Album: ABBA – “Ring Ring” (1973)

OK with Bjork done and dusted, I did find myself wondering WHAT to do next. Reviews are so labour intensive, and it’s difficult to come up with enough of them to keep a blog alive. So I’m delving back, BACK into the mists of time, where I did a similar voyage through the back catalogue of Swedish megastars ABBA. No point leaving them to rot on a message board, this is MY HOUSE, and I want to SHARE this with my loyal fan(s) (if indeed there are any yet).

I was sort of familiar with ABBA. I mean everyone is to some degree, aren’t they? Their big hits at least are inescapable, but I didn’t really know much at all, aside from the blockbusters. It turned out to be a very rewarding journey through their recorded output, perhaps moreso than any artist I’ve done in this way (and that’s a substantial list). So let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start.

PS what mindbending cover art!

(originally written January 2011, messageboard in-jokes removed)

09 Ring Ring – Certainly hitting the ground running, this is instantly pleasing, and just feels immediately like ABBA. Or at least to my untrained ears anyway, don’t hit me. I really like the hook in the background, really fun and JAUNTY. Girls taking the lead vocals, obviously that’s good for me, and a tale of longing, unrequited love (ish) and getting pissed off that someone hasn’t called you. How on Earth can I relate to that? Anyway, LOVE, great start.

09 Another town, another train – Pleasingly 70s vibe here (well it WAS the 70s), gentle melody, cute little flutey bits. He even says groovy, how charming (yes, patronising I know). The harmonies in the chorus are gorgeous, exactly what I’m looking for really. The verses are bittersweet, quite touching really, and presumably their Swedish roots mean they don’t fall back on the usual cliches that ballads tend to.

08 Disillusion – As I’ve grown more familiar with this album, this track has grown on me too. Not quite to the extent that the first two tracks have though. It does remind me of the first Kate Bush album in some respects, probably the instruments and occasional melodic moment, but obviously that’s not a bad thing.

07 People need love – Heh .. well I like this, but it’s a bit of a clumsy glam effort to my ears, maybe a little too 70s a sound. I mean don’t get me wrong, it puts me in mind of Elton etc but I’ve never been THAT much of a fan of that. Nice enough, but 2:46 is plenty for me, thanks.

06 I saw it in the mirror – Ack this is a bit of a plodder, not a big fan of this. I don’t know who is doing lead vocals (both guys?) but they don’t do a lot for me. After such amazing uptempos (and a great ballad) this is shown up as a bit of a dull moment sadly. Happily it’s the shortest song though so it doesn’t cause too much of a roadblock to the album as a whole.

08 Nina, Pretty Ballerina – OH NOW I do like this. The girls remind me of Karen Carpenter (high praise!). It’s a nice little fairytale about a girl who seems quite introvert and in a cruddy job, but is (or at least had a dream about)… well, a ballerina, the clue’s in the name. The sound effects are a bit superfluous but that chorus is quite wonderful, and that jittery piano hook is great.

08 Love isn’t easy (but it sure is hard enough) – Starts of reminding me of Frosty the Snowman every time. Battle of the sexes time now, though they all join forces for a GOOD OLD KNEES UP in the chorus. Naff as hell but I still like it a lot. Aww, I think these crazy kids are going to be just fine (err…). I guess it got too hard in the end, but still, let’s enjoy the cheesy early days.

07 Me and Bobby and Bobby’s brother – EXPLODES into life at the start, it’s got a rather odd structure to it hasn’t it? I guess it’s not about incestuous threesomes disappointingly, but sounds like they are having a GAS. Catchy, though I think I might even prefer the wistful sounding verses to the unforgettable chorus. Sounds like a bit of a prick-tease though, dirty girl.

07 He is your brother – Again we drift into the sort of 70s sound I’m NOT such a fan of (no, I don’t know how to describe it). Some nice harmonies, I guess I shouldn’t take this too literally, and that this is about general peace and love in the world, a noble message. The various members talking about their experiences makes the whole thing a bit culty but whatever, I’m sure there are worse cults than ABBA.

06 She’s my kind of girl – Feels like I’ve drifting into another artist entirely, this feels like the Beach Boys or someone. Guys on vocal duty now, can’t say it does a lot for me, a few awkward harmony moments. Inferior to the tracks with the whole gang on really, I don’t think tracks like this are where their strengths lie [/obvious].

07 I am just a girl – Though saying that … I’m not that fussed about this effort. It’s quite nice, but quite sleepy and uninteresting. In fact “quite nice” is about as strong an opinion as I can have. I don’t dislike it though, there are more skippable tracks than this.

08 Rock’n’Roll band – Finishing on a high though, with the whole gang doing their bits. Nice tempo, like the different parts, doesn’t feel like a straightforward rock’n’roll track at least. The harmonies in the chorus make me STIR a little bit, makes me feel a little sad somehow, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Can it really be just because it’s the end of the album? That sounds rather weird to me, but who knows. Not a lot to it lyrically, sort of the 70s equivalent to The Club Is Alive, with shorties getting down, drinking bub, putting your hands up etc. Simple!

OK I know what you’re going to say (apart from WTF why did you rate so-and-so that low?), some of the ratings are quite generous and nothing less than a 6. But I stand by it, I don’t rate everyone like this, it’s just that for these expeditions I pick artists that I’m quite likely to like anyway. Besides, I really like this album. Sure, it’s not amazing, but it benefits from being quite short (as traditional in the vinyl years) and having some great moments. Above all it shows a lot of promise, and makes me excited about future albums. Pretty much as good as a first entry can go, isn’t it?

Keepers for the iPod: Ring Ring, Another town another train, Nina Pretty Ballerina, Rock’n’Roll band.

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