ABBA is back!
I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but in any case, it’s been 40 years since the last album (The Visitors, November 1981). And except for a couple of new tracks for a 2-LP (remember those??!?) career retrospective the following year, there has been no new music released in nearly four decades.
And even though ABBA is a name-band in America, the really big sales numbers are overseas. Although the group enjoyed big hit singles over here that are still fondly remembered today, a mid-level rock band like Survivor has had far more success on the American singles chart than ABBA ever did. Post-breakup, the members had fleeting success; Frida had some success with the Phil Collins-helmed Something’s Going On (read my blog about that album here) and the boys in the band had some success writing scores, most notably for the musical (and later movie) Chess.
But, whatever. The fact that these four Swedes are still alive and well is certainly good news, and probably gives credence to the Scandinavian Diet. Coming back after 40 years with a new album? Hmm….
OK, there has been talk about a tour – not a real tour, but more of a hologram thing. Then why not throw in a couple of new tracks to keep the punters happy and have something to sell? That was all the rage for awhile. Then a couple years of silence and suddenly a new album appears. One that is being reviewed right here at Albums That Time Forgot!
Full disclosure: I’ve never bought an ABBA album (unless you count getting The Visitors from Columbia House because I forgot to send my right of refusal card back to them in time). But I bought The Singles back in the day and today I own the standard two albums: ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold. And I’ve visited Sweden on a couple occasions. (I’ve even been inside the Ikea in Stockholm!)
First thing to note; the new album, Voyage, is like an old-school album – ten tracks, 37 minutes. None of these 15 tracks, 71-minute affairs like some of these cosmic veteran rockers release late in the day. So, the group gets a gold star for that decision. And also understand, like all of the previous albums, the performance and vocals are all first-rate, so it all is distilled down to the material.
The album gets off to a slow start; two of the first three tracks “I Still Have Faith In You” and “Little Things,” both of which are mid-tempo, OK-but-not-standout songs. After that, it’s hit-and-miss with the songs; some have great hooks and really make an impression, while others are… just there. Just like the the other albums of their era, I would imagine. The best on Voyage is track 5 – “Just A Notion,” the 2021 descendant of “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.” Second best is “Keep An Eye On Dan,” but that song gets a demerit for its daft lyrics.
And in the end, none of these tracks are going to make anybody forget the ABBA bookend singles, “Waterloo” and “The Winner Takes It All” – the first and last of ABBA’s great hits. But the album is a pleasant enough listen – and about a third of the tracks on Voyage could fit comfortably on either Gold collection. Which is a good thing, I suppose.
Rating: 7 Out Of 10, using Michael Butler’s patented, scientific Rock and Roll Geek scoring system.