2023 marks the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s first album Ring Ring. To celebrate, Universal Music are releasing the album on double half-speed mastered LP, a box set of 5 coloured vinyl singles, and 5 picture disc of singles from the album – People Need Love/Merry-Go-Round, He Is Your Brother/Santa Rosa, Ring Ring (Bara du slog en signal)/Åh, vilka tider, Ring Ring [English version]/She’s My Kind Of Girl, and Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough)/I Am Just A Girl.
An official announcement hasn’t been made yet, but the records have all appeared on Amazon UK and Amazon SE in the past few hours, with an expected release on 19 May. Official ABBA social media accounts have been hinting at something coming on the actual anniversary of the album’s release on 26 March (this coming Sunday). It’s happened before, where new releases have appeared on Amazon a day or so before the official announcement is made.
With their debut album #lovestorm, Cologne-based band Groenalund have created their own take on ABBA-esque pop for the twenty-first century.
All songs bar one were composed by multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer Martin Gerke. Mezzo soprano Karolin Biewald, and sopranos Mabel Winkler, and Sarah Schumacher create beautiful sounds in three-part harmony.
Songs range from 80’s-style disco pop with ‘I’m Sorry, I Love You’ and ‘We Keep On Dancing’, guitar-driven ‘Just A Story’, the beautiful choral ‘The Curse’, pure pop with ‘I Want You Back’, ‘Painting Black’, and ‘Whatever We Do To Music’, and the piano and strings of the gorgeous ballad ‘Forgiven’.
If I had to pick a favourite song, that would probably be the epic opening track ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’, with its intricate intertwined, impassioned vocals.
Of particular interest to ABBA fans is a version of the legendary unreleased 1982 track ‘Just Like That’. Groenalund’s version sticks close to the original ABBA recording. Fans will also notice a couple of ABBA touches in the CD booklet.
Guitarist Janne Schaffer, who played on around 50 of ABBA’s original recordings from 1972 right through to the final recordings in 1982, guests on four tracks, using instruments that he played on those ABBA recordings. Two tracks feature Martin playing instruments recorded at Benny Andersson’s RMV studio in Stockholm, including Benny’s legendary Yamaha GX1 synthesizer and Fazioli piano.
If you’re a fan of well-produced pop music, I highly recommend you give #lovestorm a spin. It’s available 13 January 2023 at groenalund.com.
Thirty years ago this week, on 21 September 1992, ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits was released. It led to a reappraisal of ABBA’s music ten years after the group had come to an end, and spurred a great revival of interest in ABBA that continues to grow to this day.
The revival had been building up underground for quite a while. The Agnetha Benny Björn Frida Fan Club, now the Official International ABBA Fan Club, was founded in the Netherlands in 1986, and started holding annual fan gatherings (gatherings continue to this day, with the next International ABBA Day on 1 October). Fans in Australia celebrated the tenth anniversary of ABBA’s Australian concert tour in March 1987, which led to venues (primarily gay ones) hosting ABBA nights, which continued semi-regularly into the mid-90s. The tribute act Björn Again started playing in venues across Melbourne in 1988, expanding to the rest of Australia and the world over the next few years. And in June 1992 British synth duo Erasure released their EP Abba-esque, featuring four ABBA classics done Erasure style, which topped the charts.
It was the release of ABBA Gold, and its teaser single ‘Dancing Queen’, that saw the underground ABBA revival go overground, as the single and album raced up the charts around the world, with Gold topping the album charts in 11 countries.
ABBA Gold had been researched by Polydor in London, looking to capitalise on their new acquisition (parent company PolyGram having purchased Stig Anderson’s Sweden Music publishing and Polar Music record companies in 1990). They came up with a single CD featuring 19 of ABBA’s most popular hits, in a simple dignified sleeve featuring just the group name and album title, though until 2002 it had a bastardised version of the ABBA logo.
The album included most of ABBA’s most popular songs: ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘SOS’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ etc, closing with the Eurovision Song Contest winner ‘Waterloo’. Though the tracklist did favour British hits, missing a few major international hits such as ‘Ring Ring’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, and ‘Summer Night City’ (all of which appeared on the sequel CD More ABBA Gold the following year), and included ‘Thank You For The Music’, which had never been a major hit single, but was popular and seen as one of ABBA’s signature songs.
After Gold was released the ABBA revival was further spurred along in 1994 by the two Australian films that prominently featured ABBA music, Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Five years later the stage musical Mamma Mia! opened in London, featuring 22 ABBA songs propelling the story, and by then ABBA was back and here to stay. The musical was turned into a Hollywood movie in 2008, with a sequel in 2018, and also inspired the immersive dinner experience Mamma Mia! The Party. And of course, the new ABBA album Voyage was released in November 2021, with the ABBA Voyage concert featuring digital ABBA avatars opening in London in May 2022.
