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Ring Ring B+
Well this was the album's big "hit," and it's good enough to have been ABBA filler material later on! Eh, it's not so bad, anyway. The good news about it is that means this group got much better! There are some very nice vocal hooks here. Certainly, this is much more appreciated than an album full of *nothing* melodies. Musically, this sounds much like The Beatles' "The Ballad of John and Yoko." The instrumentation consists of the usual bright piano and the lightest guitars ever to be deemed plausible for an ABBA pop album.
Another Town, Another Train C
One thing about these early ABBA albums is the guys thought they deserved to sing as much as the girls did. Well why not anyway; they write the songs! I'll tell ya why! They don't have the sexy voices!! This ballad isn't so bad. The hooks are OK but nothing to memorable, and frankly it's a good thing that this song isn't memorable! You don't want that cheesy flute sound stuck in your head!!
I originally hated this song like the plague. (In fact, I hated it so much that I committed suicide and possessed the body of Jane Fonda so that I could continue to write the review.) But really, it's not so bad. Agnetha delivers a nice little performance singing a melody-line that's somewhat reminiscent of classical music. It makes a light, airy and useless listen, but it's kinda sweet.
People Need Love D
Now this is a song that I just can't take at all. This is so cheesy and childish that it makes the songwriters for Barney the Dinosaur seem like The Beatles. There are some attempts in the melody for hooks, and they succeed in such a way that this song has a bad tendency to get stuck in my mind..... gueurruuruuuuurrrrrrr... That yodeling at the end is funny, though.
I Saw in the Mirror D+
Blandola. But the good news is that this is better than the previous track!! But only slightly. This is a soft-rocker with such a pace that only makes this feel desperately dull. The melody had potential, but ... uhhhh, not really. Actually, this melody sucks. Boo!!! Yeah, this is garbage... Sorry guys.
Nina Pretty Ballerina C-
This is just a little more tolerable, but it's really not a whole lot better. It's a shame that the melody is so cheesy. I really dislike that rapidly played piano they're using. No, the piano isn't being pounded in a new wave fashion --- it's much faster than that, and it's mind boggling why they thought that would sound nice. Their use of sound effects worked OK with the train at the beginning, but those cheers in the middle were icky.
Love Isn't Easy (But it Sure is Hard...) C
There are certain aspects about this one that's alright. The melody is kinda catchy though still too cheesy for comfort. I think the introduction is done rather well, but the remainder gets old rather quickly. However, the vocal layering done by the girls and guys (singing different lyrics) was a nice idea!
Me and Bobby and Bobby's Brother D
When I hear that chorus, I'm thinking: It's Jane Fonda time. Otherwise it's OK. Some of those hooks aren't too bad, and I like hearing that brief section with the recorder. But in the end, this song is so happy and bouncy that I feel like I'm wearing that happy helmet from Ren & Stimpy. (Watch that episode if you don't know what I'm talking about; it's classic.)
He is Your Brother C-
You know this song is a little more tolerable, probably because the melody isn't so intrusive. That just means the melody is bland and it didn't work. Well, not that I wasn't expecting that... There is some particularly nicely done vocal layering here, though, that makes me want to redeem it.
She's My Kind of Girl B
The guys shouldn't sing (I'm going to be complaining about this for ABBA albums until their final work, so don't worry), but on second thought it would be a little awkward for the girls to sing "She's My Kind of Girl." It's true that they were gay icons, but ... well not yet!! The guys were nice to themselves and sang one of the album's more tolerable songs. They were at least proving that they had melodic talent down there. Like diamonds in the rough!
I Am Just a Girl B
It must have been some sort of revelation to find out that, after all these years, you're a girl. I bet trying to pee standing up gave that away. Anyway, to my happy surprise, this has been two tolerable songs in a row! The melody is sweet, and hearing the girls sing it is even sweeter. The hooks are good enough, and the instrumentation manages to do nothing that annoys me. For this early ABBA album, these things are all I ask for.
Rock & Roll Band C+
Well, I can say that this is in the Top 5 best ABBA songs with the pretense of being a rock song. Maybe this is a little more convincing than even some of the ones from ABBA --- There's an electric guitar player somewhere in the studio there! The hooks are fine, but they're strictly forgettable. BONUS TRACKS:
Ewwwww... Ring Ring rejects. Already I have a bad taste in my mouth! There are certain aspects of the instrumentation I like namely those stringed instrument sounds. But the melody is BAD even for this album... They might have fashioned this into a nice song with a little more elbow grease, but ... nah, they didn't.
Santa Rosa B+
A blatant Beatles rip-off (a hook sounds verrrry similar to "If There Was Someone"), but it otherwise reminds me of a higher quality Associations song, so it can't be that bad. Well, this is interesting! This track doesn't count toward the album rating, but ... wow.
Ring Ring (Swedish Version) B+
Hey, look! ABBA is from Sweden. I had no idea!
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Lemme axe you. How can this possibly go wrong? A hopelessly catchy melody, and you don't have to feel too bad about it getting stuck in your head! This was ABBA's first big chart success, and it famously won first prize in the Eurovision song contest. And why not? It's so memorable that I'm writing this paragraph and not even listening to it! It's quite an upbeat toe-tapper with such a mood and melody that it's difficult to fend off the desire to sing with it at the top of your lungs. It's quite a tune, and everyone out there ought to know it by heart... if there's actually anyone out there who doesn't already. (What's wrong with you? You've never heard "Waterloo?" For shame!!)
Sitting in the Palmtree C-
My, my. It didn't take them very long to start sucking! Generally speaking, combining Euro-pop and Caribbean/reggae music can't produce more sickening sounds to my ears. The good news is that ABBA had a nicer handle on melody writing by this point in their discography, so this is not only tolerable but ... even somewhat enjoyable. I still won't give a high rating, because I honestly don't think it's that well written. That sweeping ballad they inserted in the middle breaks away from the Caribbean vibe, but that was hella awkward!
