ABBA‘s eponymously-titled third studio album (issued in March 1975) was actually only the second to be released in the UK, since the pre-Waterloo debut, Ring Ring, didn’t come out until 1992. A new deluxe CD+DVD version of ABBA came out last week.
ABBA was the album where Benny and Bjorn really established themselves as writers of superior pop singles, banishing any notion that the Eurovision success of Waterloo had been a one-off. After initially stuttering in the UK with I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do and So Long – neither of which had any real impact on the charts – they hit the jackpot with two ABBA classics in SOS (#6) and Mamma Mia (#1). Those four songs are the best (and best-known) on the record, which is fairly uneven to say the least. Hey Hey Helen and Rock Me is ABBA-does-Slade (not a great combination), Intermezzo No. 1 is a rather overblown prog-rock instrumental (why?) and Tropical Loveland is very twee reggae number. The California soft-rock of Man In The Middle and catchy Bang-A-Boomerang are probably the two stand-out album cuts.
The mastering sounds good – just like The Visitors deluxe edition from earlier this year and Super Trouper from 2011, the engineers finally seem to have got this right. The bonus selection on the CD is simply a repeat of what was on the Complete Studio Recordings version of ABBA in 2005, and it is really the DVD included with this 2-disc deluxe edition is the main attraction here.
The DVD provides about an hour of content, of which 40 minutes is taken up with an Australian TV special, filmed in March 1976. The band perform 12 numbers, lip-synching to backing tracks, with a few different set-ups and costume changes. It’s very much a selection of their best hits at that point, including six tracks from the ABBA album, Waterloo, Honey Honey and the at the time yet-to-be-released Dancing Queen. In between are some corny, but fun ‘links’ with the four members of the band out and about in Australia feeding Kangaroos and informing viewers that “two thirds of Australia is unfit for agriculture due to a lack of rain” (these links were only shown when this special was broadcast in Sweden).
Further TV performances include a 1975 TV special for Sweden (spot the same outfits!) and performances of Mamma Mia and SOS on a UK TV programme called Seaside Special. The latter is interesting because although the band appear to be lip-synching, the songs both have completely re-recorded backing tracks for this appearance – so it’s like hearing two alternate studio versions of those tracks. Really interesting! All the video is in 4:3 and looks really great quality (DVD is all region NTSC).
The DVD ends with the now familiar selection of TV commercials and an ‘International Sleeve Gallery’ showing the artwork from the various singles from around the world.
The packaging for this deluxe edition is just like The Visitors – an eight-panel digipack with an excellent booklet. For some reason the ABBA deluxe releases maintain the overprinted transparent sleeves which the digipack slides into. This is excellent and so much better than that awful sticky-tape which most Universal Music deluxe releases come with (The Kinks, Steve Winwood etc.)
ABBA is not a classic album by any stretch, but if you’ve been collecting the deluxe sets then there is no reason to stop now. The great sound of the CD and the generally excellent content on the DVD give you a reason to buy it once again.
- UK Order: ABBA (Deluxe Edition)
- USA Order: Abba (Deluxe Edition)
- CANADA Order: Abba (Deluxe Edition)
- GERMANY Order: Abba (Deluxe Edition)
- 1. Mamma Mia
- 2. Hey, Hey Helen
- 3. Tropical Loveland
- 4. S.O.S.
- 5. Man In The Middle
- 6. Bang-A-Boomerang
- 7. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
- 8. Rock Me
- 9. Intermezzo No.1
- 10. I’ve Been Waiting For You
- 11. So Long
- 12. Crazy World*
- 13. Medley: Pick A Bale Of Cotton–On Top Of Old Smokey – Midnight Special*
- 14. Mamma Mia (spanish version)*
- 1. ABBA In Australia
- 2. Made In Sweden – For Export
- 3. SOS
- 4. Mamma Mia
- 5. The Best Of ABBA
- 6. Greatest Hits
- 7. International Sleeve Gallery
- 8. Menu / Still Image / ABBA Deluxe Edition