Since their 1974 Eurovision Song Contest victory with "Waterloo," Abba has laid convincing claim to being the world's largest-selling pop group. Certainly, it's a claim taken seriously outside the United States, but, in this country, the band hasn't done nearly as well. They've topped the singles charts only once ("Dancing Queen") and have never broken through at the moneymaking LP level.
Abba's songs have always been a calculated blend of six elements: innocently superficial lyrics, bouncy Europop music, rock energy and amplification,... Read More
soaring melodies, Mamas and Papas high female harmonies and lavish sonic textures. That said, The Album
represents an interesting departure from past formulas and will undoubtedly receive a mixed response. There are several songs on itmostly on the first sidethat are cast in the traditional mold and that are as fine as anything the group has heretofore recorded. But side two is a real attempt to do something different, and, if not everything on it works, the effort is still laudable.
Those of us who love Abba do so because the band is about as pure an example of smart/dumb pop imaginable. Significant rock is all well and good, but there is always a place for pop music that is fun. Most of Abba's past hits have been unadulterated pop, with lyricswritten in English by Swedes who've always had a slightly quaint conception of English syntax and pronunciationthat operate at the most basic level of childish/adolescent fantasy.
But what really counts with Abba is the music, and here the group shows genuine originality. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad may not have particularly striking voices, but both are cute and personable performers vocally and visually, and together they generate a sound that should warm the heart of any fan of the Mamas and the Papas or Phil Spector. However, the real talent in Abba is clearly that of the two composer/producers, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who also play keyboards and guitar, respectively. Also, the work of Stig Anderson, the group's manager and colyricist, and Michael B. Tretow, the engineer, cannot be overlooked. Together, these men and women create the characteristic Abba sound, in which those almost invariably irresistible melodies and hooks are enriched with a sensuousness of instrumental and vocal color that may be unmatched for invention and consistency in the history of pop music.
That richness is richer than ever with this new record, and all four songs on side one benefit mightily from it. There is perhaps a slightly greater effort made with the lyrics than in the past, but essentially these are songs worthy of instant inclusion on any forthcoming greatest-hits LP. (For Abba neophytes, by far the best introduction to this quintessential singles band is Greatest Hits, even if most of the hits weren't hits in America. Anyone who could listen to this record five times and not wind up