King Kong Song D+
These are weird lyrics; it's about writing a song about writing a song about King Kong. Part of me wants to think of this thunderous song as a guilty pleasure, and this is another odd example of these guys trying out rock 'n' roll. Their glam riff couldn't have been more bland, and those deep '50s pop vocals in the chorus seal this song's total worthlessness. The hooks are very simple and not even so redeeming. Hm. There is a certain value to hearing the guys act like utter goofballs, though. (Sloppily hollering "That big white gorilla!!!" at the top of their lungs was pretty fun.)
Hasta Manana B+
Geez, I took a lot of dumps in my early reviews. Either that or listening to all those Michael Bolton/Madonna/Kylie Minogue albums prompted me to open my floodgates for pop tolerability. Well crap, I actually like this song now. The melody is very sweet and rather hooky. This might have been rated higher if it was just a little less throwaway sounding. Musically, this is a sweet, Euro-folk song featuring sweet vocal performances from the girls.
My Mama Said D+
Oof, now this is pretty bland, unfortunately. The pacing is boring and the hooks aren't exactly captivating. The instrumentation was alright --- it's sort of a funk-lite groove. This doesn't do anything else but make me greatly look forward to hearing the great pop tunes they would start penning later on!
Dance While the Music Still Goes On C-
Geez, I used to like this song. I'm actually writing over my old track reviews, and now I'm legitimately thinking that I had no taste in music whatsoever! Well... That's why I started this Web site --- to get more "experienced." I must've gotten that, but it's pretty clear that my taste changed! Anyway this is a throwback to old songs from the '60s such a "Needles and Pins." The hooks are bland, BUT I was forced to raise my rating slightly, because they bothered enough to develop it. By the end, there was some drama that worked.
Honey Honey A
Now this is a great pop song. Already, they're writing songs that are monumentally better than "Ring Ring" from their previous work. This is a light pop song with a nice swing to it. The melody is sweet and instantly likable and memorable, but it's also rather complex. The harmonies here even beat out "Waterloo" by some degree... These guys knew exactly what to do!
What About Livingstone D-
Er... What happened? I was having such a great time! I mean, this song is the worst of the worst!! The melody is so sterile that my brain can now be used to operate in surgery. Thanks. This is too depressing to even try to describe for you.
Watch Out C
It's so funny hearing ABBA do songs like this. Were they ever genuinely considering becoming a real rock band? I will say that I like part of the riff although I'm positive that they ripped it off somewhere. Whichever guys that is who sings delivers such a sloppy vocal performance that ... seriously don't sing anymore! The highlight of the track is undoubtedly the girls who come in with "Watch Ouuuuuuuut!!!" Very nice!
Gonna Sing You My Love Song D
This song is very Carpenters-esque, and it has a nice mood. Not so much a great melody. It's pretty disappointing to run across an ABBA song that makes me want to hear the Carpenters instead, but there you go. There is something incredibly awkward in this chorus. It's like the rhythms were completely wrong somehow.
Well the good news is that this is a lot better than the previous song, but then again, anything would be. It's interesting to hear them try a more jangly sound with 12-string guitars (or something that sounds like 12-string guitars). Where this song fails me is the melody. Ick. It's bland and pretty much worthless. This is not ABBA, dang it!!!
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Mamma Mia! A+
Here it is: The first of an incredibly long line of A+ scoring ABBA songs. Even though it's obvious that this is the greatest song of the album, it's nice to know that this isn't the *only* good song. These hooks are absolutely golden, and this is a perfect pop song! Not only that but the harmonies are perfect, making this quite an engaging work, and the development is surprisingly advanced. Unlike most pop songs, this one doesn't rely on the same mood, chord progression, texture for its entire running length. The way they string together these sections con only be described as "classic." If you're holding back on listening to ABBA (especially considering what I wrote above), then you should certainly listen to this if nothing else. Even if you have the hardest of hearts when it comes to Europop, this experience might well be worth it. (If not, then I probably won't like you much!!!) It not only has a catchy melody but great spirit.
Hey, Hey Helen B+
This album is the last were going to see of ABBA trying to be rockers. It's pretty obvious, they weren't going in that direction even judging from this. The electric guitar riff could have easily been replaced with synthesizers or something, and the girls would still be singing a normal ABBA tune. Luckily, this is quite a catchy song, and it's very worthy of some toe-tapping good times!
Tropical Loveland C-
FORTUNATELY, this is the last time ABBA's going to try combining reggae with Euro-pop. They did it once in their previous album, but they got away with it. Now, I'm not so sure. The melody isn't that catchy, but it works enough to a degree that I cannot really dislike the song to any solid degree. I'm sitting in my chair with my arms crossed and frowning, but that doesn't mean I'm inspired to bash my brains in.
I guess it serves mentioning that ABBA were primarily a singles band. Notice how inconsistent this album is. The score so far is one classic, one passable song, one crappy thing and now were back to a classic. This was a major hit, too, and that's no surprise whatsoever. This song famously starts out with a rather heartwarming ballad, but then surely enough they bring it all to a poppy and enjoyable Europop tune! The melody is wonderful.
Man in the Middle C-
How can they even think about following that up with something as bland as this? Furthermore, the men are singing... Well, I guess their voices fit the tone of the melody! What makes it worse is that it's based on a funk groove that's WUSSY. I've heard it said that ABBA is the whitest band in history. Here's the proof.
Bang a Boomerang C+
This song was a big hit in Australia. I'm not making that up! Anyway, this quite an alright. It's not too difficult to get into this one, but it's CHEAP. (They give their own self-critiques in the chorus: Dum-de-dum-dum-dum-Dum-de-dum-dum-dum.) The production is especially overblown here with their flooded sounds. I feel like picking on that chugga-chugga-chugga drum beat, but I can't think of anything witty to say about it. This is rather forgettable, but I'll admit freely that it makes a nice enough listen for at-the-moment fun.
I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do B
This one's so compelling that I wish that it wasn't. This one's so corny that I'd advise everyone with delusions that they're respectable for listening to this --- because you might just like it. The atmosphere is well developed this time and the melody is excellent. The ultra-syrupy romantic lyrics are so happy that they're great. I can't help myself... My keyboards are sticky now...
