The ABBA Remasters


It comforts me to think that as big as questionably-talented acts like Marilyn Manson and the Smashing Pumpkins may get, they will never be as big as ABBA. I don’t mean “big” in any materialistic fashion, like records sold or gross concert attendance — I mean generation-spanning, continent-covering, instantly-recognizable-by-your-grandparents big. Also, they flipped a letter over way before Korn did.

With that out of the way, I can tell you that my initial exposure to ABBA was through back-seat indoctrination, the sort of musical torture that happens on long car trips. I would anxiously await the second “konk-chank” of the auto-reverse deck, for my opportunity to suggest we put something else on, as we didn’t want to hear ABBA’s Greatest twice. Usually, my request was granted. Usually, the replacement was Billy Joel. Or, during the Dark Years, Air Supply.

Even with that going against it, I found ABBA’s music to be catchy as all hell, and though you wouldn’t catch me dead singing Bjorn’s parts, their melodies often swirled in my head. Revisiting those songs twenty years later, I find myself appreciating ABBA’s produced perfection even more. You may scoff at the band’s image, but the ABBA team knew what they were doing, producing eight albums in as many years. Additional kudos go for knowing when to get the hell off the stage, a nuance of talent that has escaped just about every superstar act since then.

Listening to these albums in order, I recognize that if anything, ABBA was consistent. My familiarity with the band outside their Greatest Hits was slight, but as far as I can tell, the difference between their highly successful singles and the rest of the material on that album is minimal — there is very little filler to be had on an ABBA album. I can also trace the band’s arc of fame. Though they were never what you’d call raw, as the years went on, the band caked on layers of gloss, possibly to compensate for the drain of world superstardom. In the end, ABBA released only one album I’d consider lousy, their closing The Visitors , and even then, the band’s efforts seem genuine, if misguided.

As part of this remastering, two albums previously unavailable in CD format are also being released: ABBA Live and a post-ABBA solo project by Frida, Something’s Going On . The live album is a pretty potent mix of hits, while Frida seems to be lost in the production (courtesy of Phil Collins) without her bandmates.

Overall, this remastered/reissued series is pretty good. ABBA fanatics will doubtless purchase the ten albums encompassed in this review; others may want to pick their hits of choice out of the litter.

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