The Album


Atlantic Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


As a companion piece to the new DVD release of ABBA: The Movie, ABBA: The Album is a good album made even better. It boasts a pair of terrific Top 20 singles, several immaculately produced ballads and even a mini-musical tacked on to close things out on a theatrical note.

This was the first hint of all things Broadway that were still to come for the men of ABBA, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Before the stage productions of Chess and Mamma Mia!, there was something called “The Girl With The Golden Hair,” which was featured as the centerpiece of ABBA’s documented tour of Australia in 1977.

As with all movie musicals, it is better to see them to get the full impact. Listening to the songs is only half of the total experience. “The Girl With The Golden Hair” is certainly no exception, especially considering that only three of the four songs are featured on The Album. The one song missing, “Get On The Carousel,” was never even recorded by the Swedish group, making it one of the rarest unreleased ABBA songs. Its lack of inclusion on record is a huge error on ABBA’s part, since it is an exciting, upbeat song that helped to punch things up quite considerably for the concert audience at the time. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Alas, we have to get by with the left-over trio of “Thank You For The Music,” “I Wonder” and “I’m A Marionette,” none of which has much staying power. The best thing I can say about “Thank You For The Music” is that it has become something of an ABBA theme song over the years since they disbanded back in 1982. Taken together, all three songs helped to set a dramatic, heavier tone to the album, making it perhaps the most substantial album ABBA had released in the 1970s. Choosing the song “Eagle” to open the album certainly is a statement in itself, as if ABBA was trying desperately to say “Hello, America, we have arrived.”

The ABBA of old can also be found on The Album with the one-two punch of “Take A Chance On Me” and “Hole In Your Soul.” They represent the lighter, catchier side of ABBA, so much so that they could fit in nicely on any given episode of Sesame Street. I mean that as a compliment, by the way. Just to clarify, young kids will tend to love those two songs probably more than adults -- though that’s strictly a hunch.

An even better choice for a single was “The Name Of The Game,” which is far more mature in style, making it one ABBA song that never quite sounds like one. I don’t know how the hell they managed to pull it off, but boy, did they ever. The growth they managed to achieve since their previous hit “Dancing Queen” is quite remarkable. Frankly, I never did much care for “Dancing Queen,” which is one of the most mundane and overplayed Abba songs; it is not representative of the group, much like Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" (which I call "Dreary") does not represent that group's best moment. Sadly, "Dancing Queen" was ABBA's only No. 1 hit -- which proves where America's head was as far as popular music in 1977.

Take two of ABBA’s ballads from this album: “One Man, One Woman” and “Move On.” Sure, the latter has an awkward spoken intro by Bjorn, but otherwise both tunes are lushly composed and feature some beautiful harmonies by Agnetha and Frida. As I get older, I find the slower pace of an album like this to be somewhat comforting and strangely refreshing.

Most notable for its cohesiveness and polished production, ABBA’s The Album is not only a great soundtrack for their movie, it is also deserving of being deemed a classic album. It wasn’t necessarily the high water mark of their career, but it certainly was a turning point and signpost of even better things to come.

Rating: B

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.