Rock Me B
Why is it that I'm enjoying their rock songs so much? They're about as sterile as it gets, but ... geez, they're pretty well done when it's all said and done. These guys really knew how to work the harmonies when it came down to it, but they sure didn't know how to make a good rock song. I like these harmonies, but they are completely wrong for a rock song. Well, whatever this is, I like it. It's sort of like wannabe rock the way stuffy Broadway writers do it. It's also worth mentioning that FOR ONCE, one of the male singers gives a good performance. He delivers a surprisingly convincing snarl.
Intermezzo No. 1 A
Here it is!! -- er... Classical music set to a backing beat?? Dang! These guys were willing to try everything, weren't they? This is really well done by the way. The arrangements are superb, but some of the synth sounds were so goofy that you just know that they weren't taking themselves seriously. It's interesting to note that these guys excelled at classical music motifs; this gives quite some insight to their harmonic ear. This might be of interest to fans of Chess, Benny and Bjorn's musical, which contained quite a bit of classical music sections.
I've Been Waiting For You B+
I'm still writing these new track reviews over my old ones. I apparently used to dislike ballads! Well, I love this song now. Most importantly, the melody is utterly golden. I still think it gets pretty schmaltzy, but give me all the schmaltz you like if you're willing to make them sound like this.
So Long B
This is an upbeat pop-rocker, and it's much more convincing as a "rocker" as the earlier attempts. The melody is well-written but somehow not as endearing. The spirit is certainly convincing, and it does end up making a nice closing track. It's kinda forgettable, but there have certainly been worse. So, so long!
Crazy World C+
Well, here's some schmaltz that's almost too much to take. This sounds to me like a Christopher Cross song, except slightly better. The melody is engaging enough, but that still doesn't fully forgive the corniness of it. Still though. What a melody!
Pick a Bale of Cotton D
Holy, holy crap. (Hah, I said "holy crap" in front of a kid recently who responded very frankly: "Crap is not holy!" Ah, you've got to love kids.) But ya don't gotta love this song. It's crap of the worst caliber. The kind that you have to sit at the toilet for a long time while you have to endure it mutilating the lining of your anal cavity............ yeah, it's that bad. This might be where those guys who wrote "Cotton Eyed Joe" got their idea. Sure, it's more tolerable than that song, but ... that's not saying much whatsoever.
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When I Kissed the Teacher A+
This wasn't even a hit for them, and it sounds like it should have been. When they compiled the soundtrack for the musical Mamma Mia!, they didn't even bother having to come up with a goofy plot twist in order to incorporate this song. There was plenty of other material. So what's this? An A+ ABBA song that wasn't a hit or particularly well celebrated? That's right. The plethora of other hit songs managed to be too much competition. Maybe ABBA isn't just a great singles band. This is not just a thunderous opener with an enormously catchy melody, but it's even *ahem* rather raunchy! The lyrics center around kissing a teacher, and in the fade-out, they're singing: "I wanna huh huh yeah." That's either genuinely raunchy or that's just my sick and dirty mind at play...
Dancing Queen A++
There is really no reason not to give this track an A++. This is the greatest Euro-pop song of all time. Of course, I'd love being proven wrong there. Any song that's better than "Dancing Queen" must be quite a force! These hooks are so great that they're devastating. The arrangements are so perfectly done that they're very nearly tear-inducing. Everything about this song is wonderful! The emotions are genuine --- they're singing about a 17-year-old finally getting to express herself on the dance floor. It's the most convincing thing they've ever done; I feel like I'm right there watching! If you're reading this paragraph and you're telling me that you hate this song, know one thing: I hate YOU. That's right, anyone who hates "Dancing Queen," I hate. I'll admit that this happens to include some of my family members, but I happen to know that they never read my site!! If you're cringing right now by merely thinking about this song, I would like to urge you to re-listen to this track! Rumors floating around that this is a schmaltzy disco song will be proven wrong by all accounts. This song isn't schmaltzy; it's superb! And this song isn't disco, either. It's a dance ditty that happened to be released on the verge of the craze. It doesn't even sound like disco. So there, mister. (Not that all disco songs are automatically horrible... I want to make that important point clear!)
My Love, My Life A-
As expected the golden moments have to pass. But what's this? A beautiful ballad? Oooh, gimme! Like I said in one of my track reviews for ABBA, give me all the schmaltz you like as long as it sounds like this! The melody is wonderful, and the girls singing "Ahhs" in the background are utterly haunting. This is gorgeous!
Dum Dum Diddle B
Now we're getting silly! This is one of those fillery songs that was neither a hit nor should it consciously come up in my mind whenever I think about this album. But I wish all filler material sounded this good! If this appeared on Ring Ring it would have been one of the pure highlights, and I would have praised it endlessly. The melody is catchy and even somewhat infectious. The instrumentation isn't that impressive (normally just consisting of a drum beat and synthesizers), but maybe doing anything else would have been overkill? This is all perfectly fine.
Knowing Me, Knowing You A
But when ABBA has a hit, they let you know it. How this group could come out with so many memorable and durable melodies is the stuff of legend. Why do you think ABBA is still well known and celebrated to this day? Because they're awesome, that's why!! This isn't even a sunshine pop song in even the slightest degree. It's neither happy nor sad. It's very gray. The instrumentation isn't anything too complicated: It's the standard keyboard pop song, and they insert a very clean electric guitar solo bit during the instrumental interludes. They create quite a convincing mood here, and I'm especially liable to gobble it up because of the melody.
Money, Money, Money A+
This pop song is not just gray, but it's black. Once and for all, you're going to have to throw out every single one of your notions that ABBA only penned happy songs. You're dead wrong! This is piano pop done with minor chord sequences galore and another devastatingly catchy melody. As icing on the cake, Anni-Frid gives such a spiteful vocal performance! Excellence.
That's Me B
One of the album's more throwaway tunes, but this is still pretty good. The melody is nice and the production is fine. I really like listening to their vocal work in particular. Again, the thing about ABBA is if they have a classic tune, you know it right away. Sure this is palatable, but ... hm.
Why Did it Have to Be Me? C
Er. OK, they lose me. I'm not the world's biggest fan of this melody, which is extremely simple and not very hooky. The production is about as corny as it gets, which is about as schmaltzy as "I Do I Do, etc." from the previous album. And the final straw is that it seems about a minute too long (even though it's just over three minutes). Filler-ola.
