Friday, 6 June 2008

Hitkrant, December 1981: ABBA's child is born!

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about the then newly released album The Visitors.
Now, we mustn’t overreact by exclaiming that the whole world is jumping for joy this week, but at least it goes for the ABBA-fans and lots more people, like pop-journalists. Because the time has finally come: the new ABBA-album is out. The long-awaited child is born, its name is 'The Visitors' and mother and child are doing very well, thank you.

This time it took a very long time; almost a year ago the first ideas and songs for the new album began to come and from that moment on a lot has been recorded, discarded, re-recorded and changed. A problematic delivery, one could say.

Naturally, this was the cause of lots of rumours circulating. Björn Ulvaeus’ statement in an English women’s magazine that ABBA no longer had a financial reason to stay together, shocked fans and Stockholm was in a hurry to deny it all. “No problem,” they said. “ABBA will not split up, but is very busy in the studio with the new single, that is due the end of this month.” We are talking June.
At the end of July we reported that technical problems had occurred, and that Björn and Benny’s standard of quality-control was so high, that the single had been discarded, even worse: before September there would be no single at all and also the album had been postponed until November. Was 'The Visitors' worth all these problems? Yes, people.

To my own astonishment ABBA has been able again to create a new sound and that’s an accomplishment, after so many albums. I don’t want to anticipate on the album review in this magazine, but we can note that ABBA’s newborn is their toughest in years. The rhythm is strong and dominating, the synthesizers all over the place. As ever, Björn and Benny wrote and produced everything themselves and for the first time made use of the latest recording-technique: the digital recording. This means that the sound-quality is perfect and crystal-clear, sometimes almost sharp. You wouldn’t tell by looking at the brilliant cover: the foursome in a spacious room, softly lit, old-fashioned paintings on the wall, everything in brown and golden shades (and for Björn-fans: he’s actually wearing a beard!).

Choosing the single caused some problems: at first it would be 'The Visitors', later on Stockholm reported it would be 'When All Is Said And Done' (for which a promotional film had been made already), in the end the single turned out to be 'One Of Us', with 'Should I Laugh Or Cry' as its B-side, a track not available on the album. Listen for yourself: you will be amazed. The time when ABBA was a nice teenage-group with nice teenage-music is definitely over. And, in my opinion, a group that is able to deliver a surprising album every time, is by all means not ready to retire from music.

Here's the review of the album The Visitors from the same magazine, referred to in the article above.
Always exciting, the new ABBA-album, especially when you had to wait so long. The result exceeds my expectations. Again, Björn and Benny have succeeded in finding a different sound, a new approach. The new ABBA is tight, tough, sometimes almost metallic; bass and drums are dominating, synthesizers are all over the place, the influences from musicals and classical music are clear. This music takes much more distance from the listener than a song like 'Dancing Queen'. Also Frida and Agnetha’s vocals are far more distant in some cases (and here and there barely recognisable due to electronic distortion), although a solo-track by Frida like 'Like An Angel Passing Through My Room', accompanied only by a music-box and the ticking of a clock, emits a touching warmth. The single 'One Of Us' and 'Soldiers' are still in ABBA–tradition, 'Head Over Heels' isn’t; a magnificent song is 'I Let The Music Speak' and in 'Two For The Price Of One' we hear rare lead-vocals by the men B & B. Listen for yourself: an impressive piece of pop-music.

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