ABBA Gold itself has been rereleased on many occasions, often coinciding with significant anniversaries: in 1999 and 2014 for the 25th, 30th, and 40th anniversaries of ABBA winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and the 10th and 25th anniversaries of the album’s release, plus other versions packing the album with additional discs or DVDs featuring the music videos of the album’s 19 songs. It has appeared on multiple formats: CD, vinyl, cassette, DCC, VHS, Laserdisc, Video CD, and DVD, as well as streaming and download services. This week the 30th anniversary of Gold‘s release is celebrated with new vinyl, CD, and cassette versions plus a range of merchandise.
I initially ignored Gold‘s charms. To me it seemed another in the long line of cheap compilation CDs that had been issued over the previous ten years. I don’t remember exactly when I purchased the original copy – somewhere between the Australian release date of 12 October and Christmas 1992. Now of course I have multiple copies on CD, DVD, vinyl, CD/DVD packs, and soon to have it on cassette as well.
Two new ABBA CD box sets have recently appeared in Europe, separate from the CD box set released internationally in May through Universal Music. Both collect ABBA’s nine studio albums, plus the Live at Wembley Arena double CD and the DVD The Essential Collection.
Unusually, these are not available in music stores, but through newsagents. Each individual album is released one per week.
Each disc is packaged in a bi-fold cardboard sleeve. The eight original studio albums copy the 2001 remasters, with the same bonus tracks and booklets. However the cover artwork replicates the original albums.
The first set is available in Spain through the newspaper El País. The first disc, Ring Ring, was available on 12 June, along with the box to contain the full set. The studio albums were released chronologically, followed by the live album and the DVD. The final disc was released on 21 August. All discs are available individually online, as is the full box set. However, one must be a residen of Spain to purchase.
The second set is available in Italy through direct marketers Mondadori per te. The first disc, ABBA, is available from 26 August, and comes with the box. Each disc comes with the original 2001 booklet plus a new booklet in Italian. Like the Spanish set, one disc is released per week, but in a different order: ABBA, Arrival, Voulez-Vous, Voyage, Waterloo, Super Trouper, ABBA – The Album, Ring Ring, Live at Wembley Arena, The Visitors, and The Definitive Collection. Each is also available online, a week after release. Also like the Spanish set, this is only available to residents of Italy. Unlike the Spanish set, it appears the full box set isn’t available online, only the individual discs.
So, if you don’t live in Spain or Italy and are wanting to get these sets, you’ll have to contact friends in those countries.
Recently two unusual unauthorised CDs have been released.
ABBA Bremen 1979 – The German Broadcast was released in April. The booklet claims that the CD is a radio broadcast of ABBA’s concert at the Stadthalle in Bremen, West Germany, on 1 November 1979. However, it is actually the radio special ABBA in Concert, from concerts recorded at Wembley Arena later that month, which was prepared by Polar Music for BBC Radio for broadcast not long after the tour finished. Introductions heard on the CD from Björn about ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ being “the current number three in the British charts” and the choir on ‘I Have A Dream’ being “kids here from London” are a clear giveaway (notwithstanding the audio is clearly the same as the radio special). The special was distributed on a “transcription disc” to BBC radio stations for broadcast in 1980. It was reissued on CD in 1994, again for distribution to BBC radio. The sound quality is very good; it is likely this CD is a copy of the transcription CD.
ABBA Live In Warsaw 1976 was released in June. It claims to be “a classic radio broadcast recorded in Warsaw / Poland in 1976”. The CD actually contains the audio of the television special ABBA w Studio 2 (ABBA in Studio 2, aka ABBA in Poland), which was recorded in October 1976 and broadcast in Poland in November. ABBA lip-synced to their studio recordings during this special, so it contains no live music at all. The CD only contains the music portion of the special, all dialogue is excluded. The sound is muffled and in mono, with applause from the studio audience quickly fading in and out and the start of end of each song. This special was also released on an unauthorised DVD in Argentina in 2013.
Apparently, there is an EU ruling that allows the release of radio broadcast material over 40 years old. I don’t know how true this is, but that’s what I’ve heard from a few different sources. Though both these CDs seem to originate from the UK, where EU rules wouldn’t apply. There was a similar loophole in copyright law in Australia years ago, which saw the release of dozens of CDs of audio from radio and TV broadcasts and even bootleg concert recordings in the early 1990s, including one ABBA title featuring live TV performances between 1974 and 1981. There seem to be similar legal loopholes in South America, where unauthorised DVDs of TV material have been released in Brazil and Argentina (like the above-mentioned Poland special).
The companies that produced these CDs both have a long list of similar CDs of radio broadcast material from dozens of popular international artists. How long these CDs will remain available is anyone’s guess. Bremen 1979 has already disappeared from a couple of webstores where it was listed.
