Top positive review
Technical issues with the remastering, but still great music
on 21 January 2015
As several CD reviewers have pointed out, this seems to be a somewhat flawed release in terms of the remastering (and that's possibly an understatement, but I won't pretend to be an expert in production matters). I want this review to concentrate on the music, rather than the merits of the re-issue relative to the 1980s original. I'll simply drop one star in respect of the mastering problems.
"Rendez-Vous" holds a special place in my heart. It was the first Jarre album that I purchased (on cassette tape!) with my own saved-up pocket money. And I still love it dearly for its warmth and optimism. Even the title and album artwork are suggestive of a call for togetherness that also lies at the heart of the music.
Jarre nearly always opens his albums well, and this is no exception. First Rendez-Vous is beautiful: sparse and simple, with an improvised feel. I like to picture Jarre in his studio, simply playing in the notes from a couple of keyboards while recording this track. It also acts as a prelude, introducing melodies to be explored more fully later on.
But while First Rendez-Vous may set you afloat on a dreamy cloud to begin with, Second Rendez-Vous begins with a siren-like urgency: a memorable hook that launches the album's most ambitious and innovative sequence. This is Jarre at his most orchestral, and it's no wonder that this piece works so well in live performance. Strings, brasses and choirs pound out dramatic fanfares. There's also a delicious foot-tapping sequence that features the thunderous "laser harp" (actually an Elka Synthex), which reprises the bassline that was introduced by the first track. The initial hook then fades back in to signal the grand finale: orchestral and choral fanfares return, and a synth lead soars over the top, exploiting Jarre's ingenious use of pitch-bend to great harmonic effect before the track comes to a cymbal-crashing close.
Third Rendez-Vous provides a reflective pause, and here the noble laser harp takes centre stage with a stately and nostalgaic theme.
No Jarre album is complete without the crowd-pleasing big tune, and Fourth Rendez-Vous famously provides it here. For me, this is the album's least interesting track, but I won't say it's a weak point. The tune is famous for a reason: it's a great one. But there's little else to say.
Fifth Rendez-Vous is another multi-segmented work that gives itself ample time to breathe and develop. The slow opening has an improvised feel once again, and a lovely bell-like sonority. The more agitated later section is actually reworked from the mythical "Music for Supermarkets" album.
The poignant final track, aptly named "Last Rendez-Vous" (and even more aptly subtitled "Ron's Piece") was to be performed and recorded in space by the astronaut and saxophonist Ron McNair, who was among the seven who lost their lives on the ill-fated Challenger shuttle mission of 1986. The piece now makes a fitting musical tribute: an elegiac saxophone solo drifts reflectively amidst a luminous backdrop of string-like harmonies.
I haven't heard this album since I virtually wore out the cassette version in my teens. Despite the technical problems of this re-issue, it was like being greeted by an old friend.