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4.4 out of 5 stars14
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2003
Jean Michel Jarre was the first western musician to be invited to play within the People's Republic of China in October 1981. The concerts were not a huge success: the Chinese audience were unfamiliar with the format and the style of music, and they only warmed to the laser show (which was very impressive at the time). The music was largely underrated, which is a shame as I feel that this CD remains one of Jarre's most impressive works. It collects together excerpts from five concerts that played in Peking in Shanghai.
What makes this album stand out over his other material is the beautiful compositions he wrote to bring his western electronic style in harmony with a traditional oriental symphony orchestra. This is no better illustrated than on the track 'Fishing Junks at Sunset' which is completely mesmerising. Other new tracks he wrote for the concerts include an upbeat track 'Orient Express' and a fascinating piece called 'Night in Shanghai' which really does conjure the mood of walking through different parts of a hot sticky city at night, from the bustle of restaurants to the peace of sitting by the harbour. The final track, "Souvenir of China" is very moody, a slow burning track that suggests weariness, punctured with the incessant click of the Nikon. It's the most autobiographical track JMJ has ever produced.
The rest of the album is mainly taken from 'Magnetic Fields' including a magnificent live version of 'Magnetic Fields 2' (which has since been re-used in many of his live performances). The first track "Overture" is a little bit of a cheek--it's actually a slowed down version of Magnetic Fields 1. There are also a couple of 'Equinoxe' tracks, but there are no versions of Oxygene on this album even though it was his most well known music at the time. The only track that lets it down, and one I have never really liked is 'The Last Rumba (Magnetic Fields 5)' which felt tacked on to the end of the Magnetic Fields album, and still feels out of place here.
Overall this is an excellent album, and if you're a Jarre fan who doesn't already own it, or if you like classical oriental music, I urge you to make the purchase.
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on 18 December 2000
The best thing about this album is the fact that it has several new compositions... but not as many as you may be lead to believe from the track listing. "Band In The Rain" is simply the first section from "Equinoxe Part 8", "The Last Rumba" is another name for "Magnetic Fields Part 5" and "The Overture" is more-or-less "Magnetic Fields Part 1" played at half speed. The track detailed as "Magnetic Fields Part 1" is sadly only 21 seconds long and bears no relation to the original album version.
Some of the new compositions written for this album have obvious Oriental influences, most notably "Fishing Junks At Sunset". These new tracks are respectable, although not Jarre at his most spectacular.
A good album, but it's probably more worthwhile to buy his studio albums first before investigating this release.
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on 2 August 2009
Jean Michel Jarre was the first western contemporary musician to perform in communist China and this live album is a chronicle of those historic concerts that took place in Peking and Shanghai in 1981. It was originally released the following year as a double LP, but this remastered CD conveniently puts all the music, unedited, onto one disc.

This live album is not just a performance of tracks from his previous studio albums as it also features seven new compositions that Jarre made especially for the event and means that roughly 50% of the album features new material.

The first of these tracks - 'The Overture' is technically not a new piece as it is a reworking of the first part of 'Magnetic Fields 1' but is perhaps different enough to merit its own title. The sequencer line has been slowed right down and an ominous drum beat and high guitar-like synth melody played over it. It makes an effective start to the album and concert.

'Arpegiator' is a sequencer-based track that undulates with very Jarre-like chord changes. Although it has no tune as such it is highly atmospheric and is one of my favourite tracks of his.

Jarre has always tried to reflect and evoke the place in his concerts and this is done most overtly here with 'Fishing Junks at Sunset' which was performed with a traditional Chinese orchestra. Here he adds some of his own music to a traditional Chinese melody and the interplay between the orchestra and the electronic instruments is highly effective. It's a beautiful piece and a highlight of the album. It has only been performed twice since these concerts.

'Orient Express' is one of Jarre's more pop-like tracks and works well when performed in concert. It's energetic and fairly evokes that of it's subject without resorting to any cheesy train sound effects. It is not an outstanding track, but good nonetheless and was released as a single.

