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Pop - Released September 2, 2021 | Polar Music International AB

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Pop - Released September 2, 2021 | Polar Music International AB

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Dance - Released April 27, 2021 | Astoria - Stardust Records

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Dance - Released April 27, 2021 | Astoria - Stardust Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2014 | Polar Music International AB

ABBA Gold: Complete Edition is a curious release -- with two discs of material, it's probably too much for casual listeners seeking only ABBA's biggest chart hits (available instead on the single-disc Gold collection), while more serious fans will have already invested in the four-disc Thank You for the Music box set, rendering this package almost totally irrelevant. There's undoubtedly great music here, of course -- the problem is just that it's unlikely to fill the needs of most consumers. © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2014 | Polar Music International AB

ABBA's second (and U.S. debut) album contains the American Top Ten title track, as well as "Honey, Honey," a minor U.S. hit that deserved better. This album is rather unusual in the group's output, however, for the fact that the guys are still featured fairly prominently in some of the vocals, and for the variety of sounds -- including reggae, folk-rock, and hard rock -- embraced by its songs. The reggae number "Sitting in the Palmtree" is quite remarkable to hear, with its perfect Caribbean beat and those radiant female voices carrying the chorus behind the beat. "King Kong Song" is a good example of hard rock by rote, going through the motions of screaming vocals and over-amplified guitar (courtesy of Janne Schaffer), although even here, when the women's voices jump in on the choruses, it's hard not to listen attentively; the quartet knew what a powerful weapon they had, but not quite how to use it. They get a little closer to their winning formula on the catchy, folky-textured pop song "Hasta Mañana," which sounds like a lost Mary Hopkin number. "Dance (While the Music Still Goes On)" is on the money as the embodiment of the Euro-disco sound that the group would embrace on their future albums, although it also hints at a vague oldies sound, with a melody that somehow reminds this listener of both the Four Seasons' "Dawn" and the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby." © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2014 | Polar Music International AB

Recorded during ABBA's hugely successful world tour of 1979-1980, Live at Wembley Arena features the Swedish pop group performing in concert at London's Wembley Arena in November, 1979. Coming on the heels of the group's sixth studio album, 1979's Voulez-Vous, the tour was a sensation as the notoriously studio-bound four-piece had never before embarked on such an extensive live tour. Culled from ABBA's four-night stand at the storied London venue, Live at Wembley Arena features 25 of the group's songs including such well-known cuts as "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "Waterloo," and "Dancing Queen." Also showcased are such less-appreciated numbers as "If It Wasn't for the Nights," "Why Did It Have to Be Me," and "Summer Night City." Also included is the previously unreleased song, "I'm Still Alive." While ABBA were primarily known for crafting their infectious, pristinely produced pop in the studio, they were also a superb live outfit who could reproduce their multi-voiced harmonies on-stage with enthusiastic precision. Add to that the attention to detail with which the group's backing ensemble re-created their complex, layered arrangements and you have a supremely listenable, anthology-like concert experience. Which isn't to say that ABBA played robotic by-the-numbers versions of their songs. On the contrary, these are rollicking, exuberant performances that reveal a band not only indebted to their fans, but clearly just as passionate about performing their songs as they are about recording them. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2014 | Polar Music International AB

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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Polar Music International AB

If it seems as though the familiar ABBA sound isn't present on this album, that's because there was no entity known as ABBA at the time that the earliest sides here were recorded. Growing out of an attempt by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus to record together with their respective companions, Agnetha Faltskog and Frida "Anni-Frid" Lyngstad, the first side cut here, "People Need Love," featured the two men singing just as prominently as the women, and was credited to "Bjorn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid." It was only after its release and the cutting of a further single, "Ring, Ring," that the more familiar sound of the quartet began to coalesce along with the idea of a permanent professional association. Unreleased in the United States until 1995, this album is more of a generic European pop release than an ABBA release; the music has several unusual attributes, including Andersson and Ulvaeus singing lead on several cuts, and also one original song, the moody ballad "Disillusion," co-authored by Agnetha Faltskog. Most of what's here is pleasantly upbeat Europop, with unusually good playing and a lot of spirit, all showing the influence of mainstream American and British pop/rock, including the late-era Beatles and early Elton John, and on the title track, a Phil Spector-proportioned production. Ring Ring was reissued in October of 2001 with extensive notes, state-of-the-art sound, and three bonus tracks: the single B-sides "Merry-Go-Round" and "Santa Rosa" (a smooth piece of California-style rock in the mold of the early Eagles) and the Swedish version of "Ring, Ring" (which charted number one in Sweden to the English version's number two spot). © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | Polar Music International AB

