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ABBA
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  • Waterloo,
  • ABBA,
  • Arrival,
  • The Album,
  • Voulez Vous,
  • Super Trouper,
  • The Visitors,










  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    ABBA

    Related Artists - The Buggles, Cliff Richard, Slade
    Related Genres - Pop & Dance

    Waterloo 6 ( 1974, UK pos 22 )
    Waterloo / Sitting In The Palmtree / King Kong Song / Hasta Manana / My Mama Said / Dance / Honey Honey / What About Livingstone / Watch Out / Gonna Sing My Lovesong / Suzy Hang Around

    Abba, the most famous band ever to come out of Sweden. Abba, the most famous band to ever break out of the Eurovision Song Contest. 'Ring Ring' had reached number 3 as Sweden's entry in 1973. In 1974, they went one better when 'Waterloo' became the first Swedish song to win the competition. A massive number of european hit singles followed, but 1974 was still early days for Abba as an albums making concern. Anni-Frid Lyngstad ( frida ) and Agnetha Fältskog were to sing the bulk of the groups leads, a duel lead harmony effect, radiant pop! At this early stage however, the guys Bjorn and Benny, those song-writing guys, get a good share of the vocals themselves. As far as the album is concerned musically, keyboard led seventies pop is the order of the day, yet Abba do visit other styles as well. A couple of tunes seem rather folky, a couple of tunes border on rock music. Perhaps most remarkably of all, second song 'Sitting In The Palmtree' dips its toes into reggae waters. The girls are relegated to mere backing vocals for this very cheesy, albeit quite charming, innoffesive slice of euro-pop. In fact, the majority of the album is rather slight, slightly cheesy euro-pop and the bulk of the material struggles to match the quality of the two singles contained on the collection, 'Waterloo' and 'Honey Honey'. Equally however, none of the material here is actually offensive to listen to, no matter how slight it may appear to be on the surface.

    The 'Waterloo' single and euro-vision winner is now regarded as classic timeless pop, those piano rolls, those vocals! There is a certain radiance about the entire performance. As far as the melodies are concerned, this is such inventive pop music melodically that it's no wonder Abba dominated the singles charts so fully for awhile there back in the seventies. 'Honey Honey' works with the female vocals primarily, yet also sees fit to include a bridge section featuring one of the guys on vocals, amidst swirling, very synthetic string sounds. Still, it's a nice little catchy pop song. 'Gonna Sing My Lovesong' sounds like ABBA. Not everything here does, I've already mentioned the reggae-lite of 'Sitting In The Palmtree'. 'King Kong Song' almost sounds like Elton John material, 'Watch Out' opens with a rather neat actually guitar riff. The song suffers terribly after this promising beginning by featuring one of the guys on lead vocals, a rather strained and unconvincing lead vocal. 'Hasta Manana' is light, fluffy acoustic european pop music of the type that appears every single year in the eurovision contest to this very day. Nothing remarkable about songs such as 'Hasta Manana', yet there is enough remarkable things about 'Honey Honey' and the title song to not dismiss this 'Waterloo' album entirely.

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    Readers Comments

    Gary Dobbs South WalesGreat website but the fact that you've reviewed Abba may make me take your views less seriously in the future - these tosser should have all been shot. This ain't music in any sense of the word - it's sugar for the ears - ultimately sickening.


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    Abba 7 ( 1975, UK pos 13 )
    Mamma Mia / Hey Hey Helen / Tropical Loveland / S.O.S / Man In The Middle / Bang A Boomerang / I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do / Rock Me / Intermezzo N1 / I've Been Waiting For You / So Long / Crazy World / Medley

    The ABBA legend has been built upon their singles. This is noticeable more here than it was on their debut. How a single band can on the one hand produce utter pop genius such as Mamma Mia, then on the otherhand produce utter disposable rubbish, is beyond me. It indicates a simple lack of effort, I believe. You see, there is this theory that genius is something that happens to hard working, clever people. It never occurs to anybody that sometimes some average kind of guy or girl can just hit upon a smart idea. Or be lucky. Perhaps Einstein, clever as he was, also had an element of luck within the theories that he hit upon? Who knows?? What I know is that the old adage 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration, is utter bollocks. If that was the case, then Bruce Springsteen would be acclaimed as the greatest musical force known to mankind, of any genre of music, for all time. Anyhow, ABBA's self-titled second album does display signs of progress from 'Waterloo'. 'I Do, I Do, I Do' sappy as it may be, is a sure fire low-cost resort in spain whilst blattered, pop winner! 'Mamma Mia' is actually the only sure-fire ABBA sign of genius here, a pop song so perfectly arranged and executed, that it's a wonder it even exists in the first place. Still. It does exist, and it truly is a trascendent moment in musical history.

