Sunday, 16 November 2008

Dagblad voor Noord-Limburg, July 1988: ABBA, one more time?

The rumour has surfaced once again: ABBA will reunite! Although it seems to be a one-off occasion, it will not dampen the joy of the still many admirers of this group.

The only downside is that we can’t obtain any official confirmation. Not at the Dutch record company. Not at the Swedish one. Not even at the studio where the recordings should take place.
The rumour is based on a remark that ex-ABBA-singer Agnetha Fältskog has made. Not too long ago, her third solo-album was released and on that occasion she stated that the four ABBA-members will get together this summer. All four of them would enter the recording studio. The end result would have to be ABBA’s definitive farewell-album.

Whether that album will see the light of day or not, in the meantime ABBA can be placed among the classic pop-groups. The album ‘Abbaphonic’ is proof of that, on which several top-hits by the foursome are performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London. And that’s a tribute that’s not being paid to any musician representing popular music. The editors of Oor’s Pop Encyclopedia wrote: “The ‘ABBA-sound’, often praised, seldom abused, is often compared to the sound that The Beatles produced in the sixties. With ABBA, the limits of creativity are explored continuously as well. Unlike The Beatles, ABBA is in no way a subcultural phenomenon, though. But the group knows how to combine quality and commercial instinct in a mostly exquisite manner.”

For ABBA, the big success started with ‘Waterloo’, that gave them the victory in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton. The Dutch duo Mouth & MacNeal (Willem Duyn and Maggie MacNeal) finished second. Still, it wouldn’t be until 1975 that the real breakthrough in the charts was achieved. That happened with the single ‘SOS’.

After that, the hits kept on coming faster than the speed of light. Some of them as a reminder: ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘Name Of The Game’, ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘Chiquitita’, ‘Does Your Mother Know’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’. Things couldn’t get any better for the Swedes, because this list is just a selection.
In a time span of two years, ABBA sold more records than any other group, excluding The Beatles. Even in the Soviet Union, all ABBA-albums were released. ABBA conquered the cinemas with the feature film ‘ABBA – The Movie’ and the group could be admired on television screens regularly. Notable was a special programme in 1979 for Unicef, to commemorate the Year of the Child.

In 1981, when ABBA had existed for ten years, the first rumours started circulating that the group would split up. The cause was the divorce of Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad. Those rumours became even stronger when the singer recorded her first solo-album produced by Phil Collins, shortly after that. Agnetha followed in her footsteps and chose another big name as her producer: Mike Chapman.
In late 1983, the time had come. The ABBA-empire was officially dissolved. The four ABBA-members didn’t sit still since then. Both singers have build a solo-career, the men Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson worked together with Tim Rice on the musical ‘Chess’, that produced hits for Elaine Paige (‘I Know Him So Well’) and Murray Head (‘One Night In Bangkok’).

A number of the biggest ABBA-successes is obviously included on the album ‘Abbaphonic’, that starts with a genuine overture, named ‘Abbature’. That’s how it goes with a classical work. In an overture, a taster is being given for the most important themes that will follow. The highlights, if you will, and in this case there are plenty of them. The arrangements emphasize once again how exceptionally beautiful the ABBA-melodies are. Like in ‘Does Your Mother Know’, that in this case has a running time of almost seven minutes, three minutes longer than the original version. ‘Money, Money, Money’ lasts much longer as well, but with ‘Chiquitita’ it’s the other way around. It now has a running time of less than three minutes, and that’s more than two minutes shorter than the original, where the piano is being used as a solo-instrument.

The album closes with a finale, just like the overture a specially composed ‘medley’ in which snippets of ABBA-hits are used that are otherwise not a part of ‘Abbaphonic’.

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