To celebrate ABBA's 40th anniversary, Polydor released the 2012 compilation The Essential Collection, which includes 39 songs by the Swedish hitmakers and a 12-page booklet. The two-CD album is basically an update of the 2002 compilation The Definitive Collection, adding several Japanese A-sides to that collection's track list ("Bang-a-Boomerang," "That's Me," "One Man, One Woman," and "Happy New Year"). The Essential Collection is also available as a DVD with 36 music videos and promo clips (including two previously unreleased Spanish videos) and as a limited deluxe edition with both CDs and the DVD in a hardcover book containing a 24-page booklet with liner notes by ABBA biographer Carl Magnus Palm. © Christian Genzel /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2012 | Polar Music International AB

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
ABBA's final album was recorded during a period of major personal shakeups, principally in the decision by Benny Andersson and Frida to follow the same route to divorce that had already been taken by Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog. Both male members of the group would soon remarry, but at the time, despite all of these changes in their circumstances, The Visitors was never intended as ABBA's swan song -- they were to go on recording together. That may explain why, rather than a threadbare, thrown-together feel, The Visitors is a beautifully made, very sophisticated album, filled with serious but never downbeat songs, all beautifully sung and showing off some of the bold songwriting efforts. The title track is a topical song about Soviet dissidents that also manages to be very catchy, while "I Let the Music Speak" sounds like a Broadway number (and a very good one, at that) in search of a musical to be part of, and "When All Is Said and Done" is a serious, achingly beautiful ballad with a lot to say about their personal situations -- even "Two for the Price of One," a lighthearted song sung by Björn Ulvaeus about answering a personal advertisement, offered several catchy hooks and beautiful backup singing. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" ended the original album on a hauntingly ethereal note, but not as any kind of larger statement about the quartet's fate. The intention was to keep working together, but Andersson and Ulvaeus' growing involvement with their stage project, Chess, prevented any further work together by the group beyond three songs, "The Day Before You Came," "Cassandra," and "Under Attack" -- they're all present as bonus tracks on the 2001 remastered edition (in gatefold packaging), along with the orphaned B-side "Should I Laugh or Cry" from the same sessions as The Visitors, and only add to the appeal of the original album. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Polar Music International AB

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Polar Music International AB

The multi-million unit sales of ABBA Gold led to the creation of this 20-song compilation, containing the remaining singles from the group plus other notable tracks. None of what's here is as tuneful or compelling as the group's most successful recordings -- though the arrangements and, especially, the vocals are, as always, almost idealized in their crystalline purity -- and most of the tracks won't be familiar to listeners in all countries, since a number were hits in specific limited national markets. At the time, in 1993, the sound was an improvement over the existing CDs on which the tracks appeared, although, like ABBA Gold, this collection is crying for fresh remastering in 24-bit audio. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

Widely considered the Swedish foursome's first classic album -- and historically important as the first to use the now-famous mirror-B logo -- 1976's Arrival contains three huge hit singles, the dramatic "Money Money Money," the downcast "Knowing Me, Knowing You," and quite possibly the band's finest four minutes, the absolutely perfect pop classic "Dancing Queen," a combination of Spector-ian grandeur, McCartney-esque melody, and the indescribable vocals of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The rest of ABBA's fourth album is strikingly consistent and accomplished, from the sly, bouncy "When I Kissed the Teacher" to the atmospheric title track, making room in between for the three excellent singles and five other substantial pop tunes. Although three LPs and a greatest-hits compilation preceded it, Arrival is aptly titled, as this album announces the band's move beyond bubblegum. © TiVo Staff /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

