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The first flecks of gold,
This review is from: ABBA (Deluxe Edition) (Audio CD)
ABBA's second UK album (their third Swedish/European album) represents a concerted step up the evolutionary ladder and shows more care and work than the group's previous outings. About half the album's material is up to what most people would define as "ABBA quality."
Following two chart-shy singles (`So Long' and `I Do, I Do'), `SOS' finally - and deservedly - returned ABBA to the UK Top 10 after an 18-month hiatus. The group reluctantly issued `Mamma Mia' as a fourth single but were rewarded with their second UK No.1 hit. These solid gold classics stand out from the rest of the material on this eponymous album.
Where the preceding albums had been cheery hodge-podges of catchy tunes, dodgy lyrics and insane genre-hopping, `ABBA' feels much more like an album. The famous hits aside, the lovely "I've Been Waiting For You" comes close to `classic' standard. Bizarrely issued as the B-side of "So Long" it features terrific singing and an enormously melodic chorus that would surely have become a huge hit at the time.
Elsewhere, songs like `Hey, Hey, Helen', `Rock Me', `Tropical Loveland' and `Man In The Middle' are probably only inches away from greatness. Beefier production and stronger lyrics could have made a huge difference. If `Bang-A-Boomerang' sounds like a Eurovision outtake, that's because it IS a Eurovision outtake. Written for labelmates, Svenne & Lotta, it finished third in the Swedish heats for the 1975 Eurovsion. Recognising the strength of the tune (but not the silliness of the lyrics), ABBA recorded their own version and even went so far as to shoot a video for it.
The bonus audio tracks are no big deal but, as with most of ABBA's "deluxe" editions, the real treats are reserved for the accompanying DVD. A hits-laden Australian TV special (watched by more people at the time than watched the moon landing, fact nerds) rubs shoulders with scenes from a Swedish TV special and a handful of BBC TV appearances. The pussycat costumes and the shambolic choreography cement the innocent and kitsch image that the group would later struggle to shake. But it all makes for very charming viewing.
The entire package is classily assembled and features decent liner notes. This is a treat for die-hard fans and possibly a worthwhile curiosity for the more casual consumer.