    For the most part across this album, ABBA produce a blend of diverse styles, all topped off with those creamy vocal harmonies. 'Hey Hey Helen' nods at glam, 'Man In The Middle' nods at god only knows what, a kind of soul-funk, married to extremely weak ( male abba ) vocals. Ah, I said 'Mamma Mia' was the only genius moment here? Add 'SOS' to that list, another perfectly formed pop gem. A great pop song should have a distinctive introduction, a proper bridge somewhere, a catchy chorus and a proper ending. It shouldn't just stop, it should end with a fanfare of some sort. ABBA seemingly knew how to write perfect pop songs. Or, and this is my main point, did they? Did they actually realise what they were doing, or was there an element of luck or something else? You see, if they knew exactly what they were doing, this whole album would be full of songs as good as 'Mamma Mia' and 'SOS'. Wouldn't it?

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    Arrival ( 1977, UK pos 1 )
    When I Kissed The Teacher / Dancing Queen / My Love My Life / Dum Dum Diddle / Knowing Me Knowing You / Money, Money, Money / That's Me / Why Did It Have To Be Me? / Tiger / Arrival

    Have you ever wondered how that magical ABBA sound came to be? Well, you had Frida and Agnetha singing face to face in the studio. You had the writing team of Bjorn and Benny. Was that all there was to it? Well, not quite. 'Arrival' is the clearest indication that something else was going on. True, many of the fantastic song arrangements were down to the band themselves. I'm actually talking about the sound, the production and the mixing. Abba's regular engineer was apparently a huge Phil Spector devotee, for example. Thus, one guitar becomes two. One bass becomes two. The ABBA sound becomes a lot more luschious than it otherwise might have been! Abba wasn't just the four of them, the people on stage. Their musicians were loyal to them, their engineer and costume designers both played a part, too. Still, those song, those songs! 'Arrival' is the album that contains a good bunch of their best singles, especially with 'Fernando' issued as a bonus track on the latest CD editions. Even more special... and especially.... when considering that this is the album with 'Dancing Queen' on it. I make no bones about the fact that 'Dancing Queen' is one of my absolute favourite songs of all time. This is the one song where ABBA aren't just good, they become pop perfection. Pop music as an art-form. 'Dancing Queen' is a song where both music and vocals are in a perfect relationship with each other. In the chorus, the way the vocals just rise and rise and rise, before falling, delicately. They start falling once the "having the time of your life" section comes in. Thus, as other ABBA songs manage as well, actually, 'Dancing Queen' is both europhic and melancholy. It's europhic melancholy. God, I should stop using these complicated words when I don't have a spell-checker!!

    The other famous songs here are of course 'Knowing Me Knowing You' and 'Money Money Money', neither as sheer genius as 'Dancing Queen', yet both also perfect pop arrangments. The great thing about 'Arrival' is that, for an ABBA album, the 'filler' album tracks are good also. 'When I Kissed The Teacher' makes for a storming opener and sounds like a hit song, also. 'My Love, My Life' is a thing of beauty, wonderful vocals here. 'Dum Dum Diddle' sounds like it has an introduction taken from some old Swedish folk melody, and probably does. Even this song, with its pretty dumb chorus, etc - sounds like perfect pop. That's the beauty of 'Arrival'. ABBA were at the peak of their game for this album. Only the closing few songs seem a little lack-lustre, the closing title song being a smooth instrumental, though. 'Tiger' being an awful lot of fun! Oh, ok. So only 'That's Me' and 'Why Did It Have To Be Me?' are lack-lustre really, then? Well, I suppose so. So, what rating do I give this record? Well, an 8 and three quarters? I think they deserve that for this perfect pop LP moment that is 'Arrival'. Pop is something that's very difficult to make an artform out of. That takes real talent. ABBA seeming had that talent in spades circa the recording of this album.

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    Readers Comments

    wdnervik wdnervik@juno.com
    I like your website for the most part. I must say though that I think you need to listen closer to the records you review. while I absolutely agree that the Notorious Byrd Brothers and Pet Sounds merit a ten as I beleive these are the two greatest albums ever released by american bands. I feel that ABBA is overrated and do not contain a genius on the level of Brian Wilson or DJ Shadow. speaking of which if you go back and listen to Entroducing with a totally open mind you might realize that it eclipsed Pauls Boutique in 1996 as the best sample based record ever made.