It's incredibly silly but likable in that extremely ABBA way. The melody isn't especially important here, but the few hooks they have manage to draw me in. This is the usual, mid-tempoed ABBA pop song, but I really enjoy that they incorporate thunderous bit and also a sort of quiet, contemplative bit.
They're not exactly ones for memorable endings are they? They even decide to end it with an instrumental, which means they're not using their two greatest weapons: Agnetha and Anni-Frid who are merely reduced to vocal "Aahs." At any rate, this seems to be a sort of Irish song done with synthesizers. It's OK. Nothing to write home about... Come to think of it, I've never written home about "Dancing Queen" either... Hm, I think you know what I mean.
Now this is some kind of classic. I remember I was annoyed about hearing this song all the time when it used to pop up all the time on the soft-rock radio station at one of my billion former employment establishments. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a stellar pop tune. It's no surprise that this is one of ABBA's most celebrated tunes. This is sunshine pop but in the nicest possible way. It's rather dramatic, the lyrics are unusual, and that chorus is the greatest thing ever.
Happy Hawaii B-
This is a different version of "Why Did it Have to Be Me?," and this one is better in my opinion. The nothing, "boogie woogie" instrumentation from the original is removed for something more twinkly. The melody is exactly the same, and it's still not so great. Oh well.
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ABBA sure knows how to spoil me. This is sort of a power ballad, but the instrumentation and production is so thick and luxurious that this could pass off as art-rock. I'm going to continue to proclaim that this is a much more heartfelt band than people ever give them credit for. This song brings me right to this flying eagle just as "Dancing Queen" brought me to the dance floor. Not to mention that the melody is just about the most wonderful thing ever; that goes without mentioning.
Take a Chance On Me A+
This is such a convincing vocal song that they don't even need instruments to open this. It's just the girls singing a cappella (with a bit of support from the guys). What emerges is yet another slickly produced song with an extremely infectious melody. I've been giving these guys so much praise that I'm running out of "praise words." I'll make one up: Splentacular!
One Man, One Woman A
And now: The moment of truth. What does the "fillery" material sound like? ... Hm, it sounds like non-filler to me. This is a country-western-esque ballad and the melody is as intoxicating as anything. If anything, this song shows country stars the proper way to do that cursed genre! The instrumentation might not be so elaborate, but it's still wonderful. They even bring in some crunchy strings at the end. When the girls come in with their flooded "ooohs," it's especially pretty.
Name of the Game A
For the love of Bing Crosby, how many perfect pop songs can they have in one album? This is unnatural!! They reach into their goldmine and pull out yet another nugget. This is a mid-tempo pop-rocker, and the melody is excellent. The chorus especially has a great sing-songey quality to it. Get a load of those acoustic guitars! Did that instrument ever sound so lovely? Yeah, these guys are FREAKING AWESOME producers.
Move On B-
And here's the moment of relief: A relatively sucky song. It's fine overall, but it doesn't have any staying power whatsoever. It certainly doesn't do much to really devalue the album. The melody is still likable and the hooks are kosher, but it's just not that memorable. The production keeps the thing sounding smooth and aesthetic throughout, so it's harmless... I'm just going to wait for it to be over with...
Hole in Your Soul C+
OK guys, we talked about this. You were going to STOP trying to be rockers. Oh whatever, I like the melody. Their upbeat pacing is OK, but they're really missing an infectious groove. They gain some points when they slow everything down and start to deliver a heart melting, slower vocal bit. Why they felt the need to surround that with huge hunks of sterile rock'n'roll is ... just ... grrrrr ... I'll just wait for this one to be over with as well ....
Thank You For the Music A+
THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC!!! As I was saying before they decided to interrupt all these good times, how is it humanly possible to fit all these great songs on a single disc? Frankly, I'm a little bit worried about my speakers getting damaged from this pure music explosion!!! (That's only sarcasm a little bit.) Of all the great melodies on this album, this is the greatest. Geez .............. It's so cheesy, but this wouldn't be nearly as good if it wasn't. This is a sort of ballad that seems fit to sing around a campfire or something. The production continues to be such a work of art that it only accents the happiness provided by the melody. I'm going to die happy now for sure!
I Wonder (Departure) B
I looked it up and this song actually was written for a musical. That's as far as I read about it, though. This a sweet Broadway-esque ballad. There are nice hooks here although not devastating ones. What's here at face value is alright and pleasant enough. You'd need to see this performed for it to get the full effect. Heck, I sat through much worse Broadway "arias." The instrumentation is creative, and they do the nice thing and change the textures around.
I'm a Marionette A
More of that Broadway stuff, but this is in the style of a rock-opera! This sounds different than Benny and Bjorn's 1984 rock opera Chess, but the foundations were definitely in place! This is an especially well-orchestrated song --- you'll just have to hear it. There's no way I'm going to describe it here. It's classy and better than most Andrew Lloyd Webber songs. (P.S. I like Andrew Lloyd Webber songs.)
Thank You For the Music (Doris Day Version) B
More like the Doris gay version!!! Hm. No not really. This is OK. Somehow, this manages sound more cutesy and cheeky. Day's singing seemed somewhat tossed off (well she runs out of breath at one point). The sound of her vocals aren't nearly as intoxicating as the ABBA girls although you have to admit they probably had more takes and production added to there's. If anything this bonus track proves how brilliant ABBA's production values were! I mean, this version is just fine, but it's as clear as day that it's not nearly as great as the unstoppable original.
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As Good As New B+
This disco song is entirely decent. They begin with some classical music violins that might have been more invigorating, but I kind of like it! What ensues is a very clean, funky disco beat. Oh, it's no "Eagle" -- not even remotely -- but at least it's catchy. The problem comes with the fact that this just isn't nearly as well produced as the earlier ABBA hits. This is a bit of a disappointment coming from the spotless tracks of The Album. Oh well... Shut up and dance!
If you are going to make a disco-dance song, then it probably should sound something like this. It has an utterly tight dance rhythm, and it has such a mood that it screams at you: "YOU'D BETTER DANCE OR ELSE!!" As always, the important thing is that the melody is catchy!