Commercially, Super Trouper, ABBA's seventh album, was another worldwide blockbuster. "The Winner Takes It All," its lead-off single, released several months in advance of the album in most territories, was a smash; for example, it was the group's 14th consecutive Top Five hit in the U.K. and their eighth number one there. The title track was also a British chart-topper (their last), as was the album, their sixth. "Lay All Your Love on Me" made the U.K. Top Ten, and "On and on and On" was released as a single in some countries, hitting the Top Ten in Australia. (Typically, American success was more modest, though the album went gold, and "The Winner Takes It All" was a number one adult contemporary and Top Ten pop hit.) Musically, Super Trouper found ABBA, always trend-conscious, taking account of the passing of disco and returning to the pop/rock sound typical of their early albums. Only "Lay All Your Love on Me" employed a dance approach. The title song had the kind of martial beat and pop sound more in keeping with the group that had broken through with "Mamma Mia" and "S.O.S.," and "On and on and On" paid homage to one of their chief influences, the Beach Boys, with an arrangement reminiscent of "Do It Again." Lyrically, there was a distinct sense of world weariness and melancholy, from the divorce lamentations of "The Winner Takes It All" to the dissatisfaction with touring expressed in "Super Trouper" and even the nostalgia for a simpler time in "Our Last Summer." For performers on top of the world, the members of ABBA were putting an unusual amount of what sounded like real unhappiness into their pop music. [The 2001 reissue added "Elaine," a non-LP B-side, and "Put on Your White Sombrero," an outtake. Both were excellent songs.] © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

That it took nearly a year to record Voulez-Vous is an indicator of the creative and personal constraints in which the four members of ABBA found themselves at the end of the '70s. Their sixth album coincided with the marital split between Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus and the massively shifting currents in popular music, with disco, which had been on the wane, suddenly undergoing a renaissance thanks to the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever. Thus, about half of Voulez-Vous shows the heavy influence of the Bee Gees from their megahit disco era. This is shown not just in the fact that the backing track for the title song was cut at Criteria Studios in Miami, where the Bee Gees had cut Main Course, Children of the World, and most of the rest of their disco-era music, but through the funky beat that ran through much of the material; yet the album still had a pair of soft, lyrical Europop-style ballads, "I Have a Dream" and "Chiquitita," both of which proved as popular as any of the more dance-oriented songs, and were reminders of Fältskog's and Ulvaeus' roots, in particular, in popular folk music during the mid- to late '60s. Those two songs, plus "Angeleyes," "Does Your Mother Know," and the title cut, were all Top Five singles in England, although only "Chiquitita" and "Does Your Mother Know" were Top 40 hits in America, where the album's sales peaked at a modest 500,000 or so. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

ABBA's self-titled third album was the one that really broke the group on a worldwide basis. The Eurovision Song Contest winner "Waterloo" had been a major international hit and "Honey, Honey" a more modest one, but ABBA was still an exotic novelty to most of those outside Scandinavia until the release of ABBA in the spring of 1975. "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," a schmaltzy tribute to the sound of '50s orchestra leader Billy Vaughn, seemed an unlikely first single, and indeed it barely scraped into the Top 40 in the U.K. But in Australia, it topped the charts, causing the Australian record company to pull its own second single, "Mamma Mia," off the album. This far more appealing pop/rock number followed its predecessor into the pole position Down Under and also topped the charts throughout Europe. "Bang-A-Boomerang," another big production, was less memorable and had less of an impact, but "S.O.S." brought ABBA back to big success in the U.S. and the U.K., pulling along the first two singles. Beyond these tracks, the LP-only songs showed off the group's eclecticism, from the crunchy hard rock guitar riff that propelled "Hey, Hey Helen" to the ambitious instrumental "Intermezzo No. 1," which showed off Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus' classical leanings and foreshadowed their bigger composing projects of the 1980s. ABBA was a surprisingly effective synthesis of pop and rock styles, surprising because the non-English-speaking world had not produced such effective Anglo-American-style contemporary music before, at least for more than a song or two. (The 2001 reissue of ABBA, first released internationally and finally in the U.S., contains "Crazy World," a song from the sessions for the album later released as a B-side, and a medley of folk songs first heard on a charity album.) © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