    Jem Batemen Lancaster, UK
    Pop perfection (tho I get pretty sick of Dancing Queen, and overall prefer 1979's Voulez Vous). 'Dum Dum Diddle' is quoted for ridicule, but is hardly more whimsical than a lot of late '60s British pop! What I seem alone in thinking about this album is its romanticism's dark side. It opener 'When I Kissed The Teacher' narrates a girl's naive but rather vivid fantasy about her teacher (Benny and Bjorn weren't kids when they wrote this), and Dancing Queen suggests another naive character losing herself in a dangerous Saturday Night Fever cityscape. The woman in Why Did It Have To Be Me is carelessly predatory in casting off her lover, in a complete reversal of the gender roles in wailing '60s girl pop. The vocal delivery is great throughout - I remember every note from my sister's 1976 vinyl original.


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    The Album ( 1978, UK pos 1 )
    Eagle / Take A Chance On Me / One Man One Woman / The Name Of The Game / Move On / Hole In Your Soul / Thank You For The Music / I Wonder / I'm A Marionette

    Listening to 'The Album', I'm immediately taken by the records fabulous production, let's take the closing 'I'm A Marionette', the instrumental disco break that comes in around the two minute mark is superb, the backing track coming across like a great late 70s movie instrumental score. In fact, it's the backing rather than the vocals and certainly rather than the lyrics that rescues this song. I mentioned movie-scores? A few other songs hint at a move into musicals, an area Bjorn and Benny later pursued as writers post-abba, of course. The ballad 'I Wonder' would work in the context of a musical, it's surroundings perhaps lending the song some emotional context. Here, whatever emotions are within the song are rendered uninteresting due to the entire presentation of the piece, a real over the top orchestral/vocal number that eventually cause pain to even have to listen to it. Of other non-single tracks, the spoken segment of 'Move On' isn't at all cool, the rest of the tracks Swedish folk feel rather attractive, however. 'Hole In Your Soul' is rather weak in the vocal department, quite rare to say that about an ABBA track. The vocalists hardly had good material to work with, in any event. This trite disco ballad falling entirely the wrong side of the line marked 'good' into the area boundary known only as 'usually skip this'.

    Still, let's talk about those singles before we go, yeah? 'Take A Chance On Me', good pop, distinctive and great intro. 'The Name Of The Game', a rather restrained pop song by ABBA standards but actually all the better for it, 'The Name Of The Game' shows signs of ABBA having gained real maturity through the years, a song with an amount of depth, no less! And lastly, but by no means least, 'Thank You For The Music', a song that manages to be genuinely touching and magical in the manner of all the very best ABBA singles. The verses are intriguing, the chorus enough to make a great encore at any ABBA show that could ever take place. Well, so there you are. 'The Album', arguably one of the most consistent LP sets ABBA produced, yet a shade behind 'Arrival' in the entertainment stakes, certainly.

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    Voulez Vous 8 ( 1979, UK pos 1 )
    As Good As New / Voulez Vous / I Have A Dream / Angel Eyes / The King Has Lost His Crown / Does Your Mother Know / If It Wasn't For The Nights / Chiquitita / Lovers / Kisses Of Fire / Summer Night City / Lovelight

    A difficult record to make, by all accounts. Recorded around the time Agnetha and Bjorn were going through their marital problems, and during a renaissance in disco music, with the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever and The Bee Gees proving to be all the rage. So, for Voulez Vous Abba try too hard in certain places, the title track in particular straining in terms of its glossy disco production to replicate the sheer popular mainstream funkiness that The Bee Gees were effortlessly producing. Elsewhere, we have a return to Bjorn and Benny's roots with a few songs taking in Swedish folk, we've the compliment of euro-ballads. You know, it's an Abba album, by 1979 we knew what to expect! Yet, the two and a half minute opener, 'As Good As New' opens with a burst of european classical strings before morphing into a disco tune before the chorus arrives, upon which the song turns into very enjoyable Abba pop of the finest order. At the other end of the scale, 'Summer Night City' matches the 'Voulez Vous' title track in trying a little too hard to be a disco monster. It's worse in the case of 'Summer Night City', this track is full of disco cliche, and also, an uneasy mix of disco and the regular Abba euro-pop. In the middle of the album, 'Does Your Mother Know' proves to be a little corker of a pop song with drums, guitar and disco all mixing together beautifully. Despite 'Does Your Mother Know' having Bjorn on lead vocals, the song works. It's a fact that no doubt limited the songs hit potential, but nevermind all of that. 'Angel Eyes' is another song that could have been a huge hit song and to my mind is better than the likes of the albums title track. Actually, taking Voulez Vous as a whole, we can certainly admire the albums production and the switching in styles of the various songs. This makes the 'Voulez Vous' album much more than Abba's take on disco, a spurious fact that's sometimes regurgitated by lazy music critics.