I Have a Dream B-
This is a clone of "Thank You for the Music" except it's not nearly as good. The melody is rather well written, but the production isn't nearly as captivating. In fact, it's not even close. The corny lyrics are pretty bad even for ABBA who, for the most part, aren't actually bad lyricists at all. Well, except here. Meh.
Yes! Here's something. This isn't a disco-dance or cheesy folk song. It's just a good old regular ABBA song. And I say, why did you ever have to leave us?? This one's utterly captivating and the chorus is nearly heart-melting! It's quite easily one of the most overlooked songs in their discography. They even make up for the shortcomings in the lyrics; It might seem silly, but I believe what they're saying about the man with the "angeleyes."
King Has Lost His Crown B+
This isn't too bad. It probably wasn't groomed for being a hit, but it has a good enough of a melody that it's far away from the ordinary filler. Surely, ABBA have been responsible for more deathly hooks than this, but they're definitely making songwriting seem easy. The instrumentation consists of their usual ABBA Euro-pop sound, with a steady drum beat and some sweet strings in the background. This is nicely done, but this ain't no classic!
Does Your Mother Know B
This was groomed to be a hit, and I believe it was. ...Why?? Um, I know why come to think of it. It's a disco dance song, and that was a popular form of music when this album was released. The dance groove is only somewhat infectious. The melody is memorable, but it is easily among the lesser of the ABBA hits. The lyrics are almost notorious about soliciting a minor. Hm!
If It Wasn't For the Nights B+
This melody isn't so great for ABBA's standards, but it's obvious immediately that it's better than "Does Your Mother Know!" This isn't a disco dance song, and that must be part of the reason. These guys' talents were always with just straight Euro-pop. Leave the disco for the dogs!! The instrumentation is well done although it still seems like quite a step back from the songs I remember hearing from The Album. I'm not taking any points away, but this is about a minute or two too long.
The lesson of the day: When ABBA have a hit, they really have a hit. Unlike "Angeleyes," this one is actually a well-known hit, and I could listen to this everyday for the rest of my life! The melody is remarkably catchy, and very easy to take to heart. It's just a good old ABBA ballad. It begins with some strums of a Spanish guitar. A twinkly piano starts to play, and the duetting girls give such a nice performance! When the chorus pipes up, it always manages to have a nice effect on me. Absolutely lovely!!
Lovers (Live a Little Longer) C+
This disco dance song has a similar introduction as "As Good As New" except it's more jazzy. Say all you want about that combination, but I really don't care for this idea at all. As you might expect the song's saving grace is the melody, which is quite nice. However, it's certainly in the running for the worst melody of this album...
Kisses of Fire B+
This is a generally well developed song and I'm enjoying the experience of listening to it. The disco posturing is a little too strong here, but that doesn't necessarily mean this is a particularly bad song. The chorus is very infectious, and I otherwise think the development on this one was remarkably done. If every non-notable track on a pop album was this good, I'd be a completely different man.
Summer Night City B-
I remember watching an interview with ABBA's main producer, and he was saying that he just couldn't get the instrumentation on this one done right. He settled on a disco dance version, but he said he tried many different things beforehand. Well... I think you can see that they weren't quite with the production. The melody has a nice menacing quality to it, but it's not as infectious or glorious as it might have been! Oh well...
This one also seems like it should have been something of a masterpiece. Maybe if they gave the care that they gave songs like "Eagle" it might have been something better to experience. There are certain aspects in the melody and even the instrumentation that gives me the impression that it had some potential. But in the end, this is just a forgettable toss-off.
Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) A-
Well this was a hit, and certainly one of their peaks with disco. The melody is utterly infectious and it has a nice beat to dance to! The problem with it is that it ends up overstaying its welcome by quite some time. (There's a useless synth bass in the middle that adds ABBAsolutely nothing.) It's a fine song anyway, but if it was more succinct, it probably would have scored a bit higher.
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Super Trouper 10/10
This is the first ABBA song I ever became addicted to back when I was 17! "Dancing Queen" was a little too famous for me to listen to incessantly (that's why I remember how old I was). Based on what I've heard other people say about it, "Super Trouper" seems to illicit greatly negative responses in listeners. I clearly don't understand these people. They should remove their pants and join the happy Swedish party!! These guys were able to pull off such perfect pop melodies that they don't even seem to be trying sometimes. Clearly there was more to it, because they've come out with quite a few stinkers in their time. But --- when they have a golden melody, they nail it. The instrumentation is quite a glorious thing as well! Especially the bass-line, which is just as catchy as the melody.
The Winner Takes it All 10/10
Though the most beautiful song ABBA has ever done is almost certainly "The Winner Takes it All." The melody is so gorgeous, and the vocal performances even manage to be soul-tugging. Usually, that's a rarity when you think about ABBA songs, but here they prove that stereotype is out-of-date. The lyrics are rather convincingly about a woman who lost her love to another woman. The instrumentation begins with a simple acoustic guitar and piano, but they give it some rhythm and beat soon --- in very ABBA styling. You know what I'm talking about.
On & On & On 9/10
For cripes sake, those two big hits are already over, and now we're traversing into the obligatory spotty supporting material. But why not let it be something like "On & On & On?" It's certainly more of a rocker than the previous tracks though robotic and contains some big synth sounds (clearly, they were experimenting with some '80s stylings, but they weren't willing to dive into it head first). It's not nearly as inspired as the previous two, but it's convincing. Most importantly, it's catchy.
Andante, Andante 8/10
This sounds like a traditional European folk track adapted with their sensitive brand of over-production. The melody continues to be nice and catchy, but it's too cutesy for its own good this time. Wholly decent and pleasant --- not their best.
Me And I 8/10
This is catchier than anything, but you get the feeling that Benny & Bjorn cut a few corners here. It seems pretty cheap. The huge synth sounds in the orchestration (and timpanis!) is wholly enjoyable and doesn't sound so horribly '80s as it could have. It's rather fun. The lyrics are about a schizophrenic person not getting along with himself/herself. I'm ready and willing to accept such weird material.
