning of a long collection of pharaonic concerts that the producer of the French musician will put on vinyl, CDs and films for the fun of the eyes and of our ears.

I believe that this CONCERTS IN CHINA is a must. A remarkable work and a kind of compilation where Jean-Michel Jarre gives a new dimension to his music, with the support of a band of professional musicians in Frederick Rousseau, Dominique Perrier, Pierre Mourey and Roger Rizziteli as well as the Philharmonic Orchestra of Beijing. If the sound has its deficiencies, the level of titles and the complicity between musicians manage to diminish this slight problem. A timeless memory that I always manage to listen with pleasure some 25 years later but that would need a real good remastering. At both sound and visual levels. A must for fans of Jarre and a great way to discover all the talent of this diplomat of French culture.

Sylvain Lupari (28/10/2006) *****

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