Album review: Jean Michel Jarre (5) – Rendes vous (1986)

“Rendez-vous” is one of my most listened to Jean Michel Jarre albums. It’s up there in my top three and it’s always a pleasure to come back to it. It happens to be his most successful album to date and it was the catalyst for the first of Jarre’s Guiness Book worthy concerts, with 1.3 million people in Houston. The album was supposed to include a saxophone part recorded by astronaut Ron McNail on Challenger as the first piece of music recorded in space but the space shuttle disintegrated after launch and all members of the crew were killed. The final track of the album is dedicated to Ron.

There’s a special kind of darkness in the first rendez vous. The joyful exuberance and experiments of Jarre’s previous albums is gone and I hear worries in the music now. It’s as if the opening cue passes a sentence of emptiness and aftermath. It’s a piece that invites to reflection and in my mind I can link it with that disaster even if the music had no connection with it. “First rendez vous” is a musical requiem that leads into the sudden wake up of the second one. Jarre just pistons his synths and gives out an organ like sound which makes this track feel massive and heavy. Once again I get the feeling of watching an insane wizard experiment in his lab. I like this album so much precisely because of this sensation and because it’s quite unique in the grandeur it projects. The organ, the choirs and vocalizations and the repetitive rhythm create a hallucinatory mood. It sometimes also makes me think of the opening of Ozzy Osbourne’s alchemistic “Mr. Crowley”. I’m fascinated by “Second rendez vous” more than by the rest of the album because the journey it takes me on is lonely and far, far away.

Another reason for me to love this album so much is that the sound sometimes makes me think of Jan Hammer’s music for Miami Vice. The electronic emotion left a very lasting impression, just like “Crockett’s theme” or other cues from that show did.

“Third rendez vous” is the nostalgic piece. The way the track is constructed I can imagine someone remembering something very dear that he or she lost; maybe the very thing that sparked the requiem from before. There’s deep sadness in this one, the sadness of robots.

Once again part four of a Jean Michel Jarre is the most commercially recognizable one. How can you not love, hum or remember “Fourth rendez vous”? This is a perfect piece to be played live, to get a crowd going, and it’s very different from the first three parts of this album. I almost feel like clapping and jumping whenever I listen to this one. It has an instrumental chorus and everything and I imagine Jarre had a lot of fun writing it.

“Fifth rendez vous” goes back to the dreamy robot mode and completes my impression of this album being a scene from life on a distant planet. The aliens tried here to replicate the French Riviera and JMJ’s music brings the water and the boats sailing slowly. It’s all an illusion, of course, but a very vivid one. There are flashbacks of previous tracks from this album in part five and also something that sounds like the end titles of an arcade computer game. The wizard has me under his spell and even if I know I’m under a spell I voluntarily play my part.

“Last rendez vous” is of course the most mournful part of the album. The saxophone part is so different from the rest of the album and it stands out like an everlasting echo. It’s been 30 years since this album was released and it hasn’t lost its appeal. I treat it like a book from which I like to read passages over and over again. It’s a book that’s alive and sucks me in the second I open the cover…

Track rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 35 / 35

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

“First Rendez-Vous”

“Second Rendez-Vous”

“Third Rendez-Vous”

“Fourth Rendez-Vous”

“Fifth Rendez-Vous”

“Last Rendez-Vous (Ron’s Piece)”

 

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