Happy New Year 8.5/10
It seems like an attempt to introduce a new holiday staple into our midsts. Well it didn't quite work, and they honestly didn't devote one of their finest melodies for the effort. In any case, this is a pleasant ballad with their great optimistic vibe! You have to love how they effortlessly work in that gorgeous chorus, though. (The girls duetting there are gold.)
Our Last Summer 9.5/10
I've always had a soft spot for "Our Last Summer" though there's no ready reason for that. Anyway, the melody is fantastic, and the sound is gorgeous. It's a sentimental ballad this group took personally --- ya know, they used to be romantically linked with each other. This also manages to be the most complexly structured track on here --- it goes through many different 'stages' and moods. There's even a nice electric guitar solo in here. Ohhhhh!!!
The Piper 9/10
A funny old song. They're going a bit folky/artsy here, and they actually pull it off. The melody is enjoyable, of course, but the instrumentation and development is great. It's ultra-polished, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy that fake (and well picked) flute synth and the still ABBA-esque groove. The development of the song is nearly proggy... it turns into something like an early Genesis song very briefly. That's my favorite part!!
Lay All Your Love on Me 10/10
Oh, another big old hit that was probably played frequently at Eurodance parties. It probably still is. But "Lay All Your Love on Me" is a dance song that actually inspires me to get up and dance. Of course, I'm not doing that, because I never do that, but I'm inspired to get up and dance carefree. The tone of the track is surprisingly dark and menacing for an ABBA song. The melody is absolutely infectious, and so is the beat. Classic.
The Way Old Friends Do 6.5/10
A curious ending is a seriously lacking ballad "The Way Old Friends Do." The melody is corny, and the instrumentation isn't worth much. It was recorded live. Bad idea. It's always been clear that these guys were best suited for the studio. As the only track that doesn't sound crisp on this album, it's out of place like a tumor.
Hey, but there's a good bonus track. "Elaine" is something of a lost ABBA masterpiece. The synth intro more convincingly embraces '80s synth technology more than anything on the album (and in tremendously inspired results). But the real attraction is a rather menacing atmosphere and a wonderfully catchy melody. The lyrics are hilarious. Who ever said ABBA couldn't write lyrics?
"Put On Your White Sombrero" isn't such a great one. It's an ABBA-fied version of a Latin song. Not always the best combination, unfortunately. They're best when they're writing original melodies and not such derivative things. They come off as too cheesy!!! But because this is ABBA, it continues to be entertaining.
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The Visitors 9.5/10
This is a shockingly epic, synth-heavy beginning for an ABBA album. And it rules! The song begins with a lot of quiet echoey synths as one of the girls sings with an almost Indian-tinge. The point of this beginning is not so much the melody (which is pretty good for such a song), but the atmosphere. This was produced excellently. It's thick and alarming. But then there's a huge explosion, and the song takes off in such a catchy chorus --- it's so different from the rest of the song that it almost sounds robotic. Yet, it's a welcome change. The song is so well-produced and well-written that I can't find any flaws worth noting. Not that I would want to! Perhaps my only complaint about it (not necessarily a flaw) is you can plainly hear that the voice was altered with a machine. These girls could have sung this on their own feet!!! The machines are for crappy singers like Madonna and Britney Spears.
Head Over Heels 10/10
Now it's to the more straight-ahead pop music. But wait a moment--- this is done in a strikingly jazz vein! The melody is so wonderful and varied that I can't help but think this is one of ABBA's greatest tunes. The synth-pop instrumentation seems to suit the song quite well. You'd think they would have been able to do this just as well with their '70s style instrumentation, but their producer makes it all work very well. I love this song!!
When All is Said and Done 8.5/10
Here's where I'm willing to concede that ABBA has taken a step back on their melodies --- but I don't think ABBA ever released an album that didn't have a melodically bland song in it. And, really, this one's not so bad anyway. The most rewarding aspect of this song comes in the development. It starts out as an almost classical song, and then it gracefully turns into an upbeat pop rocker.
This is another song that works best because of its surprisingly dark and grimey atmosphere. It's thick, orchestral and very well produced. The vocal melody is passable for such a song ... It's OK at first but a little too repetitive. The chorus is the most melodic bit, and it's pretty striking the first time it comes up.
I Let the Music Speak 10/10
What an absolutely beautiful song! Again, the atmosphere is thick, synth-heavy and lush. You'd think this was the reason they even invented the synthesizer! Speaking as someone who is a huge fan of Benny & Bjorn's Broadway musical Chess, this song is particularly interesting to me. It has the exact same sound and mood of that musical! Most importantly, the melody is absolutely perfect, and the vocal performance is as touching as ever. Perfection.
One of Us 10/10
Here is the most significant pop song from the whole album (unless you're going to count "Under Attack" in the bonus tracks), and it's even more beautiful than the previous track. More actually, this song seems a bit more like a regular ABBA single. It's fairly upbeat although the lyrical matter is pretty sad. (I love these lyrics, though --- who's to say they can't write good lyrics?) Again, the melody is absolutely spotless. The hooks are strong enough to catch a whale!!
Two for the Price of One 6.5/10
This song is really horrible. Despite the fact that the rest of this album tends to appreciate the more I listen to, this one just gets worse. The guys take the lead vocals, and it's only worse 'cos of that. Not only that, but the melody is just bland. It's hard for me not to pay attention to these lyrics, which is even worse than some of the tripe from their early career... It's about a guy answering a personal ad. I've just been skipping this song whenever it comes up. I will say that I kind of like the way the lyrics are read. The girls make a small cameo and have a pretty fun interaction with the guys' vocals.
Slipping Through My Fingers 9.5/10
This is yet another enormously beautiful song! Naturally, the reason for that is because of the melody. It flows beautifully, and the hooks are as strong as ever. The synthesizer orchestration isn't nearly as pompous as it is on other tracks here, but that's only a good thing. I suppose this is one of the more reserved songs!