ABBA's fifth album was a marked step forward for the group, having evolved out of Europop music into a world-class rock act over their previous two albums, they now proceeded to absorb and assimilate some of the influences around them, particularly the laid-back California sound of Fleetwood Mac (curiously, like ABBA, then a band with two couples at its center), as well as some of the attributes of progressive rock. That they did this without compromising their essential virtues as a pop ensemble makes this album seem even more extraordinary, though at the time nobody bothered to analyze it -- The Album was simply an incredibly popular release, yielding two British number one singles in "The Name of the Game" and "Take a Chance on Me" (which made the Top Five in America, their second-best showing after "Dancing Queen"), and achieving the quartet's highest-ever showing on the U.S. LP charts, reaching the Top 20 and selling a million copies in six months. The opening number, "Eagle," dominated by synthesizers and soaring larger-than-life vocal flourishes, is followed by the more lyrical "Take a Chance on Me," with its luminous a cappella opening. The whole album is like that, effortlessly straddling hard rock, pop/rock, dance-rock, and progressive rock -- though the hits tend to stand out in highest relief, there are superb album tracks here, including the driving, lushly harmonized "Move On" and "Hole in Your Soul," which provides guitarist Lasse Wellander with a beautiful showcase for his lead electric playing. The second side of the album is dominated by material from a "mini-musical" called Girl with the Golden Hair that Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus wrote for the concerts on their just-ended tour intended to be used in a dramatically coherent storytelling context. Two of its songs, "Thank You for the Music" and "I Wonder (Devotion)," are less exciting than the straight rock material found elsewhere on the album, though the former became a popular concert number for the quartet, while the latter is the kind of lushly melodic, moodily reflective song that could easily have graced a Barbra Streisand album of the era. The closer, "I'm a Marionette," however, is a startlingly bold attempt to recast the influence of Kurt Weill in a hard rock mode, ending The Album on a high note, musically and artistically. © Bruce Eder & William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

ABBA's final album was recorded during a period of major personal shakeups, principally in the decision by Benny Andersson and Frida to follow the same route to divorce that had already been taken by Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog. Both male members of the group would soon remarry, but at the time, despite all of these changes in their circumstances, The Visitors was never intended as ABBA's swan song -- they were to go on recording together. That may explain why, rather than a threadbare, thrown-together feel, The Visitors is a beautifully made, very sophisticated album, filled with serious but never downbeat songs, all beautifully sung and showing off some of the bold songwriting efforts. The title track is a topical song about Soviet dissidents that also manages to be very catchy, while "I Let the Music Speak" sounds like a Broadway number (and a very good one, at that) in search of a musical to be part of, and "When All Is Said and Done" is a serious, achingly beautiful ballad with a lot to say about their personal situations -- even "Two for the Price of One," a lighthearted song sung by Björn Ulvaeus about answering a personal advertisement, offered several catchy hooks and beautiful backup singing. "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" ended the original album on a hauntingly ethereal note, but not as any kind of larger statement about the quartet's fate. The intention was to keep working together, but Andersson and Ulvaeus' growing involvement with their stage project, Chess, prevented any further work together by the group beyond three songs, "The Day Before You Came," "Cassandra," and "Under Attack" -- they're all present as bonus tracks on the 2001 remastered edition (in gatefold packaging), along with the orphaned B-side "Should I Laugh or Cry" from the same sessions as The Visitors, and only add to the appeal of the original album. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Polar Music International AB

If it seems as though the familiar ABBA sound isn't present on this album, that's because there was no entity known as ABBA at the time that the earliest sides here were recorded. Growing out of an attempt by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus to record together with their respective companions, Agnetha Faltskog and Frida "Anni-Frid" Lyngstad, the first side cut here, "People Need Love," featured the two men singing just as prominently as the women, and was credited to "Bjorn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid." It was only after its release and the cutting of a further single, "Ring, Ring," that the more familiar sound of the quartet began to coalesce along with the idea of a permanent professional association. Unreleased in the United States until 1995, this album is more of a generic European pop release than an ABBA release; the music has several unusual attributes, including Andersson and Ulvaeus singing lead on several cuts, and also one original song, the moody ballad "Disillusion," co-authored by Agnetha Faltskog. Most of what's here is pleasantly upbeat Europop, with unusually good playing and a lot of spirit, all showing the influence of mainstream American and British pop/rock, including the late-era Beatles and early Elton John, and on the title track, a Phil Spector-proportioned production. Ring Ring was reissued in October of 2001 with extensive notes, state-of-the-art sound, and three bonus tracks: the single B-sides "Merry-Go-Round" and "Santa Rosa" (a smooth piece of California-style rock in the mold of the early Eagles) and the Swedish version of "Ring, Ring" (which charted number one in Sweden to the English version's number two spot). © Bruce Eder /TiVo

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Abba in the magazine
  • Happy New Year!
    Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020! What better way to ring in the New Year than to take a look back at some songs from the likes of ABBA, Snoop Dogg and Van "The Man" Morrison...