'Laser Harp' is the weakest of the new tracks as it is rather slight, being a short sequence of synthesizer sound whooshes and effects. The title is rather misleading as it does not actually feature Jarre's famous laser harp from the Rendez Vous (1986) album and subsequent concerts (it pre-dates all that), the laser harp of the title here being just a visual prop and not the fully realised instrument that appeared later. So really this is just a filler piece, albeit a rather atmospheric one.

'Night In Shanghai' is a dramatic piece, inspired by the trauma of the Chinese communist revolution although that is not overtly expressed in the music. Not one of his very best tracks, but quite memorable and one that gets the adrenaline going.

'Souvenir of China' is one of Jarre's most well known and popular tracks which has been played live many times since. It's a lovely, simple tune and captures the feeling of leaving China with memories and souvenirs of the place and ends the album perfectly. A warm piece that was also released as a single.

The other tracks are performances of pieces from Equinoxe (1978) and Magnetic Fields (1981) (the current album at the time, released about 6 months before these concerts) but curiously there are no performances of any pieces from Oxygene (1976) on here. The best performances are of 'Equinoxe 7' which has a long unwinding coda, 'Magnetic Fields 4' and 'Magnetic Fields 2' where the crowd go wild at its full-blooded performance.

One thing to note is that although 'Magnetic Fields 1' was performed and is listed in the track listing of the album, it doesn't actually feature on it - all you get is a few seconds of table tennis sound effects! This is rather disappointing as the performance of it in Shanghai is one of the best ever of this particular piece. Also note that 'Band in the Rain' and 'The Last Rumba' are not new tracks, they are 'Equinoxe 8' (first part) and 'Magnetic Fields 5' respectively.

Throughout the album there are sounds from Chinese life that all contribute to the atmosphere. It captures the event more evocatively than any other JMJ live album since and is therefore IMO still the best to date.

The concerts were also filmed and was released on video Jean Michel Jarre - The China Concerts [1981] [VHS]. The film features some different performances and some tracks that are not on the album, such as the brilliant 'Magnetic Fields 1'.

If you are new to the music of Jean Michel Jarre this is not a bad place to start although I would also recommend his classic studio albums such as Oxygene or Equinoxe even more, or if you want a compilation try Essential Jean-Michel Jarre (2004) or Musik Aus Zeit Und Raum (1983).

A classic live album of an historic series of concerts and essential listening.
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on 11 April 2001
The Concerts in China was Jean Michel Jarre's first ever live album, released in 1982, the year after his China Tour. For the tour, Jean Michel wrote some new compositions...
Fishing Junks at Sunset, Orient Express, Night in Shanghai, Laser Harp, Arpegiator, The Overture and Souvenir of China
My personal favourite from these are Fishing Junks at Sunset, Orient Express and Souvenir of China.
Anyway, overall I give this album a well deserved 5 stars... just what I would give to any other Jarre album... they are all unique masterpieces.
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on 8 April 2013
good CD updating my old vinyl I cannot now play to a quality CD version. I was happy with this product.
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on 19 November 2013
This is one of the Best CD's you've never heard of.
It has something for everyone, and is energetically rivetting.

If you don't love this one, Amazon will give me your money back.
Guaranteed (just kidding that is).

But it, or die trying.
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on 24 April 2014
I had been meaning to buy myself a copy of this for about 25 years and finally bought this on the original release cd which is a double made in west Germany. The sound quality is sublime and it is a real treat to sit down and listen to this.
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on 27 March 2013
We had the cassette tape from the 80s and had always wanted to CD. This CD was from Amazon second hand and very good value. Great to hear the music again.
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on 6 April 2013
Live Concert in China (Double CD) - These are familiar tracks with an oriental twist. Unusual but pleasant. Chinese talking.
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on 17 November 2001
I was at the concerts in China. They were awful; the Chinese audience didn't understand the music and kept talking through them (the only bit they liked was the laser show, which doesn't appear on the CD ;-) ) and Jarre himself almost walked off the stage in frustration at the end. But the CD makes the event sound almost worthwhile. Fine as a musical curiosity - but not really great music, even after all the polishing up that must have been done to turn the live disaster into the recorded just-about-OK concert.
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