Review: ABBA – B-sides & Rarities

So this is it, my last clutch of ABBA songs to go through. First of all, thanks to those who provided any tracks I hadn’t already got from the box-set bonus disc. I approach these tidy-ups with some trepidation, but I am pleased to say though, that ABBA didn’t disappoint, and came up with some great stuff that I’m very pleased I didn’t miss.

So, in NO particular order really…

07 Merry Go Round – OK maybe there is some vague chronological order here, and this certainly feels like an oldie. At first glance it’s quite an ordinary mid-tempo effort, not particularly exciting but it’s got a nice structure and a solid melody to it. The chorus isn’t going to rock my world but I like the “Merry Merry” backing vocals in the chorus, especially at the end with the “merry Merry MERRY Merry merry go round”.

06 Santa Rosa – This sort of reminds me of the little Beach Boys I’m familiar with, a bit of a 50s surf-shack rock’n’roll feel to it. Can’t say I’m too fussed with it, the guys’ vocals could never really compete. They are tuneful but unadventurous, and without the hooks of Merry Go Round. Zzzz

07 Hovas Vittne – I gather this is a birthday song for one of the guys (I forgot which one), but possibly the first Swedish song I’ve heard during this whole escapade. It’s an interesting language isn’t it? The song is a bit of throwaway fluff but pleasant enough for its duration. Has a bit of a tropical feel to it, doesn’t it? I might have even heard Honolulu mentioned…

07 Crazy World – So more 70s stuff with male vocals, joy! Actually this isn’t bad, his vocals are a bit miserable or tired, so I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be happy or not (the lyrics would suggest he is, most of the time). It’s a bit easy-listening but relaxing, I love that 70s sound if I’m honest. Certainly wouldn’t pick this as one of my faovurites though.

08 Happy Hawaii – Was this previously “Why did it have to be me?”? I seem to remember being indifferent to that, but this is rather fabulous. Naff as anything but I like it. I guess this was from the Waterloo era then? Love the harmonies on this, got a nice swaying rhythm to it doesn’t it? Not much I can say about it (apart from their pronunciation of Hawaii), but it’s a fun few minutes and an improvement on the original.

09 Summer Night City – Woo, a sudden change of pace now, firmly disco in territory. It’s a decent album track and possibly the first lost treasure so far. The chorus vocals are a bit too breathy, I don’t like that much, but I like the production. I feel like they could have put something a bit more SOARING on top of it. That intro is WONDERFUL though.

05 Medley – Oh god, WTF is this? Didn’t really get on with this. Some interesting/weird choices of songs here, the first putting me in the mind of King Kong Song, which is NOT A GOOD THING. Then a rather UN-seamless transition to “On top of old Smokey”!?? I mean it’s a nice enough song, but what’s going ON? Then some strange carousel glam-rock nonsense at the end. Is there really a sheriff in Euston?? Sorry, not for me, this is a HOT MESS.

06 Put on your white sombrero – I swear I’ll start liking these soon… but not yet. What a cheesy faux-latin synth intro! Naff doesn’t BEGIN to describe it! I’m interpreting this as her breaking up with some guy living in a fantasy world, evidently with some cowboy theme to it. Maybe he’s a stripper? Either way, the song doesn’t really get away from squawky Margarita Pracatan territory does it?

07 Just Like That – I will say first, this is the “full version” I have that’s quite LQ. I’ve got that pop mix now so I’ll give that a bash soon. It’s a bit closer to what I’ve been accustomed to on their albums though, instead of the rather gimmicky offcuts I’ve got through so far. It’s hard to judge an unfinished product fairly, but it’s a pretty solid effort. The choruses are a bit iffy, seem to get some good mileage out of the rhyming dictionary at least. Would have been interesting to hear the finished production.

08 Lovelight – A bit more like it, more disco fun from later on in their career. Lyrically I’m not a big fan of this, especially that odd bit about her grubby ceiling looking better when her beau is around, I guess when she’s on her BACK, the dirty cow. Most words rhyming with “light” get thrown into the mix at some point, but the song itself is catchy enough. Not a classic but a solid album track. Can’t help but feel I’m going off it a bit already.

09 Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (a man after midnight) – See, part of me finds this a bit cringey. I suspect it’s the same part who still remembers Denise Van Outen doing this on Abbamania all those years ago, or the sitcom of the same name… But now I’m coming back around to this. The intro with those STRINGS, obviously that bassline (somewhat trumped by the beefed-up 21st century Madonna take that I couldn’t avoid mentioning). I love that string section immediately before the choruses though, DRAMATIC. I’m torn really, I still find this a bit naff and can imagine awful drag acts doing this. But that dance breakdown is pretty special too… if I was listening to this before the rest of the world had put their connotations on it, this would be fabulous.