    The singles? Well, i've mentioned the title track, so let's move on to 'Chiquitita', which I've probably spelled incorrectly, but I hope I haven't. It's a difficult word to type, gimme a break! Anyway, this is a gorgeously cheesy pop moment of the kind that fifteen years ago would have had my alternative rock friends running away from me calling me funny names had I admitted I had a fondness for fine Abba moments such as this! No, it's not cool yet this song with roots in Bjorn and Benny's folk upbringing, with its swinging and swaying chorus. With its absolutely awful video, should you remember it! Ah, happy days. Well, you get the idea. A-hem! 'I Have A Dream' was also a single, a true typical Abba ballad of the kind we remember the group for. I'm not so fond of this song as I am other Abba singles, but I can listen to it. It makes the album stronger. It's a surprisingly strong album given i'd been led to believe it was an inferior Abba album from my research. Oh yeah, sometimes I do actually do limited research! Anyway, a solid '8' for this Abba effort and all you indie-hipsters can throw stones at me if you want to. <

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    Lee Auty Bolton
    I hated the whole eurovision aura of ABBA. But what did strike me was they wrote some beautiful melodies and sang them wonderfully. Where they cool ? Of course not. Where they talented ? ... erm actually yes! Its a bit like listening to the "sound of music". The tunes are very good, and once you free your mind of nit picking you get back to the musical outlook that i actually like listening to this stuff. The later stuff they did post divorces i find very emotional on a deeper level. Bring out the flared trousers once more ABBA. We forgive you :)


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    Super Trouper ( 1980, UK pos 1 )
    Super Trouper / The Winner Takes It All / On And On And On / Andante, Andante / Me And I / Happy New Year / Our Last Summer / The Piper / Lay All Your Love On Me / The Way Old Friends Do

    Post divorce Abba enter the 80s in fine synth pop 80s fashion, ABBA right up with the pop trends and creating another commercial blockbuster as a result. The usual clutch of singles are here alongside the usual other songs. Still, some of these other songs reveal a new emotional maturity to ABBA, not entirely surprising considering the personal problems the band were going through at the time. And besides, album tracks such as 'Me And I' and 'Our Last Summer' especially are glorious little songs. 'Our Last Summer' is very evocative and includes nods to The Beach Boys and nods to strange Swedish things, in the production. The chorus is the key to the song, very swoonsome indeed. 'Me And I' is quality pop of the kind other bands would have released as a single, but ABBA of course, being ABBA, had stronger songs than these already good songs to release. The strongest of them all of course being 'The Winner Takes It All', a song it's very hard for even the staunchest ABBA hater to dislike, i'd have thought. It just gets to you, even not knowing the emotional turmoil behind the songs origins, the entire performance is just superb. The layering of the backing vocals, the adding of the piano, the entire arrangement is exactly right and seemingly designed to lend the song even greater emotional resonance. Right on the other side of the scale in emotional terms is the simply good fun of the album title track, but even this has been constructed with love and care.

    Elsewhere, and there's always an elsewhere, 'On And On And On' sounds like ABBA had been listening to The Buggles. 'Happy New Year' is a let-down, a song that descends into wishy-washy Eurovision blandness. 'Andante, Andante' is simply irritating. And it's a shame that this otherwise very strong album is let down by a number of songs that just don't belong on the same album as the other four or five songs here that are just so strong. Ah, well. We can't always have everything, can we? 'Super Trouper' is still strong overall, the good songs bringing the whole to a level that can certainly be called 'good'.