Like an Angel Passing Through My Room 8.5/10
This also points to Chess --- it bears a strong resemblance to "Pity the Child." This is a very pretty and subtle nursery rhyme song. We hear a twinkling music box instrumenataion while one of the girls sings a rather sad song. The orchestration is restrained, classical-oriented and absolutely gorgeous. I admit, the sadness of this track is a difficult vibe for this group to exit on, but it works enough for me. Besides, if you have the version with the bonus tracks, you might as well reverse that opinion!
"Should I Laugh or Cry" is a fairy inconsequential song although it's a lot happier than most of the songs from The Visitors. Apparently these guys were actually planning another ABBA album, and these songs were to appear on it. It looks like they were going to get slightly happier... Well... I guess we'll never know.
"The Day Before You Came" is an amazing song! This, along with "Under Attack," are the MAIN reasons you should buy the version of this album with bonus tracks. Definitely do not pass this up. It's very synth-pop oriented except the orchestration is utterly beautiful. (I mean, I wish Depeche Mode sounded more like this.) These guys really knew how to use the studio when they put their minds to it --- this work is absolutely brilliant. More about the song, it's six-minute-long synth-pop symphony and it's utterly captivating from beginning to finish. WONDERFUL.
"Cassandra" is pretty good. They had a song like this in the bonus tracks of their previous album called "Put on Your White Sombrero" except this is much more orchestral. The melody is alright, but below-average for this group.
Oh, why does it have to end? "Under Attack" is ABBA's final great single. For obvious reasons, I like to think of this song as the end of The Visitors. The melody is just classic ABBA, and it lets you go out on the rabble-rousing, carefree vibe that they were always famous for. (The lyrical matter is a little less happy, but who really listens to ABBA lyrics, anyway?) Anyway, farewell, guys. ... Oh, and we still have Chess... I can't get enough of that album, either.
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I'm not going to get extremely detailed with these track reviews, because I'm racist against live albums. Anyway, it's no real surprise that this is quite a bit lesser than the studio version, which had such excellent production that you wouldn't believe it. The instrumentation is more bare and sloppy, the vocal performances are fine but not nearly as heart melting. Surely, this is a fine live rendition, but there's no way in hell anyone would prefer listening to this version! Naturally, anyone in the live audience was enjoying the hell out of it. I sure woulda been! The good news is that ABBA genuinely comes off pretty well here... I mean, they sound like a real band.
Take a Chance on Me
Well this is a good choice for a cover. An ABBA concert wouldn't be the same without something like this. The melody is as catchy as always. The stripped down production is a bummer, but I this is so much fun that I don't actually care so much about it.
I Have a Dream
Geez, I think I saw his performance on a video. This is ABBA's ultimate statement of cheese. Not only is the original song hopelessly cheesy, but they found the need to bring in a child choir who mostly sing off key. That's like putting Cheeze-whiz on a slice of American cheese. Oh and watching the video just makes it worse. It's been two or three years since then, and it's forever etched in my retinas.
Does Your Mother Know
My mother doesn't know that I'm out!!! Wait, they're not talking about me. For some reason I find this song a tad better than the original juts for not having such disco overtones. I still don't think that this is a good ABBA melody as far as these impeccable songwriters have been able to do them. This begs the question, why would they play this song instead of something like, I don't know, uhhh... "Mamma Mia!!!" You get to hear what Bjorn can do with the electric guitar. He plays about 1000 times better than me, but that doesn't mean I'm not shrugging my shoulders at him!!
Lucky the original song didn't need a lot of fancy studio tricks, so this ends up being quite a faithful rendition. The melody is always wonderful to hear, and I definitely don't mind it again!
Thank You For the Music
The original was quite a production feat, but I guess it didn't exactly need. That's such a beautiful performance there --- if you needed any proof that these girls were legitimately great singers, this is it definitively.
Two For the Price of One
Why did they have to do this song? It's the only song from their excellent swan song and it's easily the worst of the bunch. What a disappointment. For the love of all the cakes in Sweden...
This is a nice song, and they give an utterly pleasant live rendition of it. This also seemed to carry over quite well to the live setting ... undoubtedly many-a-people in the audience were singing along with it. (I'm not sure what that funny sounding byte at the end was supposed to be ... maybe that *was* the people singing along.)
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)
This was also a nice choice for a live performance. It has a nice, thunderous beat that you can dance to, and it's still pretty infectious.
Now what would an ABBA concert be without this? It loses so much from the studio version that I can't help feeling a little awful about it, but they wrote such a fantastic melody that I'd have to really be lying to myself if I wasn't enjoying it.
This is the best possible song that ABBA could ever play live. This is extremely faithful to the studio version meaning that it's a thunderous, joyous song! Nobody in the audience would have been able to resist singing along with them. The album version wasn't their best produced thing, anyway, so they don't actually lose much! Bjorn tries to deliver a guitar solo!
Money, Money, Money
This isn't so much a great choice for a live song, but I definitely appreciate hearing it. The spiteful pop-song features, above anything else, a fantastic vocal performance. Although there are a few moments where she proves that she is mortal after all. (Apparently a few attempts to sound more passionate than the studio cut backfired. That's just a nitpicky complaint though.) Benny piddles around with the piano a bit more, and I wonder why... Hm.
Name of the Game / Eagle
As you'd guess, this track combines both "Name of the Game" and "Eagle." They provide a rather faithful rendition of "Name of the Game," and it's just about as enjoyable as the studio cut though obviously not as polished. The hiccup comes when they inexplicably repeat the phrase "and it means a lot" a bunch of times to the point where I had to check to make sure that my computer wasn't on the fritz! Why did they do this? I don't know. But then there's "Eagle," which is probably their most magical song. It might not have been such a huge hit, but it's a wonderful tune. Some electric guitar noodling tries to make up for the lack of studio production. Well, it almost works to my surprise.
On & On & On
What an interesting choice. This is played less like a robo synth-pop song like I remember the original sounding like, but it isn't any less spirited. The melody is good and the girls do manage to deliver nice, convincing vocals. Lovely.
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And the album kicks off with this excellent song. (Hey! This is a concept album! No overture here, baby!) It's an Italian-sounding song that expresses all the political unrest in Europe. It's a good Italian-sounding song, too. It makes me want to eat spaghetti it's so good. And then it turns into this absolutely impeccable 80's rock song. It'll make you want to start wearing tight pants and/or leg warmers again. Seven minutes long and it's all suuuper!
