The Album

ABBA

Atlantic Records, 1978

http://www.abbasite.com/

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/09/1998

To the generation that has spent their youth in the nightclubs enjoying the second coming of disco, Abba's music is a never-ending fountain of joy. Just look at its use in movies like Muriel's Wedding.

And then, there are those of us who actually lived through Abba's heyday - and they're still pretty hard to swallow. Oh, time has helped to make the songs that got overplayed on the radio easier to take, and I will admit that some of the music of Abba that I've listened to in this job hasn't been too bad. But in the case of The Album, Abba's 1977 release, even the band started to take themselves too seriously.

In one sense, The Album begins to feature Abba's shifting from dance music (they were never truly "disco", though their music always was quite danceable) to more of a serious pop vein. Two words: bad move. I'll concede that "Take A Chance On Me" is still danceable, but that's about it on this one. For the remainder of the album, Abba is on a journey of self-discovery. At times, such as on "The Name Of The Game" and "Move On" (I swear I've heard that song before listening to this album), they make the journey interesting. (One memory I have of my childhood is my father recording music off the radio - one track being "The Name Of The Game" - using the family's new stereo with an 8-track built in. He still has that thing in the garage.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Unfortunately for Abba, this is where the praise stops. The remainder of The Album just doesn't come together like some of their other works. "Eagle" and "Hole In Your Soul" are two numbers that could have been something with a little better songwriting and more focus in the music. Instead, they're not the easiest songs to get through.

And if these are tough, then the "mini-musical" that rounds out the album is downright painful to listen to. I guess that this work helped to plant the seeds for Chess, the play that Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson co-wrote in the '80s. (I'd ask a trivia question here, but I'm out of graft due to the last trivia question.) "Thank You For The Music," to me, is a portrait of a group that thought what they were doing was more important than it really was. The song comes off as presumptuous, and makes the band seem almost snobbish. Somehow, I don't think that was the original intention of the piece.

The other numbers in the selection (named "The Girl With The Golden Hair" - hey, gang, where you came from, that could have been damn near half the country, okay?), "I Wonder (Departure)" and "I'm A Marionette," both seem to flounder, and I can't see any way that the songs connect. If these were truly from a mini-musical (or was that phrase used just to make them seem more important?), then I should be able to follow some type of a storyline.

Boy, you're probably thinking, Chris is letting a lot of aggression go against a band he hates. Actually, the older I've gotten, the more I've appreciated some of the music that Abba created, so it's not like I'm pissing like a drunk alley cat over a band that traumatized me as a young lad. (I refuse to review the Bay City Rollers... whoops, I've said too much already.) But for all the worthwhile music that Abba did create, The Album is, so far, the worst example of excess that I've heard from them.

If you're looking for the two singles, you'd best choose one of the many greatest hits packages that are out on the market. If you want to discover the band behind the hits, then fasten your seat belt on The Album, 'cause the ride is going to be anything but smooth.

Rating: C-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen 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.