08 Elaine – I know this was rated highly but I can’t see how this is a 10/10 moment. In the context of the songs I’ve just written up, it’s very good, but the vocals I find a bit migraine-inducing, and I don’t really like those Sou-u-u-u-u-ulll bits, such a weird effect. The production is lovely though, very bouncy and uptempo. Just can’t really get on board with the VOX. I can’t lose my shit for EVERY song, guys.

07 Should I laugh or cry – Not a fan of this, I like the simple production but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Pleasant enough but totally unmemorable. Apart from that bit about big balloons maybe. Oddly though, despite my indifference, I could feel it going well on an album, even if it is a bit fillery.

07 Åh, Vilka Tider – Hmm … maybe I was just in a great mood last time I listened to all these, this write-up feels quite negative! Another Swedish one now, of origins I’m yet to look up on Wikipedia. I guess this also goes back a bit, feels like their older stuff certainly. OK of course I don’t know what it’s about, I don’t know Swedish, but it’s quite a bouncy fun track, a bit cheesy and 70s, but it’s cheese from the 70s, what did I expect?

08 You owe me one – Squeaky disco intro leads into a fun/odd little tune that rhymes Bahamas with dramas. Not quite following what’s going on here, is she demanding a holiday from her other half to get away from him?! Strange chorus, ooh-hoo, ah-haa. It’s all a bit weird really but very catchy. Wouldn’t say it’s one of my favourites or anything but it’s a fun listen.

10 Cassandra – OH LOVE THIS. What is it about? It feels like it’s based on a famous person, but I’m yet to find what it’s about. I only say that because of the intriguing story that never really explains what’s going on? What was she warning? What happened to her family? Has she been run out of town? It’s a very emotive song, a sympathetic ballad for this woman, but I don’t know what’s going on. The tune isn’t hugely exciting, more latin-influenced melody but the vocals are glorious and full of pity. How sad

09 Under Attack – Another strong pop song, with some great verse vocals on a pretty simple synth bed. Doesn’t really fit much with the pretty standard pop chorus, but the harmonies in the second halves of the choruses are just gorgeous. I’m not going to lose my shit over this, but it’s a really solid pop song all the same, just a shame it never emerged on a future studio album.

10 The day before you came – Now THIS is the SONG. God I love this. Very simple synths, with that memorable pigeony effect. A devastatingly downbeat day-in-the-life of this woman, I hate to say but I totally get this song. It took me a while to notice some of the more interesting aspects. She isn’t really recounting her day at all, her life was so monotonous and joyless that she can’t even REMEMBER the day before, just assuming it was the same as always (shit). It’s such a sad song too, never once focusing on the following day when we must presume things changed. Did it even change for the better?? It’s easy to imagine she must have found a new guy, but why the melancholy, was it the REAPER? Just a theory. Her vocals are wonderful, emphasising at unexpected moments, and bolstered by that ethereal opera in the background with the pulsating synths. I just get this song, I feel like this quite a lot, and so I love it.

10 Fernando – Finishing on what was quite a well-known one for me. For something so familiar, it’s suddenly blossomed for me, that opening few lines over shimmering percussion and a sole marching drum tapping away. The story makes me feel so sad, not that it is particularly, but it’s full of nostalgia between the titular character and the singer, reminiscing about a battle they were involved in many years ago. Now they are old and grey, but the memory is still firmly implanted. The vocals are just perfectly pitched, I love them. I even got a bit misty the other day, I don’t even know what the battle was! I’m guessing the reference to the Rio Grande puts it in Mexico? Anyway, that chorus is gorgeous and unforgettable. Amazing.

So that’s it! It’s been a lot of fun, and while I had my reservations about wading through the b-sides and everything else, it’s thrown up a few all-time faves for sure. We’ll see where they figure in the overall chart as soon as I’ve had a think about it.

Keepers for the iPod – Fernando, The day before you came, Under attack, Cassandra, You owe me one, Gimme Gimme Gimme.



Filed under Music, Reviews

2 responses to “Review: ABBA – B-sides & Rarities

  1. I love your choices of album to review! I am not familiar with the Swedish tracks, however, I thought Crazy World and Lovelight were the strongest tracks…

    • Thanks for the comment! Their B-Sides are pretty good, I guess there’s something for everyone! I’m excited there’s a deluxe version of The Visitors out this month, so I can get a nice version of The Day Before You Came!

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