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    The Visitors ( 1981, UK pos 1 )
    The Visitors / Head Over Heels / When All Is Said And Done / Soldiers / I Let The Music Speak / One Of Us / Two For The Price Of One / Slipping Through My Fingers / Like An Angel Passing Through My Window

    Well, we are all happy, aren't we? Both couples had split up by now and this record is quite clearly a reflection of that and also a goodbye. A goodbye to each other, to the music business, to pop music altogether. Hints at Bjorn and Benny writing musicals are already here, the album tries less hard to be upto date with production trends, although the simplicity of a song such as 'Like An Angel Passing Through By Window', with its pure and desolate vocal and its simple clicking backing track is experimentation for a group like ABBA. Something arty and rather like putting your child to bed with a lullaby. Although, a lullaby that somehow has creepy undertones. Ah, 'When All Is Said And Done' is like a proper ABBA single. It's one of the few songs here with an actual upbeat, beat. 'Two For The Price Of One' is at times rather silly and embarrasing and at other times rather interesting in terms of sound and structure, the MALE ABBA vocals backed up by occasional female backing. The song sports a good chorus that saves it. Otherwise it could be fair dismissed. Strangeness in ABBA terms continues to permeate the entire album. 'I Let The Music Speak' is quite a revealing song title for a start, and when the song starts its desolately swirling melody, slowly picked out. Well, until the song picks up with bass and drums and extra layers, although still doesn't manage to pick up in terms of mood. It sounds like a song from a musical, far removed from pop music and when abba cease to be pop music they cease to be. Much was the way it actually happened, the happiness present in ABBA music is entirely absent from the LP, the emotional resonance is still there but without levity, across an albums length, becomes rather trying.

    'Soldiers' musically is quite interesting until it descends into uninspired ABBA by numbers. The title track reveals social commentary and treated vocals, new developments for ABBA. Treated vocals?? Since when did ABBA vocals needs layers of electronic treating?? It's a misplaced nod to then contemporary production trends on an album largely absent of such trends. True, after this the song resembles bouncy ABBA in terms of its musical content, musical content not quite appropriate for the lyrical content. Although, at other times the music resembles the 'War Of The Worlds' LP, perhaps not what you want from ABBA in 1981? It's a confused song, all round. Times truly were coming to an end.

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    Readers Comments

    Colin fernandotrue@yahoo.co.uk
    Hello, Your ABBA Album comments are very interesting. I don't agree with them all - I loathe, 'Does Your Mother Know', & always will. 'As Good As New' should have been the lead Single off 'Voulez Vous' - it would have been a much bigger Global Hit - 'DYMK' only reached Number 4 in the UK, & 10 in West Germany - neither were very good Positions for ABBA Singles, in those Countries. I agree with you, that ABBA try too hard to be 'Disco' on the Songs, 'Summer Night City', & 'Voulez Vous'. Neither Single was as huge as ABBA normally were, in most Countries where they were big. Anyhow, I wanted to point out that you have nmade an error with the Title of a Track on 'The Visitors' Album. You have called, 'Like An Angel Passing through My ROOM', 'Like An Angel Passing Through My WINDOW'. It should be 'ROOM' - as I said.

    Stephen Stephendfall@yahoo.co.uk
    "'Soldiers' musically is quite interesting until it descends into uninspired ABBA by numbers." I couldn't disagree more. Just listen to those intersecting harmonies. Truly angelic, yet deeply human and deeply moving. It is the sound of sheer joy, however bleak the subject matter may be, and quite stunningly beautiful. Soldiers is my favourite Abba song. The album is well worth buying just for this track, although the whole record is pretty good. Please give it another play or two.

    Chris chris_171093@btinternet.com
    My favourite ABBA album. It was clear that it was the end of ABBA's career when 'The Visitors ' was released. I don't know why this album has had spo much negative remarks. iT CONTAINS SOME FANTASTIC SONGS. My favourite track from this album is 'One Of Us.' It was ABBA's last Top 10 hit, sung in December 1981. I also love the glossy ballad 'I Let the Music Speak.' It is telling a story wnd the vocal ranges are brilliant. 'soliders' is sung by Agnetha. It is quite a happy song and contains clever drum beats. 'Head Over Heels' reached only #25 in the charts, but it is just brilliant, anyway. this album also contains the underrated classic 'When all is Said and Done.' It gotto the Top 40 in the US. 'Slipping Through My Fingers' is also somethng special. agnetha said in an interview she based the song on her daughter, Linda. The daft Bjorn vocal favourite 'two For the Price Of One' is really cleverly written, too. The Song 'The visitors' is nearlly six minutes long, but has a f! antastic introduction and superb lyrics indeed. Finally, we have the mysterious ballad 'Like an Angel Passing Through My room.' A creepy and haunting song, but a masterpiece. Also listen to the 'One of Us' B-side 'Should I laugh Or Cry' which was sadly left off the album, but is fantastic! So there you go, there are all the tracks from 'The Visitors.'Please listen to it, as it is an amazing ABBA album. My rating: 10/10


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    this page last updated 22/4/11


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