NOMINATED FOR ‘BEST INTERNATIONAL GROUP’ AT THIS YEAR’S BRIT AWARDS, THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE OPENING OF THE ‘ABBA VOYAGE’ TOUR,
ON THE RADIO WITH THE NEW SINGLE “NO DOUBT ABOUT IT” FROM THE RECORD-BREAKING ALBUM “VOYAGE”
The legendary Swedish band ABBA on the radio with the new single “NO DOUBT ABOUT IT”, available for radio rotation from Friday 11 February.
Excerpted from “Voyage”, the group’s latest studio album, “NO DOUBT ABOUT IT” is a lively song punctuated by clapping, with a powerful bass and 80s synthesizers. The single immediately begins with a strong and memorable chorus (“I made a mess, okay / And there’s no doubt”).
Frida Lyngstad, one of ABBA’s lead-singers, says: “NO DOUBT ABOUT IT could be about me and my beloved, in general any relationship to watch with a little humor. You’ll definitely come out with a smile.”
After what was one of the biggest and most anticipated returns in history, ABBA’s first album in 40 years, “Voyage, released on November 5, 2021, went straight to #1 in 18 countries including the UK, Germany, Australia and Sweden and reached #2 on the US Billboard 200. In its first week, “Voyage” achieved worldwide sales of more than 1 million copies and received more than 275 million total streams to date.
ABBA are nominated for “International Group of the Year” at the 2022 BRIT Awards and received their first Grammy nomination for “Record of the Year” for the single “I Still Have Faith In You”.
On May 27, “ABBA Voyage” opens, the revolutionary concert tour that will see Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid as digital avatars in their purpose-built “ABBA Arena” at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, with a lineup of abba’s big hits and songs from their new album Voyage.
First impressions of the ten tracks in ABBA’s new album Voyage.
1. I Still Have Faith In You
Glorious, majestic, emotional, melancholy, joyous. We heard this one on the Voyage launch in September. It sounds like a culmination of what Benny, Frida, Agnetha, and Björn have been doing since 1982. The lyric is about ABBA reuniting after so many years – do they have it in them? They do!
2. When You Danced With Me
Frida and Agnetha lead us on a Celtic dance. ABBA’s ‘Safety Dance’? Shades of ‘The Piper’. This will be popular at ABBA dance parties from now till the end of time.
3. Little Things
A gentle song from Frida about Christmas morning, parents staying in bed before the children wake up to open their presents. A little hint at ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ between verses. Ends with a verse by a children’s choir. A nice touch. Not the future Christmas number one people have been anticipating.
4. Don’t Shut Me Down
The lyric could be about either the avatars or ABBA themselves reunited. Or both. Another one we first heard in September. Agnetha leads. Hints of ABBA-esque motifs throughout.
5. Just A Notion
The vocals were originally recorded in 1978. We heard a half of this in ‘ABBA Undeleted’ on the Thank You For The Music box set in 1994. The boogie-woogie piano backing is all new (I miss the electric piano in the original though). Björn says this gives an idea of what the Voyage avatar concert will be like, with original ABBA vocals and a live band. This came out in late October as another taster for the album.
6. I Could Be That Woman
The story of a woman suffering addiction trying to reconcile with her man, while the dog tries to calm things between them. An unusual subject choice for ABBA. A slow, almost soft-country ballad. Agnetha sings “screw you”.
7. Keep An Eye On Dan
A burst of 80s synth-pop-rock. Another song to join the ranks of ABBA’s divorce classics, sung by Agnetha. A woman drops off her son with her ex-husband for the weekend, and warns the father to keep an eye on their troublesome son Dan. Björn and Benny pop in with a backing line towards the end, reminiscent of ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’. Ends with an “easter egg” you’re sure to spot.
A gentle ballad from Frida about the state of the world and the affects of climate change. What happens if the bees disappear? Thoughtful. The song opens with ‘Fernando’-like flutes. Not a revamped version of the demo ‘Free As A Bumblebee’.
9. No Doubt About It
A rocky one from Frida, from the point of view of a woman who has “messed up” her relationship. An early stand-out track. Ends with the line “this isn’t where it ends”. No it’s not, there’s one more song to go.
10. Ode To Freedom
An ode not to freedom itself but about creating a song that can be an ode to freedom (like ‘King Kong Song’ and ‘I Let The Music Speak’ it’s a song about itself). Frida sings in low register and Agnetha sings an octave above. There’s a very strong classical influence. A beautiful, mournful, majestic ending to the album (and to ABBA). It will make you cry.
Overall verdict: there’s not a bad song on the album. Early favourites are ‘I Still Have Faith In You’, ‘When You Danced With Me’, ‘Keep An Eye On Dan’, ‘No Doubt About It’, and ‘Ode To Freedom’.