Jean Michel Jarre

The Concerts in China

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Jean-Michel Jarre performed a handful of concerts in Peking and Shanghai in 1981, marking the first time that a modern Western musical artist had played in communist China. Sensing the historical importance of the event (and the career milestone it represented), a double album of live music from these concerts was released the following year as Les Concerts en Chine. The release is half musical travelogue (featuring new pieces presumably inspired by China) and half career retrospective, with faithful reproductions of excerpts from Equinoxe and Les Chants Magnetiques (Magnetic Fields) interspersed with new works and snippets of Chinese dialogue. There has always been a strong visual component to Jarre's live shows, which the listener is left out of on these recordings (small pockets of applause during some of the songs allude to the graphic goings-on), but even without the lights and lasers this is engaging stuff. Highlights from the show include "Jonques de Pecheurs au Crepuscule" (Fishing Junks at Sunset), a welcome respite from Jarre's ultra-modern music that features a traditional Oriental arrangement, and new works like "Arpegiateur" and "Nuit a Shangai" that compare favorably with the brisk, streamlined sound of Tangerine Dream in the early ‘80s. Connecting these sections with dialogue and street noises (some of which, in the case of "Les Chants Magnetiques," have always been there) breaks up the concert nicely, although two lighthearted intermissions ("L'Orchestre Sous la Pluie" and "La Derniere Rumba") make too fine a point of it. Owners of Equinoxe and Les Chants Magnetiques expecting to hear a new interpretation of these albums won't find any surprises on Les Concerts en Chine except a short ping-pong match inexplicably billed as "Les Chants Magnetiques I." The real attraction is the new music, and the newness that all of this must have held for its audience. [Regrettably, when Dreyfus reissued the concert on compact disc in 1992, it opted to split the original double LP into two separate discs as Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.]

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