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This review is from: The Visitors (Audio CD)
The early `80s saw the collapse of ABBA's cheery stock. The bouncy tongue-in-cheek pop of two married couples increasingly gave way to the depth, introspection and eloquence of four world-weary divorcés. While 1980's 'Super Trouper' straddled the old and the new with great success, 1981's swansong album, 'The Visitors', gave up the pretence and embraced darkness.
The heartbreak pop of the lead single, 'One Of Us', lulled the public into a false sense of security. Laden with shimmering harmonies and Agnetha's trademark plaintiveness, it sounded like business as usual. The album followed a week later and its elegantly gloomy cover hinted at the mood shift that coloured the music within. Thematically, this was all very unABBA: cold war commentary; empathy for Russian dissidents; surreal paeans to the power of music; small-ads for kinky threesomes; parental angst; and post-divorce wound-licking were a far cry from the feel-good oomph of 'Dancing Queen.'
Bjorn contended that these deeper lyrics needed a single voice and so it was that Frida and Agnetha took alternate lead-vocals across the album (with one token Bjorn vocal thrown in). The high-octane unison singing of old was confined to choruses only. This approach intensified the paranoiac feel of the pulsating title track, where Frida artfully channels the panic of a dissident waiting for the police to kick down the door. Likewise, it showcased her fiery resilience on 'When All Is Said And Done', a curiously uplifting song about her divorce from Benny. Her remarkable pipes cut a theatrical swathe through `I Let The Music Speak,' and she is gorgeously restrained for the bitter loneliness of 'Like An Angel Passing Through My Room.' Frida is in spectacular form right across this album, where her natural edginess seems right at home.
Agnetha's ability to 'cry' with her lovely voice was put to great use on 'One Of Us' and you can tell that she lived the story of 'Slipping Through My Fingers'. She also contributes the album's lightest moment with the excellent vocal for 'Head Over Heels' and balances the wintry stride of 'Soldiers' with a little sweetness.
A fantastic B-side and a set of songs recorded for a never-completed 1982 album comprise the bonus tracks here. The most beautiful of these, 'The Day Before You Came', has aged like the best of wines. A fantastic bonus is 'From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel', a patchwork medley of the many working versions of 'Like An Angel Passing Through My Room' created especially for this release.
The accompanying DVD is fine but no match for the parent album. ABBA did virtually no promotion for the album, so the contemporary TV appearances or clips that grace other deluxe editions are thinner on the ground here. Live performances of 'Two for The Price Of One' and 'Slipping Through My Fingers' are the only representatives of the main album. All other performances relate to the bonus material. A fluffy BBC interview from 1982 is more interesting for what is NOT said: the tension between Frida and Benny is palpable and there is very little interaction between the four members.
For me, `The Visitors' is far and away ABBA's most satisfying album. This version makes it even more compelling. It is a true classic and highly recommended.
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Initial post: 8 Aug 2013 09:49:43 BDT
coffee beans says:
I have this Vinyle, Cassette and CD and it is still a Classic, they definitely were best since The Beatles, no doubt about it, timeless music
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