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Abba – Arrival (1976) and The Visitors (1981)

July 13, 2016

NordicCountriestunesNifty Nordic logo by Sarca @ Caughtmegaming

Nordic Countries Artist #1: Björk
Nordic Countries Artist #2: ABBA

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[Albums 466 & 467 / 1001]

With these 2 ABBA records, it appears you can somewhat judge an album by its cover.

On Arrival, the band is united.ABBA_-_Arrival

2 couples (both in the photo & in real life), sunshine straight ahead, sunny & bright enough to make one squint.

More often than not, the music fits the cover like an all-white, one-piece, 1976 outfit.

Has there been a more life-affirming hit than Dancing Queen?

An easier to chorus to sing along with than Dum Dum Diddle?

If you love ABBA, Arrival will only reaffirm your feelings.

The same is true for those who feel an antonym of love for ABBA. Approach Arrival with caution, ABBAphobes!

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However, on The Visitors, the cover contrast is stark.

The couples are no longer together (both in the photo & in real life), casting shadows in a dimly lit room.ABBA_-_The_Visitors_(Polar)

Though out of such personal adversity, ABBA still managed to produce a solid album, with a handful of superb singles.

The first three tracks are terrific: the synth-driven title track, the impossibly catchy Head Over Heels, and the optimally balanced sad vocal/joyful accompaniment in When All is Said and Done.

The penultimate track, Slipping Through My Fingers is an incredibly moving song; a friendly reminder for me to cherish the time with my kids as they grow up.

Some might call it mawkish or schmaltzy and that’s fine. Admittedly, I have a bias towards Benny Andersson/Björn Ulvaeus ballads (My Love, My Life was by far my preferred track on Arrival and the duet, I Know Him So Well, from their musical Chess, is among my favourite duets). And I suppose I prefer the Meryl Streep version of Slipping… in Mamma Mia to the one heard here.

But that being said, it’s a fine example of pop craftsmanship, and I’m glad they wrote it.

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I should also disclose my ABBA bias, in large part due to the film Mamma Mia.

For you see, in August 2013, our local Cineplex had a special summer screening.

Not meaning to brag, I went on a movie date with a pretty special gal (who already knew & loved the soundtrack).

If there’s anything cuter than this girl singing along with Meryl, I’ve yet to hear it!

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From → 1970s, 1980s

22 Comments
  1. Your A Great Dad!
    Abba man I’m not gonna knock them as they do have some catchy syrupy songs that will ring forever in your head for hours after!
    Headstones do a killer cover of S.O.S,
    I do like you album cover contrast ..Well done! As pop as there sound was they were showing cracks and these covers prove it…
    Awesome post …

    • I’ve got to check out that SOS cover – in University I was in a cover band that played a cover of the Headstones cover of Tweeder & the monkeyman!
      Much appreciated Deke!

  2. Good on you for listening to this stuff, Geoff. If I was doing your project, and hit ABBA as something I needed to listen to, I’d probably put it off til the end, and even then avoid it. Why? Well, I can tolerate a lot of things, a lot of pop music, even, but I heard so much ABBA growing up, I think it was maybe too much. I’m like Deke, I can appreciate it for what it is, but I would never consciously seek it out and play it.

    Also, I never saw Mamma Mia, but you’re welcome to it!

  3. Geoff, like you I have a huge admiration for Abba. “Dancing Queen” is one of the greatest pop songs ever written IMHO. “The Visitors” may seem an odd choice for the book as it doesn’t contain any commercial giants, but I think it’s a great career ending album. It’s darker, deeper, and provides a different facet to Benny & Bjorn’s songwriting genius. Everything seems like shadowy reflections of a shining pop career and definitely deserves consideration as one of their best. I, for one, am glad they never reformed and sullied a brilliant career. Like The Beatles, they stopped when they ran out of steam.

    • And according to a Chuck Klosterman piece I read, ABBA turned down $1 Billion(!) to do a reunion tour!
      That’s an appropriate way of viewing The Visitors, a shadowy reflection, and a good way to call it quits while ahead.

      • Exactly! At least they had the dignity to call it quits whilst ahead, instead of so many bands that have reformed for the old money spinning farewell tour. Don’t start me on how many have done that. The list would be never ending.

      • It would not be a short list!

      • You gotta admire the tenacity to turn down a BILLION dollars!

        Or 100 billion.

      • Love #2’s face at the original ‘million’ demand!

  4. Two great albums right there!

  5. Hate ABBA!!!! I know I’m the only person in the world who feels this way but (makes chucking up noises) …

  6. No denying that they have written a heap of perfect pop hits, but I’m never likely to go near an ABBA album. When I was younger and still living with my parents, my sister played ABBA Gold to death, y’see. To death!

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