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ABBA


Country of origin:

Sweden

Type of music generally:

Mainstream pop, dance

Status:

No longer recording

See also:

The ABBA site

Both of the group's female singers, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (known as Frida) and Agnetha Fältskog, have also released solo albums: see The Ectophiles' Guide's entry for Frida

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

Recommended for '70s dance/pop music fans

Recommended first album:

Greatest Hits, Volume 2 covers their period of greatest achievement. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Recordings:

Abba released quite a number of albums before breaking up, including: Many further compilations have been issued since the group's demise.

Voulez-Vous

Release info:

1979—Polar (distributed by Polygram)—821 320-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Low

Group members:

Agnetha Fältskog—vocals
Annifrid Lyngstad—vocals
Benny Andersson—vocals, keyboards
Bjorn Ulvaeus—vocals, guitar

Produced by:

Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus

Comments:

Outside of their greatest hits compilations, ABBA albums were always a mixed bag. With a handful of perfectly crafted pop songs of the very highest quality padded out with decidedly pedestrian fillers of little or no interest. The passage of time has emphasised that distinction. With the exception of the title track, all the good songs on this album can also be found on Greatest Hits, Volume 2. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Greatest Hits, Volume 2

Release info:

1979—Polar (distributed by Polygram)—800 012-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Medium to high

Group members:

Agnetha Fältskog—vocals
Annifrid Lyngstad—vocals
Benny Andersson—vocals, keyboards
Bjorn Ulvaeus—vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin

Guest artists:

Rutger Gunnarsson—bass
Mike Watson—bass
Rolf Alex—drums
Ola Brunkert—drums
Roger Palm—drums
Lars O. Carlsson—flute, saxophone
Bengt Sundberg—french horn
Gunn Wennberg—french horn
Anders Glenmark—guitar
Janne Schaffer—guitar
Finn Sjoberg—guitar
Lasse Wellander—guitar
Gloria Lundell—harp
Malando Gassama—percussion
Ake Sundqvist—percussion
Ulf Andersson—sax
Halldor Palsson—sax
Kajtek Wojciechowski—sax
Christer Danielsson—trombone

Produced by:

Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus

Comments:

The one Abba album that should be in every pop-fan's collection. This release (comprising songs drawn from the albums ABBA, Arrival, ABBA—The Album, and Voulez-Vous) covers the group's most inspired years (1975-1979) and every track is a winner. The lyrics plumb no great depths of sophistication but the pop sensibility of the songs and performances of ABBA at their best has rarely if ever been bettered, and this album is the perfect demonstration of that. Supremely crafted pop music of the highest distinction. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

Super Trouper

Release info:

1980—Polar (distributed by Polygram)—800 023-2

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Low

Group members:

Agnetha Fältskog—vocals
Annifrid Lyngstad—vocals
Benny Andersson—vocals, keyboards
Bjorn Ulvaeus—vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin

Guest artists:

Per Lindval—drums
Ola Brunkert—drums
Mike Watson—bass
Rutger Gunnaersson—bass
Lasse Wellander—guitars
Janne Schaffer—guitars
Ake Sundkvist—percussion
Lars O. carlsson—sax
Kajtek Wojciechowski—sax
Janne Kling—sax, flutes

Produced by:

Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus

Comments:

By now the inspiration was beginning to wear a little thin. A typically excellent production job by the two 'B's can't conceal an increasing weariness that pervades both the songwriting and the singing. In spite of this, "The Winner Takes it All" is pretty near vintage ABBA and "Lay All Your Love on Me" isn't so very far off. Nostalgia value only these days. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

The Visitors

Release info:

1981—Polar (distributed by Polygram)—POLCD 342

Availability:

Generally available

Ecto priority:

Low

Group members:

Agnetha FFaltskogauml;ltskog—vocals
Annifrid Lyngstad—vocals
Benny Andersson—vocals, keyboards
Bjorn Ulvaeus—vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin

Guest artists:

Ola Brunkert—drums
Per Lindvall—drums
Rutger Gunnarsson—bass
Lasse Wellander—guitars
Ake Sundqvist—percussion
Jan Kling—flute, clarinet

Produced by:

Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus

Comments:

The title track stands head and shoulders above the rest on this, the last album the group made before they split. It's hard to know if in different circumstances it might have heralded a new, deeper and more sophisticated, direction for their music but certainly it is quite different from the perfect disco-pop ABBA were rightly famed for. Elsewhere, there is a distinctly valedictory quality to many of the songs and the closing diptych ("Slipping Through my Fingers" and "Like an Angel Passing Through my Room") provide an eerily subdued and wistful end to an era. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

The Visitors, a U.S. flop, was ABBA's last album (unless someone knows different?), and it has all the hallmarks of a contractual obligation. Bjorn and Benny's wandering loyalties (Broadway beckoned) are apparent on many of the songs, most notably the melodramatic, popoperatic 'I Let the Music Speak,' with its sudden changes of tone and style. Actually, this one and 'Soldiers' are melodically elaborate enough, and tonally dark enough, to be Happy Rhodes songs.
     My favorite song on this album, my favorite ABBA song, is the title track. The first time I heard this song was on Chicago's WXRT when the album came out in 1981, when XRT was still a Progressive Rock station; a station that would not be caught dead playing ABBA. The DJ played 'The Visitors' and challenged listeners to guess who it was. No one could. 'The Visitors,' if you can believe it, is a song about paranoia and insanity. An ABBA song about paranoia and insanity. A dance song about paranoia and insanity: Silly, no?
   What I like most about this song is the camp-psychosis's juxtaposition with the dark, heavy bass of the dance beat and the forced eeriness of the Indian-inflected (I'm not making this up) vocals. If the lyrics weren't so silly (and the instrumentation somewhat toothless), I'd compare it to a Danielle Dax song.
     There are, of course, some inexcusably bad songs (the punchline of the one about a man who answers a single's ad that offers "Two for the Price of One" is that the second is the first's mother) but ABBA's lyrics have never, ever been held up by anyone, anywhere, as a strength—they're usually happy enough to rhyme in English. But you can't fault them for melodies and voices, even if they sometimes sound, especially the backing harmonies, like a cartoon mouse doing Arnold Schwarzenegger. (lissener@wwa.com)


Thanks to Steve Fagg for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2006-11-20 17:40:16.
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