Across the fjords of Norway and the vast stretches of arctic splendor and wasteland, I came upon a pole resembling the archetypal North Pole, much like those found in scenes often seen in stories and pictures. Upon close inspection, I found a set of destination markers protruding from it on all sides done in red letters on white backgrounds.
In words written in (undoubtedly) Swedish, Spanish, Dutch (?), and English, one marker pointed to Helsinki, another to Reykjavik, Iceland, and yet another to Oslo. Walking around the pole, I found still other markers: one pointing (undoubtedly) southwest was written "Lake Woebegon, MN". One slightly askew to it, pointing slightly more west, was written: "Women's Norwegian Volleyball Team, California, U.S.A". I had to smile at that one. Memories of Louis Anderson and Garrison Keillor came flooding into my memory as I mused upon the markers.
Adjusting my eyes to the glory of the green flashes of Northern lights in the sky, I realized that the tears rolling down my frozen face had to do more with sentiment than the piercing cold. (Feeling perhaps like Alex Hailey (in miniature) during his discovery of his ancestor Kunta Kinte, I felt mystically connected to my ancestry.) As is often fashionable today (and should be standard), I also like to be proudly connected to a distinctive ethnicity, which creates variety and should be celebrated by everyone. Through my bleary-eyed vision, one final marker pointed to the short kilometer distance--a number which escapes my memory--to Stockholm.
Which brings us to the flood of musical memories that come from the pop group wunderkinds, ABBA, an acronym for the group members' names.
In their day they gave us gloriously produced syntho-techno pop before Gary Newman or Flock of Seagulls were conceived during the eighties. From the troubadour nature of their first single "Waterloo," a Euro song contest first place winner, to the remarkably slick and engaging "One of Us" from their swan song album `The Visitors,' ABBA ruled the English speaking world like few bands or artists since The Beatles. Nay during the seventies, ABBA's presence was like Queen Victoria: The sun never set on a part of the world that wasn't dominated by their pop reign.
Just a cursory look at their hits should entice the most basic pop hooky appetite: "S.O.S," "So Long," "Dancing Queen," and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" to name only a few. For a more meditative mood, "Fernando," "Chiquitita," and "I Have a Dream" are pleasant and essential. Without dating themselves, disco songs like "Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie," "Does Your Mother Know?" and "Take a Chance on Me" still have the power to get 'em out on the dance floor.
While I love their albums, I must concede that the critics are right: Singles were and are ABBA's best suit. I love their best albums, including `Arrival,' and `Super Trouper,' and recommend these and others for their obscure songs ("Why Did It Have to Be Me," "That's Me," "Hole in Your Soul," and "I've Been Waiting for You" are about as essential as anything else.) Still, 'ABBA Gold' is uncluttered and magnificent for its slick resonance. Between their studio pop machine, the songwriting skills of Benny and Bjorn, and the siren voices of former loves Ana-Frid and Agnetha, ABBA made an unmatched collection whose lingering presence has spilled onto Broadway and Hollywood for no small reason. (And, I must note, paraphrasing music critic Dave Marsh's take distinguishing The Rolling Stones' 'Hot Rocks' and 'More Hot Rocks,' `More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits,' if anything, is even more of a prospector's cache.
In the end, ABBA has elicited memories that have little to do with ethnicity. For me it is about driving on scenic roads in a Volvo (Okay, let's not be pretentious; it was a Ford!) listening to ABBA cassettes. For most people, ABBA has little to do with bumper stickers with sayings like "Legalize Lutafisk!" on them. More often than not, ABBA was an influence on the dance floor, in the aerobic studio, and on the turntables of yesteryear. However you remember ABBA, they managed to be a musical phenomenon; one that hasn't been imitated as well and whose timeless appeal can only futilely be argued against.
I was watching a movie a while ago that had some Abba songs in it, and it really reminded me of how uplifting and fun the music is. So, I bought this album and I'm very happy with it. Even though every song was very recognizable, there were many that I hadn't even realized were Abba. This is a good value, too, as this CD has nineteen songs and runs over an hour of great music, with no clunkers to skip through. Good stuff. It will bring a smile to your … more
I can't say that ABBA is my favorite performing act on the plannet. Their style is a little bit cheesey and there is the lack of a good guitar and drum presence on many of their songs. However, while revisiting such classics as Fernando and Dancing Queen on this greatest hits compilation, I realized that many of these songs have some very sophisticated stylings and hooks. Some of the songs are heavilly disco flavored but others have a nice cabaret feel like Money Money Money. and Thank You For The … more
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Anyone looking for the key to Abba's enduring appeal should look no further than "Voulez Vous" and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" for their answer. There was an innocence to the Swedish quartet, even when they were singing about one-night stands and the invitations to them.Goldestablishes that the band, while appreciated as campy, were actually multifaceted in their execution. "S.O.S." has a raw urgency in its chorus, and "Does Your Mother Know" draws its energy from classic '50s rock & roll. Likewise, you don't have to be Priscilla to swoon over "Mamma Mia" or "Dancing Queen." And when it comes to drama, those soaring vocals on "The Winner Takes It All" turn the song into a bitter anthem of every relationship that has ever fallen apart. The much-covered "Lay All Your Love on Me" is practically epic.--Steve Gdula