The Russian and Molokov 7/10
Well... this song is a little boring. But it definitely gets better as the song gets started. It's definitely more toned down than that awesome introduction, but it does picks up. This song is about this American chess dude wanting to win the chess tournament against the Soviet Russian dude, and he then reflects on why exactly he's doing all this. (Fer sure.) At six and a half minutes, it's still pretty good. Just not great, like...
Opening Ceremony 9.5/10
This intro is like no other! It's super catchy 80's rock song where the chess referee introduces himself and tells the two opponents that they had better not do anything naughty like get naked and/or cheat. (This part gets a strong 10.) Not to say that the rest of this song isn't great, either! The second part is still very rock-ish, catchy, well-written and everything. It definitely shows Benny's and Bjorn's love for Tchaikovsky (did I mention that they idolized Tchaikovsky?). This part is basically about the political unrest at the time. Then there's another part of this song that sounds more militaristic about marketers wanting to capitalize on the tournament. And then it revives the beginning part of this song ... which is a GOOD thing!! Then, finally, we get the militaristic song again, except the drums are taken out and it is performed in a simple chorus.
Quartet (A Model of Decorum and Tranquility) 8/10
More Tchaikovsky influence. This is an enjoyable, simple little ditty where a bunch of people are singing about the 'situation.' It's a neat song.
The American and Florence/Nobody's Side 10/10
Heeeeeeeee! This is my second favorite track on this album! The All Music Guide says it threatens to turn into an ABBA song ... It's still muy excellente, though! This is the kind of tune that is apt to stick in your head for a LONG time! Very good 80's pop ... Benny and Bjorn and their use of synthesizers here are, well, perfect! This song, that really explodes at times, is about how the female adviser shouldn't follow around this Chess player (I believe). Well... I don't care what the song is about. I just like to listen to it.
I also like this very smart instrumental. It starts out slow and pleasant but increasingly grows more dynamic. It's the song played during the chess tournament. There's not really anything left to explain here, other than that the orchestration is perfect (or bloody close to it). Bloody good classical/rock music. Sit back and enjoy!
Mountain Duet 9.5/10
Another song that has a quiet build-up and then explodes into something terribly memorable. The ABBA boys ROCK, MAN! This is more romantic interludes between the leading man and the leading lady. Very nice. ;)
Florence Quits 10/10
Florence Quits ... D'oh! A quiet build-up and BOOOOOOM! This song is one of the album's most memorable numbers! Although... this song is really just more romantic interludes. (A bit too short though, sadly enough. And then it turns into another very hook-filled classical music-inspired song. It's good ... but it's resurrected better later on in the album.
Embassy Lament 8/10
This one is clearly Tchaikovsky-inspired. And it's pretty darn gooood! This song gives us the current political situation and opinions. This is a very short song, so...
Hey! I can play this one on the piano, I can! (I am very proud of that, I am!) This is an excellent "anthem" where the main character sings about his homeland and his duty to the chess world and his love or something like that. It's pretty rollicking, but short.
Bangkok/One Night in Bangkok 9.5/10
Why they didn't split this track into two different tracks, I'll never know. The first part of this song is a pretty nice, eastern-sounding orchestration piece and then it turns into that popular One Night in Bangkok song. It's too much of a dance type song for my special tastes, but it's not bad. Good singing, nice beat, hooks, yep. Go Benny and Bjorn! Ayiyiyiyiy! In all honesty, however, I don't remember this song's place in the play.
Heaven Help My Heart 8.5/10
This is one of the plays two semi-popular sentimental songs. And it's good. I mean... this is the ABBA boys we're talking about! They can do it! This is where some chick (I believe it's the guy's wife and not the adviser) who wants heaven to help her heart 'cause she's in love and stuff.
*Don Ignacio ducks out of sight because there's an argument* This song is exactly what it says. It's an argument. Not really a song. It's just people singing an argument. But it's pretty effective! There is the adviser complaining that their personal lives are on the telly (I forget why that was a problem) but the guy says he shouldn't let that bother her. Okay. Next song.
I Know Him So Well 10/10
For the album's second sentimental song (this one reached the #1 on the UK charts), this one is an absolute bullseye! At one point, this was in my top 10 favorite songs (a bit embarrassing to mention that because I'm the IRON MAN) ... but I admit it. I think this song is tops-this is about as good as sentimental love songs get ... Michael Bolton was jealous, I'm sure-and I still think it is the best in the whole album. (Then again, I don't look for love songs purposefully, so there are probably better ones out there than this.) Anyway, youse sentimental types ought to hear this one if ya haven't already.
The Deal (No Deal) 9/10
You know... I lost all track of this plot. There was some sort of "deal" and I forgot all about it. Eh... it doesn't matter at all. This is a good 80's hard rock song, so I don't care! It takes maybe too long to start up, but then we get that impeccable explosion that we saw already from Florence Quits.
Pity the Child 10/10
This is also one of the albums very strong songs. The melody is really excellent here as opposed to just solid orchestration. (Not that the orchestration isn't totally excellent, either!) It starts out pleasant and slowly turns into a very dynamic, emotional song about a poor child who was shat on all his life. It probably won't bring you to tears, but it will flare your spirits and engage your mind. The singing here is truly great! (Better than Michael Bolton, even!!)
They REALLY need to split some of these tracks up. The first part of this song is an excellent piece of atmospheric choral work (think church choirs without all the old ladies' screeching vocals. The next part of the song is that same catchy tune we heard at the beginning of The American and Florence, which I always like. And then we get the instrumental from Chess again, which I'm always up to re-listening to, but toward the end of the song this time, they get some vocals and its turned into more of a rock song. Good track... they should have split it in half, though.
Epilogue: You and I/The Story of Chess 9/10
This is a good closer to the album. Instead of something depressing, like the album and the play had been, it turns into something more hopeful and happy. It's still quite dark and atmospheric, though. But the hooks are there and the orchestration is very nice! Then the song turns into a VERY Tchaicovsky tune. And then it goes back into that song it started with. This is a 10-minute track, too, and all pretty good!
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